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The word Ardās ( ਅਰਦਾਸ ) is derived from the Persian word 'Arazdashat', meaning a request, a supplication, a prayer, a petition or an address to a superior authority. It is a Sikh prayer that is a done before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis (prayers); or completion of a service like the Paath, kirtan (hymn-singing) program or any other religious program. In Sikhism, these prayers are also said before and after eating. The prayer is a plea to God to support and help the devotee with whatever he or she is about to undertake or has done.
The Ardas is usually done standing up with 'folded hands'. The beginning of the Ardas is strictly set by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. When it comes to the conclusion of this prayer, the devotee uses:
- The word Waheguru - "Waheguru please bless me in the task that I am about to undertake" when starting a new task.
- Or the words Akal Purakh - "Akal Purakh, having completed the hymn-singing, we ask for your continued blessings so that we can continue with your memory and remember you at all times".
Ardas is a unique prayer based on the fact that it is one of the few, well-known prayers in the Sikh religion that was not written in its entirety by the Gurus. The Ardas cannot be found within the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib due to the fact that it is a continually changing devotional text that has evolved over time in order for it to encompass the feats, accomplishments, and feelings of all generations of Sikhs within its lines. Taking the various derivation of the word, Ardas into account, the basic purpose of this prayer is an appeal to Waheguru for his protection and care, a plea for the welfare and prosperity of all mankind, and a means for the Sikhs to thank Waheguru for all that he has done.
The power that this single prayer possesses is astonishing. Starting with "pritham bhagautee simar kai, Gur Nanak laee dhiaa-e phir Angad gur tay Amardaas, Raamdaasai hoee sahaee and ending with Naanak naam charhdee kalaa, tayray bhaanay Sarbaht dah Phahla. The ardas encompasses so many Sikh and Humanistic values. It is more than just a prayer; it is a new concept of therapy for the elevation of the human spirit, mind and body.
The main features and benefits of Ardas are:
- It is a petition to God, the merciful creator of the universe.
- It lowers ones ego and brings calmness to ones mental state.
- Teaches one Nimrata Humility, Daya Compassion, fearlessness, Chardi Kala.
- One is reminded of the level of dedication required to become a better human being.
- It gives one inner strength and energy.
- It links the mind with the 'pure ones' from human history.
- It elevates ones spiritual state and builds ones confidence.
- It brings a sense of "community" to the person.
In a congregational setting, the ardas is recited by one member of the assemblage with everyone standing reverentially, hands in prayer pose (see photos for example), facing the Guru Granth Sahib. Periodically throughout the recitation, the assembly as a whole repeats the word Waheguru in order to support the idea that God, the Wondrous Guru, is the Supreme Being capable of anything. At the completion of ardas, the congregation bows down as one and places their foreheads on the floor to symbolize the fact that they will go as low as necessary to support Waheguru and all that He stands for; in essence, they are placing themselves as the servants of God. Upon rising, the Sangat (congregation) proclaims Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki Fateh, "the Khalsa belongs to the Lord to whom [also] belongs the Victory" (Singh, Inderjit). Immediately after uttering these words, one member of the assembly states the phrase, Bole So Nihal, "he who pronounces these words shall be fulfilled" (Singh, Inderjit). In response to this statement, the entire Sangat heartily shouts, Sat Sri Akal or "Truth is the Timeless Lord".
As one can see, the combination of the way that ardas is performed as well as the content of the prayer lends itself to the power of the supplication.
The three sections
Ardas is composed of three sections:
The Ardas is often adorned with various passages from the Guru Granth Sahib. Here we shall give the basic structure. The ardas is divided into three distinct section each one of which deals with a distinct aspect of the ardas.
The recitation of ardas commences with the opening stanza of the Var Sri Bhagauti Ji written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (The Var Sri Bhagauti Ji is contained with the Dasam Granth). This smoothly written ode begins by going through the order of meditation by placing Waheguru foremost above all else, and then systematically referring to each of the other Gurus in turn entreating them for aid and protection.
