(Prisoner Release Day) October 22, 2022
Article updated on November 10, 2023
Through subterfuge and lies Guru Hargobind had been imprisoned at the Fort of Gwalior for quite a few years by Jahangir, the ruler of the Mughal Empire at that time. Jahangir realized his mistake and decided to release Guru Hargobind.
Bandi Chhor Diwas is the day where, we as Sikhs, celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind and the 52 princes from the prison at the fort of Gwalior.
The word "Bandi" means "imprisoned", "Chhor" means "release" and "Diwas" means "day" and together "Bandi Chhor Divas" means Prisoner Release Day. It is celebrated with great joy as it was a time when "right" prevailed over "wrong". This release was actually a few days before the Hindu Diwali Festival. However, Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on Diwali in 1619, and thus we typically celebrate Bandi Chhor Diwas on the same day as Diwali.
The Guru, being very smart, had found a way to get all the 52 innocent leaders to be released from the prison without a battle. It had been a long process as the Guru spent many years in custody. In the end, the unjust government of the day had to "give in" to the Guru's just demands. This was an unlikely victory in a period of history when those in power were completely corrupt and injustice was the order of the day.
When the Mogul Emperor finally ordered to release the Guru, the Guru refused to leave the fort unless the 52 princes were released as well. The Mogul Emperor agreed on one condition: "whoever can hold on to the Guru's kurta can be released."
The wise and clever Guru had a kurta made with 52 corners or tails, so that each King could hold onto them and walk out of the fort of Gwalior.
The most important message that we are left with, is that emancipation must always include the emancipation of others.
Our freedom can only come with the freedom of all.
By freeing the 52 other prisoners, we are reminded that the Guru is here to free us, just as Waheguru, God, is here to guide us and free us to live a life that reflects God’s Light.
The Gurus shared their teachings to emancipate and free their Sikhs/students from their own shackles.
We should ask ourselves: What shackles do we create for ourselves? How do we imprison ourselves? How do we create bondage?
People are bound by the chains of maya. Bound by duality, by egotism, sexual desire, anger, greed, falsehood, attachment, fear, corruption, and misguided beliefs. All these take hold of us; We are in prison, entangled, blinded and caught in the noose of the 5 thieves and negative thoughts.
Guru Arjun asks these questions: on p. 131 (of the Sikh Texts)
“How is one bound, and how is one freed of his bonds? How can one escape from the cycle of coming and going in reincarnation? Who is subject to karma, and who is beyond karma? Who chants the Name, and inspires others to chant it? || 2 || Who is happy, and who is sad? Who, as sanmukh, turns toward the Guru, and who, as vaymukh, turns away from the Guru? How can one meet the Lord? How is one separated from Him? Who can reveal the way to me? || 3 || What is that Word, by which the wandering mind can be restrained? What are those teachings, by which we may endure pain and pleasure alike? What is that lifestyle, by which we may come to meditate on the Supreme Lord? How may we sing the Kirtan of His Praises? || 4 || The Gurmukh is liberated, and the Gurmukh is linked. The Gurmukh is the spiritual teacher, and the Gurmukh is the preacher. Blessed is the Gurmukh, the householder and the renunciate. The Gurmukh knows the Lord’s Value. || 5 || Egotism is bondage; as Gurmukh, one is emancipated. The Gurmukh escapes the cycle of coming and going in reincarnation. The Gurmukh performs actions of good karma, and the Gurmukh is beyond karma. Whatever the Gurmukh does, is done in good faith. || 6 || The Gurmukh is happy, while the self-willed manmukh is sad. The Gurmukh turns toward the Guru, and the self-willed manmukh turns away from the Guru. The Gurmukh is united with the Lord, while the manmukh is separated from Him. The Gurmukh reveals the way. || 7 ||”
Guru Arjun Dev Ji:
“You (God) are eternal and all- powerful; I am a mere beggar, Lord. I am intoxicated with emotional attachment to Maya — save me, Lord! Bound down by greed, emotional attachment, and corruption, I have made all sorts of bad mistakes. The creator is detached, and free of entanglement; one obtains the fruits of his own actions. Be kind to me, O Purifier of sinners; I am so tired of wandering through reincarnation. Prays Nanak, I am the slave of the Lord; God is the Support of my soul, and my breath of life. || 2 ||”
The Guru gives us the answer as how to release our bondages and liberate ourselves:
Guru Nanak: p. 152
“How can we know where we came from? Where did we originate, and where will we go and merge? How are we bound, and how do we obtain liberation? How do we merge with intuitive ease into the Eternal, Imperishable Lord? || 1 || With the Naam in the heart and the Ambrosial Naam on our lips, through the Name of the Lord, we rise above desire, like the Lord. || 1 || Pause ||”
Guru Nanak: p. 61
“Through desire, people are cast into the womb and reborn. Through desire, they taste the sweet and sour flavors. Bound by desire, they are led on, beaten, and struck on their faces and mouths. Bound and gagged and assaulted by evil, they are released only through the Name, through the Guru’s Teachings. || 7 ||”
Guru Nanak: p. 728
Deep within the self, the Lord abides; do not go outside looking for Him. You have renounced the Ambrosial Nectar — why are you eating poison? || 1 || Meditate on such spiritual wisdom, O my mind, and become the slave of the True Lord. || 1 || Pause || Everyone speaks of wisdom and meditation; but bound in bondage, the whole world is wandering around in confusion. || 2 || One who serves the Lord is His servant.The Lord is pervading and permeating the water, the land, and the sky. || 3 || I am not good; no one is bad. Prays Nanak, He alone saves us! || 4 || 1 || 2 ||
Kabeer Ji: P. 482
“Says Kabeer, the five passions argue with me, and in these arguments, my life is wasting away. The false Maya has bound the whole world, but I have obtained peace, chanting the Name of the Lord.”
