The Significance of Bandi Chhor Divas : How can Young People Celebrate it ?
As university students, it might seem easy to get caught up with lectures, assignments, and other social commitments. But amidst all the chaos, there are significant moments that call us to pause, reflect, and rejoice with one another. One such moment is Bandi Chhor Divas, a festival that carries profound meaning for Sikhs around the world, and one that holds valuable lessons for us all.
Whether you are Sikh, curious about other religions, or simply want to immerse yourself in the diverse traditions from all around the world, this festival certainly has something for everyone.
This blog will help shed light on the importance of “Bandi Chhor Divas”, how you as students can take part in it, and creative ways through which you can make this festival a part of your campus experience.
Historical significance of the festival
Before we get into the celebratory part, it is important to know about the historical and cultural significance of the festival. Band Chhor Divas is a celebration that commemorates the return of Guru Hargobind who displayed great acts of selflessness and compassion and helped release 52 prisoners from the Gwalior Fort.
Guru Hargobind was the sixth among 10 gurus (Spiritual Leader and Teacher) of the Sikh religion. He was unjustly imprisoned by the Mughal empire and during his time there, he became well acquainted with the 52 innocent princes who were imprisoned as well.
When was finally released, he imposed one condition stating that the 52 other princes and kings should also be released with him and that was counteracted by the emperor asserting that every prince that is holding on to Guru’s dress is allowed to leave the prison with him.
Guru then requested a dress that had 52 tassels that allowed all of the princes to be freed along with him. The day he returned back to Amritsar is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas which is also known as Prisoner Release Day.
Spiritual Significance of the Festival
Bandi Chhor Divas holds great spiritual significance to the Sikh community. It is an excellent example of the triumph of light over darkness indicating how goodness always wins over evil. It is a constant reminder to self-reflect and stand up against any form of social injustice as done by their Guru Hargobind. It also encourages people to offer compassion to everyone regardless of their race, gender, or religious beliefs.
Bandi Chhor Divas is celebrated by illuminating both the homes and Gurudwaras (Sikh places for assembly and worship) with dazzling candles and lights. On this day, Sikhs from all over the world gather at Gurdwaras for special prayers where they listen to kirtans (devotional songs). They may also choose to perform a pilgrimage at “Sri Harmandir Sahib” which is considered to be the holiest site in Sikhism.
The people also eat the food from the langar (community kitchen that offers free food at the gurdwara) which signifies the importance of oneness and humility regardless of anyone’s background. During the evening, friends and families gather together, exchange sweets, and celebrate the festival through lights and fireworks.
Difference between Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas
Although Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas are both celebrated with lights and candles, both of them are different festivals. They fall on the same day in the calendars, but they are different occasions that have their own significance.
Diwali is a 5-day festival that is primarily celebrated by Hindus for a variety of reasons that vary depending on the religious and regional traditions. It may commemorate the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, the worship of the goddess Lakshmi, or other significant events. On the other hand, Bandi Chhor Divas celebrates the release of Guru Hargobind.
Diwali is mainly celebrated by Hindus and by Jains and Sikhs to varying degrees whereas Bandi Chhor Divas is mainly celebrated in regions with significant Sikh populations.
Regardless of the differences, both of these festivals are celebrations with beautiful lights, fireworks, and joy that bring people together.
How can I take part in this?
The themes that are celebrated in Bandi Chhor Divas are relevant to university students who also aim to stand up against social injustice, and freedom and encourage oneness. Even if you are far away from home, there are several ways through which you can celebrate this auspicious festival.
Attend Local Gurudwaras
A great way to immerse yourself in the different traditions and festivities of Bandi Chhor Divas is to visit local Gurdwaras which are places of worship for Sikhs. You will be able to take part in the meditation and prayers that are conducted, or you can also opt to sit quietly to self-reflect. Gurdwaras provide a peaceful and serene environment where individuals can find solace, meditate, and escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
When you are there, you should definitely not miss out on the food from the langars (community kitchen). These are usually prepared by volunteers and hold great significance to the Sikh community as they encourage everyone to look past their differences and come together. This is also a great way to talk and connect with people who are already in this community and learn more about their traditions and culture.