The first section
After first contemplating the Primal Power of the Almighty, call to mind Guru Nanak. Then let your mind dwell on Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das, may they watch over us. Meditate in remembrance upon Guru Arjan, Guru Hargobind and Sri Har Rai. Dwell upon Guru Har Krishan, seeing whom all sufferings shall depart. Meditate in remembrance upon Guru Tegh Bahadar, and the nine treasures shall hasten to your home. May they protect and help us everywhere. And the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh Jee, father of the Khalsa who has blessed us with the gift of Amrit – may we enjoy his protection everywhere…
The second section
The second portion of the ardas discusses the sacrifices made by various Sikhs throughout history. The sacrifices made by these noble individuals may range from the sacrifices that Sikh children have made - to the memory of Sikhs who were placed onto rotating wheels of torture.
Let us remember all those Sikh men and women who, for the sake of Dharma and the religious and spiritual freedom of all people, have given their heads; allowed themselves to be cut apart, limb by limb, joint by joint; had their scalps torn from their heads; were stretched and broken upon wheels of torture and those who were beaten and sawn apart, but never gave up their faith and their determination to live according to the Sikh rehat, with all their hair to their last breath'. Let us always remember those Gursikhs who, in the service of our holy Gurdwaras, in the spirit of non-violence allowed themselves to be brutally beaten, burnt and boiled alive, and yet still uttered no words of protest, but instead, placed their trust, and their lives, in the Hands of God, in sweet surrender to His Will. Remembering their sacrifice and their glorious victory…
The third section’s composition varies from one oration to the next. It is in this section that Sikhs specify what they are reciting ardas for, make their supplications to Waheguru and ask for forgiveness for any mistakes made during the recitation of any and all prayers.
Please bless this Prashaad and Guru ka Langar, which have been prepared in the Guru’s Kitchen. Bless those who have prepared it, those who serve it, and those who partake of it. Bless us with the Holy Word of your Hukam. Inspire us to walk on the path of Gurmat shown to us by You through the Holy Word of Gurbani. Please forgive us our many sins, our errors and omissions, and help us, that we may keep ourselves pure, in the face of the challenges and temptations of the world. Bless us with the company of only people of love, so that we may remember Your Naam in their presence.
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ॥
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਹਿ ॥
These three sections together constitute ardas, and in conjunction with one another contribute to making it a powerful piece of work capable of evoking a multitude of feelings within the Sikh people.
As one of the most universal prayers in the Sikh religion, ardas maintains its uniqueness due to the fact that rather than trying to read or recite the Guru’s prayers, it is an example of a mortal offering up his/her own prayer to Waheguru asking for forgiveness and guidance.
When Does One Say Ardas
Ardas is read when the Guru Granth Sahib is moved and before the Guru Granth Sahib is opened. Ardas is read at a very specific time during the full reading of the Guru Granth Sahib as is done at an Akhand Path. During the Akhand Path, ardas is recited after Anand Sahib, a prayer in which the entire congregation stands and recites as one, and the distribution of Kara Parshad, a blessed offering made of wheat flour, butter, and sugar; but prior to the sangat taking Hukam (listening to a randomly chosen passage from the Guru Granth Sahib).
Ardas is read at the end of naming ceremonies, engagements, and the beginning of the Anand Karaj marriage ceremony. During the funeral ceremonies, ardas is said as the body is being taken away, while consigning the body to fire, when the pyre is fully aflame, upon returning to the gurdwara, and after Anand Sahib is recited. Aside from all of the above occasions, Ardas is also recited during special circumstances in order to pray to Waheguru for good luck and help in ones future endeavors such as at the beginning of school or before setting off on a journey.
