What are we doing??Why are we doing so??

October 31, 2005

Bandhi-Chor or an Alibi?

Every year, with arrival of Diwali I am forced to ponder over the hypocrisy that has entrenched our Sikh society. Sure, I am afraid to reason on Diwali/Bandi-Chor Diwas and its importance within the four walls of the Gurudwara, as it would amount to playing with sentiments and lead us nowhere.

So for years I have started isolating myself more and more from this occasion. Unless of course there is great Keertan going on in the Gurudwara, I make it a point not to be present in any community celebrations on this day.

Am I taking it too far?

I don’t know. But I would surely appreciate if someone can help me understand why I should not take it too far!

Here are some thoughts on Diwali/Bandhi Chor Diwas.

Till date Historians have not reached a consensus on the period of Guru Hargobind Jis’ stay in the Fort of Gwalior. Historical texts indicate this period from as short as Forty days to as long as 12 years (Dabistan-I-Mazahi by Muhsin Fani). Some periods indicated in historical texts are 1617 – 19, 1609 – 1611, etc. Muhsin Fani is obviously wrong in stating the 12 year period because most of Gurus children were born during these years.

We know that Indian Calendar system is lunar based and therefore the no. of days in the Solar based calendar does not match with Indian system. If we are not sure about Guru Hargoind Jis period of stay and his discharge from the Gwalior Prison, then how can we mathematically calculate that Bandhi Chor Gurpurab falls every year on the Hindu festival day of Diwali?

If one may object to the above point, then let’s look at it the other way around. If we are sure that he was allowed to leave the prison on Diwali day, then historians should be able to work backwards and have a better understanding of the year of his release.

But till date our historical records are vague about the period he was imprisoned and the year of his discharge.

Some justify the use of heavy lighting at Darbar Sahib on Diwali by linking it with arrival of Guru Hargobind Ji to the city of Amritsar after having been released from Gwalior prison and having sought the release of Hindu nobles (and therefore Bandhi Chor) with his release. It is said that the residents of Amritsar lighted up their houses in happiness of his arrival.

So what are we trying to celebrate on this day?

Release of Bandhis from the Fort of Gwalior or the arrival of Guru Ji at Amritsar?

If Guru Ji arrived at Amritsar on Diwali day, then wouldn’t it be but obvious that a large section of Hindu population residing in Amritsar would have as it is lighted up their houses because of the festive occasion of Diwali?

If we are celebrating the release of Bandhis from the Fort of Gwalior on that day, then one wonders how would the message of release have reached Darbar Sahib the same day over a distance of 600 Kilometers for the Sangat there to have lighted up the lamps?

While Bandhi Chor may be perceived as an important event by many Sikhs and I don’t want to take away the importance from this event, but keep an open mind and think why is it that we Sikhs light up the Darbar Sahib on Bandhi Chor Gurpurab only?

Aren’t other Gurpurabs as much important?

Isn’t Gur-Gaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib important?

Wouldn’t the arrival of Guru Tegh Bahadur to the city of Amritsar warrant the same kind of happiness as at the time of arrival of Guru Hargobind Ji?

We don’t light up Darbar Sahib in the same way on other important Gurupurabs, so why is it that we do it only on Diwali?

Well let’s not cheat ourselves. The reality is that in-spite of having been Sikhs for centuries, we still don’t want to give up our past baggage of Hindu festivals.

Every Year, come Diwali, Raagis in our Gurudwaras are heard singing the Shabad “Diwali Di Raat, Divey Baliyan”. For the layman the singing of this Shabad of Bhai Gurdas, using an analogy line as the Asthai (Chorus) of the Shabad truly distorts the essence. Repeated singing of this Shabad on this occasion makes it appear that Diwali is a sanctioned festival in Sikhism. But a full reading of the Shabad conveys a totally different message.

Essence of the Shabad is that pleasures of festivities, pilgrimages, etc are momentary and only an understanding of Gurus Shabad leads to prime pleasure of the mind.

Bhai Gurdas Jis’ Vaar 19 Pauri 6

Diwali Di Raat Devey Baliyan
Tarey Jaat Sanat Ambar Bhaliyan
Phula Di Bagat Chun Chun Chaliyan
Tirath Jati Jat Nain Nihaliyan
Har Chandauri Jhat Vasaye Uchaliyan
Gurmukh Sukh Ful Daat Sabad Smaliyan

Lamps are lighted on the night of Diwali festival; stars of different variety appear in the sky; in the gardens the flowers are there which are selectively plucked; the pilgrims going to pilgrimage centers are also seen and the imaginary habitats have been seen coming into being and vanishing. All these are momentary, but the Gurmukhs with the help of Word nourish the gift of the pleasure fruit.

As most Sikhs originated from the Hindu mainstream, have we not found an Alibi (an excuse) in Bandi Chor for our inability to part with our past baggage of celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali?

