Contributed by Jaspinder Mann
As many across India celebrate Diwali, Sikhs also light Divas (candles) and set off fireworks for Bandi Chor Divas, day of liberation. The Sikh occasion for celebration is in remembrance of their history and the actions of their sixth Guru (spiritual leader) Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.
Guru Sahib was imprisoned by Mughal emperor Jahangir for their rejection of forced Islamic conversion and the Mughal regime overall. Upon the date of their release, they refused to leave unless the other political prisoners got freedom too. There were 52 princes unjustly imprisoned alongside them. The Mughals mockingly replied ‘you can take as many as you can hold onto’. In this case, Guru Ji commissioned Sikh disciples to make a Cholla (Robe) with 52 tassels hanging on the hem. 52 representing the number of political prisoners, many of whom were from different backgrounds, creeds and religions than that of Sikhism. Although the date of their release does not fall exactly on Diwali, it was only a couple of days prior; therefore, it is revered to this day as a celebration that coincided with the Diwali festival celebrations at that time.
How it’s celebrated:
- Typically an Akhand Path is started and completed on the day of Bandi Chor Divas. An Akhand Path is a 3 day fixed, 24hour continuous reading/recital of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the current and eternal physical Guru of the Sikhs.
- Lighting fireworks and gifting Indian sweets to one another.
- And most of all.. Lighting Divas! (candles) in your home and at the Gudwara, the Sikh place of worship. (Traditional divas, are like tiny oil lamps, hand-made with clay, oil and cotton wool)
The lighting of candles is a symbol of hope and guidance: a clearing of darkness and guiding one back to their home from tough journeys, similar to the ultimate sacrifices of Sikh soldiers and Gurus. The problems concerning Sikh and other political prisoners are still prevalent in society today. The actions of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and the overall teachings of the Sikh religion remind us all to stand up for truth, justice and equality.
Jaspinder Mann is a master’s student in Literature here at UoB and her research interests vary from modernist literature to contemporary postcolonial studies. She hopes to write about issues relating to religion, literature, and the world.