Bandi Chhor Divas is the day of Liberation for Sikhs. It celebrates the day Guru Hargobind Ji was released from the Gwalior Fort prison and freed 52 other Hindu princes.
Guru Hargobind Ji’s father, Guru Arjan Ji, the Fifth Guru was arrested, tortured and then executed by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir because he refused to convert to Islam. After Guru Hargobind Ji was crowned the Sixth Guru, he began to strengthen his army. This alarmed Jahangir, who then sent Wazir Khan to arrest the Guru. Wazir Khan was an admirer of the Guru and instead asked him to journey to Delhi to meet the Emperor. The Emperor met the Guru and was impressed. They soon became friends and went on hunting missions together. On one of the hunts, Guru Hargobind Ji saved the Emperor’s life by jumping in between a lion that was charging for the Emperor.
Chandu Shah, a rich banker became jealous of their friendship. When the Emperor fell sick, Chandu Shah convinced Jahangir that his illness could be cured if a holy man offered prayers to the deity at Gwalior Fort. He suggested Guru Hargobind Ji was the perfect man for the task.
Gwalior Fort held many innocent princes who were seen as prisoners of the state. The living conditions were appalling. With the help of the governor of the fort, Hari Dass, the conditions improved and the princes joined the Guru in daily prayers. It is not sure how long the Guru had been imprisoned.
Once Jahangir was fully recovered, he was reminded to release the Guru. Guru Hargobind Ji refused to leave unless the other 52 princes could leave with him. Initially, the Emperor rejected the Guru’s request but then stated that the 52 princes could only leave by holding on to the Guru’s cloak. The Guru had a cloak with 52 tails made and each prince held a tail and walked out with the Guru.