MAHALĀ, traditionally pronounced mahallā, appears in Sikh Scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib, as a special term to credit the authorship of the compositions of the Gurūs recorded in it. Mahalā here refers to the person of the Gurū specified by a numeral following it which signifies his position in the order of succession, commencing with Gurū Nānak as Mahalā 1 (pahilā or first). Mahalā is a modified form of mahala word of Arabic/Persian origin. Mahal has also been used in the text of some hymns in its usual literal meaning as palace, grand building, house, dwelling, abode, and in its figurative cannotations as human body, heart, mind or the mystic, mental state. It also appears with the same spelling mahalā but signifying the Sanskrit mahilā (lit. a woman, female). But the use of Mahalā as a denominator of the Gurūs is peculiar to Gurū Granth Sāhib. Mahalā in this sense is derived from the Arabic word halūl which means "descending, alighting, remaining; entering, penetrating; transmigration." The Sikh belief is that the spirit or light of Gurū Nānak informed the bodies of the successive Gurūs, and that all of them were in essence the same Nānak. Mobid Zulfīqār Ardastānī, who had personally known Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) and Gurū Har Rāi (1630-61), testifies in his Dabistān-i-Mazāhib that Gurū Nānak was referred to as Mahal I, his successor Gurū Aṅgad as Mahal II, and so on. He uses the very word halūl for the transference of Gurū Nānak's spirit to the body of Gurū Aṅgad. All the Gurūs whose bāṇī is included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib used Nānak as their nom de plume. Mahalā I, Mahalā II, and so on (pronounced Mahallā Pahilā-First, Mahallā Dūjā-Second, and so on) were used by Gurū Arjan, the compiler of the scripture, to mark the authorship of the compositions. Mahalā I at the beginning of a composition means that it is by the First Gurū, Gurū Nānak; Mahalā II that it is by Gurū Aṅgad, his successor; Mahalā III that it is by Gurū Amar Dās, Nānak III, and so on. That the practice dated back at least to the time of Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574) is evidenced by two old manuscripts known as Goindvāl Pothīs, which also have the Gurūs mentioned in this style.
Balbīr Siṅgh Nandā