There are several gurudwaras in the UK spread across the country. The Guru Nanak Temple is the biggest one located in Kent. Click here to find one that is closest to you.
Host Campus Events
Organizing campus events can be one of the best ways that you can gather students from different backgrounds to celebrate the festival of Bandi Chhor Divas. You can either contact your university’s student union or reach out to already existing societies to host an event. These events can include guest speakers and performances of different art forms that represent Sikh history and culture.
You can also encourage students to light candles and lamps which is a significant part of the celebration that cannot be forgotten. This can help the students become a part of celebrating the victory of light over darkness and help create an atmosphere of reflection and unity during this event.
This can help students improve their knowledge of the festival and the culture as a whole while promoting understanding and tolerance among students of different religious backgrounds.
Volunteering and Community Service
Since Bandi Chhor Divas greatly stresses on the importance of seva (service to others), there’s no better way to honour that than volunteering and community service. There are several benefits to volunteering and engaging yourself within your community.
Volunteering and community involvement will give you the opportunity to develop and enhance a wide range of skills like leadership, planning, time management, and more. It also allows you to make meaningful connections with people from different industries and helps you to learn and grow. Expanding your network can also be a great way for you to find career opportunities in the future.
It can also largely help with self-development and confidence. By trying different things, you are likely to find something that you enjoy and are good at. Finally, community service can significantly boost one’s mental health. Whether you are looking for a distraction from all the work or a new hobby, there are high chances that volunteering and trying new activities can help with that.
You can choose from the several amazing charities and non-profit organisations in the UK that focus on helping people.
British Heart Foundation is a renowned organisation that contributes greatly to the nation’s heart charity as well as the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research. They have a variety of different opportunities for students with varying interests. You can choose to volunteer at a local shop, help with community fundraising, or even organising different events. Click here to find a role that best suits your interest.
Royal Voluntary Service is another amazing organisation that offers opportunities for people to volunteer with healthcare teams and communities. They help provide emotional support and practical help when people are struggling to cope. Click here to find opportunities near your area.
Cultural Food fair
Another exciting way to engage students in celebrating this festival is by hosting a cultural food fair at the university. You can encourage everyone to bring different dishes that best represent their culture and this would be a great opportunity for students to explore and appreciate diverse cultures through their culinary traditions.
Moreover, this can also include an educational aspect where the significance behind each of these dishes is explained and people can ask questions and learn more about them. This can further develop cultural exchange and understanding.
An important element behind the celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas is self-reflection. It can be easy to get caught up with our busy lives, so this can be a moment where you take a step back and appreciate how far you have come.
University isn’t easy for everyone, so taking time to really understand your struggles and everything that you have done in the past year can be a great way to plan for the future. This can be the time you make new changes and decide how you can increase your impact in your own community. Small changes can make a big difference in your lives and others too. So make sure to take some time to find ways in which you can make a meaningful impact regardless of if it is small or big.
The spirit of this festival can be a great way to start interfaith dialogues in your university. This can be organized as a small event that encourages everyone from different faiths to come together. This can encourage students from different religious backgrounds to engage in open and respectful conversations and discuss their struggles.
This can also help develop a positive environment that encourages religious tolerance and understanding which can be crucial in a university to promote diverse communities. These conversations can assist in building a strong sense of community where people get to share their beliefs with other like-minded people or with those who are curious.
If you are interested in learning more about Bandi Chhor Divas or Sikhism in general, there are amazing resources online. You can read a detailed article on the significance of Bandi Chhor Divas here.
If you would like to learn more about Sikhism read this blog by BBC that helps give a better understanding of their religion and practices. You can also easily find many videos online that discuss these topics in detail.
Remember, the celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas is not limited to Sikhs. It can be embraced by individuals from all backgrounds to promote the values of freedom, justice, and unity. By actively engaging in these activities and celebrations, university students can foster a greater sense of cultural awareness and promote inclusivity on campus.