GAUṚĪ KĪ VĀR by Gurū Arjan is one of the twenty-two vārs included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The Vār is a form of folk poetry cast in a spiritual mould in the Sikh holy corpus. It falls in the Gauṛī musical measure from which it takes its title. As in the case of some of the vārs in the Holy Book, there is at the head of it a direction as to the tune in which it should most appropriately be sung. The tune indicated is that of the then popular folk-ballad recounting the chivalry of Mojdī (Muazz ud-Dīn) who fought against and defeated Kamāldī (Kamāl ud-Dīn), his uncle: they were Muslim Rājpūt chieftains of the Bār, or interriverine jungle country, in the erstwhile central Punjab. At the close of the Vār are appended the words sudhu kīche (please correct), indicating that the text as copied from the original pages was sought to be checked and inaccuracies, if any, corrected.
The Vār comprises twenty-one pauṛīs or stanzas, and forty-two ślokas or couplets, all composed by Gurū Arjan. This is unlike most of the other vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib which contain ślokas by the author of the pauṛis as well as by other Gurūs which were added to the pauṛīs by Gurū Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Pauṛīs consist of five lines each which, though of unequal length, mutually rhyme, the last word of each line ending with a long mātrā to create in recitation an echoic, lingering rhythm.
Like other vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, this Vār opens with the laudation of the Creator, expressing devotion as well as a sense of wonder, and then, with rapid transition, moves on to other aspects of ethical experience and to exhortation towards the spiritual life. Remembrance of God lovingly and whole-heartedly and praising the Name in holy association are set out as the means to elevating the seeker to the ideal plane where he comes in contact with the Supreme Lord and where he experiences the joy of becoming one with the Perfect Being. In such a state there is no psychic conflict and man abides in sublime bliss. Pauṛīs as well as ślokas beat up these themes.
The essential element of the metaphysical doctrine of Gurū Nānak reiterated by Gurū Arjan in this Vār is monotheism. The ultimate reality is the One Absolute, the Transcendent, Eternal and Omnipotent. He is supreme, ineffable and indescribable. So wondrous and exalted is He that human mind can neither define nor fathom Him. His Will is the sole cause of the creation of this universe which is sustained and nourished by Him. He is not separate from His creation, but permeates it. He is imperishable, infinite, unapproachable and unfathomable. He looks equally adorned amongst the high and the low, the big and the small. He is diffused through all the places and interspaces and is within the mortals.
Only God, the creator of this universe, is the Everlasting Reality. All else is subject to death, and so is man. Although the cosmos will last longer than the living creatures, it will not stay for ever. Neglecting the soul's yearning for union with the Ultimate and seeking material and physical satisfaction in self-indulgence is said to make man unbalanced. The Vār presents a very vivid picture of this sick mortal. Such a man does not perform his duty, but wanders waywardly. He is attracted towards vices such as lust, wrath, avarice and worldly love like a vulture attracted to carrion. He might seem happy outwardly, but within him lies anxiety. His unsatiable hunger for worldly things leads him to pain and sorrow. Surrounded by calamities and with a mind full of doubt, he is ever unhappy, ill at ease and discontented. Devoid of faith, he is continuously suffering agony like a thief writhing on the noose. The Vār impresses upon such an ignorant man the uselessness of worldly ostentation which is like the flash of lightning. The worldly grandeurs are evil friends who will not stand him in good stead. In fact, this world to which man is attached in preference to God is like an awesome ocean which he cannot cross without the help of a true guide. Man is made to realize that this beautiful body and the material gains after which he is so crazy shall not remain with him for ever. Man is advised not to succumb to the fascination of the visible and the exterior, but accumulate "the capital of the Lord's Name." There is no peace without nām. His name alone will help man's acceptance at His Court.
God is the supreme judge of human actions. He is the lover of saints and saviour of sinners. Since Lord's Name is the only intermediary between the human spirit and His Being, man is advised to "embark on the ship of the service of the True Lord" and cross the ocean of this world. To gain access to Him, the easier way is to take help of the saint Gurū and of the company of saints. Man is told that "evenly smooth shall be the path if the saint Gurū be the Uniter" and that the True Lord can be obtained by submitting to His Will and by associating with the holy. The saints show man the way to God and so he contemplates His Name, and it is the society of the saints which dispels all lust, wrath, avarice and love for worldly things from human mind and make it a worthy abode of God. However, this "becomes easy when the True Lord becomes pleased." This pleasure or grace of God is also the necessary condition before unity with God becomes a possibility. Grace without which there can be no spiritual achievement is the responsive love of God rewarding man for his true love towards Him.
Man should dispel all doubt and love Him. He should read and understand Him. He should place hope in only the True Lord whom he should never forget. Man should grasp His feet, remember and praise Him, submit to His Will and seek his shelter. He should contract friendship with Him and ever long for Him with eagerness. Man can achieve perfection only in union with the Perfect One for which he will need the help of the True Gurū and the grace of the Lord. So he transcends to a state which is thus described : "The Name I hear, the Name I amass and with the Name I embrace Love. My home and wealth are all sanctified by singing the praise of God."
The spiritual insight as well as the doctrinal aspect has been presented in the Vār in language which is an easy variety of Mājhī Punjabi spoken in the central districts. Many tatsam words long used in this tradition and incidental to the theme have been used along with their tadbhav forms. Words of Lahindī or western Punjabi are also used --- their use being more evident in ślokas than in pauṛīs. Different headings of two ślokas, i.e. 'śalok ḍakhaṇā' on the first śloka preceding pauṛī 19, and 'salok dohā' on the first śloka before pauṛī 18, bear testimony to the use of western Punjabi and western Hindi, respectively, in these verses. Some words of Persian and Arabic, mostly in the tadbhav form have also been used.