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Gurus Bandi Chhorh Divas - A Sikh Festival?

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The Sikh Festivals: Divali,Bandi Chhorh Divas

The Sikh celebration of the return of the sixth Guru Nanak from detention in the Gwalior Fort coincides with Hindu festival of Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in similarity of celebration amongst Sikhs and Hindus.

The Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorh Divas i.e., "the day of release of detainees", because the sixth Guru Nanak had agreed to his release on the condition that the other fifty-two detainees would also be released. These other fifty-two detainees were the vassal kings who had done something to annoy the emperor.

Emperor Jahangir had imprisoned the sixth Guru Nanak because he was afraid of the Guru's growing following and power. The Sikhs on this day, which generally falls in october-November, hold a one-day celebrations in the Gurdwaras. So in the evening, illuminations are done with Deewé (earthen oil lamps) or candles and fireworks. The celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.

The story of Divali for the Sikhs is a story of the Sikh struggle for freedom. From the time of Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), the founder of Sikhism, popular seasonal or folk festivals like the harvest festival of Vaisakhi, or ancient mythological festivals like Holi and Divali, or worship rituals like Aarti, began to take on a new significance for the Guru’s students, the Sikhs. The Guru used these festivals and special days e.g. first day of each lunar month, as symbols or pegs for his teaching themes. And so the Sikhs were slowly diverted from darkness of superstitious ritualism based on fear and ignorance to an enlightened ideology based on reason and belief in One Creator. The enlightened ideology of Guru Nanak gave new significance to ancient festivals like Divali and Vaisakhi

So what about Divali, the festival of lights when, according to Indian lore, Lord Rama returned home after destroying the demon god Ravana who had taken away Rama’s wife, Sita? The story, of course, has no significance in the Sikh tradition. However, in the Sikh struggle for freedom from the oppressive Mughal regime, the festival of Divali did become the second most important day after the Vaisakhi festival in April.

The Sixth Guru Hargobind, was freed from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October, 1619. The reason for the young Guru’s imprisonment was no more than religious bigotry. The Guru’s father, Guru Arjan, had been martyred for the same reason. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru agreed to be freed only if the other Indian chiefs (rajahs) imprisoned with him were freed.

Jahangir was under pressure from moderate but influential Muslim religious leaders like Hajrat Mian Mir, a friend of the Guru. So he relented grudgingly and ordained, Let those rajahs be freed who can hold on to the Guru’s coat tails and walk out of prison. He had in mind no more than four or five being freed with the Guru. However, the Guru was not to be outmanoeuvred in this way. He asked for a special coat to be made with 52 coat tails - same number as the rajahs in prison with him! And so the rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the Bandi Chhor (Deliverer from prison). He arrived at Amritsar on the Divali day and the Har Mandar (now known as the Golden Temple) was lit with hundreds of lamps i.e. he was received in the same way as the Lord Rama and the day came to be known as the Bandi Chhor Divas (the day of freedom).

Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on the eve of Diwali, after his release from Gwalior fort, during the reign of Jahangir.The People illuminated the Golden Temple and the city splendidly to celebrate the return of their Guru to the city. Thereafter, Diwali is being celebrated at Amritsar with great pump and show, and also with a lot of religious fervour.

During the fair, religious congregations are held at Manji Sahib, Akal Takhat and Baba Atal which continue for three days. A large number of poets and singers also participate. Recitation of Granth Sahib is done at Darbar Sahib, Akal Takhat and various gurudwaras in the vicinity of Golden Tample.

Early in the morning, pilgrims take a holy dip in the scared tank, while reciting Japji Sahib and thereafter, they go to the Golden Temple for paying their obeisance. They make offerings of various kinds both in cash and kind, such as flowers, candy-drops and parched-rice grains, but mostly the offerings are of karah parshad. which is prepared and sold to the pilgrims by the management. Circumambulation of the tank is considered sacred by the pilgrims.

