Although Diwali (the festival of lights) is widely considered solely to be a Hindu festival, it is actually celebrated by Sikhs too, albeit for different reasons. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Chhorh Divas (Prisoner Release Day) in respect of Guru Hargobind Ji’s release from Gwalior Fort prison on this day in 1619 AD. When, after several months of imprisonment, Guru Hargobind ji was granted release he was would not embrace his own fortune and refused to leave the fort until all fifty-two of the other Sikh prisoners were freed. Guru Hargobind Ji was given the name Bandhi Chhorh because the bandi (imprisoned ones) were chhorh (released) by Him.
When Guru Hargobind and the other prisoners reached the city of Amritsar, they arrived during Diwali. Overjoyed at seeing their Guru again, the people illuminated Amritsar and Sri Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) with lamps and candles. They sang gurbani kirtan (devotional hymns) in his honour and recited prayers in veneration of his willingness to sacrifice his own freedom for the sake of other innocent lives.
Today the tradition lives on in Amritsar. Every year, the Golden Temple is filled with thousands of candles and floating lamps and its domes covered with strings of light. Sikhs in other communities around the world celebrate Bandi Chhorh Divas at gurdwaras (Sikh temples), which are illuminated with hundreds of candles at night. Shabad (devotional hymns) are sung in praise of Guru Hargobind, and festive meals are prepared in the Guru ka Langar (a community dining room providing sacred free meals).
For more information about Bandi Chhorh Divas please click here