Saturday, October 17, 2009
What Diwali Means to Us
History Bhandi Chhor Divas
Courtesy of Manvir Singh Khalsa from his blog
The word "Bandi" means "imprisoned", "Chhor" means "release" and "Divas" means "day" and together "Bandi Chhor Divas" means Prisoners Release Day.
The Sikh celebration of the return of the sixth 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.
When Murtaja Khan, Nawab of Lahore, noticed that Guru Ji had constructed Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, 'The Throne of the Almighty', at Amritsar, and was also strengthening his army, he informed about it to the Mughal Emperor Jahangeer. He also emphasized that he was making preparations to take revenge for his father's torture and martyrdom. When Jahangeer came to know about this he at once sent Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to Amritsar in order to arrest Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.But Wazir Khan who was a well-wisher of the Sikh Guru’s requested the Guru to accompany them to Delhi as Emperor Jahangeer wanted to meet him. Guru Sahib accepted the invitation and reached Delhi.On their first meeting when Jahangeer saw the Guru, he was completely won over by his youthful charm and holiness. The Emperor decided to become friends with the Guru. So he gave a royal welcome to the Guru. But Chandu Shah could not bear it. His daughter was still unmarried and thus the rotten sore was still bleeding (that Guru Arjan Dev Ji refused the offer to marry his daughter to Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji).
At Agra, the Emperor fell seriously ill. The physicians tried their best but they failed to care him. Then Chandu Shah conspired with the astrologers, who were asked to tell the Emperor that his sickness was due to wrong track of stars and it could, be cared only if some holy man goes to Gwallior Fort to offer prayers to the deity. He also pointed out that Guru Hargobind Ji was such a holy man and he should be asked go to Gwallior Fort. At the Emperor’s request the Guru readily agreed and left for the Gawalior Fort.In the fort Guru Ji met many princes who were detained there due to political reasons. They were leading a very deplorable life. With the help of Hari Dass, the governor of fort, the Guru improved their condition. Hari Daas was a Sikh of Guru Nanak and he become ardent devotee of Guru Hargobind. Once when Chandu wrote to Hari Daas to poison Guru Sahib, he at once placed that letter before Guru Ji.When several months passed and Guru Ji was not released then Baba Buddha Ji and other devotees met the Guru. They informed him about the despicable condition of the Sikhs, who were waiting for him with great eagerness. The Guru assured them that they should not worry, he would join them soon. Sikhs would gather and carry out Parbaat-Pheris, walking and singing Gurbaani, around the Gawalior Fort awaiting for Guru Ji's arrival out.In the meantime Sai Mian Meer met Jahangeer and asked him to release the Guru. Jahangeer, who had fully recovered, ordered Wazir Khan to release Guru Sahib, who reached Gwallior Fort and informed Hari Daas about the message of the Emperor. Hari Daas was very pleased to hear it. He informed Guru Ji about the message of Emperor. But the Guru declined to leave the fort unless the princes confined in the fort were also released.When Wazir Khan informed the Emperor about the desire of the Guru, the Emperor was forced to agree, though he didn't want to free the prisoners. So, out of cleverly the Emperor put down the condition that "Whoever can hold on to the Guru's cloak can be released." The fifty–two princes who had been detained due to political reasons or for committing default, were pining in fort for years. Having compassion for others, Guru Sahib was determined to get the prisoners freed. He had a cloak made with 52 corners, for each King to hold on to. The Guru left the fort with all fifty-two princes. As the Guru liberated the fifty-two princes so he is known as Bandi-Chhor (Liberator).
A Gurdwara known as Bandi-Chhor is built at the place where Guru stayed during his detention. Jahangeer advised Wazir Khan to bring Guru Hargobind in his court at Delhi with great honour. Jahangeer had realised that he wrong for torturing and killing Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had not committed no crime or offense. He wanted to exonerate himself by indicting this crime on Chandu Shah and other officers. So in order to show his innocence he wanted to meet Guru Hargobind Ji. The Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorr Divas i.e., 'the day of release of detainees' . 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.What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas?52 Hindu Kings were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance. However, Guru Ji thought of others before himself. Others freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Ji is always thinking not of his emancipation but everyone's emancipation. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Ji filled within his Sikhs, by putting into reality this positive message.