ARDAS, supplication and recollection, is the ritual prayer which Sikhs, individually or in congregation, recite morning and evening and in fact whenever they perform a religious service and at the beginning and conclusion of family, public or religious functions. The word ardas seems to have been derived from Persian `arzdasht, meaning a petition, a memorial or an address to a superior authority. The Sikh ardas is rendered to God Almighty in a supplicatory mood standing in front of the Guru Granth Sahib or, where the Guru Granth Sahib is not present, standing in a similarly reverential posture.
Ardas is not inscribed in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is an evolute of the community`s heart in prayer over the centuries.Whenever, in history, the community in distress or in a mood of thanksgiving verbalized its supplications to God and wherever a congregation, in harmony with the entire community (as also with all mankind) has assembled prayerfully, apt expressions of its spiritual mood became incorporated into the ardas. Broadly, the ardas consists of three parts.
As the audience rise for ardas, the officiant leading the prayer usually begins by reciting a pauri or stanza from the Sukhmani: tu thakuru turn pahi ardasi… Thou art the Lord Master; to Thee our ardas (supplication) is addressed… Then will follow recitation verbatim of the prelude to Guru Gobind Singh`s composition Var Srf BhagautiJi Kl.This 41word stanza invokes the Timeless One and the first Nine Gurus. The first addition that the Panth made was to extend this invocation to include the name of Guru Gobind Singh himself and the Guru Granth Sahib, “body visible of the Gurus” after him.
The second part is a recital of Sikhs` deeds of dedication and sacrifice. The ardas thus encapsulates Sikh history, but transcending the time and space setting. The third part comprises words improvised to suit any given occasion. After the initial invocation, the ardas goes on to recount and reflect upon the memorable acts of the community`s martyrs and heroes men of unswerving resolution and unrelenting fortitude, who upheld their faith with their sacred hair unto their last breath.
In this respect, history has been continually contributing to ardas with the result that, along with the martyrs of the Guru period and of the periods of persecution following, it recalls those of the Gurdwara reform movement of the 1920`s and those who laid down their lives for the sake of their faith at the time of the partition of the country in 1947. When early in the eighteenth century Sikhs were outlawed by royal edict and when they faced violent death wherever sighted, they in their places of refuge in jungles and deserts praying collectively or severally sought God`s protection for the entire Khalsa wheresoever they be. The words have become a permanent part of the ardas.
The prayer for the privilege of a dip in the sacred pool at Amritsar as well as for the preservation of the Panth`s choirs, banners and mansions, likewise, has historical echoes. The Sikhs` entry into the precincts of the holy Harimandar and the tank had been banned by the ruling authority in mid eighteenth century. Heavy armed posts were set up around the shrine and any Sikh pilgrims trying to come in to pay homage or make ablutions in the holy waters were hunted down. The line in ardas alludes to that historical situation and bears witness to the Sikhs` deep attachment to their places of worship.
Ardas is, thus, the epitome of Sikh history and enshrines in its text the community`s aspirations at various periods of its history and enables the devotees to unite in a brotherhood of faith over the centuries, transcending time. These aspirations are couched in expressions coined by minds saturated in faith. After recounting the deeds of faith and sacrifice over the expanse of time, the congregation recounts Sikh places of worship over the expanse of space. Thereafter, prayer is made for and on behalf of the whole community, seeking the Lord`s protection and grace for the entire Khalsa, ending with a supplication for universal weal.
Then it asks for the specific boons of holy discipleship, a life of restraint, discrimination and faith and a firm and confident attitude of mind inspired by the holy Name. The focus shifts from the community life to the life of the individual believer and the quality of his life. Gifts like the virtues ol humility and wisdom are besought, as well as purity of understanding to discern the Divine Will. Protection is sought against sucr evils as lust, wrath, greed, attachment and pride. Fellowship is craved with persons of faith and purity.
Words of thanksgivings or words seeking God`s blessing are finally added, depending upon what the occasion is. Ardas always concludes with a prayer for the welfare and prosperity for all mankind.The whole assembly stands with folded hands to say ardas facing the Guru Granth Sahib when it is present. In the absence of the Guru Granth Sahib, it can be facing in any direction. Usually, a supplicatory sabda (hymn) is recited upon rising for ardas. Anyone from among the assembly can lead ardas At prescribed intervals during ardas, the entire sangat associates itself with the leader repeating at his instance, `Vahiguru`.
As the ardas concludes, the whole congregation kneels down and then rises again and utters in unison,` Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa Vahiguru ji ki Fateh` The Khalsa belongs to the Lord to whom too belongs the Victory.This is followed by the slogan `Bole so Nihal` he who pronounces these words shall be fulfilled, to which the whole assembly responds by shouting,l Sat Sri Akal`True is the Timeless Lord. Although, in its structure ardas is essentially a congregational prayer, it is equally the prayer for the individual. It is non isolationalistic in character, not being for the individual alone, nor even only for the congregation. It is for the entire panth.
