The pauns, or stanzas, in this Var are preceded by slokas or couplets, which were not part of it originally but were added by Guru Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Holy Book with a view to supplementing the theme presented in the paun`s. The Var comprises a total of twenty-seven pauns of eight lines each. Of a total of 63 slokas which vary in length. as well as in authorship, 46 are by Guru Nanak, 12 by Guru Angad, three by Guru Amar Das and two by Guru Ram Das. Each paun is preceded by two slokas except the first and the seventh which are preceded by three slokas each and die ninth and thirteenth which are preceded by four and seven slokas, respectively.
Although the Var is cast in the mould of a ballad, it is not a ballad in theme but, in common with other vars in the Guru Granth Sahib, a devotional and spiritual composition. Praise of the ideal Guru, the perfect preceptor, to whom our implicit obedience is due and without whom "all is pitch darkness" marks the beginning of the Var. The Guru, who is called the "lamp of the three worlds" is the only means to achieve absorption with God without which human life is a poor and sorry thing. Attachment and illusion which hinder man`s march towards his ultimate end can be sundered not by the performance of prescribed rituals, but by our earnest acceptance of the Guru`s instruction.
The true spiritual guide, i.e. the Guru, who is called a great holy river in comparison with the hypocrite setting himself up as such being no more than a filthy pond. A Guruoriented person liberates himself and brings liberation to others. This material world has been called "a mountain of smoke." Man is enthralled by various worldly temptations.
This attachment to maya makes man forget God, who has not only created it but also permeates it. Passages rich in poetic imagery and having a classical finish of form recount the pleasures of life which ensnare man.Neither pleasure nor suffering which is likely to embitter man`s mind must make him deflect from the path of devotion to God, who is all pervasive and omnipotent. He is the only everlasting reality while all else vanishes (8).
He is infallible and none can deceive himkarta api abhulu hai na bhulaikisai da bhulaia (16). Neither the study of scriptures (Vedas) nor empty rituals can help man realize God. Performance of such rituals without having overcome one`s ego is called "folly and unsoundness of mind." It is only through meditation on the holy word (sabda) that the highest objective of life can be achievedsacha sabadu vichari sachi samania (13).
A synthesis is commended between devotion and a working life of full social and moral responsibility (5). Justice and equality must be the guiding principles. Says Guru Nanak in one of the slokas, "If blood stains the cloth, that dress becomes soiled, how may then the practice of such as suck the blood of others be reckoned pure ?" He asks both Hindus and Muslims to cultivate tolerance as "the two paths are indeed one ; one thinking otherwise must fall into hellfire" (9). Apart from the condemnation of hypocrisy, orthodox rituals and caste pride, the Var rejects occult and miraculous powers as futile and unspiritual.
It also discounts the feelings of avarice and ambition."In the body burns the fire of desire which can be assuaged only through the holy Word." The Var decries manmukhs, self willed, unregenerate ones as persons who are full of ego and who render not gratitude to God for His blessings. They are bitter like the bitter fruit and poisonous like dhatura, mm and such others.
They are as far away from His grace as akk (another one of the latter variety) is from sandalwood. Little good can come to man unless he sheds ego, constantly meditates on His Name and earns, through devotion, the Divine grace. All else is fruitless ritual.The spiritual value of the early morning meditation is stressed.
In highly poetic terms, the Guru calls them true lords among men who, in the early hour of dawn, meditate on God with minds concentrated. Such devotees of God are His loving spouses happily lodged in their Lord`s Mansion (22). The texture of life comprises both joy and sorrow. To seek a life all of joy is to forget the Divine Will. In fact, joy and sorrow have been designated as the vestures which man must wear by turns.
The blessing of Divine grace can alone annul the sorrow and haunting fears of life. The Var closes with an ecstatic delineation of the Divine bard, expressive of deep fervour of devotion."The Bard was called by the Master into His mansion. He lauded Him and was honoured with a robe.
God`s eternal Name was his food on which satiated he found His bliss" (27). The pauris of the Var are, for the most part, in praise of God who is described in all his grandeur and transcendental marvel, whereas the slokas are full of ethical content, scrutinizing human character from various angles. The Var which embodies a deep spiritual experience and the ultimate ethical vision does not form part of the daily Sikh service, but its affirmations are in no way less celebrated and of tquoted.Close interrelationship of various passages composed by the Gurus shows the one an integrated mind behind the work.
Passage after passage unfolds the nuances of the theme, summoning a coherent vision of holy, but active, life proceeding from die insight of Guru Nanak and his spiritual successors. The language of the pauns is literary Punjabi, but not so of die slokas most of which are in Sadh Bhakha, a few in a form of Prakrit and in Persian mixed with Indian vocabulary, following the Punjabi grammatical pattern. The reason for this variation of language and style between the pauns and the slokas is that the latter were composed at different times and were addressed to audiences in different locales.
1. Bishan Singh, Giani, BaJ Varan Satik. Amritsar, n. d.
2. Sahib Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan. Jalandhar, 1962-64
3. Kohli, Surindar Singh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961