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  In the Guru's footsteps
In the Guru's footsteps

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: In the Guru's footsteps:

The Liberator - (Bandi Chhor)

The Liberator - (Bandi Chhor)

Emperor Jahangir and Guru Har Gobind became friendly. Wherever Jahangir went out to camp, there was a separate tent and a camping ground for the Guru as well. One day, a humble Sikh of Agra came to the royal camp to see the Guru. He was a poor grass-cutter and wanted to make an offering of two copper parse (coins) to the Guru. The tents of Guru Har Gobind and the Emperor were pitched side by side. There was a soldier on guard duty. The Sikh went up go him and enquired : "Where is the True King? I want to see him."

"Over there," said the soldier pointing towards the Emperor's tent.

The Sikh came to Emperor Jahangir's tent, bowed and placed his humble offering before him. He stood up, looked around and felt puzzled. The king was surprised at his behaviour and the simplicity of his dress and manners. He thought that the man was out of his mind, so he asked him, "What do you want?"

"Nothing Sir," said the Sikh, "I only came to pay my homage to the true king, the Lord of the world who can in the twinkling of an eye, wash away all my sins and unite me with God."

"Nonsense," said the King, "Go away, you fool. I'll have you hanged if you stay another moment."

The Sikh was very upset and said, "Oh my dear Guru, people say that Har Gobind is as kind as Baba Nanak, and accepts a flower as happily as millions of rupees. I cannot understand why my humble offering has offended you so much. You can be sure that this offering is out of my honest earnings, which I could only save with much difficulty."

The Emperor then understood the whole matter, and directed the Sikh to the Guru's tent. The poor grass-cutter hastily picked up his two copper coins and without a single word of thanks or respect to the king, ran to the Guru's tent. There he met the Guru, bowed to him and made the offering. The Guru accepted the offering and was so happy to see his humble Sikh that he rose from his seat and embraced him little caring what he was offering and how shabbily he was dressed. Having received the Guru's blessing the Sikh found much comfort and happiness.

The Emperor thought seriously about the whole matter and particularly about the meaning of the words 'True King." He was rather cut up about this incident : the use of the words 'True King" for the Guru had offended him very much. He discussed the incident with his ministers, one of whom, named Chandu, was the man who tortured Guru Arjan (Har Gobind's father) to death, and he was already waiting for a chance to create a split between the Guru and the king. He always feared the growing friendship between them because it could lead to his own ruin. So he persuaded some other ministers to join him and they succeeded in poisoning the mind of the Emperor against the Guru.

One day, after having eaten food from the Guru's free kitchen (Langar), the Emperor felt sick. Chandu was very quick to put the blame on the Guru. He said that the Guru was thinking of killing the Emperor by foul means; that was why the Guru kept an army and gave it regular training. The Emperor believed there was danger, so he ordered the Guru's arrest and imprisonment in the fort of Gwalior, two hundred miles south-west of Delhi. When Guru Har Gobind was taken to the fort of Gwalior, the Sikhs of Delhi and Amritsar guessed there had been foul play and made a great protest. However, the Emperor became well again after a few days but his orders had already been carried out, and the Guru was in prison.

Chandu wrote to Hari Das, the commander of the Gwalior fort, ordering him to poison the Guru or have him murdered; for this he promised a large reward. Hari Das however, had become a devoted follower of the Guru by then. He placed all of Chandu's letters before the Guru, who only smiled and said nothing.

Bandi ChhorThere were many Rajahs and princes in the prison. The Guru preached his religion among them every day and many soon became his followers. Later the Emperor's favourite wife, Queen Nur Jahan, felt that the Guru had been imprisoned unjustly. She convinced the Emperor of the Guru's innocence and ordered his release. When the order reached Gwalior, the princes begged the Guru to help them to get their freedom also. So the Guru refused to leave the fort unless all the princes were set free. It was really a big question for the Emperor to decide. Nur Jahan once more played her part, and the Emperor agreed. Thus 52 princes were set free, along with the Guru. The Guru was hailed as 'Bandi Chhor' who sets prisoners free, and the news spread all over India. In the historic fort of Gwalior there is stall a shrine of Bandi Chhor Pir. Hindus and Moslems visit the place in honourer of the great event. A Moslem faqir (saint) sits there in memory of the great man whom he knows as 'Bandi Chhor.' In the Punjab, too, Guru Har Gobind is still remembered by this name.

After his release, the Guru went straight to Amritsar. On the way people sprinkled water on the dusty roads, started Langars (Free kitchens) and placed earthen lamps on their house tops at night. When he reached Amritsar, thousands of Sikhs thronged to see the Guru and, on the night of his arrival, they decorated the whole town and placed lamps in the streets and on the housetops. They distributed sweets and put on their best clothes. This happy event is still celebrated every year in October or November. The celebrations in the Golden Temple are so famous that thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Moslems assemble there on the night of Diwali to watch the fireworks.

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