GŪJARĪ KĪ VĀR MAHALĀ 3 is one of the four vārs composed by Gurū Amar Dās structured in the form of a vār or folk poem adapted to a spiritual theme.

         The Vār, as the title indicates, falls in the Gūjarī musical measure, fifth of the thirty-one rāgas in the Holy Book. This rāga is usually sung a little after dawn, though in the Sikh tradition considerable freedom is exercised in choosing the hour for reciting this and other rāgas. At the head of the Vār is given the direction as to the tune to which it had best be sung. The tune recommended is that of the ballad eulogizing the chivalry and physical prowess of Sikandar who attacked and vanquished Birāham (Ibrāhīm), kidnapper of the young bride of a Brāhmaṇ.

         The Vār comprises twenty-two pauṛīs or stanzas of five rhyming lines each. Each of the pauṛīs is preceded by two ślokas or couplets or double couplets constituting a quatrain. All ślokas are of Gurū Amar Dās's composition too, except one, preceding the fourth pauṛī which is by Bhakta Kabīr and which is also repeated among his 243 ślokas recorded towards the close of the Scripture under the title "Salok Bhagat Kabīr Jiu Ke" (ślokas of Bhakta Kabīr ). As in the case of other vārs, the ślokas were added to the pauṛīs by Gurū Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib.

         The technique of composition of vārs demands collocation of opposites of many types, some side by side, others successively in different units of the composition. Confrontation of ideas, emotions and persons is presented again and again to reinforce the polarization in the mind of the reader. Gūjarī kī Vār maintains throughout a contrasted parallel to wean the mind of the seeker from māyā, illusory pursuits, and turn it towards devotion. The pairs of opposites here may be formulated in a variety of ways. These may be visualized as contrasted characters of gurmukh and manmukh or as contrasted attitudes towards truth and falsehood, good and evil, the material and the spiritual. The interrelationship of the forces surrounding both the positive and the negative poles constitutes the central theme. Around the positive pole revolve love of God's feet, practice of God's Name, possession of God's grace, reflection on Gurū's word, obedience to Gurū's will, true way of life, everlastingness, and the gurmukh, whereas the negative pole is surrounded by love of māyā, otherness, uncertainty, worldliness, obliquity, sleep, i.e. ignorance, suffering, futility of life, and the manmukh. All the items/forces surrounding each pole are related to one another and some of them are in a symbolic garb and inwardly mean the same thing as some other items. The positive and similar other items could be subsumed under the concept of truth and the negative ones and their correlates under falsehood.

         This universe came into being under the Will of God. Initially, there was complete vacuum and the only existence then was that of the Lord alone who Himself was niraṅkār, i.e. without form. He created this world along with māyā and its triple progeny, the three guṇas, and made man attached to it. However, man can see through the illusory māyā and achieve union with the Lord provided he meets the true Gurū with the grace of God, and under instruction of the Gurū sheds his ego and constantly meditates on the Lord's Name. This theme has been brought out with the help of pairs of opposites -- two contrasted characters, gurmukh and manmukh, and two contrasted attitudes relating to truth and falsehood.

         Hukam, God's command, which caused the creation of this Universe of māyā and its triple progeny, is also His own creation : in fact, it is an aspect of Him. It is under His hukam that man takes either to māyā and forgets his Creator or to his spiritual Preceptor who enables him to become worthy of acceptance at the Divine portal. The former are called manmukh and the latter gurmukh and the text points to the contrast of their moral conduct and psychological motivations. Since both of them are equally subject to His hukam which in due course brings all men under Divine grace and liberates them, the former do not stand condemned eternally. Hukam which causes this polarity abolishes it as well.

         The Sikh way of life as expounded in this Vār, as also in the rest of the bāṇī in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, expects of the seeker to keep constant guard over the evil propensities. He is told that the most potent weapon to fight ego and its progeny -- lust, greed, anger, pride, infatuation -- is the Name of God. Constant remembrance of His name prepares man both intellectually and emotionally for submission to His hukam willingly and spontaneously which, in turn, leads him to the realization of Truth.

         A special feature of the Vār is the sustained expression in it of wonder at the Divine sublimity which helps arouse emotions of awe in human mind not only with regard to God but also with regard to everything relating to Him. The true Gurū who shows the way to God, the way itself, the man who treads this path and the fruits of his labours are all sources of wonder. The emotion of awe has two dimensions. When man experiences it, the objective reality that stimulates it is magnified immeasurably; on the other side, the subjective self undergoing it is felt to be diminished in an inverse ratio. The expression of this emotion is intended to arouse in man feelings of humility. Without humility which implies shedding of ego and surrendering oneself completely to the Will of God, neither the greatness of God's hukam is realized nor human action subordinated to it. Every quality of God is the expression of His hukam which is beyond human comprehension. The infinity of God is in fact the infinity of His hukam and the experience of awe is an experience of the immensity of hukam and its manifestation and nature and humanity. Humility and obedience to hukam are also related as means to an end : humility leads to hukam and hukam to Truth.

         Absence of humility, or its reverse, i.e. the presence of pride or ego, renders man incapable .of having faith in a Gurū. He fails to break his own shell and come out into the vast open world. Such an ego-ridden person always regards his own limited self as overwhelmingly important and fails to be impressed by the infinity and immensity of the Lord Creator. Man must liberate himself from what in the Sikh tradition are called five vices as well as from their common source, haumai, which, in turn, results from attachment to māyā. A manmukh responds negatively to the urge of his ātman, which is part of the Eternal, and suffers. He is content to remain bound down to the five vices which lead him from one crisis to another in his life. Only by developing humility and surrendering himself to God's Will, he breaks out of his obstinacy and becomes the object of His grace. It is the guidance of the true Gurū and His grace which enable him to swim across this world ocean triumphantly.

         The language used in Gujarī kī Vār, as elsewhere in the compositions of Gurū Amar Dās, is simple Punjabi of the Mājhā (central) tract of the Punjab a -- region where he spent almost all of his creative life. It certainly has some influence of the Sant Bhākhā, but the text is almost free from words of other languages which were not by then completely assimilated into the Punjabi idiom. The subtlety of thought nowhere hinders the lucid flow of poetry. The symbol as well as image used is traditional, but they both do enrich the poetic quality of the Vār which eloquently sums up the Sikh way of life as enunciated by Gurū Nānak.


  1. Kohli, Surindar Singh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth.Delhi, 1961
  2. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, Bani of Guru Amar Das.Delhi, 1979
  3. Bishan Siṅgh, Giānī, Bāī Vārāṅ Saṭīk. Amritsar, n.d.

Rām Siṅgh