NITNEM (nit: daily; nem; practice, rule or regimen) is the name given to the set prayers which every Sikh is commanded to say daily, alone or in company. These prayers or texts are five in number for early morning Guru Nanak`sJa/w and Guru Gobind Singh`s Jdpu and Savaiyye, for the evening at sunset Sodaru Rahrdsi and for night before retiring Kirtan Sohild. The ideal Guru Nanak, founder of the faith, put forth before his followers was to “rise early in the morning, remember the True Name and meditate upon His greatness” (GG, 2). According to Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV, “He who wishes to be called a Sikh of the True Guru must rise early in the morning and repeat God`s Name.

He should bathe in the pool and dwell upon the Lord through the Guru`s word” (GG, 305). Recitation by Sikhs of three of the barns in the morning, evening and late evening must have become established practice before the time of Guru Arjan who when compiling the (Guru) Granth Sahib in 1604 placed them in that order at the beginning of the Holy Writ. Bhai Gurdas (d. 1636) records in his Varan that, at Kartarpur where Guru Nanak had settled after his travels, it was a daily practice to recite Japu early in the morning and Rahrdsi and Arati (Sohild) in the evening (1.38). The compositions of Guru Gobind Singh, last of the Gurus, were added to the regimen later.

The directions regarding nitnem set down in Sikh Rahil Maryddd published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, statutorily elected representative body of the Sikhs, say: “A Sikh should rise early, bathe and meditate on the Timeless One repeating the name `Vahiguru.` He should recite the nitnem which includes the following bdms: Japu, Japu and the ten (prescribed) Savaiyye in the morning, Sodaru Rahrdsi in the evening and Sohild at bedtime.” It further stipulates that ardds or supplicatory prayer should necessarily follow the recitation of the bdms at three times during the day. The Japu goes back to the very origin of Sikhism.

According to Miharbdn Janam Sdkht, its pauris or stanzas composed by Guru Nanak on different occasions were arranged in a single order by Guru Angad under the former`s instructions. The Japu is preceded by Mul Mantra and concludes with a sloka. The Mul Mantra is the root doctrinal statement of Sikh faith comparable to Nicene Creed in Christianity, Kalimai Shahadat in Islam, the Shema in Judaism or Gayatri Mantra in Hinduism. It is to be noted, however, that the term Japu, even where it includes the section specifically termed mantra, as such has no magical connotation as in the case of the Sanskrit mantram.

It may have the same effect in evoking the power of the utterance of basic or primordial sound, but it does not in itself signify any magical effect. The Mul Mantra in full or in an abbreviated form is repeated at the beginning of all major bdms or sections of the Guru Granth Sahib. Similarly, the concluding sloka of the Japu is usually recited to signal the end of a ritual service. Most Sikhs know the Japuji Sahib, ^sJapu is reverently called, by heart and recite it as a set morning prayer.

The second item in the morning prayer is the Japu or Japu Sahib, a composition of the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Different from the Japu in rhythm and vocabularly, it renders a magnificent paean of adoration to the Divine.The third morning text is Das (Ten) Savaiyye, culled from a longer composition by Guru Gobind Singh, Akdl Ustati (lit. Praise to the Timeless). Besides these three morning prayers, there can be additions according to the usage of the place, the occasion and the desire of the individual or the sangat.

For example, the whole of Anandu (Sahib) or the first five and the final stanza of it may be added; some Sikhs would also recite Shabad Hazdre, while others would recite the Sukhmam Sahib; Nihangs would include Vdr Sri BhagauliJi Ki, popularly called Chandi di Vdr in the morning order. Asd ki Vdr is usually sung by musicians at gurudwaras in the morning.Some read it at their homes in addition to the daily regimen. Sodaru Rahrdsi, the evening prayer comparable to Vespers or Evensong, is recited soon after sunset.

The title Sodaru is taken from the first word of the first hymn of the text. Rahrdsi variously means prayer, supplication, usage and greetings. It is also interpreted as an adaptation of the Persian term rdhirdst (the right path). The order begins with nine sabdas which also stand together in the Guru Granth Sahib, immediately after the Japu.

They arc followed by three compositions by Guru Gobind Singh Benali Chaupai taken from the final tale (404) of Charitropdkhydn, and a savaiyyd and a sloka from Rama Avtdr and by the first five and the last stanzas of the Anandu (Sahib), and Munddvam. Sohild, or Kirtan Sohild as it is generally called, is the lateevening prayer recited before going to bed. It takes its name from the word Sohild in the second line of its first hymn, viz. titu ghari gdvahu sohild sivarihu sirjanhdro (In that state sing His praises and meditate upon Him).

Sohild is literally a paean or song of praise and kirtan means devotional singing. Kirtan Sohild occurs at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib, immediately following Sodaru Rahrdsi, and includes five hymns three by Guru Nanak and one each by Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan.The middle hymn is connected with Guru Nanak`s visit to the Jagannath temple at Puri, in Orissa. In the evening, the priests there were performing drati, the ritual worship by swinging in front of the idol a salver studded with lighted lamps.

Guru Nanak through this hymn explained to them the futility of the ritual, as already the spheres, the sun, the moon and the stars are revolving in God`s worship, with fire serving as incense and wind as a whisk, and so on. The final verse of Kzrtan Sohild beginning with karau benanti sunahu mere mitd sant tahal ki heldListen my friend, I beg you, this life is the occasion to serve the holy ones is a call to one to devote oneself to good deeds of service and devotion.The last line of this hymn is a supplication to God for fulfilling the only wish of the devotee which is to be “the dust of the (feet of the) holy ones.” On this note and on the assurance that if one devotes one`s life to God and service with humility one will suffer transmigration no more, ends the Kirtan Sohild.

Each service is concluded with ardds, a prayer or petition invariably used by Sikhs to conclude any devotional meeting or ceremony. When Nitnem is performed in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, ardds is followed by hukam or vdk (lit. order or utterance), that is, reading of a hymn from the Holy Book opened at random, and, if it is in sangat, prashdd or consecrated food is distributed.

References :

1. Sikh Rahit Maryada. Amritsar, 1979
2. Jogendra Singh, Sikh Ceremonies. Bombay, 1941 Talib, Gurbachan Singh, Nitnem. Delhi, 1983
3. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, Nitnem. Delhi, 1983
4. Doabia, Harbans Singh, Nitnem. Amritsar, 1976
5. McLeod, W.H., Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. Manchester, 1984