Bandi Chhorh Divas

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Guru Hargobind is released from the Gwalior Jail along with 52 Rajas, who held the extensions attached to the coat of the Guru

Bandi Chorh Diwas is a day on which Guru Hargobind Sahib was released with 52 Kings from Gwalior Prison. The word "Bandi" means "imprisoned", "Chhor" means "release" and "Divas" means "day" and together "Bandi Chhor Divas" means Prisoner Release Day. It is celebrate with great joy as it was a time when "right" prevailed over "wrong". The Mughals had held many hundreds of prisoners who were effectively "political prisoners" and were otherwise innocent leaders of their communities. They had been held without trial or any other legal process; jailed by brute force; held against their wishes.

The Guru had found a way to get 52 of these innocent leaders released from the prison without a battle. However, it had been a long process as the Guru spent many years in custody. However, in the end the unjust government of the day had to "give in" to the Guru's just demands. An unlikely victory in a period of history when those in power were completely corrupt and injustice was the order of the day. However, the Guru had found a positive way out of an otherwise very dark situation. The lives of 52 local kings had been saved without a single shot and without a battle!

Bandi Chorh Diwas is not Diwali

Bandi Chorh Diwas and Diwali are separate festivals and the events actually fall on different days; however, commonly in the popular calendars, they are celebrated on the same day. For this reason, many people often think of these events as if they are the same. In real terms, the day of release of the sixth Guru with the 52 rajahs (kings) was actually a few days before Diwali in 1619.

These two celebrations represent two quite different events in history. On Bandi Chorh Diwas, the long imprisoned Guru Hargobind was released from Gwalior, taking with him 52 long imprisoned Rajas, whose release was a result of the Guru's wit.

Diwali (a Hindu festival) was being celebrated on the day when the Guru reached Amritsar. On the arrival of the Guru in Amritsar, the people lit up the whole city with thousands of candles, lights and lamps like they had never done before; there was much celebration and joy.

Bandi Chorh Diwas falls on the night of Amavas in the month of Assu; this actual Bandi Chorh Diwas is celebrated each year at Gurdwara Data Bandi Chor Sahib, Gwalior with much gaiety and joy, a few days before Diwali.

Historic background

During October/November, the worldwide Sikh Sangat (community) celebrates the safe return of the sixth Nanak, Guru Hargobind from detention from Gwalior Fort in about October 1619. The day of his return to Amritsar coincided with the Hindu festival of Diwali, ("the festival of lights"). This concurrence has resulted in a similarity of celebrations amongst Sikhs and Hindus.

When Murtaja Khan, Nawab of Lahore, noticed that Guru Ji had constructed the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, 'The Throne of the Almighty', at Amritsar, and was also strengthening his army, he informed the Mughal Emperor Jahangir about this. He also, incorrectly, emphasized that the Sikh Guru was making preparations to take revenge for his father's torture and martyrdom. When Jahangir heard about this he at once sent Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to Amritsar in order to arrest Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.

But Wazir Khan, who happened to be an admirer of Guru Hargobind, rather than arresting him, requested the Guru to accompany them to Delhi telling him that Emperor Jahangir wanted to meet him. Guru Sahib accepted the invitation and soon reached Delhi.

Jahangir meets the Guru

On their first meeting when Jahangir saw the Guru, he was completely won over by his youthful charm and holiness. Jahangir asked the Young Guru whether the Hindu or Muslim religion was better. The Guru quoted some lines of Kabir. Jahangir was very impressed with this answer. Deciding to become friends with the Guru he gave him a royal welcoming. Learning that the Guru was also an avid hunter he invited Guru Hargobind to accompany him on his shikars (hunts).

On one of these hunts the Moghul Emperor was hunting a lion which had been terrorizing a small village. Suddenly out of the bush the ferocious beast charged at Jahangir. Gunshots and arrows failed to end the attack of the lion. The beast was almost upon the Emperor when Guru Hargobind jumped between them. Yelling to the lion that he must first deal with him he raised his shield to deflect the lion and with a single stroke of his sword, the lion fell dead.

The appreciative Emperor and Guru Hargobind were now becoming good friends. But Chandu Shah could not bear this. A rich banker with much influence in Jahangir's court he had once refused, with very derogatory remarks, sugestions that he arrange a wedding between his daughter and the young Hargobind, son of Guru Arjan.

Chandu Shah continues his evils ways

Later when he realized the match could be very beneficial he tried to arrange the wedding. But Guru Arjan, having heard of the unkind remarks by then, refused the proposal. Chandu's anger and intriques then played a large part in Guru Arjan's death. Now seeing the growing friendship of the two leaders and still smarting over his rejection by Guru Arjan Dev (his daughter was still unmarried and thus the rotten sore on his ego was still bleeding) he began his intrigues again this time taking aim at Guru Arjan's son, Guru Hargobind.