To whom should we be bound to?
Guru Nanak in the Japji Sahib says: p. 3
“The path of the faithful shall never be blocked. The faithful shall depart with honor and fame. The faithful do not follow empty religious rituals. The faithful are firmly bound to the Dharma. Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord. Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind. || 14 ||”
Guru Nanak: “The Lord’s bound servants are those who bind themselves to see the Lord’s Vision.” P. 465
Guru Arjun: p. 619
SORAT‟H, FIFTH MEHL: He did not take my accounts into account; such is His forgiving nature. He gave me His hand, and saved me and made me His own; forever and ever, I enjoy His Love. || 1 || The True Lord and Master is forever merciful and forgiving. My Perfect Guru has bound me to Him, and now, I am in absolute ecstasy. || Pause || The One who fashioned the body and placed the soul within, who gives you clothing and nourishment — He Himself preserves the honor of His slaves. Nanak is forever a sacrifice to Him. || 2 || 16 || 44 ||
The Guru Says: p. 701 – 702:
JAITSREE, FIFTH MEHL: If only someone would unite me with the Lord!
I hold tight to His feet, and utter sweet words with my tongue; I make my breath of life an offering to Him. || 1 || Pause ||
I make my mind and body into pure little gardens, and irrigate them with the sublime essence of the Lord.
I am drenched with this sublime essence by His Grace, and the powerful hold of Maya’s corruption has been broken. || 1 ||
I have come to Your Sanctuary, O Destroyer of the suffering of the innocent; I keep my consciousness focused on You.
Bless me with the gifts of the state of fearlessness, and meditative remembrance, Lord and Master; O Nanak, God is the Breaker of bonds. || 2 || 5 || 9 ||
May we implant the Name of the Lord within us and dispel doubts from within. May we conquer our ego and lovingly focus on the Lord.
The Guru reminds us to restrain our wandering mind and to keep it in check.
He reminds us to center our awareness on seva, on selfless service and to focus our consciousness on the Word of the Shabad. Thus, we shall find peace and our emotional attachment to maya will be dispelled.
The Guru inspires us to become Gurmukhs – to have our face turned towards God and Guru. To focus our meditation on the Supreme Lord God. To focus on the Naam and focus our consciousness on the Lord’s Lotus Feet.
Wherever you look, see the Lord at the root of all things. You can do this through your imagination – dare to imagine the Lord within all.
“The Gurmukh beholds the Lord, the Gurmukh speaks of the Lord, and the Gurmukh naturally loves the Lord.” “The Gurmukh attains spiritual wisdom, and the pitch-black darkness of ignorance is dispelled.”
Our soul yearns to meet the Lord. Our soul hungers for the divine and sublime elixir of the Lord. By drinking this elixir, we experience peace, joy, and love for our fellow traveling saints, so that we are free of anxiety and free of Maya that took hold of us.
May we ask God and Guru to always show us how to release ourselves from the bonds that enslaved us.
May we purify ourselves, releasing all that ties us down, allowing God's Light, Wisdom and Knowledge to manifest through us, so that we may serve humanity with love!
May we always vibrate to the Lord’s Divine Light and Frequency!
Remember Waheguru (God) with every breath!
Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!
The pure belong to God! Victory belongs to God!
(Some text is taken from Sikhiwiki, and the passages are from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sacred Teachings of the Sikhs.)
In January 2023, I participated in a poetry sharing event to honor the Guru.
I wrote the following poem that I believe fits well with the topic above. Enjoy!