RAHRĀSI is the name given to the main evening prayer of the Sikhs. The word itself implies supplication, though some traditionalist scholars have interpreted it as rāh-i-rāst which, in Persian, means the straight path, the path of faith and devotion as against that of mere ritual practices or yogic austerities. The title 'Rahrāsi' however does not occur anywhere in the Gurū Granth Sāhib itself, nor is the text, as it is recited today, recorded as a single whole. Besides its two major constituents, So Daru and So Purakhu, it has three further sections-the Chaupaī from among Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's compositions in the Dasam Granth, Anandu (only the first five stanzas and the last from among Gurū Amar Dās' and the Mundāvaṇī from among Gurū Arjan's. The total text is a case of ‘editing' by tradition. The Rahrāsi in its current form has evolved in the course of a period of time. The earliest text was but So Daru which, as says Bhāī Gurdās ( Vārāṅ, I.38), used to be recited in the evening assemblies in Gurū Nānak's day. Gurū Arjan supplemented it with So Purakhu hymns and the two were recorded by him jointly in the Gurū Granth Sāhib after the Japu. The complete text, with three more sections subsequently added, has come down the generations through guṭkās or breviaries, but with minor variations as regards the number of hymns or of the stanzas thereof included. The text as it appears in the guṭkās issued by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee is the accepted form today. The title 'Rahrāsi' comes from the hymn of Gurū Rām Dās included under So Daru wherein the word occurs once in the line: gurmati nāmi merā prān sakhī hari kīrati hamarī rahrāsi (The name Divine is my life's companion; laudation of the Lord my supplication).
Rahrāsi is included in nitnem, Sikhs' daily regimen of five prayers. It is recited in the evening in gurdwārās and may be preceded or succeeded by kīrtan i.e. holy singing. Those who are unable to join the evening assembly may say it individually at home or wherever they should be at that hour.
In the hymns entitled So Daru, that is, the Divine Portal, is portrayed the cosmic hall in which dwells the Supreme Being, the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. Rāga, that is harmony, reigns here. Every element or being, however great and powerful, is here perfectly attuned to the Will of the Supreme Lord and works in complete unison with it. All the powers symbolized by wind, water, fire, the celestial judge, the invisible scribes of good and evil deeds, Īśvara (Śiva), Brahmā, the goddess, Indra, devās or gods, siddhas, sādhūs, virtuous beings, paṇḍits, fairies, the jewels' churned out of the ocean, holy places of pilgrimage, the four khāṇīs or sources of life, the planets and parts of the universe, the blissful bhaktas and myriads of other entities, sing praises of the Lord and give complete obedience to His Will. So Daru is by Gurū Nānak; so is the hymn following. This hymn proclaims how great, how beyond utterance, how beyond compute is the Supreme One. The third hymn, also by Gurū Nānak, says that the Supreme Being is intrinsically great for He neither dies nor experiences sorrow. Remembering Him one lives; forgetting Him one dies. In the fourth hymn, Gurū Rām Dās asks for the favour of Name enlightenment. Gurū Arjan next says that he who with satsaṅgat, holy company, mingles is liberated.
So Purakhu (That Being) by Gurū Rām Dās praises the Supreme Being who is transcendent as well as immanent, infinite, all pervading, residing in every heart, above fear, beyond measure, eternal, creator and sustainer. His Will reigns supreme. Those who remember Him are freed from fear, are liberated. They truly are the sincere devotees who find approval with Him, not those who merely perform formal acts of worship. Those who on Him meditate, into Him are merged. The next hymn, also by Gurū Rām Dās, lays stress on the unicity of the Ultimate Reality that is God. All creatures have their being in the Creator. His Will is supreme. It is the gurmukhs (the devoted) who find the jewel of the Name; the manmukhs (the self-willed) forfeit that precious object. Gurū Nānak in the following hymn seeks shelter with those who forever remember the Lord. In the concluding hymn in this section, Gurū Arjan reminds men that in this human birth they have the opportunity to unite with Govind, the Lord. They must, to this end, meet in saṅgat, holy fellowship and repeat the Name.
In the Chaupaī, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh invokes the Timeless Being who cherishes his saints and cancels the sorrows and faults of those who pronounce his Name. Anand, in the Rahrāsi comprising six stanzas from Gurū Amar Dās' bāṇī of this name with which conclude all Sikh services, expresses joy and bliss in God achieved through sahaj, that is the path of serene prayer and meditation. Munavaṇī (the seal, finale), concluding the Rahrāsi, is Gurū Arjan's brief composition which forms the epilogue to the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Here Gurū Arjan presents the Sacred Volume as an amalgam of the spiritual values of truth, equipoise and contemplation. He also renders gratitude to God almighty for bringing to fulfilment the task of compiling the Holy Granth he had undertaken.