Do Sikhs commemorate Diwali? Bandi Chhorh Divas discussed

    A young girl carrying candles at a Diwali celebration

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    Why do Sikhs get associated with Hindu Diwali events? (Picture: Getty Images)

    Diwali is often referred to as the ‘Hindu Festival of Lights’, with the main day of the 2021 festival day taking place on Monday, October 24.

    Hindus all over the world will light plenty of candles and enjoy fireworks displays during the five-day celebration period.

    However, you will also see people of other faiths seemingly getting involved with Diwali traditions.

    So, why do Sikhs light candles during a Hindu festival?

    Do Sikhs celebrate Diwali?

    To be totally accurate, Sikhs are not actually celebrating Diwali, they are celebrating Bandi Chhorh Divas, which means ‘Prisoner Release Day’.

    This happens to be at the same time of year as Diwali, so the two are amalgamated.

    A Sikh boy lights candles in front of the Golden Temple for Bandi Chhorh Divas

    Bandi Chhorh Divas is hugely important for Sikhs (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

    Prisoner Release Day is the celebration of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, being released from Gwalior Prison in India along with 52 princes in 1619.

    The day is seen as a triumph of right over wrong and a tribute to the Guru who saved the lives of the 52 men without violence.

    It is believed that the sixth Guru, along with hundreds of others, was held as a political prisoner by the Mughals, despite being otherwise innocent of any crimes.

    The Mughal Emperor Jahangir met with Guru during his imprisonment and became close to him – partly because the Guru saved him from a lion whilst out hunting, but also because the Guru’s prayers were thought to have cured the Emperor of a serious illness.

    Such was the debt the Emperor owed Guru Hargobind, he agreed to release him but the Guru refused to accept unless he could take 52 princes (Rajas) with him.

    The Emperor was at first reluctant but agreed to let any prisoners free who could hold onto the Guru’s cloak, thinking this would seriously limit the number.

    However, the Guru outsmarted the Emperor by creating a cloak made with 52 tails (reported as pieces of string in some places) so all the Rajas could hold on and walk to freedom with him.

    The selflessness of the Guru is celebrated to this day at Gurudwara Bandi Chor (the Sikh Temple built on the site of the Guru’s imprisonment) with ‘Deewalee’ (earthen oil lamps), candles, and fireworks on Bandi Chhorh Divas.

    It is also a time when Sikhs may choose to make a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) which is the most important pilgrimage site in the religion.

    On Diwali, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is illuminated with Diyas (lamps) and fireworks are also lit.

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