While at Agra, the Emperor fell seriously ill. The royal physicians tried their best but they failed to cure him. Chandu Shah now saw his chance, conspiring with the astrologers, he asked them to tell the Emperor that his sickness was due to a bad convergence of the stars.

Jahangir was told that the disease could be cured, only if some holy man would go to Gwallior Fort and continuously offer prayers to the deity there. He suggested that there could be none more appropriate than his new friend Guru Hargobind Ji and that he should be asked go to Gwallior Fort. At the Emperor’s request the Guru readily agreed and left for the Fort with several companions.

In the fort Guru Ji met many Hindu Princes who were detained there due to political reasons. Their living conditions in the fort were very deplorable. With the help of Hari Dass, the governor of fort, the Guru had their conditions improved. The princes soon joined the Guru in his daily prayers. Unknown to Chandu Shah Hari Daas was a Sikh of Guru Nanak and he had become an ardent devotee of Guru Hargobind. When Chandu wrote to Hari Daas telling him to poison Guru Sahib, he had at once placed the letter before Guru Ji.

Mian Mir intervenes

Gurdwara Bandi Chhod Sahib at Gwallior

When several months had passed without their Guru being released, Baba Buddha Ji and a group of Sikh devotees traveled to the fort to meet with the Guru. They told the Guru that the whole of Amritsar, his family, devotees and all the pilgrims who had come, from near and far to visit him, were missing his presence dearly. They were worried that their Guru might never leave the prison.

The memory of his father's recent imprisonment, torture and death weighed heavily on their hearts. The Guru assured them that they should not worry, he would join them soon. Outside the fort Sikhs gathered and began to carried out Parbhaat-Pheris (singing Gurbani), as they walked around Gwallior Fort waiting for their beloved Guru's release.

The Guru is released, but refuses to go alone

In the meantime Sai Mian Mir, a noted Sufi Sant and friend of both the Guru and his father, had travelled to the Emperor's Court to meet with Jahangir asking him to release the Guru. Jahangir, who had fully recovered then ordered Wazir Khan to release Guru Sahib.

Reaching Gwallior Fort Wazir Khan informed Hari Daas of the Emperor's order to release the Guru. Hari Daas was very pleased to hear this and quickly informed Guru Ji about the message from the Emperor. But the Guru refused to leave the fort unless the 52 princes were released as well.

Emperor agrees but sets a condition

When Wazir Khan informed the Emperor of the Guru's desire, the Emperor first refused, but finally agreed, after Wazir Khan reminded him of the debt he owed the Guru for his recovery. Not really wanting to free the prisoners the Emperor cleverly added the following condition:

"whoever can hold on to the Guru's cloak can be released."

The fifty–two princes who had been detained for political reasons or for defaulting on large sums of tribute owed the Emperor, had suffered in the fort for years. The Guru with his heart full of compassion for the plight of others was determined to get the prisoners freed.

He had a cloak made with 52 corners or tails, the cloak was soon delivered. So, as the Guru walked out of the gate of the fort the fifty-two princes trailed behind, each holding on to his own tail of the Guru's special cloak. The Guru's cleverness had trumped Jahangir's clever condition and liberated the fifty-two princes. Guru Hargobind is therefore also known as Bandi-Chhor (Liberator).

Celebrations held at Gurdwara Bandi Chor

Gurudwara Bandi Chor is built at the place where the Guru stayed during his detention. Jahangir advised Wazir Khan to bring Guru Hargobind in his court at Delhi with great honour. Jahangir had realised that he was wrong for allowing the torture and killing of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had not committed any crime or offence. Wanting to exonerate himself of any guilt in the death he indicted the crime on Chandu Shah and other officers. So in order to show his innocence he wanted to meet Guru Hargobind Ji. On meeting with the Emperor Guru Ji wasted no time in telling Jahangir that there was no such thing as a bad convergance of the stars.

The Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorr Divas i.e., "the day of release of detainees". So in the evening, illuminations are done with "Deewalee" (earthen oil lamps), candles and fireworks.

The celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.

What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas?

52 Hindu Princes were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance. However, Guru Ji thought of others before himself. To the Guru others' freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Ji is always thinking not of his emancipation but everyone's emancipation. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Ji filled within his Sikhs, by putting into reality this positive message.

This article based on Manvir's Blog and www.sikhpoint.com

Quotes

Canadian PM visits Golden Temple on Diwali

Tribune Reporters Amritsar, October 26, 2003

Mr Parkash Singh Badal honours Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Saturday, October 26, 2003

Wishing a happy Divali to all, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Jean Chretien, on his two-hour goodwill visit to the holy city of Amritsar, paid obeisance at the Golden Temple here yesterday. “What a great day, happy Divali, wrote Mr Chretien in the SGPC’s visitor’s book.

