VĀR MALĀR KĪ MAHALLĀ I, composition of the first Gurū (i.e. Gurū Nānak), is one of the twenty-two vārs appearing in the Gurū Granth Sāhib under different rāgas. A vār is a folk poem of war and chivalry, celebrating a hero and his gallantry. In the Gurū Granth Sāhib this form is adapted to spiritual ends and to bring to man's attention the eternal truths of life. Vār Malār Kī is cast in the malār rāga or musical measure (hence the title). Malār or Malhār is associated with the rains and is best sung in the rainy season. At the head of the composition is recorded the direction regarding the tune in which it is to be sung--- in the tune of Rāṇā Kailās and Māldeo. It ends with the word sudhu which attests the fact that the text has been checked and found to be correct.
As the title declares, this is a poem of the rainy season. Images of the rainy season abound. Flashes of lightning stab the darkness of the clouds. Babīhā (the bird that revels best in the rains) breaks out into song at the sight of the clouds. The rain signifies God's plenty. It will fill the granaries of the people. It will clothe the earth in lush greenery. The language of the poem is Sant Bhasha or eastern Punjabi. As is common with the vocabulary of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, words into it come from all sources. Besides words of Sanskrit origin, the Gurū Granth Sāhib freely accept words from Arabic and Persian. In this poem we have Arabic words such as hikmat and muqaddam and Persian words such as bisiar and kamtrin.
The poem comprises twenty-eight pauṛīs or stanzas and fifty-eight ślokas. All the pauṛīs except the twenty-seventh are of the composition of Gurū Nānak; five of the ślokas are by Gurū Aṅgad, twenty-seven by Gurū Amar Dās and two by Gurū Arjan. Each pauṛī has two ślokas preceding it except the twenty-first which is preceded by four ślokas. Pauṛī 27 is from the pen of Gurū Arjan. The vār is believed to be the first one written by Gurū Nānak and the date of composition is reckoned to be the year of the sack of Eminābād by Bābar, i.e. AD 1521.
The vār can be broadly divided into four parts. The first part (pauṛīs 1-7) proclaims that God alone is the creator of this universe. Everything happens by His Will. In this arena of the world, the gurmukh (i.e. he whose face is turned towards the Gurū, the Gurū conscious) and the manmukh (guided by his own self, the self-willed) are wrestling with each other (4); the former will come out victorious, for He is on the side of those who are truthful, who have conquered their ego and who live a life of detachment like the lotus flower sprouting in the mud. The second part (pauṛīs 8-16) affirms that His virtues are inexpressible and that meditation on His Name alone can save man. Renunciation of the world and asceticism will be of little avail. Wandering in the forest and torturing the body will not help man realize God (15); what helps is the Gurū's teaching by following which one can save oneself (9). Man is lost in the darkness of ignorance and gets caught in worldly temptations. By His grace one meets the Gurū and becomes absorbed in His Name. A self-centred manmukh is a beast in the body of man (14). The third part (pauṛīs, 17-22) stresses the value of bhakti or devotion which is not possible without the love of God which in turn is a gift received by the favour of the Gurū (19). The concluding part, comprising the last six pauṛīs, rejects mere intellect as a means to final release. Intellect begets pride, diverting man away from God. Asceticism and ritualistic practices also lead him astray. The Gurū's śabda (sabad) alone is the true guide. The Gurū, again, is the gift from God Himself.
Surinder Siṅgh Kohlī