Fireworks illuminate the sky above a town, apparently in India, where the buildings are lit up in bright colours.

Our new blog series invites members and friends of WIN to prepare a ‘festival diary’, exploring the history and significance of specific rituals or outlining the routine of religious celebrations, as a window into the lived experience of people of different faiths. This week’s author is Bajinder Sher, a committee member from our Gants Hill WIN group.

Bandi Chhor Divas is a Sikh celebration that commemorates the day that the Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Ji, helped release 52 kings from Gwalior fort who were imprisoned by Mughal emperor Jahangir. The emperor had held these 52 kings at the fort for several months.
The occasion of Bandi Chhor Divas first took place in the autumn of 1619, and is currently celebrated in October or November.
When Hindus and others celebrate Diwali, Sikhs remember the release of Guru Hargobind Ji from prison and his return to Amritsar in 1619. The name Bandi Chhor means ‘liberation of prisoners day’. Hargobind Ji agreed to leave prison only if the 52 Hindu kings who were in prison with him could also go free. The emperor said that those who cling to the Guru’s coat would be able to leave, so Guru ji had a coat made with 52 tassels attached to it so that all of the 52 kings could leave prison with him.
The story reminds the Sikhs of freedom and human rights and this is why we celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas.