PARAMĀRTHA, a combination of param, i.e. the highest or the supreme, and artha, i.e. meaning or objective or purpose, is, in literature, the title generally applied to a work of exposition of a scriptural text. Unlike ṭīkā which deals with the text in an elaborate and comprehensive way, the paramārtha, in contradistinction, refers only to the inner or central meaning of the text.

         In Sikh exegetical literature, the paramārtha tradition goes back to the Janam Sākhīs, the first-ever written accounts of Gurū Nānak's life, which also contain elaborations and expositions of some of his compositions. The mode became an integral part of the hagiographical works of Soḍhī Manohar Dās Miharbān (1581-1640), Pothī Sach Khaṇḍ and other writings of the family (Pothī Harjī, and pothī Chaturbhuj).It was presumed that the true meaning of the Gurū's hymns could be explained or understood only by placing them in the contexts in which they had been or could have been uttered. Thus a possible situation or setting befitting a hymn was conceived and in reference to it the paramārtha or meaning of the Gurū's words explained. The better known paramārthas that have come down from this school are those of Japu, Paṭṭī, Oaṅkār, Siddha Goṣṭi and Bāra Māhā. Paramārtha in Sikh letters gave place to ṭīkā, annotation and commentary which gained vogue in the nineteenth century.


    Tāran Siṅgh, Gurbāṇī dīāṅ Viākhiā Pranālīāṅ. Patiala, 1980

Tāran Siṅgh