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What is Bandi Chhor and why is it celebrated?

Bandi Chhor

On 4 November Sikhs and Hindus around the world will not only be celebrating Diwali, but also Bandi Chhor Divas, which celebrates the acts of compassion and selflessness from Guru Hargobind – a Guru is a religious teacher of Sikh faith – who remained imprisoned to protest for the rights of wrongly imprisoned Hindu princes.

Pharmacist, Gurbir Johal, explains the meaning of Bandi Chhor Divas and its importance in his own words below:

Bandi Chhor Divas literally translates to ‘prisoner release date’.  It refers to when the 6th spiritual leader of the Sikhs Guru Hargobind Sahib was released from Gwalior Fort in India in 1619.

Guru Hargobind was requested by the Mughal emperor at the time, Jahangir, to stay at his fort to perform prayers. However, one of the advisors of Jahangir wanted to keep Guru Hargobind at the fort as a political prisoner as he was such an influential figure.

Guru Hargobind stayed at the fort for many months and during their time there they met many people who were falsely imprisoned and were made to stay in extremely poor conditions.

The Guru eventually was asked to leave the fort. However, he refused to leave until the 52 innocent Hindu princes were released from imprisonment.  

The emperor reluctantly agreed to the freeing of these princes, but only if they could all hold onto the Guru’s cloak.

After this request, the Guru ordered for a cloak to be made with 52 tassels attached for all imprisoned princes to hold onto.

52 innocent Hindu princes were later released from Gwalior Fort.

The Guru and the prisoners returned from Gwalior to Amritsar in India and by the time they arrived at Amritsar many weeks later the celebrations for Diwali were underway.

Sikhs and Hindus celebrate Bandi Chhor as a day of reflection on how we can all learn from this story the values of compassion, selflessness and the importance of community cohesion and helping others regardless of background, religion or any other characteristics.