One of the most momentous occasions when ardas is recited occurs during the ceremony where Sikhs take amrit in order to become amritdhari Sikhs or members of the Khalsa Panth. During this ceremony, the "five beloved ones" or Panj Pyare perform ardas, the prayer is repeated after the Amritdhari Sikhs take amrit, and then once more after all the expectations for an Amritdhari Sikh is revealed. Based on the fact that ardas is said so often within the course of such a significant ceremony, amrit, as well as with such frequency within such a large variety of ceremonies, one is able to understand how significant ardas is within the Sikh culture.
Through the course of ardas, there are many references made to historical events that helped to shape and strengthen the Sikhs as a people. The first historical reference made by ardas is to the panj pyare or Five Beloved Ones.
- Panj Pyare: These five men constituted the beginning of what was to become the Khalsa. At the baisakhi festival on April 13, 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji stood before a huge assembly of Sikhs dressed completely in saffron and blue, and delivered one of the most rousing and spiritual speeches in Sikh history. In this speech, the Guru instituted one of the most predominant slogans in the Sikh religion, Bole So Nihal: Sat Sri Akal, and began to discuss the need for action in order to strengthen the Sikh community and rise against the Moghuls.
- Four Sahibzada: The four sons or "chaar sahibjade" referred to in the same line of ardas as the panj pyare are the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who were martyred at such early ages by the mughals.
- Did not abandon their faith: An undeniable pattern of martyrdom can be traced as one tracks the path of Sikhs throughout history. The Sikhs "did not abandon their Sikh faith; [they] kept their Sikh Religion and saved their long hair until their last breath" (Ardas) in an attempt to keep their heads unshorn as well as maintain their allegiance to the Gurus and Sikhism. This exemplifies the ways in which Sikhs have repeatedly chosen to die for those beliefs that they have chosen to base their lives on. Ardas mentions forty of these martyrs within its context, the first of which is Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
- Bhai Taru Singh: He was yet another Sikh who had the grit to stick by his beliefs, and ended his life as another Sikh martyr. Bhai Taru Singh was a very influential Sikh, and Governor Zakr Kahn felt that it would be very good for his campaign if he could obtain Bhai Taru Singh’s conversion to Islam. When asked to cut his hair, Bhai Taru Singh simply replied that he would keep his faith with his hair, and there was no need asking again.
- Ultimate Sacrifice by Sikh Women: Sikh men were not the only members of the Sikh community who were tormented by the Mughals. Sikh women who refused to change their beliefs were also tortured at the hands of Meer Mannu, a mughal leader in 1748 AD in the city of Lahore. They were rounded up like cattle during the purges and placed into jails where they were forced to live under atrocious conditions.
- Bhai Mani Singh: The Mughals often staged different situations in order to provide themselves with the opportunity to persecute the Sikhs. One of these instances occurred with Bhai Mani Singh during the time of Baisakhi. Bhai Mani Singh yearned to organize a Baisakhi festival, and was given permission by the mughal leader of that time provided he pay 5,000 rupees in taxes for the celebration. Bhai Mani Singh discovered that the mughal army planned to ambush the Baisakhi celebration and attempt to forcefully convert all the Sikhs that were present to Islam. In an effort to save the Sikhs from this fate, Bhai Mani Singh sent warnings out to prevent them from attending the celebration; due to this fact, Bhai Mani Singh did not raise enough money to pay the Mughal taxes. The Mughal leader changed his plan and decided to use Bhai Mani Singh as an example for the remainder of the Sikh community. This courageous Sikh martyr was arrested by the Mughals, and after refusing to convert to Islam, cut joint by joint and allowed to bleed to death. This reprehensible act was referred to specifically within ardas; "brave Sikh men…who sacrificed their heads but did not surrender their Sikh Religion; Who got themselves cut to pieces from each of the joints of the body" (Ardas).
