ALĀHṆĪĀṄ, Gurū Nānak's composition in measure Vaḍahaṅs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Ālāhṇī, generally used in its plural form alāhṇīāṅ, is a dirge wailingly sung in chorus by women mourning the death of a relation. Etymologically, the word means an utterance in praise (of the departed person). The sorrowful singing of alāhṇīāṅ is part of the mourning custom of siāpā. The women assemble at the house of the dead person and cry aloud beating their breasts while standing, or sit together and bewail. They weep bitterly and sing alāhṇīāṅ in most pathetic tones. The village barbress (naiṇ) or mirāsāṇ starts the alāhṇi by singing aloud the first line of the dirge eulogizing the dead person, followed by the group in chorus. The siāpā goes on continually for a number of days until the last ceremonies are held; and the relatives of the deceased keep coming from far and near, the women joining in the heart-rending wail from day to day.

        Alāhṇī is also a poetic form in Punjabi in the style of this mourning song. The strain may alter with the subject. Gurū Nānak employed this mode in his bāṇī, as he adopted several other popular and folk forms. Five of his śabdas (hymns) included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib in Rāga Vaḍahaṅs (pp. 578 to 582) are entitled Alāhṇīāṅ. In these hymns, the sovereignty of God's Will is proclaimed. By implication, the customs of siāpā and alāhṇīāṅ are deprecated. One must not give way to idle wailing, but learn to accept what has been ordained by the Almighty. The reality of death is brought home to man. "As man hath come into this world, so must he depart?" The recitation of Alāhnīāṅ brings solace to the grief-afflicted soul and leads it to seek shelter in God. Surrender to His Will is the burden of this verse. "None ever die with the dead, " says Gurū Nānak. "Blessed is he who praises the Lord's merits and weeps in fear of Him. They who bewail by remembering Him are through the ages acknowledged wise. "

        Death is inevitable. But death is for the manmukh; one who is ruled by his own ego, one who has turned away from God. Death is not for the gurmukh who is turned towards God. By nām simran, i. e. constant remembrance of the Name of God, one discards the fear of death. This is the way to achieving the state of fearlessness, the state of liberation and everlastingness. He is truly triumphant in the world who absorbs himself in nām and is firm in his faith, who performs his worldly duty and yet remains unattached, always ready to leave the world without sorrow. One, who submits to the Will of the Lord and leads a pious life, lives in peace and tranquillity and dreads not the call of death. Death for such virtuous persons is a victory. All have to reach the same destination, says Gurū Nānak. Instead of crying and wailing at the death of a relation, men should sit together and sing the praise of God.

        The poetic metre used in Alāhṇīāṅ corresponds the tune in which this folk form is cast. It is a kind of duvaiyā chhand, in which last line of each śabda echoes the burden of the in the first part of Alāhṇīāṅ. The language is Sādh Bhākhā with a strong flavour of Lahndī dialect. Alliteration has been used and new compounds formed to make the lines musical. Some of the verses convey the eternal truths in such homely yet terse language that they have become part of Punjabi speech. For instance: "jehā likhīā tehā pāiā" as is it foreordained for one, so does one receive, and "ko mara nā moiā nāle” - none ever die with the dead.


  1. Kohli, Surindar Siṅgh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961
  2. Tāran Siṅgh Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib Jī dā Sāhitak Itihās. Amritsar, n. d.

Harcharan Siṅgh