LĀVĀṄ is the title traditionally given a short four-stanza composition by Gurū Rām Dās included under rāga Sūhī (p. 773) in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The word lāvāṅ, in the Indian tradition, also stands for the marriage ceremony: in Hindu society the couple reverentially circumambulates the holy fire to the singing of holy hymns from Hindu scriptures. Among Sikhs the couple circumambulates the Gurū Granth Sāhib, completing a circuiting as each of the quartets of Lāvāṅ is being sung or intoned (see ANAND KĀRAJ).
In the Sikh canonical literature the human soul is likened to a bride whose marriage (union) with Lord -husband is the ultimate end of human life. The very first lāv (singular of lāvāṅ) with which begin the marriage rites is the Lord's ordinance showing the way for leading a happy wedded life. The two-fold emphasis here requires man to be ever absorbed in she Divine Name and to hold fast to his moral and social obligations. This endeavour for simultaneous perfection in spiritual as well as social spheres is required to move successfully towards the goal of mukti, the ultimate end of human life.
The second quartet (the couple makes the second circumambulation as the verse is being sung) tells man that his earlier endeavour is rewarded in the meeting of the True Gurū. As a result of this, the human heart becomes free of all fears and all the filth of selfishness is washed off his mind. Ever in the presence of God, he sings His praises. He realizes that all beings are, in essence, manifestations of the Divine who pervades within and without.
The third quartet advises man to cultivate in his heart love of the Lord and detach himself from the mundane world. Company of the good and the holy is declared to be auspicious. It is in the holy congregation that glory of the Ineffable Lord is sung. And it is to singing of His praise that man must dedicate himself.
The fourth quartet shows the human mind unlocking the Divine mystery. Man achieves mystical union with the Absolute One. This union results in indescribable bliss for the jīva-bride and all desires of 'her' heart are fulfilled.
The four quartets of the hymn depict the four stages of human consciousness seeking realization. It begins in man's endeavour simultaneously to advance on the spiritual and social planes (1). To achieve this man is advised to live under the guidance of the Gurū. It is under the Gurū's guidance (2) that man will be led to cultivating in his mind an intense longing for the Lord and detachment from the world. He now revels in the company of the good and the holy (3). As love for the Divine is awakened in the human heart and man's grip on human values of life tightens, he gains proximity to the Divine and becomes one with Him (4). Thus, the religious ceremony of lāvāṅ begins with man's quest for God-realization and concludes with the attainment of this ideal.