Illuminations and pyrotechnic display are the unique features of the Diwali celebrations. A mammoth gathering in the parikarma and on the adjoining buildings witness to their great delight the multicolored lights thrown up in the sky and their reflections in the water of the tank. Chain of the electric lights hang along the causeway and on the Darshani Deorhi. Small earthen lamps lighted and fed with sarson oil are arranged in lines all around the tank. All buildings in the compound are bedecked with coloured lights. Candles and small earthen lamps fed with pure ghee are floated in the tank.

This fair is attended by people in the large numbers who come from far and near. A large number of visitors take shelter in the verandahs of the various buildings in the premises. All local inns, rest houses and other common places are packed to capacity. The free mess, called Guru Ram Dass Langar, remains open for all. The whole function is organised by Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee. During the fair, qualified doctors render free medical service to the pilgrims.

Thenceforth, the Sikh struggle for freedom, which intensified in the 18th Century, came to be centred around this day. In addition to the Vaisakhi day (now in April), when Khalsa, the Sikh nation was formally established by the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh, Divali became the second day in the years when the Khalsa met and planned their freedom strategy.

Celebration Of Bandi Chorrh Divas

On the occassion of Bandi Chorrh Divas, Sikhs observe a one-day celebrations in the Gurdwaras. In the evening, illuminations are lighted with Deewé (earthen oil lamps) or candles and fireworks are also bursted. Such celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.

Sacrifice of Bhai Mani Singh on the Occasion of Diwali:

Another important Sikh event associated with Divali is the martyrdom in 1734 of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh, the Granthi (priest) of Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple). He had refused to pay a special tax on a religious meeting of the Khalsa on the Divali day. This and other Sikh martyrdoms gave further momentum to the Khalsa struggle for freedom and eventually success in establishing the Khalsa rule north of Delhi

Bhai Mani Singh was a great scholar and he transcripted the final version of Guru Granth Sahib upon dictation from Guru Govind Singh ji in 1704. He took charge of Harmandir Sahib's management on 1708. Diwali was not celebrated in Golden Temple at that time. In 1737, he received permission from Mogul emperor of Punjab, Zakaria Khan for celebrating Diwali at Golden Temple for a massive tax of Rs. 5,000 (some authors say it was Rs10,000). Invitations were sent to the Sikhs all over India to join Bandi Chhorh Diwas celebrations at Harmandir Sahib. Bhai Singh thought he would collect the tax-money from the Sikhs as subscriptions who would assemble for the purpose of Diwali Celebrations. But Bhai Mani Singh Ji later discovered the secret plan of Zakariya Khan to kill the Sikhs during the gathering. Bhai Mani Singh Ji immediately sent message to all the Sikhs not to turn up for celebrations. Bhai Mani Singh could not manage to arrange the money to be paid for tax. Zakariya Khan was not happy about the situation and he ordered Bhai Mani Singh's assassination at Lahore by ruthlessly cutting him limb-by-limb to death. Ever since, the great sacrifice & devotion of martyr Bhai Mani Singh Ji is remembered on the Bandi Chhorh Diwas (Diwali) celebration.

source: http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/sikh-festivals/the-sikh-festivals-divali-bandi-chhorh-divas


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
We follow the Guru Nanakashai Purewal 2003 at SPN. The video in a way dampens our ability to rejoice that Gurusahiban were able to unite so many in the name of justice. Guru Hargobind ji continued in this legacy of righteousness. That should be the focus of our attention.


Jan 4, 2010
well is that the only reason .v celebrate Diwali ....its time to rejoice i am not against diwali and its celebration , this video is about the ignorance of history blindly following (BIPAR ) history ,its not a coincidence ,acc to video it is created ,but as he is saying acc to BHATT bani ..guru ji return near about feb.
i am not trying to create any controversy here or dampens your ability to rejoice ..i apologize if i did ...


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
well is that the only reason .v celebrate Diwali ....its time to rejoice i am not against diwali and its celebration , this video is about the ignorance of history blindly following (BIPAR ) history ,its not a coincidence ,acc to video it is created ,but as he is saying acc to BHATT bani ..guru ji return near about feb.
i am not trying to create any controversy here or dampens your ability to rejoice ..i apologize if i did ...

bscheema ji

I do not take offense at all. My comment is guided by several needs/reasons. Diwali is not a Sikh festival, and therefore I am personally not rejoicing for anything other than Bandhi Chhorh Diwas and the honorable story it stands for.

