Remembering Guru Hargobind Sahib on Bandi Chhor Divus

2014-10-24- bandi chorr








“Gayee Bahur Bandhi Schorr Nirankar Dukhdari || “
“The Restorer of what was taken away, the Liberator from captivity; the Formless Lord, the destroyer of pain”

Sikh Relief (SOPW) wishes to congratulate Sikhs and Hindus on the auspicious occasion of Bandhi Chhor Divas/ Diwali.

The history behind Bandhi Chhor resonates with the work carried out by the teams of volunteers who dedicate their energies to provide the political prisoners “light at the end of a very dark and painful tunnel” in Indian prisons.

From a historical perspective we remember that in 1619, Guru Hargobind Ji was released along with 52 rajas from the Gwalior fort, Madhya Pradesh (India). The followers of the Guru in jubilation of the Guru’s release carried out “Deep Mala” (lighting small lamps all over the house) on the date of Diwali.

The term “Bandhi Chhor” literally translates to “Deliverer from Imprisonment” and is affectionately used to also signify the Guru as “The Liberator.” It was first used for Guru Hargobind Ji immediately after the release of 52 Hindu Rajput Princes. These Hindu Princes were effectively innocent political prisoners.

When Akbar’s policy of assimilation changed to Jahangir’s propaganda against the Sikhs, resulting in the martyrdom of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Patshah, Guru Hargobind Patshah urged his followers to pick up weapons for their as well as the community’s self-protection. He preached self-protection along with his religious message. Upon hearing this, Jahangir arrested and jailed Guru Sahib in Gawalior fort. However, instead of losing popularity, this action immensely increased the popularity and following of Guru Sahib. Many renowned Muslims also issued a call for Guru Sahib’s release. As a result, Jahangir not only released Guru Sahib but actively sought to establish some level of friendship.

Bandhi Chhor is also the Shaheedi Purbh (martyrdom day) of Bhai Mani Singh Ji. Bhai Mani Singh Ji was also a political prisoner and known as one of the greatest Sikh personalities of the 18th century where they had steered the course of the Sikhs’ destiny at a very critical stage i.e. when mass executions much like that of the Jews during Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror in the 1930s until the end of WW2 in 1945 were inflicted on the Sikhs. Bhai Sahib was a great scholar, a devoted Sikh, and a courageous leader. Their martyrdom was attained due to their stout refusal to barter their faith and boldly opt for death and willingly laid down their life to uphold not only the dignity of the Sikh religion and the Sikh nation but also for the freedom of all the communities who were being forcibly made to choose between Islam and death.

Both Guru Sahib Ji and Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh Ji espoused values that conformed to what we take as granted. It took a further 329 years before the following rights and freedoms were declared by the newly formed United Nations:

“Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

We must ask ourselves what we learn from both events.

In essence, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance (he was not a forced prisoner). However, Guru Ji thought of others before himself. Others freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Sahib is always thinking of everyone’s emancipation, not his own or only his Sikhs. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Sahib filled within his Sikhs by putting into reality this positive message.

Sunday 9th of Novemeber will mark Remembrance Day where the world remembers those soldiers “who gave up their tomorrow for our today.” The Sikhs did not just fight for their own freedom in India, but they also fought for the freedom of others who lived in foreign lands through volunteering to fight against tyrants threatening the world. This is where the colour that Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji filled within the Sikhs comes to light. The British had oppressed the Sikhs and Punjab (as well as having some good times), but nevertheless, the Sikhs rose to give sacrifices for freedom, liberty and justice. This is the blessing of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. This is praised by the British Generals where they state:

“Finally we that live on can never forget those comrades who, in giving their lives gave so much that is great to the story of the Sikh Regiment. No living glory can transcend that of their supreme sacrifice.

May they rest in peace.

In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. they all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.”
– General Sir Frank Messervy, K.C.S.I., K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O.

In the last year, SOPW/Sikh Relief has worked tirelessly with the authorities to help families of prisoners with the funding of weddings, the education of children/prisoners and water filtration packages for all prisoners/their families, organise the legal defence, provided medical care and facilitated the release of over 30 prisoners. This has also included the release of Sukhjinder Kaur, who was the last remaining Sikh political prisoner.

We are proud of the dedication of our volunteers – they contribute an immense amount of time, energy and personal resources to ensuring SOPW/Sikh Relief is able to reach out to the prisoners’ and their families in difficult circumstances.

Sikh Relief is also blessed with the honour of a Sangat (congregation) that provides funding and blessings with such philanthropy and generosity.

We thank you for your trust and support.

If you wish to donate to SOPW or volunteer your time, please visit / email and [email protected]


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