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Step into the vibrant celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas with our latest film. This film immerses you in the rich traditions and cultural significance of this special occasion. Bandi Chhor Divas,  is a Sikh holiday that coincides with Diwali, the festival of lights. It commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Sikh Guru, from imprisonment in the historic Gwalior Fort.

“Bandi Chhor Divas” is a captivating exploration of tradition and faith, making it a valuable resource for educators, students, and anyone interested in celebrating and understanding the beauty of cultural festivals.

Bandi Chhor Divas

Davina:        Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh.

My name is Davina Kaur.


Arvinda:       My name is Arvinda Singh.

Hello, my name is Harwinder Singh.

I'm here today at the Park Avenue Gurdwara in Southall.

And today is Bandi Chhor Divas.


Narrator:      Every autumn, Sikhs all over the world celebrate the festival of Bandi Chhor Divas,

which means “The Day of Liberation”.

They get together at the Gurdwara

the Sikh Temple

to worship, to eat, and to set off fireworks!

Bandi Chhor Divas is celebrated on the same day as the Hindu festival of Diwali,

and the two are sometimes mixed up,

but for Sikhs, the day marks a very special moment in their history…


Harwinder:   Today is the day of Diwali,

which is a festival celebrated by many people,

predominantly Hindus,

but also some Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists commemorate the day.

Sikhs celebrate on this day

the Bandi Chhor Diavs,

which is the date that we call the Day of Liberation.


Narrator:      400 years ago, India was ruled by the Emperor Jahangir.

He was an incredibly vain man

who liked everyone to think he was a good Muslim,

but he drank wine, smoked opium,

and never made a decision without consulting his astrologers

all things that Muslims are not supposed to do.

Paintings of Jahangir stared down from every wall of his palace,

and all the courtiers had to wear a portrait of him around their necks.

If anyone else became important or popular, he got very jealous.


This might be why he hated Guru Arjan so much.

The Sikh leader was attracting more and more followers to the city of Amritsar,

and the rumour spread that he was building an army to overthrow the Emperor.

Jahangir took the gossip seriously

and ordered a courtier called Chandu Shah

to arrest Guru Arjan and throw him in prison.

But Chandu Shah was a very cruel man,

and took delight in slowly, horribly, torturing Guru Arjan to death.

Just before he died,

Guru Arjan announced that his son would be the next Guru,

the sixth leader of the Sikh people.

His name was Hargobind,

and he was just 11 years old.


Guru Hargobind decided that -

in order to survive - the Sikh people should learn how to defend themselves.


He used two swords to explain the new direction his leadership would take. He named the sword on his right Bidi, which means heaven, and it represented that he would continue to be the spiritual leader of the Sikh religion,

but the Sudanese left was named Mirai, which means Earth, to represent that he would also be a political leader of the Sikh community and fight for their rights. Over the next few years, the Sikhs became a formidable fighting force and Emperor Jahangir realised that he'd made a big mistake. He had Guru Gobind Singh Ji brought to the royal court to make it clear who is in charge. But by now the guru was a grown man and not easy to intimidate. So the Emperor pretended he wanted to be friends with the young guru instead.

A huge hunting party was laid on, and they set out to track down a rogue lion that had killed several people. They'd got it cornered when suddenly the lion broke cover and leapt straight for Jahangir. Guru Gobind Singh slammed his shield into the lion's head, followed up with his sword, and the lion fell dead.

General Shah was worried. Jahangir and Guru Gobind Singh Ji were really becoming friends, and the emperor might be persuaded to punish the person responsible for Guru Arjun. Their death and that meant trouble.

When Jahangir became ill, General Tendulkar saw his chance. He forced the royal astrologers to tell the emperor that the illness was due to an inauspicious alignment of the stars or something, and that the only way to be cured was to send a holy man to the fort at Gwalior to say special prayers. The holiest man Jahangir knew was Guru Hagopian Singh.

So, as Tendulkar had anticipated, the young guru was given the mission, but the Gwalior Fort turned out to be a jail where political prisoners, anyone who disagreed with Jahangir, were held captive.

