VĀR SŪHĪ KĪ, in the measure Sūhī, is one of Gurū Amar Dās' four vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Sūhā in Punjabi means red or scarlet, and this being the colour of a bride's dress in India, the word signifies the consecrated lives of the true devotees of the Lord. Ironically, the hypocrites also wear the same colour to appear as one with Him, though internally they live in duality. All the beings considered as womenfolk have been classified in this Vār into two broad categories ---the suhāgaṇs, those united with the Lord, and duhāgaṇs, those estranged from the Lord. The duhāgaṇs owing to their arrogant and contradictory character waste away their valuable human birth whereas the suhāgaṇs inculcate, as a result of the Gurū's grace, humility, self-restraint and love for the Lord and arrive at a total realization from the partial experience of human life.

        The Vār comprises twenty pauṛīs of five lines each and forty-seven ślokas of uneven length. Stanzas seven and fifteen are preceded by four ślokas each, six, nine and nineteen by three ślokas each and others by two ślokas each. Of the total forty-seven ślokas, fifteen are by Gurū Amar Dās, eleven by Gurū Aṅgad and the rest twenty-one by Gurū Nānak.

        Regarding the metrical features of this Vār it may be noted that its pauṛīs and ślokas are composed in slightly varied forms of nisānī and dohā forms of metrical constructions. In the ślokas, by and large, we have twenty-four syllables in a couplet consisting of 13 syllables in the first foot and 11 in the second. Similarly, in most cases in the pauṛīs, the pause comes after 23 syllables followed by 23 syllables in the second line.

        To revert to theme of the Vār, the almighty has created both 'pleasure' and 'pain' in this world. He grants love of his Name to those favoured by Him. This is enshrined in their minds by the grace of the Gurū. One who is blessed with His Name is not called upon to render a reckoning of his deeds and is emancipated from the illusory 'love' of the kith and kin. The almighty Himself is revealed through the true Gurū. Such a man with the single vision of his true Gurū is enabled to silence the māyā-- disturbance, within himself and, by treading the path of spiritual pursuit as shown by the Gurū, sings the praises of Him and remains rejoiced in the Divine Will. Those forsaking the Lord and wasting themselves by falling in love with what is 'others' (than God) remain enveloped in their ego. One praying with the help of his true Gurū for the Almighty's bounty is blessed with the Name, the continuous reflection of which enables him to overcome the limits of his worldly being. By singing laudation of the Lord, he attains purification of the mind. He sings the glory of the Infinite, the Unfathomable Being, seeing in Him the only True Friend, who is self-dependent and is above desire.

        In the ślokas too, the two categories of beings in this world are rendered in the image of the scarlet-robed woman enticed by the love of the 'other', and Bride of the Lord, dyed in fast red of God's love. In the ślokas, there are also the themes of the evanescence of life and the vanity of hoarding wealth ; true worship and the false pretence of it (GG, 787); man's absorption in the things of the world and indifference to the creator (GG,788); fear of God as the basis of faith, leading to joy in God (GG,788); and beauty of form ultimately giving way to the depredations of old age (GG,788). Then, there is regret over life wasted without devotion and hope of Divine forgiveness through grace by the guidance of the Preceptor (GG,789). The external notion of purity is rejected. In a grand symbol, those resorting to holy bathing-place with minds impure, are likened to jars washed from outside, but full of poison within (GG,789). In another metaphor, the individual self deals in wares of good and evil; Dharma is the broker who marks the genuine articles. The holy Name is the approved profit in this market (GG, 789). In a sloka of Gurū Nānak’s composition preceding Pauṛī XIV is a depiction of evil-doers. The evil-minded, fornicators, women of ill-repute---all are of the same ilk and are disciples of Satan (shaitāṅ). False is their spinning, false their warp and woof. In Pauṛī XV is a prayer to the Lord to annul the seeker's egoism, lust, wrath and pride, to burn away avarice and attachment, and to grant support of the holy Name, that is ever pure, beyond the possibility of impurity. In Gurū Nānak’s words again (GG,790) is the delineation of those without joy in devotion as a guest in a deserted house, leaving disappointed; the lives of such are subject to blame and denunciation. Those studying holy texts (vedas) mechanically, without realization, are reprimanded. Such practices bring only ignominy (GG, 791). In Pauṛī XX are ślokas of the composition of Gurū Aṅgad conveying in deeply touching tones the self's dependence solely on Divine Grace, and the exhortation to devotion, to find union with the Spouse.

        The Vār is couched in simple Punjabi, touched by Sant Bhākhā. Figures of speech, metaphors and similes aptly bring out the theme of the poem. Some of them from the text : "badhā chatī jo bhare nā guṇu nā upakāru-- he who pays homage under compulsion earns no merit" (GG, 787), "bāhari dhotī tūmaṛī andari visu nikor-- much as a gourd be washed from outside, its inner poison will not go (GG,789), and "phiṭu ivehā jīviā jitu khāi vadhāiā peṭu-- cursed is the life given to eating alone" (GG,790) have passed permanently into popular Punjabi speech.


  1. Sāhib Siṅgh, Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib Darpaṇ. Jalandhar, 1963
  2. Bishan Siṅgh, Giānī, Bāī Vārāṅ Saṭik. Amritsar, n.d.
  3. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1964

Ātam Siṅgh