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SARANG KI VAR, in the Guru Granth Sahib, starts with the composition by Guru Ram Das on page 1237. The section has futher contributions from Guru Angad, Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Arjan Dev. The whole of this bani is found on pages 1237 to 1251. It is set to be sung in Sarang raga and hence the tide "Sarang ki Var". Nine of the 22 vars included in the Guru Granth Sahib are composed in the musical mode of some of the current folk vars of those days, and Guru Arjan who compiled the Holy Book, recorded instructions as to the tune in which a particular varwas to be recited.
Sarang ki Var is composed to the tune of the secular var of Rai Mahima and Hasna, which depicts the rivalry and combat of these two feudal chiefs. The main section consists of 36 pauris, 35 by Guru Ram Das and one 35th by Guru Arjan. To the main section, Guru Arjan prefixed slokas by all the four preceding Gurus and by himself. All the pauris are of uniform length of five lines each. The slokas are of varied length and are in different meters. Pauris 1 and 34 each have three slokas added to them; the rest have two slokas each.
Theme and Message
What is the purpose of human life? This is the main theme of Sarang ki Var. Accumulation of material means is subordinate to the contemplation of God's Name. A life filled with the love of God is truly blessed. This is the pervasive idea that runs through this Var. The fourth pauri, for instance, speaks thus: "The Name of God is the fountainhead of all joy. We get real joy through the recital of His Name (simran). The gurmukh, one who faithfully follows the Guru's instruction, always aspires to contemplate on God and thus to return home honourably. His mind is ever occupied by the thought of God and he always recites His Name. The contemplation of God gives one power, over one's mind which, otherwise, flies like a bird in all directions. 0 Nanak! only those whom God blesses with His grace devote themselves to the meditation of His Name. The contemplation of God is the only means of attaining spiritual bliss. Religious costumes and formalism, baths at holy places and observance of rituals cannot cleanse the mind. Only the individual blessed with the grace of God seeks the shelter of the Guru, follows the path indicated by him and devotes himself to the constant remembrance of the Creator."
The second pauri says : "The gurmukh is His own creation and He embodies His own virtues in him. This gurmukh uninterruptedly recites the word of the Guru and makes his mind the abode of God.The Divine flame is lit in him, his mind is liberated from delusion and he is no longer duped by maya. Those who are 'chosen' to be pious are led to meet the Guru by His grace. They accomplish sahaj, the ultimate state of equipoise, and remain saturated in the Name of God."
As the secular var eulogizes the qualities of physical prowess and valour, the spiritual var sings the praise of God. In Sarang ki Var, glorification of God is sung in pauris 1,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,13, and 36, the praise of the Guru in pauris 19 and 20 and that of the gurmukh in pauris 2,22,25, and 31. Structurally, a var generally consists of three parts. The first part narrates the causes that lead to the conflict. Here the cause is man's ego and his attachment to the mundane world.
The second part delineates the conflict. The conflict here is between good and evil. Love of the world pulls man in one direction and love of God in the other. Only the grace of God is the individual's Saviour. In resolution in the third part, the Var describes God as the supreme. master whose will prevails. The realization of this fact brings supreme bliss to man.
Language and style
The language of Sarang" ki Var is Punjabi. In a simple style, the Var enunciates the principles of a truly spiritual and ethical living. Some of its verses have become proverbs in literary Punjabi, e.g. "ghale avahi Nanaka sade uthijahi sent by Him we come (into this world), and we depart at His call, sayeth Nanak" (GG, 1239), "akali sahibu seviai akali paiai man uthrough wisdom is Lord served, through wisdom is honour obtained" (GG,1245), "ghali khai kichhu hathahu dei Nanak rahu pachhanahi sei he who earns his bread by his labour, and is willing to share it with others, he, says Nanak, alone knows the way" (GG,1245). "Paraiaman kiu rakhlai diti hi sukhu hoiwhy usurp what belongs to another ? By restoring it back will ye attain peace" (GG,1249).