The American Sikh Council (ASC) is ecstatic that the various gurdwaras not only took a stand on the all-important ‘Mool Nanakshai (Sikh) Calendar – MNC’ but stood united in the face of much opposition from within the community and the outside forces. This is a very special time and the managements and the sangats of all the gurdwaras must be sincerely congratulated for their foresight and united stand in fixing the MNC once and for all, as it is a critical part of the independent Sikh identity.
Let us not forget that the historical date of Bandi Chhod Divas falls on February 12, 2018 and the reason Sikhs celebrate this important day are many.
Guru Hargobind Sahib was incarcerated at the fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir between; 1617-1718. There were 52 (Hindu) kings and princes also jailed there after they were all defeated by the Emperor. At the same time a jail superintendent, a well-wisher of Guru Hargobind Sahib brought him home cooked food every day while Guruji was interned because Guruji refused to eat the food provided by the jail as a sign of protest against the tyranny. The jailor’s home was located inside the fort which later got converted into a Gurdwara namely Daata Bandi Chhod Sahib. This same gurdwara was attacked by Hindu mobs in Nov 1984 and damaged. One Gurdwara Pavva Sahib/Khadaun Sahib in the immediate area was forcibly taken over and converted to a Kali temple and is still in control of the Hindus to date.
When Guru Hargobind Sahib was being released he refused to leave till the 52 Hindu kings and princes were also released. After some negotiations the (Muslim) Emperor Jahangir allowed Guruji’s request with the condition that only those kings and princes can leave if they can hold on to his cloak. Guruji got a cloak stitched which had 52 long tassels attached to it, thereby having all the 52 men leave the penitentiary and be free men. Guruji’s own spiritual ideology was completely different from the Hindu kings and prices yet he emancipated all of them from bondage because his own faith stood for freedom to not only practice one’s faith, but for the liberty of all men irrespective of caste or creed. Guruiji knew that all these noblemen did not agree with him yet he had the magnanimity to liberate them from their bondage.
Guru Hargobind Sahib was the first Guru to don two swords signifying the unique ‘Miri – Piri’ concept of the Sikh Faith. The distinctive ‘Saint-Warrior’ concept, as one cannot be without the other! Guruji continued Guru Nanak Sahib’s conception of standing up firmly against tyranny of any kind; raised an army and carried the title of ‘Sacha Patashah’! It was the title and the army which came to the notice of the Muslim Emperor and got Guruji in trouble.
On a separate note when Guruji left the Gwalior Fort it took several weeks to get to Amritsar, which was well after the Hindu festival of Diwali, traditionally celebrated to welcome back the mythical king Ram from his exile in the forest.
Sikhs need to remember the unparalleled contributions by Guru Hargobind Sahib (our 6th prophet) to the Sikh ideology and strengthening of the Faith; including interfaith brotherhood and universal humanism.
All gurdwaras are humbly requested to celebrate Bandi Chhod Divas with aplomb on February 12, 2018.