It was Tej's 5th birthday and if that wasn't enough, it was also Diwali. I had agreed to do a special presentation to his Kindergarten class. His teacher Ms Bateman and ECE Ms Khan were excited about learning more about the festival. And actually so was I.
You see, my little boy is a whole-wheat baby and we live far away from my family who would be the "experts" on my South Asian culture. I was eager to ask my friends and colleagues about what I should share with the class about Diwali. It wasn't until I spoke with Raj Grewal, a former teacher, mother of three and the Chair of our Curriculum Committee for Sikh Foundation of Canada. She told me about Bandi Chhor Divas or "Day of Liberation" a Sikh festival that coincides with the day of Diwali.
I went to his school library to research the story of Diwali and there weren't many books from which to choose, plus they were all very old. I was committed to raise Tej to be respectful of the Sikh culture and feel like he is a part of it, so I decided to educate him and his class about the story of the Sixth Guru. The kids loved the story of Bandi Chhor Divas - Guru Hargobind Ji and how good triumphed over evil by him outsmarting the Evil Mughal Emperor. Of course I paraphrased and made it into a fable for the 4-5 year olds.
Do you know the story? I didn't but I do now courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, was freed from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October, 1619. the Guru agreed to be freed only if the other Indian chieftains (rajahs) imprisoned with him were freed. Jahangir was under pressure from moderate but influential Muslim religious leaders like Hajrat Mian Mir, a friend of the Guru. So he relented grudgingly and ordained, "Let those rajahs be freed who can hold on to the Guru’s coat tails and walk out of prison". He had in mind no more than four or five being freed with the Guru. However, the Guru was not to be outmanoeuvred in this way. He asked for a special coat to be made with 52 coat tails - same number as the rajahs in prison with him! And so the rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the "Bandi Shor(Shodh)" (Deliverer from prison). He arrived in Amritsar on the day of Diwali and Harmandir Sahib (also known as the Golden Temple) was lit with hundreds of lamps to celebrate his return; the day came to be known as the "Bandi Shor(Shodh) Divas" (the day of freedom).
Tej was my little helper and talked about parshad (which is his favourite part of going to the gurdwara and we brought some in to share with the class), wearing new clothes (he just got some for his birthday), getting gifts (lucky duck - double whammy), cleaning your house (brought in colourful, embroidered pillow cases and of course a sari), lighting candles (there were diyas placed all around the room) and even referenced his kara (one of the 5 Ks of Sikhism). They all got to take a diya home with them and made them in class too. Plus, they have banana chocolate chip muffins for his birthday. It was indeed a busy day and Tej loved every bit of it. The teachers really enjoyed it and Ms Khan even went down memory lane when I showed up with the parshad!
One day, I'd like to take Tej to Amritsar and Harmandir Sahib to show him this special place. And I hope to continue to share the Bandi Chhor Divas story which signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair... with Tej, his classmates, friends and family for years to come!
Source: Wikipedia - Bandi Chhor Divas