Gurdwara Sri Data Bandi Chor Sahib, situated in Gwalior, is associated with the imprisonment of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji in Gwalior Fort and his celebrated release.
In addition, Guru Hargobind secured the freedom of 52 Rajas (Kings) who had long suffered imprisonment in the Fort. The word 'Bandi' means 'imprisoned', 'Chor' means 'release'.
The death Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, at the hands of mughal emperor Jahangir prompted Guru Hargobind to emphasize the military dimension of the Sikh community.
Guru Hargobind symbolically wore two swords, which represented miri and piri (temporal power and spiritual authority). Guru Hargobind also built a fort to defend Ramdaspur (Amritsar) and created a formal court, Sri Akal Takht.
These developments worried the mughals which prompted Jahangir to jail Guru Hargobind at Gwalior Fort. It is not clear as to how much time he spent as a prisoner. However, when the Sufi Saint Mian Mir and other sympathizers interceded, the emperor ordered the Guru's release. The year of his release appears to have been either 1611 or 1612. By that time, Jahangir had more or less reverted to tolerant policies of his father, Akbar, and after finding Hargobind innocent and harmless, he ordered his release.
According to Sikh tradition, 52 Rajas who were imprisoned in the fort as hostages, for opposing the Mughal empire, were dismayed as they were losing a spiritual mentor. Guru Hargobind refused to be released unless the other prisoners were also let out. Jahangir ordered that only those kings who could hold on to the chola of the Guru could be released. Guru Hargobind had a special chola stitched. As Guru Hargobind left the fort, the captive kings held onto Guru Hargobind and came out along with him. This earned for the Guru the epithet Data Bandi Chor, lit. the munificent liberator.
The Chola still exists and can be seen at Gurdwara Sri Chola Sahib Ghudani Kalan.
A Gurdwara bearing the name Gurdwara Sri Data Bandi Chor Sahib was established inside the fort. It was looked after by muslims until the Sikhs acquired possession and established a Gurdwara after 1947. The original Gurdwara in the form of a marbled platform is still maintained near the entrance to Gurdwara Sri Data Bandi Chor Sahib, as it is now named.
The present building complex spread over six acres was constructed under the supervision of Bhai Jhanda Singh and Utam Singh Mauni of Khadoor Sahib during the 1970s and 1980s. The principal building is a six-storey edifice near the old Gurdwara. The sanctum is on one side of a high ceiling, almost square hall on the ground floor. There is a basement below of the same size as the hall and four storeys of room above the sanctum. Guru ka Langar with its vast dining hall and residential rooms for staff and pilgrims are in a separate, adjoining compound. It is a peculiarity of this Gurdwara to have two sarovars, one for women the other for men.
Bandi Chor Divas (Day of Liberation), which clebrates Guru Hargobind's release, coincides with the same day as the hindu celebration of Diwali. Diwali has no meaning for Sikhs. Instead of celebrating with fireworks on Bandi Chor Divas, many Sikhs choose to celebrate Guru Nanak's birthday with fireworks. Let it not be said that Sikh celebrate diwali, an ancient hindu festival, with many rituals that are against Sikh philosophy.
The Sikh struggle for freedom, which intensified in the 18th Century, came to be centered around this day. In addition to Vaisakhi (now in April), when the Khalsa, the Sikh nation, was formally established by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Bandi Chhor Divas became the second day during the year when the Khalsa met and planned their freedom strategy.
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