There were 52 Hindu princes locked up within its walls, and on Chandu Shah's orders, Guru Gobind Singh was forced to join them. When Jahangir eventually recovered from his illness, he demanded that Guru Gobind Singh Ji should be released. But the guru refused to leave the fort unless the Hindu princes were also given their freedom. Jahangir didn't want a Sikh revolt on his hands, so he came up with a compromise. Guru Gobind Singh would be released, and as many princes who could hold onto his cloak as he passed through the narrow gateway would be allowed to leave the fort with him.


A large crowd waited outside for Guru Gobind Singh Ji to appear. Finally, the gate opened and there he was. But how many of the princes had managed to keep a hold of his cloak for five? Six, maybe. Following behind Guru Gobind Singh. All 52 of the princes emerged from the fort, each holding onto a tassel of an enormously long and flamboyant cloak that the guru had got specially made for the occasion.

Jahangir blamed Chandu Shah for the whole fiasco, including the death of Guru Arjun, but the Empress friendship with Guru Gobind Singh Ji never recovered. The guru was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Amritsar on the day of the Hindu festival Diwali in 1619, and every year since then, Sikhs have celebrated Bundi. Shortly was the day of liberation.

This and Diwali are two separate festivals in their own right. From the time of the sixth Guru Nanak freedom from prison onwards, six began to celebrate Bundi short lives alongside Diwali, and so the festivities differ quite starkly.

Everyone who comes to the goodwill shows their respect to God and the gurus by bowing down to the Guru Granth Sahib ji, the Sikh holy book. The very first copy of the Guru Granth Sahib ji, known as The Adherent, was put together by Guru Arjun, the father of Guru Har Gobind Singh. Then there is food, vegetarian food, which is given out for free to all visitors in a big dining hall called a Langer Hall. The people cooking and serving the food and clearing up afterwards are all giving their time for free as well. And this is called seva, which means selfless service.


Harwinder:   What most of us try to do is remember that the guru was a political prisoner, and how even to this day, there are political prisoners around the world who are incarcerated and their freedoms are being kept from them. So on this.


Davina:        Day, we come together to celebrate the occasion as well as this. For those who are interested in the history side of it, we also partake in political conversations. The whole point of the reason why we celebrate it was because Guru Gobind Singh celebrated the fact that selflessness, humility, being politically minded, thinking about living in a world, trying to make it just, and for us, it's a key element, is merely petty.


Davina:        The fact that we should be spiritual and also remove ourselves from the material world and illusions, but also within the world, make it better for the good of others. One reason why this celebration is really important is because regardless of whether you're a Sikh, a Hindu and Muslim, a Catholic Jain, it's the same message coincides with an all face. The fact that we should be political, we should be helping each other. We should be sharing the message, having that commonality, that unity, having peace, prosperity and fairness.


Narrator:      As night falls. Candles and little lamps called divas are led to celebrate Guru Singh's return home to Amritsar. And the victory of light over darkness. And later on, there are fireworks.


Interviewee 1: Bandi Chhor Divas is showing that light will be over darkness in all forms.


Interviewee 2: Both Diwali and Bandi Divas. They are both based on freedom. Well, it's usually the victory of good or evil. That's what it's all about.


Interviewee 3: I'm here to celebrate the Diwali and Bandi Chhor. So Diwalli is basically the festival of light. And when guru, the sixth guru, he came and came out and he took everyone with him. And it shows like you have to be free and everything. And that's why I came to the Gurdwara with my family, to celebrate and celebrate with your friends and family and prayer in the temple. It's important to us because it's our religion and like we do fireworks.


Davina:        We're here to pray, meditate, enlighten, but also help others and not just be. As an individual in this world, but as a community within this whole world. Why Guruji made it all and all is his and that is where we want to return to. That is where we've come from. So it's the fact that seeing that commonality between us all are reminding ourselves that we have a voice. We should use that voice. We should help others. But for justice, equality and tool that has reached, we have not yet reached our purpose.


Bandi Chhor Divas

Video length - 09.28
Published date - Nov 2023
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4