I've made a poster on Bandi Chhor Divas which I forwarded on to non-Sikh colleagues. Below is the information from the poster in case anyone wishes to use for educating their friends and colleagues on the Sikh festival of Bandi Chhor Divas.
On 13th November 2012 Sikhs will be celebrating the Sikh festival of ‘Bandi Chhor Divas.’ The celebration of Bandi Chhor divas has been chosen to coincide with the Hindu festival of ‘Diwali’ (The Festival of Lights) which is celebrated on large scale throughout India.
Background to the festival
|Gwalior Fort Prison|
‘Bandi’ means prisoner, ‘Chhor’ means release and ‘Divas’ means day. The sixth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind, had been falsely imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir – who had earlier in 1606 tortured and martyred Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Guru for refusing to give up his religious beliefs.
Imprisoned in the same fort at the same were fifty-two other ‘rajas’ or princes who were innocent political prisoners from a scattering of kingdoms around the country. Guru Hargobind said if Emperor Jahangir was to show good faith, then all these prisoners were to be released, or none!
|The Guru being released with 52 prisoners|
Jahangir relented but, in his feudal arrogance, set a condition: anyone who could hang on to the coat-tails of the Guru's robe could leave with him, he declared. The Guru ordered a special large robe with fifty-two tassels on its tails. Each of the fifty-two Hindu princes held on to one each, and was allowed to leave.
When the Guru arrived in the holy city of Amritsar after being released, he was welcomed by the whole city being lit with oil lamps and lights. The 52 kings were saved by having faith in the Guru and holding on to him.
For Sikhs, Bandi Chhor Divas should be time to reflect on whether one has held on to the Guru or not (i.e. followed the Guru’s teachings). It is time to break the shackles of bad habits and walk towards freeing the mind and body.
|Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar on Bandi Chhor Divas|
The Message of Bandi Chhor Divas
What Guru Hargobind stood up for and represented can be summarised in one word – ‘Justice’. The Guru could have left the prison when he was offered the chance. However, the Guru thought of others before himself. Others freedom and human rights were more important to him than his own. This is attitude and virtue of social justice and fighting for others freedom was filled within his followers through his own example.
Bandi Chhor Divas should inspire us to light the lamp of Divine Knowledge within us through the Guru’s Wisdom and inspire us to campaign and fight for the human rights of those suffering oppression.
SIKHS IN WORLD WARS
Following the footsteps of Guru Hargobind, Sikhs did not just fight for their own freedom in India, but they also fought for the freedom of others who lived in foreign lands and were alien to them. During the World Wars, 200,000 Sikhs volunteered to fight and die to protect the freedom of Britain and Europe. This is an example of how Sikhs seek inspiration from the life and teachings of Guru Hargobind. During British Empire, the Sikhs living in India were fighting for independence from the British, but nevertheless, the Sikhs rose to give sacrifices for freedom, liberty and justice. This is the blessings of Guru Hargobind.