The slokas epitomize the various aspects of the theme elaborated in the pauris that follow. Each pauri consists of five verses, but the slokas vary in length, from two lines to ten lines each. This Var is included in the musical measure Vadahans and Guru Arjan, in the course of the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib, added the direction that it is to be sung to the tune of the popular folk ballad of Lalla and Bahlima.
The parallel between the two Vars extends nor merely to their musical and poetic style, but also to their content. Whereas Lalla and Bahlima`s Var celebrates heroic virtues, Vadahans ki Var emphasizes spiritual values, and yet these are revealed in the latter to be complementary as they are generally in the Sikh tradition. The characters in Lalla and Bahlima`s Var assume symbolic significance in light of the argument developed in Vadahans ki Var. Bahlima helps Lalla in time of distress.
When Lalla defaults in his obligations, Bahlima brings him round to the realization of his duty/ shortcoming even by using force.The use of force is justified in the service of righteousness.The conflict in Vadahans ki Var is between bans (swan) and bagor bagala (duckling), a real saint and an impostor, a Guru oriented person and a self oriented one. In other words, the conflict here is between good and evil. The theme is treated in a contrapuntal mannerpoint counter point building up to a crescendo, in which all doubts are removed, knowledge dawns and tensions are resolved in a harmony of bliss.
Some of the opposites employed to work out the theme are swan/ duckling, noble/ignoble, joy/sorrow, the honest teacher/the impostor, nectar/poison,life/death, comfort/discomfort, contented/ worried, pure/impure, heaven/hell, knowledge/ignorance, truly devoted/ pretender, cool/fiery, merit/demerit, the connoisseur/obtuse, truth/falsehood, male/ female, delicious/tasteless, friend/foe, etc.The oneness, uniqueness and omnipresence of God, the significance of the Guru, the ideal of peace and liberation, and an all embracing love of mankind are the values emphasized in Vadahans kl Var. Each individual works out his own release, but he is reminded again and again that this is achieved by God`s grace alone. The Var has a well designed structure.
The slokas that precede each paun present the theme in its dual aspect. They are in the form of a proposition. The paun that follows resolves the conflict. For instance, the Var opens with the slokas by Guru Amar Das in which are introduced the opposite symbols of swan and duckling.But in the paun that follows, Guru Ram Das alludes to God Almighty Who is the Sole Doer, the Sole Giver and the All Pervading Power, to whom everyone looks up to.
In the succeeding slokas and pauns it is made clear that those who follow the dictates of their man (baser self) get entangled, in worldly temptations. Their lives are full of suffering and those who take refuge in the Word of Guru, they attain peace and happiness. The rituals and outward show of saintliness are of no avail. Only the Guru`s sabad (Word) can save one.
The Var ends with a serene note of hope, faith and confidence. God alone is the creator and destroyer. He pervades everywhere. None else can save or destroy us.
Let us, therefore, leave everything to Him and get rid of all worries. The language of the Var is old Punjabi, with very little mixture of SadhBakha. This is in keeping with the accepted style of a Var which should be in the spoken tongue of the masses. The figures of speech used are within easy comprehension of the common man.
1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1964
2. Sahib Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan. Jalandhar, 1962-64
3. Bishan Singh, Giani, Bai Varan Satik. Amritsar, n.d