Very often we read that Diwali is a Sikh festival. That notion needs to be corrected. And I was correcting it.

There are continual efforts to redefine calendars/dates of gurpurabs for Sikhs and it causes confusion. The calendar we follow was cleared by consent of the quom in 2003. Since then there have been no efforts to engage the quom's consent in a collective sense.

If we change Diwali, then Bandhi Chhorh would be swept along in the movement. Is that creating clarity or confusion? What authority does the speaker in the video have to attempt such a discussion?

These are my thoughts.


Jan 4, 2010
BIPPAR----(SGPC was set up after in 1920 after countless SACRIFICES and STRUGGLES of the Sikh kaum to take control of our Historical Gurdwaras and run them accordign to the Sikh Rehat Maryada. Many Thousands of Sikhs were SHAHEED, went to Jails, were tortured, lost their properties and homes, jobs etc to Take our Gurdwaras out ot control of the BIPPAR MAHANTS who were treating them as their PERSONAL PROPERTIES, as they had been controlling them fro GENERATIONS... ever since the Sikhs had to enter the Forests to Fight for their Survival...from 1708 onwards...

Sadly NOW..the SGPC itself is a "carbon copy" of these same BIPPAR MAHANTS they drove out from the Gurdwaras... The WHEEL has gone one full circle....Time for the Guru Khalsa Panth to once again RETAKE CONTROL of our Gurdwaras from these Bippar/Brahmin mahants..)

para from :- GYANI Jarnail singh Arshi -- tapoban.org phorum http://www.tapoban.org/phorum/read.php?f=1&i=55274&t=55274


Jan 29, 2011
Vancouver, Canada
Diwali is a festival of lights and extravagant pomp and show. It is to Indians what Christmas is to the western world. And Sikhs can never be left back when it comes to Pomp and Show. So diwali for them is 3x lights on their homes, 3x sweets to friends, 3x gifts amongst them and 10x loud firecrackers. And when they were doing it too much, some wise old man said 'Hey what are you doing? Don't know you know Diwali is a Hindu festival. It is about return of Ram from Lanka to Ayodhya.' and some said oh it's like a brotherly gesture for our Hindu friends. No one was convinced, so they went back to their Sikh History books, trying to find an event around this month. And they found that Guru Hargobind Sahib had freed 52 other kings and returned. Wow that is great, we have the return of Sachche Patshah and 52 more kings, this is even a bigger reason. And the Sikhs went back happily to enjoying the mad rush of Diwali, making sure that no one slept in peace during night and no one could breathe with ease in the morning. Amen.

PS: Some lucky Singhs had Kirtan Samagam with great zeal in their homes, but this trailing minority can be ignored for now.

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
Like Christmas, this has become more a social and materialistic festival. Nothing more.

1.What do Hindus learn from Diwali?

2.How do they improve themselves, after all the myth says that Rama spent 14 years in banvas?

3.How have they try to improve themselves spiritually with this mythical story?

The other myth is that on the day of Diwali- The Goddess Lakshami- The Goddess of wealth will fill their households with truck loads of money and with other goodies. That is why they get the house repairs and the painting done before Diwali.

Now for Sikhs, Bandhi Chor is one more myth in my opinion although the gesture by our 6th Guru is very noble one and it shows the tenet of Sikhi to fight for injustice. But this Sakhi has lots of holes in it.

Who stitched the big sheet together that could make 53 people hold the 52 corners?

I have no idea how big the Gwalior jail was then, but the one I was shown many years ago where our 6th Guru stayed does not have a big hall to hold 53 plus of course the police together.

Let's be honest, It would have taken a lot longer than just one day to reach Amritsar from Gwalior. Some say he reached Amritsar in Feburary.

Now comes the environmental part.

1.How much pollution is generated by burning of all these candles all around India and abroad?

Let's ponder over all this as Sikhs.

