Most parts of India, and some parts of the world, will be celebrating the festival of lights, Diwali, on 11 November in remembrance of Lord Rama's return to his birthplace Ayodhya, after defeating Ravana.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is also adorned with beautiful lights and decorations on the same day, and the festival is celebrated with gaiety.
However, it is a lesser known fact that the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Ji, had returned to Amritsar after getting released from the Gwalior prison along with 52 Hindu-Rajput kings on the same day.
This day is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas or Prisoner's Release Day to commemorate the success of the Guru without taking up arms or fighting the Mughal rulers.
Just before Diwali
- In October/November 1619, the Guru was released from the prison and this day falls a few days before Diwali.
- The occasion is celebrated at Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhor Sahib in Gwarlior. However, the Golden Temple is Amritsar is lit up in celebration on the day of Diwali itself, as the Guru had reached the city on Amavas in the month of Assu.
Arrest of Guru Hargobind Ji
- After his father and fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji was tortured and executed following the orders by Mughal emperor Jahangir, young Hargobind Ji established an Akal Takht and started strengthening his army.
- Arjan Dev Ji was the first Sikh Guru to achieve martyrdom. He was made to sit on a hot sheet (tawa) and hot sand was poured over his body for five days. After that, he was taken to a nearby river for a bath and was never seen again.
- Murtaja Khan, the Nawab of Lahore got alarmed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji's aggressive activities and alerted Jahangir, who then ordered imprisonment of the Guru.
- He was jailed at Gwalior fort where he was allegedly kept for around a year from 1611 till 1612.
Meeting with Rajput kings
- Guru Ji met the 52 Hindu-Rajput kings in the form who were also jailed for political reasons and were stripped off their titles. He tried to improve the overall living conditions of the prisoners with the help of Hari Dass, governor of the fort.
- Sai Mia Mir, a Muslim Sufi saint and a good friend of the guru, intervened after several months passed without his release. He went to emperor Jahangir's court and requested him to release Guru Hargobind Ji.
- After Jahangir ordered the release, Guru Ji demanded that the 52 kings be released along with him and the emperor was informed about it.
- Not wanting to do the same, Jahangir announced that 'whoever can hold on to guru's cloak can be released'.
- A cloak with 52 corners was made for the guru and the kings were liberated from the prison as they held onto a corner each. From then on, the guru came to be known as Bandi-chhor (liberator).
Matrydom of Bhai Mani Singh
- On the same day, in 1738, the then head Granthi of Golden Temple, Bhai Mani Singh Ji was executed for not being able to pay a tax of Rs 5,000 on a religious meeting to be held on Diwali.
- He was arrested and taken to Lahore where he was executed at Nakhaas Chowk by being cut limb by limb. The place is now known as Shaheed Ganj.