VAḌAHAṄS KĪ VĀR, in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, is by Gurū Rām Dās. He has composed the largest number of Vārs, eight out of the twenty two included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The poetic stanza used is the usual pauṛī. There are 21 pauṛīs in all, interspersed with ślokas by Gurū Nānak (3) and Gurū Amar Dās (40). The ślokas epitomize the various aspects of the theme elaborated in the pauṛīs that follow. Each pauṛī consists of five verses, but the ślokas vary in length, from two lines to ten lines each. This Vār is included in the musical measure Vaḍahaṅs and Gurū Arjan, in the course of the compilation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, added the direction that it is to be sung to the tune of the popular folk ballad of Lallā and Bahlīmā. The parallel between the two Vārs extends nor merely to their musical and poetic style, but also to their content. Whereas Lallā and Bahlīmā's Vār celebrates heroic virtues, Vaḍahaṅs kī Vār emphasizes spiritual values, and yet these are revealed in the latter to be complementary as they are generally in the Sikh tradition.
The characters in Lallā and Bahlīmā's Vār assume symbolic significance in light of the argument developed in Vaḍahaṅs kī Vār. Bahlīmā helps Lallā in time of distress. When Lallā defaults in his obligations, Bahlīmā brings him round to the realization of his duty, shortcoming even by using force. The use of force is justified in the service of righteousness.
The conflict in Vaḍahaṅs kī Vār is between haṅs (swan) and bag or bagalā (duckling), a real saint and an impostor, a Gurū-oriented person and a self-oriented one. In other words, the conflict here is between good and evil. The theme is treated in a contrapuntal manner---point counterpoint---building up to a crescendo, in which all doubts are removed, knowledge dawns and tensions are resolved in a harmony of bliss. Some of the opposites employed to work out the theme are swan/duckling, noble/ignoble, joy/sorrow, the honest teacher/the impostor, nectar/poison, life/death, comfort/ discomfort, contented/worried, pure/impure, heaven/hell, knowledge/ignorance, truly devoted/ pretender, cool/fiery, merit/demerit, the connoisseur/obtuse, truth/falsehood, male/female, delicious/ tasteless, friend/foe, etc.
The oneness, uniqueness and omnipresence of God, the significance of the Gurū, the ideal of peace and liberation, and an all-embracing love of mankind are the values emphasized in Vaḍahaṅs kī Vār. Each individual works out his own release, but he is reminded again and again that this is achieved by God's grace alone.
The Vār has a well designed structure. The ślokas that precede each pauṛī present the theme in its dual aspect. They are in the form of a proposition. The pauṛī that follows resolves the conflict. For instance, the Vār opens with the ślokas by Gurū Amar Dās in which are introduced the opposite symbols of swan and duckling. But in the pauṛī that follows, Gurū Rām Dās alludes to God Almighty Who is the Sole Doer, the Sole Giver and the All-Pervading Power, to whom everyone looks up to.
In the succeeding ślokas and pauṛīs it is made clear that those who follow the dictates of their man (baser self) get entangled in worldly temptations. Their lives are full of suffering and those who take refuge in the Word of Gurū, they attain peace and happiness. The rituals and outward show of saint liness are of no avail. Only the Gurū's sabad (Word) can save one.
The Vār ends with a serene note of hope, faith and confidence. God alone is the creator and destroyer. He pervades everywhere. None else can save or destroy us. Let us, therefore, leave everything to Him and get rid of all worries.
The language of the Vār is old Punjabi, with very little mixture of Sādh-Bākhā. This is in keeping with the accepted style of a Vār which should be in the spoken tongue of the masses. The figures of speech used are within easy comprehension of the common man.
Swinder Siṅgh Uppal