Tejwant Singh

Sikhi 24/7

Jun 17, 2004

Urge all to listen to this video... Diwali nu Apne Dostan naal as Ohna da festival "Diwali" Manao oh wee sirf ik Celebration waang just like we participate in our friend's functions like weddings etc as part of their Happiness, but at the same time its very important to tell ourselves and our children what Myth-Ithihaas or Mythology based religion is and how are we Sikhs different from it.
The way we attend their weddings and witness 7 Fere or Nikahs etc, but we and our kids should know that the wedding for a sikh is “Anand Karaj”.

Factual errors and misleading IN MANY VIDEOS ON BANDI CHHORR GOING AROUND..

1) It claims that the 52 Kings were released "by complying with the order of Guru Hargobind ji".

The truth is that Emperor Jahangir considered Guru Hargobind Sahib as a Hindu - no different from the other Hindu Kings & Princes that he had imprisoned. The cause of the decision to release them aside, the timing (eve of Diwali) suggests that Jahangir's wife - a Hindu herself - was the primary influence. She wanted them to be able to celebrate Diwali with their subjects. The release enabled them to return to their provinces to do exactly that - celebrate Diwali.

2) Many videos or posts say "Sikhs celebrate this day as bandee chor diwas". The truths of the "celebration" are

A. There is no record of this celebration of the release in any authentic Sikh literature. Our Guru was WRONGLY imprisoned, hence his release was the righting of a wrong.

B. IF Sikhs wanted to or want to celebrate a Gurujis RELEASE then the celebration should be on the EVE of Diwali. Not on Diwali day.

C. Guru Hargobind reached Darbar Dahib several days after his release - on Dec 28 or February 28 of the year AFTER his release. (Source: Guru Kian Sakhian & Bhatt Vahee). This is the day the Sikhs celebrated Gurujis homecoming - IF at all they did.

D. Guru Nanak Sahib ji was imprisoned with thousands of fellow human beings in d aftermath of Baabar's invasion. Guru ji appeared before Baabar and asked him to release them all. Baabar relented. Guru ji came out of jail with many thousands. Why isn't this day celebrated as Bandee Chod Divas? Becos it doesn't fall on the eve of Diwali day ?

3) Some posts or videos quotes a verse "Gurbani says " SATGUR BANDEE CHOR HAI JEEVAN MUKAT KAREY UDEENA". The guru is the giver of freedom from bondages ....

This verse is NOT Gurbani. Gurbani is what is contained in the BANEE of our GURU - the SGGS ji.

The verse is from Vaar 26 Pauree 20 of Bhai Gurdas ji. It's in praise of our Guru.

Why is this verse of Bhai Gurdas ji included if we Sikhs have no intention to abide by it. ?

Bhai Gurdas ji tells us that the Guru frees us from bondages. Why then are Sikhs still bonded to a festival that has nothing to do with Sikhi?

Bhai Gurdas ji doesn't say the the Guru frees us from bondages on a particular day or event. Why then do we need to meet "on the 18th of October" to celebrate this so called bandee chor divas. ? Why do we need to meet on the 18th (as called upon by the video) to be "liberated"?

Surely we cannot be so needy of a celebration of a day and event that belongs to another faith that we are prepared to claim "Gurbani authorization" where none actually exists.

It's difficult to think of a reason other than to mislead Sikhs into thinking that "bandee chor divas is sanctioned by Gurbani ?

Our liberation is everyday, every moment and every second that we abide by our Guru - SGGS's messages and advice. Let's get liberated. Liberated in the real authentic sense.


May 2, 2006
Given the time of the year .. i was looking for this topic. Nothing against Diwali and i had celebrated till now will continue participating in future. I cannot make any sense though of this fact that this event of releasing kings by a Sikh guru is so big of deal that we decorate our gurudwar's , do big programs , light candles compare to how much we celebrate birthdays of all 10 guru's or Parkash of guru granth sahib.


Jul 22, 2023
What were the names nd states of 52 Rajas got released by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, as mentioned often in Sikh History? I have read of mention of Raja of Bilaspur in Bhatt Wahis.



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