Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Explaining the Sikh Festival of Diwali to Non-Sikhs...

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. 

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. 



Anonymous said...

Very good poster, and great that you educate your colleagues too - the duty of every Sikh is to educate and spread the message of Sikhi.
Just one thing that you could perhaps add, Bhai Sahib Ji: how long Dhan Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji were held 'prisoner' for, and why Jahangir eventually conceded and decided to release Guru Ji.

Also, (I'm sorry, I don't mean to be critical), due to the circumstances, Jahangir became desperate for Guru Ji's release, but it was one of his advisors/assisstants (I can't remember his name off the top of my head) who was sent to tell Guru Ji of is release. When Guru Ji set forth his condition, the Jahangir's advisor wasn't sure whether or not to accept; Jahangir had said that any condition was fine, but he was wary nevertheless. As a result, he set down the "whoever can hold onto your cholaa" condition.

P.S. - Historical note: Bandi Chorr Divas was not originally on the same day as Divali. It was later changed by the Panth (as well as a few other festivals, in the late 17th century I think) to coincide with Divali, as a lot of 'Sikhs' had started celebrating these Hindu festivals. (Source: Reliable websites, books, and the knowledgable Giani Kulvinder Singh Ji, Derby)

Manvir Singh said...

Bhai Sahib good points made. I didn't those particular details or anything else because the poster was one side of A4 and I ran out of room to write and wanted to keep it basic as possible. However perhaps in a leaflet or presentation those points could be added. Vaheguroo

Anonymous said...

Reference to 17th century should be 18th century

Manvir Singh said...

I've change the opening line to the article (which is in bold) to reflect how Diwali was chosen by the Panth to celebrate Bandi Chhor divas.