Bandi Chhor Divas in Melbourne

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Melbourne celebrated Bandi Chhor Divas at Presidents Park, Wyndham Vale on 29th October 2016. This is the first time; Melbourne has witnessed recreation of Punjab in its soil almost in entirety. It was a full scale display of Sikh lifestyle precipitating around four hundred years of existence of Sikh religion and its struggles for survival. It was also a display of the traditional Sikh custom of giving. Free food and drinks were distributed for every one present at the function.

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Bandi Chhor Divas is a Sikh festival which coincides with the day of Diwali. Bandi Chhor Divas celebrates the release from prison in Gwalior of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, and 52 other kings with him.

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The word “Bandi” is translated from Punjabi into English as “Imprisoned” (or “Prisoner”); the Hindi word “Chhor” (shodh) translates as “Release,” and the Punjabi word “Divas” means “Day”, rendering “Bandi Chhor Divas” into English as “Prisoners’ Release Day”.

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The History of Bandi Chhor Divas

In 1606 CE, Guru Arjan Dev was imprisoned, tortured and executed at Lahore Fort under the orders of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Before his execution, Guru Arjan instructed his son and successor Hargobind to take up arms, and resist the tyranny of the Mughals.

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Guru Hargobind built a fort to defend Ramdaspur (Amritsar) and created a formal court, Akal Takht. This action prompted Jahangir to jail Guru Hargobind ji at Gwarlior Fort. Guru Hargobindji was released from prison in 1611 or 1612.

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According to Sikh tradition, 52 Rajas who were imprisoned in the fort as hostages for opposing the Mughal empire were dismayed as they were losing a spiritual mentor. Guru Hargobind Ji requested the Rajas be freed along with him, and stood surety for their loyal behavior. Jahangir ordered that only those kings who could hold on to the cloak of the Guru could be released.

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Guru Hargobind Ji got a special gown stitched which had 52 hems. As Guru Hargobind Ji left the fort, the captive kings caught the hems of the cloak and came out along with him.

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Thenceforth, the Sikh struggle for freedom, which intensified in the 18th Century, came to be centered around this day. In addition to Vaisakhi (now in April), when Khalsa, the Sikh nation was formally established by the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Bandi Chhor Divas became the second day in the years when the Khalsa met and planned their freedom strategy.

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Another important event associated with Bandi Chhor Divas was the martyrdom in 1734 of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh, the Granthi (priest) of Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). He had refused to pay a special tax on a religious meeting of the Khalsa on the day of Bandi Chhor Divas. This and other Sikh martyrdoms gave further momentum to the Khalsa struggle for freedom and eventually led to success in establishing the Khalsa rule north of Delhi.

( Courtesy: Wikipedia)

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