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Rahau or Rahao are words that refer to the Gurmukhi word ਰਹਾਉ that appears frequently almost in every Shabad in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The word always appears at the end of a Tuk of line of Gurbani. Except for Raag Tukhari, we find the mention of Rahau in nearly all the other Bani. Depending on the type of Shabad (Chaupada - 4 liner, Ashtpadi - 8 liner, etc.) somewhere within the Shabad the word Rahau will be mentioned, It sometimes appears with the numeral 1.
The word rahau is derived from Raha which means to cause to remain, fix, support, restrain. When used within Gurbani, it literally means to Pause in hymns when reading and when singing to repeat that line. The line containing the "Rahau" contains the central idea of the Shabad. It ask us to WAIT.... PAUSE....in Punjabi "Therau" and contemplate on the line or Tuk. Gurus have clearly indicated that while reading the Shabad, take a PAUSE on this line. Why Pause? Because the line with RAHAU has the central theme of the Shabad. This is the line in which Guru is conveying the topic discussed in the Shabad and it contains the Gurmat Vichar, the RIGHT THOUGHT. Therefore we are required to pause on this line and contemplate the message. The other lines in the Shabad are used to explain/extrapolate the contents of the Central Theme given in the line of Rahau. These other lines (the non-Rahau lines) talk about prevalent practices, arguments, reasoning, intention, etc. and are used for strengthening/explaining the Central Theme.
The point to note is that the numbering of lines is meaningful: the numbering conveys a definitive message. The message here is: Wait/Pause and contemplate on the message. In this line the Guru is telling us the theme of the Shabad. The number 1 of Rahau indicates, read this line carefully. Now read the other (non-Rahau Line) line, and correlate it to the message in Rahau. Now proceed to other (Non-Rahau) line thereby keep proceeding with all the other lines in a sequential manner.
At times, if rarely, we find more than one rahau in a Shabad. All the Rahaus in that Shabad (usually 1 but rarely 2 or more) convey the same central theme: reflect on that important central line. Gurus thought it appropriate to explain the same central theme in different combination of words and therefore gave more than one Rahau.
- based on article by Angad Singh