RĀMKALĪ KĪ VĀR, also known as Ṭikke dī Vār, lit. Coronation Ode, is the joint composition of the bards Balvaṇḍ and Sattā. In the caption given it by Gurū Arjan in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, the former is particularized as a Rāi, or panegyrist, and the latter as a ḍūm, or minstrel, both words being interchangeable here. The Vār comprises eight pauṛīs or stanzas, of unequal length, varying from seven to twenty-one lines with no ślokas added. The talented bards and versifiers from such clans earned their livelihood by singing eulogies of their patrons, landed aristocrats, especially of their heroic deeds performed in combats, feuds, and battles in an exalted, epic style and form. Balvaṇḍ and Sattā, related to each other, however, performed kīrtan in the time of Gurū Arjan who could scarcely pay them a more befitting compliment than immortalizing their names and poetic skill by including their Vār in the Gurū Granth Sāhib.
As it appears, these bards were in their moment of inspiration taken with the idea of paying homage to the Gurūs, conceiving them as kings, kings of the House of Nānak, imaginatively and retrospectively at their installation. They sang a coronation song to commemorate the ceremony, anointing each of the four successors of Gurū Nānak as Gurū-king. Gurū Nānak is described as having been installed as Gurū Parmeshar by Pārbrahm Parmeshar. Going by the indications in this composition, the first three stanzas were composed by Balvaṇḍ, the next three by Sattā and the remaining two were added by them jointly later, though they preferred to remain anonymous. Each of them conceptualizes the House of Nānak as instituted by the Supreme Being Himself. This was entirely a new ministry that had been launched by the Supreme Being. Here, both joti, spiritual light, jugati, method of practical living, had been combined. The House of Nānak was blessed with the true royalty that depends for its greatness not on mundane glory and power, but on Holiness to save and guide humanity. These minstrels have brought out not only the celestial grandeur marking the coronation of the Gurūs but have also given expression to one of the fundamental Sikh convictions, namely the identity in spirit of all the Gurūs, whose line of descent not of the flesh but of the Word communicated from one to the other. Also in this Vār are glimpses of historical value, such as the institution of laṅgar by the Gurūs, who won the veneration of men by the purity of their teaching and of their lives. They also initiated traditions which constitute the basis of Sikh corporate living to this day. The bards have described the coronation in the figures of crown and sceptre. Balvand proclaims that Nānak founded the royal dynasty (Nānaki rāju chalāiā); he, than, unfolded the royal canopy over the head of Lahiṇā, Gurū Aṅgad, (Lahiṇe dharionu chhatu siri. The canopy is then unfolded over the head of Lahiṇā. Lahiṇā was proclaimed king; he occupied the throne, ; he was the sachchā pātishāh, true king. Sattā, similarly speaks of the canopy spread out over the head of Lahiṇā, i.e. Aṅgad. Both Sattā and Balvaṇḍ allude to the spiritual and regal dignity of the House of Gurū Nānak; Balvaṇḍ declares that all the Gurūs shared the same light and the same path and method — jotī ohā jugati sāi. Sattā says they share the same ṭikkā, mark, the same throne, and the same court. Both Sattā and Balvaṇḍ jointly refer in stanza VIII to Gurū Arjan's coming to the throne.
The conception of the spiritual ministry of Nānak was articulated for the first time by these minstrels, and it at once caught at imagination of the Sikh people. Bhāī Gurdās spoke of Gurū Nānak in almost identical terms. The two bards, for the first time spoke of joti, spirituality, and jugati, ideals of conduct, as combined in the vision of Nānak. This Vār, for the first time, proclaimed the nature of the law of succession in the House of Nānak. The succession was spiritual and not dynastic. The law lays down that succession is not hereditary. It is the noblest of the disciples who had completely surrendered himself to the Gurū and identified himself with his will who would carry the mantle.
Balvaṇḍ opens his first pauṛī or stanza by referring to the justice or decree of the Creator which none can challenge. He alludes to the Gurū's bowing before his disciple to install him as Gurū in his own place, transferring his joti, spiritual light to him. Sattā refers to the same law of succession as "reversing the flow of the Gaṅgā” =implying the departing Gurū's offering obeisance to his own disciple -successor making him the repository of the holy Word. In the spiritual sequence both of them refer to Gurū Nānak as the grandfather, Aṅgad as the son of Nānak and Amar Dās as the grandson of Nānak.
This Vār, distinctively again, describes and interprets the ideals and institutions of the Sikh tradition. Balvaṇḍ declares that Gurū Nānak set up the strong fortress of his spirituality solely on the bedrock of truth; Gurū Aṅgad carried forward his teaching wielding his spiritual sword. Sattā, again referring to Gurū Nānak, says that he churned out the fourteen gems of Divine virtues; referring to Gurū Amar Dās, he says that he bestrode the steed of poise, had chastity for his saddle, truth for his bow and praise of the Lord for arrow. The Vār refers to the institution of Laṅgar, community kitchen. Balvaṇḍ refers to the part played by Mātā Khīvī, Gurū Aṅgad's wife, in organizing the laṅgar, and to khīr ghiālī, rice cooked richly in milk and ghee, freely distributed therein. Sattā refers to the new seat at Khaḍūr established by Gurū Aṅgad, for the propagation of the spiritual teachings of Gurū Nānak. He also refers to the many centres set up by Gurū Amar Dās throughout the length and breadth of the country for this purpose.
Gurū Rām Dās and Gurū Arjan have been praised as souls completely identified with the Supreme Being, for they had transcended all human limitations. They were one in spirit — Nānak, Aṅgad and Amar Dās, though different in body. Rāmkalī kī Vār expounds the Sikh mystical doctrine of spiritual succession through the Śabda (holy Word) and carries intimations of the nascent faith's social concerns and ideals.
The Rāis and ḍūms, the bard clans, were Muslim by faith. Their descendants, remaining within the Islamic fold, served as minstrels and choristers in Sikh holy places, including the Harimandar at Amritsar. Balvaṇḍ and Sattā were Muslim rabābīs at the Gurū's court and their vocabulary contains words current in their own tradition, especially in Sūfī circles. Ars, sarūr, nūr, etc., have a peculiarly Muslim flavour. The texture of the language and inflexions are peculiarly Punjabi and in themselves have historical importance as evidence of the style current in such poetry in those times. Pregnant phrases and expressions from Rāmkalī kī Vār have become current in the Sikh tradition. For instance, sil alūṇī (rock tasteless), in referring to attempt something involving great personal sacrifice; or putrī kaulu na pālio... dili khoṭai ākī phirani, referring to the irreverent attitude of Gurū Nānak's sons to their holy father. The lines in stanza II, hovai sifati khasamm dī nūru arasahu kurasahu jhaṭīai, tudhu diṭhe sache pātisāh malu janam janam dī kaṭīai, constitute the customary prelude to the opening for recitation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. In style, purity of diction and quotability this Vār may be compared with the Vārs of Bhāī Gurdās, a contemporary and possibly the spiritual guide of these minstrels.