KĀFĪ (Arabic Qāfī), literally stands for the leader, the enlightener, one who fulfils the need. In poetics it denotes the refrain in a song or hymn, and is also the title given to a poetic form in Arabic as well as in Indian literature. Gurū Nānak was the first to use this poetic form in Punjabi literature, and in this he was followed by several Sūfī poets and others. Kāfī has also been called a rāginī and a metre (tāṭāṅk), though opinion differs on this count. In the Sikh Scripture, Gurū Granth Sāhib, Kāfīs have not been collected under any one rāga; they occur under rāgas Āsā, Tilaṅg, Sūhī and Mārū. Similarly, they are assigned to different gharus in different rāgas: in Āsā, they belong to gharu 8, in Sūhī to gharu 10 and in Mārū to gharu 2. Except for Gurū Aṅgad, all the other five Gurūs who have contributed to the Holy Volume have composed kāfīs. The main theme of these kāfīs is the transient nature of this manifest world with the implicit suggestion that one should not get attached to it. Attachment to worldly possessions and relations leads to the soul's bondage. In order to break the circuit of birth, death and rebirth and achieve mukti (liberation or union with the Absolute) man must eradicate haumai and submit to His will. Neither material possessions nor any position in this mundane world is going to help him in the Divine Court where only good and noble deeds signifying man's love for the Divine are valued.


  1. Kāhn Siṅgh, Bhāī, Gurushabad Ratanākar Mahān Kosh. Patiala, 1981
  2. Pañjābī Sāhit Kosh. Patiala, 1971

Dharam Siṅgh