Amardeep Singh

I am not the Author of this article. However, I do know the author very well. The author does not intend to play down the importance of Bandhi Chore nor is he asking you to make a grumpy face and sit at home..He is just asking you to wonder why we celebrate in this manner.. Is this event more special than most Gurupurabs ?

Also I would like to point out the fact that Harminder Sahib and many other Gurudawaras were under the control of Hindu Mahants..from the time the Sikh Empire fell in 1849 to the early 1900’s( I am not too sure of the year) when the Sikhs won the right to take charge of their own shrines..During this time in harminder sahib around the parkikarma there were idols of hindu gods and goddesses..

Angad Singh

18 Responses to “What are we doing??Why are we doing so??”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    this issue has crossed my mind many times especially during diwali greeting from friends. these days i jus respond by saying thank you but im a sikh.
    sat sri akal!

  2. satvinder Says:

    I have to say that although i do return and send “diwali greetings” to people… [and yes it’s in relation to bandi chhoRh divas] I do feel a bit uneasy about it too.

    Good article. Thanks for sharing (“,)

  3. Harpreet Says:

    I think Angad you have a very valid point on this matter and i completely agree with you. This is just one of many instances where we get away with the flow, i think we need to think more about events that are happening around.

  4. Narinder Singh Says:

    Well, your article is an eye-opener. The Var ‘ diwali di raat…’ is definitely being mis=interpreted.

    I agree with you that we should get the historical dates in place before we substantiate any historical events.

    Gurbani has put its mark on the subject thru the following shabd:

    Thanks for the article.

    Narinder Singh

  5. Prabhu Singh Says:

    I’ve also pondered these same points. I didn’t even know what Diwali was until a few years ago, but my family and I have celebrated Guru Gaddi Day with great enthusiasm since I was a child. This year was no different. WaheGuru!

  6. Angad Singh Says:

    Thank you everyone for the replies!!

    Prabhu Ji

    I was elated on seeing how all of you celebrated the Guru Gaddi Day..esp the children’s Rumala for Guru Sahib

    Guru Ang Sang!

  7. Jaspal Kaur Says:

    Waheguru ji ka khalsa wahegurur ji ki Fateh.

    Well I read your article, and such questions also come in mind and not only this but there are many other things also. but what I understand sikhs are not ” lakeer de fakeer ” murti puja, karam kand from all such things guru ji took us out. It does not matter now, that we become sikh from hindus or muslims. but important is that we are sikh.
    So as a sikh we respect every one , every one’s culture and we love humanity, we believe in sewa. so i dont think we need to make such things a issue but try to resolve the issues, instead of thinking that should we celebrate diwali or not, should we celebrate gurpurab with more enthusiasm or not, or which is big festival. Why dont we celebrate these festivals with same enthusiasm and pray to waheguru ji every time that “babaji apni rehmat di najar karn te asin sahi mayine ch una de bache ban sakiye, te har pal har shin una nu yaad kariye, ta ki sade jiwan wich oh gadhi aa sake ki asin prabhu parmatma nu mil sakiye.”
    Anyway this is my thinking if I hurt anyone I am apologise for that. but I celebrate diwali coz for me babaji came back to darbar sahib to give us his blessings and precious teachings and which are treasure to us. For me every day which is related in any way to babaji is great even it is diwali or gurpurab. and i want to celebrate those all days with great enthusiasm.

    Guru ji ang sang rehan.

    waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki Fateh

  8. Angad Singh Says:

    Fateh ji

    the author here is not saying don’t celebrate and sit with grumpy face…

    he is posing questions which one needs to ask one self celebrate sing the praises of the akaal…but we ought to know what we are doing…its about being consious…you say you celebrate diwali cause guru sahib came back..historically that is not even a proven fact!

    yes celebrate each day with enthusiasm.. but know what you are doing and why!

    Guru Ang Sang!

  9. Jaspal Kaur Says:

    Waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh

    Angad ji you are true that we should know what we are doing and why? I am really agreed with your point and author points, but I always try that what ever occassion or time I get to remember guru ji i Shouldnt miss it. For me diwali is not the festival to explote crackers or lightening candles, it is just to remember babaji.
    Anyway I also try to get the answers of such issues , there are other so many things also happening which are far away from sikhi like now sikh ladies keep karwa choth da wart, or other wart. but is it a sikhi?
    and i have seen so many people who are amritdhari but they go to another forms of babe who become today the spritual guru and pay them obescence. yes we should respect everyone but…
    sikh leaders making the akal takht sahib a political home ?
    youngsters are going far away from sikhi, Every second book or author write the history in his or her own way?
    or may be the singh who narrate or prachar the sikhi in gurduwara sahib they are not educated and they didnt try to find the real history but only as a profession they are saying whatever they have heard.
    but anyway i always try to know the truth and if you ever find the answer about diwali question or issue do tell me please?
    I really dont know how we can tell which is the right or which is wrong?

