ARDĀS, 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 ardās seems to have been derived from Persian 'arzdāsht, meaning a petition, a memorial or an address to a superior authority. The Sikh ardās is rendered to God Almighty in a supplicatory mood standing in front of the Gurū Granth Sāhib or, where the Gurū Granth Sāhib is not present, standing in a similarly reverential posture. Ardās is not inscribed in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. 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 thanks-giving 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 ardās.
Broadly, the ardās consists of three parts. As the audience rise for ardās, the officiant leading the prayer usually begins by reciting a pauṛi or stanza from the Sukhmanī: tū ṭhākuru tum pahi ardāsi. . . Thou art the Lord Master; to Thee our ardās (supplication) is addressed. . . Then will follow recitation verbatim of the prelude to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's composition Vār Srī Bhāgauti Jī Kī. This 41-word stanza invokes the Timeless One and the first Nine Gurūs. The first addition that the Panth made was to extend this invocation to include the name of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh himself and the Gurū Granth Sāhib, "body visible of the Gurūs" after him. The second part is a recital of Sikhs' deeds of dedication and sacrifice. The ardās 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 ardās 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 ardās with the result that, along with the martyrs of the Gurū period and of the periods of persecution following, it recalls those of the Gurdwārā 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 Khālsā wheresoever they be. The words have become a permanent part of the ardās. 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 ardās alludes to that historical situation and bears witness to the Sikhs' deep attachment to their places of worship.
Ārdās 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 Khālsā, 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 qualiity of his life. Gifts like the virtues of humility and wisdom are besought, as well as purity of understanding to discern the Divine Will. Protection is sought against such 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. Ardās always concludes with a prayer for the welfare and prosperity for all mankind.
The whole assembly stands with folded hands to say ardās facing the Gurū Granth Sāhib when it is present. In the absence of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, it can be facing in any direction. Usually, a supplicatory śabda (hymn) is recited upon rising for ardās. Anyone from among the assembly can lead ardās
At prescribed intervals during ardās, the entire saṅgat associates itself with the leader repeating at his instance, 'Vāhigurū'. As the ardās concludes, the whole congregation kneels down and then rises again and utters in unison, 'Vāhigurū Jī kā Khālsā Vāhigurū Jī kī Fateh'-The Khālsā belongs to the Lord to whom too belongs the Victory. This is followed by the slogan 'Bole so Nihāl' - he who pronounces these words shall be fulfilled, to which the whole assembly responds by shouting, 'Sat Srī Akāl'- True is the Timeless Lord.
Although, in its structure ardās 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.
Ardās 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 ardās (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 ardās is performed, the remaining portions are generally the same for all occasions.
The Text of Ardās
Unto The One Supreme God Who by the grace of Satgurū is realized.
Remember, first, God the Almighty :
think then of Gurū Nānak : of Aṅgad
Gurū and Amar Dās, and Rām Dās.
May their protection be ever with us!
Remember Arjan, Hargobind, and the holy Har Rāi.
Let us think of the holy Har Krishan
whose sight annuls all sorrow.
Let us remember Tegh Bahādur, and
all the nine treasures will come flowing in.
May He protect us everywhere!
May the Tenth King, the holy Gurū
Gobind Siṅgh, the lord of hosts,
master of the hawk, and protector of faith, help us everywhere!
Turn your thoughts, O Khālsā, to the
Gurū Granth Sāhib, the visible body
of the Gurūs, and their word, and say, Vāhigurū, Glory be to God!!
The five Loved Ones, the Gurū's four
sons, the Forty saved and other holy
and heroic men, saints and martyrs :
remember their selfless and heroic
deeds, and say, Vāhigurū, Glory be
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 re-
mained steadfast in their Sikh
faith to the last hair of their sacred tresses
(keś) and to their last breath : think
of their sweet resignation, and say,
Vāhigurū, 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,
Vāhigurū, Glory be to God!
Think of all the Gurdwārās, the places
of divine remembrance, the thrones
of religious authority, and other
places hallowed by the touch of the
Gurūs' feet, and say Vāhigurū, Glory
be to God!
The whole Khālsā offer their prayer,
Let the whole Khālsā 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 Khālsā wheresoever they
May charity, justice, and faith flourish.
May the Khālsā be forever in the ascendant.
May the Sikh choirs, banners, mansions of the Khālsā 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. O Khālsā, say Vāhigurū,
Glory be to God!
Save us, O 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 fellow-
ship of only those in whose company
we may remember Thy Name.
We make this prayer in Thy presence,
"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. "
O true Master, Loved Father, here in this city of Kyoto, in Japan, had assembled
representatives of world religions-men 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 con-stantly 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, Nānak!
And in Thy Will may peace and pros-
perity come to one and all. . .
Blessed is he who utters His name.
The Timeless is the Eternal Reality
Jaswant Siṅgh Nekī