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History and Holiday of Bandi Chhor and Diwali

Freedom From Imprisonment and the Festival of Lamps


Jack-O-Lantern Sikhi Style


Photo © [S Khalsa]

Bandi Chhor and Diwali

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lamps, a celebration which takes place over a period of four days. The festivities take place during October and November. Several incidents took place over a period of time which led up to an event involving Har Govind, the sixth guru, which is commemorated as Bhandi Chhor (Chhorr) by Sikhs worldwide during Diwali.

1604 - Arjun Dev, the fifth Sikh guru, completed the construction of Harmandir, the Golden Temple, and installed the scripture Adi Granth.

1606 - The Mughal emperor Jahangir learned that certain verses in the Granth mentioned Muslim practices. He saw this as a threat to Islam and arrested the Guru, demanding the text be altered and imposing a fine of 200,000 rupees. The Guru refused insisting the monies belonged to the Sikhs, and that scripture in praise of God could not be changed. Jahangir had Guru Arjun Dev imprisoned in the Lahore jail and turned him over to a local official Murtaza Khan. Standing by his principles Guru Arjun accepted martyrdom and declared his son Har Govind as the sixth guru.

Following his father’s death, Guru Har Govind built the Akal Takhat, to institute the governing of Sikhs. He mustered and armed a battalion of men and horses. The guru wore two swords symbolizing (Piri) spiritual and (Miri) secular authority.

1617 - Conspiracies abounded in the mogul courts. Jahangir’s advisers collaborated to have Guru Har Govind sent to Gwalior Fort where they kept him as a prisoner. Later the emperor decided to release Guru Har Govind during Diwali. Har Govind negotiated the release of other political prisoners who had been detained in the fort during his imprisonment. He arranged to be able to take with him whoever could grasp the skirt of his robe.

1619 - When the gates opened to release Guru Har Govind, 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.

Carve a Sikh-O-Lantern for Bandi Chhor

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