It gives the individual a sense of unity with the community as well as with mankind at large. Ardas has evolved over a long period of time and in this process it has not only absorbed several facets of the history of the community, but has also acquired a literary excellence.It is an exceedingly fine piece of prose in which there is a continuous flow of words and ideas carefully chosen. This aids the participants to attune themselves to the spiritual atmosphere it generates. Below is given the ardas (English version) recited at the World Conference on Religion and Peace held at Kyoto, Japan, in October 1970.
With the exception of the para concerning the particular purpose for which the ardas is performed, the remaining portions are generally the same for all occasions. The Text of Ardas Unto The One Supreme God Who by the grace of Satguru is realized. Remember, first, God the Almighty: think then of Guru Nanak: of Angad Guru and Amar Das, and Ram Das.May their protection be ever with us! Remember Arjan, Hargobind, and the holy Har Rai. Let us think of the holy Har Krishan whose sight annuls all sorrow.
Let us remember Tegh Bahadur, and all the nine treasures, will come flowing in.May He protect us everywhere! May the Tenth King, the holy Guru Gobind Singh, the lord of hosts, master of the hawk, and protector of faith, help us everywhere! Turn your thoughts, 0 Khalsa, to the Guru Granth Sahib, the visible body of the Gurus, and their word, and say, Vahiguru, Glory be to God!! The five Loved Ones, the Guru`s four sons, the Forty saved and other holy and heroic men, saints and martyrs: remember their selfless and heroic deeds, and say, Vahiguru, Glory be to God! Those, men and women, who laid down their lives in the cause of faith, who suffered themselves to be cut up limb by limb, and had their scalps scraped off, were broken on the wheel, were sawn or flayed alive and yet uttered not a moan from their lips, and remained steadfast in their Sikh faith to the last hair of their sacred tresses (kes) and to their last breath: think of their sweet resignation, and say, Vahiguru, Glory be to God! Those who, to purge the places of worship of corruption longstanding, suffered themselves to be ruthlessly beaten or imprisoned, to be shot, cut up, or burnt alive, but did not make any resistance nor uttered a word of complaint: think of their patient faith and fortitude, and say, Vahiguru, Glory be to God! Think of all the Gurdwaras, the places of divine remembrance, the thrones of religoius authority, and other places hallowed by the touch of the Gurus` feet, and say Vahiguru, Glory be to God! The whole Khalsa offer their prayer, Let the whole Khalsa bring to their minds the Name of the Wonderful Lord: And as they think of Him, may they rejoice in His blessing! May they bring peace and comfort to the whole world.
May God`s protection and grace extend to all the Khalsa wheresoever they be.May charity, justice, and faith flourish. May the Khalsa be forever in the ascendant. May the Sikh choirs, banners, mansions of the Khalsa be eternally blessed. May the kingdom of justice prevail! May the believers be united in love. May the hearts of the believers be humble, high their wisdom, and may they be guided in their wisdom by the Lord. 0 Khalsa, say Vahiguru, Glory be to God! Save us, 0 Father, from lust, wrath, greed, attachment, and pride; and keep us attached always to Thy feet.
Grant to Thy Sikhs the gift of faith, the gift of Thy Name, the gift of trust in Thee, and the gift of recitation and comprehension of Thy holy word. Give us light, give us understanding so that we may know Thy Will. Forgive us our sins.Bring us into the fellowship of only those in whose company we may remember Thy Name. We make this prayer in Thy presence, Lord! “Entrust unto the Lord what thou wishest to be accomplished. “The Lord will bring all matters to fulfilment: know this as truth evidenced by the Lord Himself.
” 0 true Master, Loved Father, here in this city of Kyoto, in Japan, had assembled representatives of world religionsmen of faith who believe in Thee. This conclave is now concluding its week long deliberations in behalf of world peace. Lord, give the members of this Conference Thy blessing and Thy guidance.Grant unto them the power and ability constantly to endeavour and pursue the goal they have set themselves. Extend Thy blessing and Thy grace to Thy servants and bless their humble efforts.
This Conference has concluded its sessions without obstruction. This is by Thy own favour! May this prayer be accepted at Thy door! May God`s name, may the human spirit forever triumph, Nanak! And in Thy Will may peace and prosperity come to one and all… Blessed is he who utters His name. The Timeless is the Eternal Reality
1. Kapur Singh, Parasaraprasna [Reprint], Amritsar, 1989
2. Teja Singh, trans. and annot., Sikh Prayer.
3. Harbans Singh, in Religion in the Struggle for World Community. Tokyo, 1980
4. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
5. Cole, W. Owen, and Piara Singh Sambhi, The Sikhs:Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Delhi, 1978