VĀR, a verse form in Punjabi popular in folklore as well as in refined poetry. In the old bardic tradition of the Punjab, vār meant the poem itself with its typical theme as also the form in which it was cast. The earliest vārs were ballads of battles and dynastic feuds, of issues of honour fought at the point of the sword and of romantic love. The Gurūs employed this form for spiritual themes. The vār in Punjabi has since acquired a predominantly Sikh character, though the content subsequently changed from spiritual to heroic. The vārs of Sikh martyrs and heroes enjoy much vogue and are sung with fervour at Sikh gatherings.

        The secular vārs were sung by the bards before village audiences, panegyrizing the gallantry of folk heroes and warriors. Vārs were also sung to the warriors before they marched into the field of battle. A common practice was for the family bard to sing vārs standing at the portal of a tribal or local chief, recounting the brave deeds of his ancestors. Most chiefs maintained hereditary bards whose one function was to compose and sing verse concerning the history of the family.

        Sikh scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib, contains twenty-two vārs dealing with spiritual and ethical themes. They sing praises of the Lord Almighty and adjure man to endeavour to live a life of love and devotion. Of the vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, three are by Gurū Nānak, four by Gurū Amar Dās, eight by Gurū Rām Dās and six by Gurū Arjan. One vār is by the bards, Sattā and Balvaṇḍ, attached to the Gurūs. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh composed a vār depicting the battles of goddess Chaṇḍī against the demons. This mythological story was chosen by him to infuse among the Sikhs martial ardour. The vār is called Vār Srī Bhagautī Jī Kī, popularly known as Chaṇḍī dī Vār, and is included in the Dasam Granth. Next to scriptural vārs is a collection of forty vārs by Bhāī Gurdās, a Sikh much revered in Sikh piety. His vārs occupy a place of honour in the religious literature of the Sikhs. A vār commonly cited is attributed to another Sikh poet with the same name (Bhāī Gurdās II, or Bhāī Gurdās Siṅgh).

        The Gurūs from the time of Gurū Arjan onwards had Bhaṭṭs and bards in attendance on them. After Sattā and Balvaṇḍ, whose vār was given scriptural status by Gurū Arjan, we come across bards Abdulah and Natth Mall who sang vārs in the time of Gurū Hargobind. They are believed to have written 72 vārs, though only a few fragments of these are still extant. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had living with him a large number of poets and bards, prominent among them being Mīr Mushkī and Mīr Chhabīlā who recited vārs at the afternoon dīvāns. They are said to have composed eight vārs on the battles of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh which were in popular circulation, especially during Sikh times, but none of which is now available. Short vārs also called pauṛīs written by Bhaṭṭs, mainly about Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, the martyr, and some members of his family, have come down to modern day.

        In the Gurū Granth Sāhib we come across title of nine vārs which must have been popular in different regions. These are mentioned ---indirectly ---by Gurū Arjan while adding directions with regard to the style in which some of the scriptural vārs are to be sung. The vārs mentioned as models in this behalf are : Vār Malak Murīd tathā Chandrahaṛā Sohīā, Rāi Kamāldī Maujdī kī Vār, Ṭuṇḍe Asrāje Kī Vār, Sikandar Birāhim kī Vār, Lallā Bahilīmā kī Vār, Vār Jodhe Vīṛāī Pūrbaṇī Kī, Vār Rāi Mahime Hasne Kī, Rāṇe Kailās ate Māldeo kī Vār, and Mūse kī Vār. One stanza each of these vārs was quoted as a specimen by Paṇḍit Tārā Siṅgh Narotam (1822-91) in his Gurmat Nirṇaya Sāgar. The same stanzas have been quoted by some later writers as well, but fuller versions of none of these vārs are known to exist.

        Structurally, a vār consists of a number of stanzas, called pauṛīs. The number of pauṛīs as well as of lines to a pauṛī varies from vār to vār, though the lines in a pauṛī must have a common rhyme. The pauṛī has also been identified with a kind of poetic metre : Bhāī Kāhn Siṅgh of Nābhā gives 30 different specimens of pauṛī chhand, varying in scale from 20 to 32 mātrās or prosodic syllables. The word 'pauṛī' has also been used as another name for a vār.

        The vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, with the exception of Basant kī Vār and Rāmkalī kī Vār by Sattā and Balvaṇḍ, have ślokas added to their pauṛīs by Gurū Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Scripture. These ślokas, which precede the pauṛīs, vary in number and sometimes also in authorship.


  1. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1959
  2. Ashok, S.S., Prāchīn Vārāṅ te Jaṅgnāme. Amritsar, 1 983

Dharam Siṅgh