Bandhi Chhor Divas
Diwali is a significant religious festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism. It is also popularly known as the “Festival of Lights” and is a lunar-calendar based event that occurs between mid-October and mid-November.
Sikhs do not solely celebrate Diwali for the same reason as other faiths. Sikhs actually celebrate Bandi Chhor Diwas (often translated as Prisoner Release Day) on Diwali. This is the occasion of the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and arrived home to His followers on the day of Diwali, 1619.
For the full story on why Guru Ji was imprisoned and the significance of Bandhi Chhor Divas, see here.
How do Sikhs celebrate Diwali?
Sikhs will go to the Gurdwara and remember Guru Ji through prayer and meditation. As was done at the time to light the path for Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji’s return home, Sikhs will also light divas and set off fireworks, which is the traditional manner of celebration for the “festival of lights”.
Significance of Bandi Chhor Divas today
When Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was granted release from prison, He refused to leave until 52 Hindu political prisoners were also released by Emperor Jahangir.
Jahangir agreed to release as many as could hold onto Guru Ji’s coat-tails. For this reason, Guru Ji had a special coat made with 52 tails, allowing all the 52 political prisoners with Him. This is still available to see in a Gurdwara in Amritsar, Punjab.
Today many political prisoners – including hundreds of Sikhs – are still languishing in Indian jails. Many of these prisoners have served life sentences and yet still remain in jail, without explanation as to why.
For more information on Sikh political prisoners, check out the work of Sikh Relief.