Enjoying the clear sky and warm sunshine, the Prime Minister mingled with devotees, occasionally breaking the security cordon in the Parikarma. He shook hands with the devotees to offer Divali greetings.

Canadian PM offers rumala to the Guru

Mr Chretein, who is well-versed with the Sikh traditions offered a ‘rumala’ for Guru Granth Sahib which he had specially brought from Canada. He also offered ‘parsad’ and cash as a humble devotee. He was presented a siropa (robe of honour) by the Head Granthi, Giani Puran Singh.

Mr Chretien created a history of sorts as he was the first Prime Minister of a sovereign country to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Duke of Edinburgh, had visited the temple in 1997.

The Canadian Prime Minister was accompanied by Mr Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources, Mr Gurbax Singh Malhi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, Mr Baljit Singh Chadda, member of the Privy Council of Canada, along with his senior advisers and a strong contingent of the Canadian media who arrived by a special charted Air Sahara aircraft from New Delhi. Mr Chretein also inaugurated the Guru Arjun Dev Niwas, constructed at a cost of Rs 60 lakh, contributed by the Chadda family at a makeshift stand carrying the plaque.

PM addresses a gathering

Festival of Lights at Harimandir Sahib

Addressing the gathering after offering prayers, Mr Chretien said he brought with him warm greetings from his countrymen and the large number of Punjabi community settled there for the people of India.

He said the two million-strong Punjabi community, majority of them Sikhs, which constituted 2 per cent of the Canadian population had contributed a lot to the development of Canada. The Sikhs play a decisive role in the elections in many constituencies there.

He also spoke a couple of words in French for his countrymen in Canada and for the benefit of the large contingent of electronic media covering his visit.

Mr Chretien who drove straight from Rajasansi airport in a bullet-proof ambassador car was warmly received at the Golden Temple by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, honorary secretary of the SGPC, alongwith senior members of the SAD and SGPC.

Punjab dignitaries meet the Canadian PM

Earlier, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa and Mr Sardool Singh, both Cabinet Ministers, accompanied Mr Chretein after receiving him at the airport. Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SGPC chief, could not be present due to his hospitalisation and Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, was conspicuous by his absence on the occasion.

Welcoming the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Calcutta urged the Canadian Sikhs to work hard to make their adopted country a peaceful and prosperous nation. Mr Badal presented a gold-plated replica of the Golden Temple studded with jewels, a kirpan (sword), a silver plaque, a pashmina shawl and a set of books on Sikh religion. Mr Badal also honoured Mr Herb Dhaliwal, Mr Malhi and Mr Gurmant Singh Grewal, a member of Parliament from Canada.

Tight security causes minor fracas

Meanwhile, the tight security arrangements both inside and outside the Golden Temple caused inconvenience to the devotees who had come to celebrate Divali. In one such incident, a senior police official had a fracas with Canadian mediapersons.

In the memorandum present to the Canadian Prime Minister the SGPC demanded that there was need for a permanent exhibition on Sikhism in two or three prominent museums. This would deter any prejudice against Sikhs or their traditions in Canada, it said.

Though the Sikhs had contributed immensely for the betterment of the Canadian society, their presence in the public sector was minimal. More jobs should be given to the Sikhs, it added. Sikhs should not be prevented from taking up any job as they wear turban or keep unshorn hair.

Sikhs were being subjected to “unreasonable” searches at airports all across Europe and the USA. Canada could sponsor a special year dedicated to an important Sikh anniversary in the United Nations. The year 2004 could be sponsored as a year of inter-faith understanding or of mutual respect, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib.

See also

Dates for celebration of this event

Movable dates for Sikh festivals (these change every year in line with the lunar phase)

Year Hola Mohalla Bandi Chhor Divas Parkash Guru Nanak
Moon phase
Full moon
New moon
Full moon
2003 19 Mar 25 Oct 8 Nov
2004 7 Mar 12 Nov 26 Nov
2005 26 Mar 1 Nov 15 Nov
2006 15 Mar 21 Oct 5 Nov
2007 4 Mar 9 Nov 24 Nov
2008 22 Mar 28 Oct 13 Nov
2009 11 Mar 17 Oct 2 Nov
2010 1 Mar 5 Nov 21 Nov
2011 20 Mar 26 Oct 10 Nov
2012 9 Mar 13 Nov 28 Nov
2013 28 Mar 3 Nov 17 Nov
2014 17 Mar 23 Oct 6 Nov
2015 6 Mar 11 Nov 25 Nov
2016 24 Mar 30 Oct 14 Nov
2017 13 Mar 19 Oct 4 Nov
2018 2 Mar 7 Nov 23 Nov
2019 21 Mar 27 Oct 12 Nov
2020 10 Mar 14 Nov 30 Nov

External links