- Bhai Deep Singh attained martyrdom during his attacks on Abdali, the leader of a band of looters from Afghanistan, during the mid 1700s. The Afghanistan bandits looted Punjab, and the Sikhs in turn freed all of the women and children that the Afghanistan thieves took to place in their harems and use as slaves. Angry, Abdali ordered his son, the Governor of Lahore, to kill all the Sikhs. Baba Deep Singh Ji organized an army of 500 and marched on Amritsar. As the Sikhs marched, their army continued to grow until it reached 5,000. While marching in November 1757, the Sikhs were assaulted by a mughal army 20,000 strong during which Baba Deep Singh Ji was injured in the neck. Due to his determination to lead his Sikhs to the Harimander Sahib, Baba Deep Singh Ji continued onwards holding his head up with one hand and fighting with the other. This courageousness is what has lead Baba Deep Singh to be revered as a martyr in the Sikh community.
- Banda Singh Bahadur: After Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s death, Banda Singh Bahadur, appointed Jathedar of the Sikhs to drive the foreign invaders out of India. Banda Singh assembled an army of Sikhs, which then trekked through India, taking over villages that had in any way wronged either Hindus or Sikhs. Any loot that the army confiscated from the villages, they then proceeded to allot to anyone who needed it. Banda Singh managed to kill Wazir Khan, and even destroryed the Zimidar tax system of the Mughals. Later he was then forced to go into hiding living the next few years of his life in hiding amid the mountains of India until the fateful day when starved to weakness by a protracted seige he and his band of Sikhs were caught by the mughals. He and his Sikh army were tortured and beheaded; the mughal army carried the Sikh heads around on spikes, long hair flowing behind them, as a lesson to all other Sikhs.
- Five Takhats: The five seats of the Sikh religion referred to in ardas are known in gurmukhi as the Akal Takhat, and are located in Amritsar, Patna, Anandpur, Nanded, and Talwandi Sabo. Guru Hargobind established the Akal Takhat or centers of all Sikh activity as he attempted to transform the Sikh people from saints to saint-soldiers to serve as a place to conduct all secular affairs of the community. The word Akal implies timelessness, whereas takhat refers to a royal throne or chair of state. The principal and oldest Akal Takhat is found in Amritsar, which is similar to the state capital. The Akal Takhat offers both guidance and clarification to the Sikh community in the form of hukamnamas, edicts, and writs; punishment for those who violate the rehit mariyada; and praise for those Sikhs who have done much for the community. The first of these hukamnamas from the Akal Takhat was issued by Guru Hargobind entreating the Sikh people to give gifts of weapons and horses in order to strengthen the army. From this point onward in Sikh history, the Akal Takhat serves the Sikh people as a source of direction in their campaigns as well as their everyday lives.
Ardas incorporates a variety of images and ideas within its folds. It acts as a bridge that transgresses time to report the cruelties that have been inflicted upon the Sikh people while at the same time serving as a way for the Sikh people to seek guidance from Waheguru' and thank him for the blessings that he has bestowed upon them. These events as they are portrayed in ardas provide the Sikh people with a sense of pride for their heritage and culture. They are able to take strength from the martyrs and continue to support their faith secure in the knowledge that nothing could befall them that would be any worse than those crimes, which befell the martyrs. The dignity and courage that each of the persecuted people possessed through all of their suffering serves as an example for the Sikh people as a community. The rich and pure history that envelops ardas also serves as a means of educating the Sikh people. It is this quiet fervor that helped to shape the Sikhs as a people and mould them into what they are today.
The power that one single prayer possesses is astonishing. Within a few pages of gurmukhi beginning with:
- "pritham bhagautee simar kai, Gur Nanak laee dhiaa-e phir Angad gur tay Amardaas, Raamdaasai hoee sahaee [and ending with] Naanak naam charhdee kalaa, tayray bhaanay Sarbaht dah Phahla. waahay guroo jee kaa khaalsaa, waahay guroo jee kee fateh!!!" (Ardas), a composition is established that is so important and all encompassing as to be appropriate at an overwhelming number of religious and non-religious functions.
