Sikh communities light up homes for the celebration of Bandhi Chorr Diwas

As Sikh communities across the capital light up their homes for the celebration of Bandhi Chhor Diwas, Mr Mankamal Singh, Executive member of Sikh Council UK, explains the true meaning of the special event.

In October, Sikhs celebrate a significant event called Bandhi Chhor Diwas which coincides with the ancient festival of Diwali.

For me, as a British born Sikh, Bandhi Chhor Diwas is a reminder to look beyond myself and to use the freedom that has been given to me to aid those who are less fortunate. It requires me to think about my actions beyond my own interests and instead act as a mediator for equality and justice for all humankind.

The story of Bandhi Chhor Diwas is a story of freedom, human rights and the triumph of good over evil. On this day, the Sikhs celebrate the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, to Amritsar after his release from the notorious fort of Gwalior.

Bandhi Chhor Diwas is a celebration of enlightenment (awakening) of the human soul and the desire to seek freedom and justice for all. At the centre of the Sikh way of life is a desire to serve humanity and work towards the betterment of society.

On the Bandhi Chhor Diwas, Sikhs gather in large congregations in the Gurdwaras and sing hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, listen to ballads about the liberating Guru and illuminate the Gurdwaras with lights, lamps and candles just like our predecessors did almost 400 years ago.

Guru ji also secured the release of 52 other local rulers including Hindu rajas. From that day, he was hailed by those celebrating his return as the deliverer of prisoners, or Bandi Chhor. (Diwas means, a special day for celebrating or commemorating.)

The fort was used by the Mughal emperor as a prison for political dissidents who opposed the evil regime. It was a place of isolation and torture. There the Guru had been wrongfully imprisoned following the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Sikh Guru, who gave his life for human rights.

Also imprisoned with Guru ji were 52 rulers, mostly Hindu rajas.

Gurdwaras across London will be lit up with lamps and candles to mark the celebration. Credit: PA

When Guru Hargobind Sahib was imprisoned in Gwalior fort, the Sikhs and other prominent Muslimand Hindu leaders held vigils and campaigns for his release outside the fort and made representations for the Guru’s release to the Emperor.

In the fort, Guru ji shared his food with other prisoners and comforted them with kind words and by reciting the universal teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

After a long period of campaigning the Emperor relented under pressure, especially of some prominent Islamic religious heads. The Sikhs were elated when they heard of the Emperor’s decision to release Guru ji.

Sikhs celebrate the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, to Amritsar after his release from the notorious fort of Gwalior. Credit: SikhCouncilUK

However, the condition set by Guru ji was that other prisoners wrongfully detained, must be released also. The Emperor was not too keen to release the other prisoners and added his own condition: that whoever could hold on to the Guru's robe would be released with him.

The Guru sent out a message to the Sikhs to make him a robe designed with 52 tapers (kalis).

A magnificent robe was made and the Guru walked out of the gate of the fort with the 52 political prisoners each holding on to the Guru's special robe. Guru Hargobind Sahib was thereafter known as Bandhi Chhor (The Liberator).

The robe which he wore is on display at the village Gurdwara of Ghudhani in Ludhiana District of Indian Punjab.

Guru Hargobind Sahib's robe symbolises the connections we can all make with each other while working for the greater good.