Sikhs also celebrate Diwali. Some celebrate it as a religious celebration called Bandi Chor Diwas (Liberation Day). Others celebrate the cultural aspects of Diwali by lighting lights and candles, distributing sweet things to eat, and giving presents and parties. Some do both.
In 1617 conspiracies abounded in the Mogul courts in India. Emperor Jahangir’s advisers collaborated to have the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Har Gobind, sent to Gwalior Fort where they kept him as a prisoner. Later the emperor decided to release Guru Har Gobind during Diwali, in part because of the protests of the Sikhs. There was a constant stream of Sikhs coming to Gwalior, hoping to have a glimpse of their Guru. Sant Hazarat Mian Mir, the great Sufi saint, also petitioned for the Guru’s release.
Guru Har Gobind negotiated the release of other political prisoners who had been detained in the fort during his imprisonment. He said he would not leave the prison unless the other prisoners, who were also unjustly imprisoned, due to religious bigotry, were released as well. He arranged to be able to take with him whoever could grasp the skirt of his robe. He had a robe made with 52 extensions
1619 – When the gates opened to release Guru Har Gobind, he walked out with 52 princes who had been his fellow prisoners. All of them held fast to strings which he had sewn to his clothing. This act became known as Bandi Chhor, the freedom from imprisonment, and is celebrated traditionally by Sikhs during Diwali, the festivities of lights, lamps, and lanterns. It commemorates Guru HarGobind’s great act of social justice and fairness. Even though he could have been released much earlier, he waited until he could take the other political prisoners out with him.
Many Sikhs will attend a special Bandi Chorr Divas celebration at their local Gurdwara.
Thank you, Raman Singh, for answering our question this week!