The legendary stories and images from the past that it refers to within its context are perturbing yet at the same time evoke a sense of pride and courage within the Sikh community at large. Ardas not only accomplishes all of the above goals, but does so with a beauty and grace that is astonishing.
The above adapted from: Monique Sandhu
The word Guru is made up of two root words. Gu, meaning darkness and Ru, meaning light. Throughout the ages, different wisdom traditions have acknowledged that a Guru is needed for a human being to cross out of the darkness of ego and ignorance into the light of awareness, where the Divine is experienced within one's own self.
For countless generations, Gurus were human beings who guided other human beings towards enlightenment. But human Gurus often bring with them the problem of spiritual ego. Rather than acknowledging the One God, a human Guru may mistakenly think of himself or herself as a God and use their wisdom and power to mislead many.
Guru Nanak understood that the True Guru is not a person at all, but divinely-inspired sacred words that awaken a soul to its highest realization. For two hundred years and through ten Gurus, God created a Guru that was not a human - but simply the essential words that can guide a person to enlightenment. Through Guru Gobind Singh, God gave the Sikhs a Guru that would never die, that would never have a human personality or ego to mislead or confuse people. This Guru is the Shabd Guru, held in the form of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. This gift from God to all of humanity insures that, if any soul ever genuinely seeks truth, there is one place he or she can go to receive the truth directly, without the interference of a human ego.
The Ardas is a prayer that asks us to reflect on all that it took for the Divine to create this pure Shabd Guru on earth and all that the Sikhs had to endure in order to protect the Shabd Guru and insure that it made it into the hands of future generations. The Ardas recounts historical events that are deeply and profoundly moving, showing that the spirit of the Divine within the human being is capable of great acts of courage and sacrifice. The Ardas is a total meditation of the hundreds of years and thousands of people that acted in the Will of God in order for us to have the gift, today of meditating upon and understanding the Guru's wisdom. It also blesses the sangat today that it will do what it takes to make sure the Shabd Guru is handed to the future generations in tact.
The Ardas is always recited before the hukam is taken at Gurdwara as a way to inspire reverence in the listeners. If we truly reflect on all that has occurred to give us this opportunity to be guided out of the darkness of our own ego and ignorance, we can receive the Guru's instruction with love and gratitude in our hearts. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
Ardas, the Sikh prayer
ARDAS............SIKH PRAYER Ardas is a combination of two words:Araz and Daashat. Literally, the petition of a slave to Master, the Sikh to the Almighty, but the root of a Sikhs slavery of the Almighty is not awe of the Almighty but love for Him. For a Sikh, Ardas is obligatory.
The Sikh Ardas is different from the prayers of the other religions. A Sikh can not make prayer for seeking personal property, comfort, benefits and other material blessings. A Sikh "must" bow before the "Will of God" (Hukam). A Sikh however, may make Ardas seeking, from the Almighty, blessing for strength to live a truthful life. A Sikh makes Ardas at least twice a day: in the morning after reading three Banis and in the evening after Rehiras. All the Sikh make a national Ardas as approved by Akal Takhat Sahib the highest religious seat of the Sikhs
(The above with thanks to: Sardar Kulmohan Singh, General Secretary, Takhat Harimandir ji Patna Sahib and Former General Secretary Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ardas in detail
- History in the Ardas
- Ardas in Gurmukhi
- Healing and Uplifting Power of Ardas
- Guru Granth Sahib
- Ardas (Sikh prayer)
- Sant Singh Maskeen - Ardas
- Pinderpal Singh (Ludhiane Wale) - Ardaas
- 50 Glorious Years of Recorded Shabads Volume V - Ardas - Tarlochan Singh
- Singh, Baba Surain & Singh, Baba Naranjan (2004). The Miracle of Ardaas. Mighty Minds Publishing Pte Ltd. ISBN 9812500804. - To obtain a free copy of this book click: Sikhnation
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