    Guru ji ang sang !

    Waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh.

  10. Angad Singh Says:

    fateh Phenji…

    We ve been told to be god conscious remember god all the time so diwali or eed we still remember god..

    the points you have raised are valid..in most cases the reason is because people dont read bani…and in the case they do..they do not make an attempt to understand what the bani is saying beyond the linguistic level…that is why u see amritdharis going to babe and ladies keeping warth and all of that..

    Sikh leaders today unfortunately most of them just there to focusing on staying in power rather than doing anything for the sangat…

    what is happening is wrong…and the fact that you are asking these questions is great…if nothing else you will realize some of the answers for yr self …

  11. G Singh Says:

    Angad Singh Ji, your article is very thoughtful. I think you can find many things in Sikhi that are objectionable, but I think one have to accept some things that are going on. I read an article in the newspaper that was objecting the validation of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurb being on the ‘Katak dee Pooranmashi.’ If you look at all things, you will not find an end to this arguement. It is not important about when we celebrate the Gurpurb, the most important is that we learn something from it.

    In my opinion, nowadays Sikhs are dealing with many controversies than any other time. Why is that? I think today everybody tries hard to get people’s attention and is eager to object anything (like objecting the existance of Bhai Bala with Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee, Raagmaala, Amrit, and the list goes on and on). What is most important is that we the values that have been passed onto us. If we have some issue with something, ask Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee for what is right and what is wrong.

  12. Angad Singh Says:


    The point here is not to sit and argue, it about being consious of what is happening around us.

    Know what is happening and why..I do know about Bhai Balla and Rag Mala , Mool Mantar etc, and yes..Guru Granth Sahib ji is the best source..that is how I have learnt to do it.

    Point is to know what it is all about but not be egoistic about it or take out kirpans and fight with each other over it.

    You mention the important things is the values that are passed on to us. Exactly that is why we need to know what is true what is not…

    That is the part we need to refrain from I firmly believe we cant really call ourselves Sikhs if we become ignorant of everything and sit in the shelter of our house and read bani whole day! That is just bhagkti..and Bhagkti is one aspect of Sikhism.

  13. singh Says:

    Dear All,

    I just want to say that, it is really important for us to know what we are doing and what is happening around us. G Singh ji mentioned that “What is most important is that we the values that have been passed onto us.” To that I would like to say that, yes we should cherish all the values passed on to us BUt also we need to make an understanding weather those our correct or not. As what has been getting passed on to us has had lot of influence from other communities. I think we are all educated people and since guru’s wrote the gurbani in such an easy to undersand language, we should take time and try to read what the guru is saying and walk on his path. Just taking things for granted creates contraversies and passes wrong values to the future generation. This is the reason y majority of sikhs are turning patit. it is very important for us to correct ourselves rather than continuing what we have been doing i.e turning a blind eye on things and going with the flow. I dont see the above as an arguement But a discussion which should happen more often for the enlightenment of everyone.

    appologies if i hurt anyone’s feelings.

  14. singh Says:

    Just to add to the above….if we celebrate diwali as bandi chorh divas then why do we forget that the first bandi chorh in the history of sikhsim was guru nanak and y dont we celebrate him helping the release of all the Saiyidpur captives.
    For more info see The Third Missionary Journey (1518-1521) http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Nanak's_history

  15. angad singh Says:

    just to point out I am not the author..

  16. Sunjeet Kaur Says:

    I have to admit that i have NEVER considered the above before, probably because i have never delved so much in to the history of it before but just accepted that it.

    With all that said, and yes it is important to know at the same time, i dont believe any sikh i know celebrates Bandhi Chor becuase they want to hold on to their hindu heritage – at the end of the day history is tainted and we will never know the truth, but if this one day results in remembering the Guru’s discussing and the sikh face and being surrounded by sangat for many people who dont neccessarily go to the gurdwara, its still a good enough reason to celebrate.

    For those people who only make the time to go to the gurdwara on “special occasions” then we shouldnt take that away from them as every time you bow infront of the Shiri Guru Granth Sahib, is a time when you are being blessed.

    I will definitly keep this in mind and be doing more research on it, but its not going to stop me from being with sangat and family on this day.

    Thank you very much for this enlightening post!

  17. VSingh Says:

    Very interesting article written by Amardeep Veer Ji.

    Although I’m not very sure about the dates (at the moment); I believe Mohsin fani (author of Dabistan) was a contemporary (and a friend of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji)

    Parts of his work can be found on the net (google is your friend!); where he writes certain things about the fifth (his Shaheedi) and sixth Guru, and their life. That’s why I’m not really convinced that we can disregard (I’m not putting works into Amardeep Veer Ji’s mouth; but very little is written about Fani in his article), Fanis work, yet.

    I have no opinion on the issue =)

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