SĀRAṄG KĪ VĀR, in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, is of the composition of Gurū Rām Dās. It is set to be sung in Sāraṅg rāga and hence the title Sāraṅg kī Vār. Nine of the 22 vārs included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib are composed in the musical mode of some of the current folk vārs of those days, and Gurū Arjan who compiled the Holy Book, recorded instructions as to the tune in which a particular vār was to be recited. Sāraṅg kī Vār is composed to the tune of the secular vār of Rāi Mahimā and Hasnā, which depicts the rivalry and combat of these two feudal chiefs. It consists of 36 pauṛīs, 35 by Gurū Rām Dās and one -35th- by Gurū Arjan. To the pauṛīs Gurū Arjan prefixed ślokas by all the four preceding Gurūs and by himself. All pauṛīs are of uniform length of five lines each. The ślokas are of varied length and are in different meters. Pauṛīs 1 and 34 each have three ślokas added to them; the rest have two ślokas each.
What is the purpose of human life? This is the main theme of Sāraṅg kī Vār. Accumulation of material means is subordinate to the contemplation of God's Name. A life filled with the love of God is truly blessed. This is the pervasive idea that runs through this Vār. The fourth pauṛī, for instance, speaks thus:
The Name of God is the fountain-head of all joy. We get real joy through the recital of His Name (simran). The gurmukh, one who faithfully follows the Gurū's instruction, always aspires to contemplate on God and thus to return Home honourably. His mind is ever occupied by the thought of God and he always recites His Name. The contemplation of God gives one power, over one's mind which, otherwise, flies like a bird in all directions. O Nānak! only those whom God blesses with His grace devote themselves to the meditation of His Name.
The contemplation of God is the only means of attaining spiritual bliss. Religious costumes and formalism, baths at holy places and observance of rituals cannot cleanse the mind. Only the individual blessed with the grace of God seeks the shelter of the Gurū, follows the path indicated by him and devotes himself to the constant remembrance of the Creator. The second pauṛī says:" The gurmukh is His own creation and He embodies His own virtues in him. This gurmukh uninterruptedly recites the word of the Gurū and makes his mind the abode of God. The Divine flame is lit in him, his mind is liberated from delusion and he is no longer duped by māyā. Those who are 'chosen' to be pious are led to meet the Gurū by His grace. They accomplish sahaj, the ultimate state of equipoise, and remain saturated in the Name of God. "
As the secular vār eulogizes the qualities of physical prowess and valour, the spiritual vār sings the praise of God. In Sāraṅg kī Vār, glorification of God is sung in pauṛīs 1,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,13, and 36, the praise of the Gurū in pauṛīs 19 and 20 and that of the gurmukh in pauṛīs 2,22,25, and 31. Structurally, a vār generally consists of three parts. The first part narrates the causes that lead to the conflict. Here the cause is man's ego and his attachment to the mundane world.
The second part delineates the conflict. The conflict here is between good and evil. Love of the world pulls man in one direction and love of God in the other. Only the grace of God is the individual's Saviour. In resolution in the third part, the Vār describes God as the supreme master whose will prevails. The realization of this fact brings supreme bliss to man.
The language of Sāraṅg kī Vār is Punjabi. In a simple style, the Vār enunciates the principles of a truly spiritual and ethical living. Some of its verses have become proverbs in literary Punjabi, e.g. "ghale āvahi Nānakā sade uṭhi jāhi -- sent by Him we come (into this world), and we depart at His call, sayeth Nānak" (GG,1239), "akālī sāhibu sevīai akalī pāiai mānu-- through wisdom is Lord served, through wisdom is honour obtained" (GG,1245), "ghāli khāi kichhu hathahu dei Nānak rāhu pachhaṇahi sei-- he who earns his bread by his labour, and is willing to share it with others, he, says Nānak, alone knows the way" (GG,1245). "Parāī amāṇ kiu rakhīai ditī hī sukhu hoi-- why usurp what belongs to another? By restoring it back will ye attain peace" (GG, 1249).
Charan Siṅgh Gill