Bhai Gurdas: A Literary Genius and a Paragon of Humility, Sincerity and Loyalty
Bhai Gurdas's contribution to Sikhism is significant understanding for the Sikh thought and practice. He is indeed a revered figure who followed and preached the word of the Guru not only in Punjab but also in other parts of the country and outside. His contribution to the interpretation and dissemination of Gurbani places him above others. He was indeed a blessed soul, who provided secretarial assistance to the fifth Nanak, Guru Arjan Dev ji and inscribed the first copy of Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib (Kartarpur Bir) in the year 1604, which is still extant. He was a man of rare genius, born with a scholarly bent of mind, a theologian par excellence, an exegete who holds a place of honour in the Sikh annals. And his literary contributions and in form of 40 vars (ballads) and 672 Kabits and 3 Swayyas, (both forms of Punjabi poetry) are among the best illustrations of Sikh literature and philosophy.
He is a prominent historical figure and is known as a preacher of Sikh tenets, an exemplar of Sikh ethics, a trusted advisor to the Sikh Gurus. He was a contemporary of four Sikh Gurus,beginning from the third Nanak, Guru Amar Das ji to the sixth Nanak, Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. Besides, principally assisting in the task of the compilation of the Holy Granth, Bhai Gurdas established his name as a key interpreter of the divine wisdom of the Gurus, saints and the Bhagats whose verses have been faithfully preserved in the Granth Sahib ji. The paper that follows is a humble endeavour to shed light on a great Sikh personality who remains inseparably associated with Sikhism, Sikh values and philosophy, Sikh Gurus and Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji.
Bhai Gurdas was born at Goindval in 1608 Bk/AD 1551 in a Bhalla family to father, Ishar Das and mother Jivani. Perhaps both the parents wanted their only child to remain in servitude of the Guru, so the child was named Gurdas. And true to the name and fulfilling parents' expectations, Bhai Gurdas dedicated his life to the Guru's mission in physical, mental and intellectual capacities. Bhai Gurdas was the only child to his parents, but could enjoy the protection of his father and love, care and affection of the mother for a short period during his life span. He lost his mother when he was barely three and his father when he was 12. His father, Ishar Das was one of the cousins of the third Nanak, Guru Amar Das ji, so Bhai Gurdas happened to be the nephew of Guru Amar Das ji. He was thus the first cousin of Bibi Bhani, daughter of Guru Amar Das, wife of Guru Ram Das and mother of Guru Arjan. Due to the early demise of both of his parents, child Gurdas was fortunate to have his upbringing under the guardianship of Guru Amar Das ji.
Bhai Gurdas spent early years of his life at Goindwal and at Sultanpur Lodhi. The town of Goindwal, situated on the banks of River Beas had become an important center for Sikhs since the 16th century under the Guruship of Guru Amar Das ji. So, at this place, child Gurdas had the opportunity of listening to many a men of knowledge and spiritual attainment who kept visiting the town which fell on the Delhi-Lahore road and was then the religious centre of the Sikhs. With his interaction with men of spiritual knowledge and philosophy, Bhai Gurdas gradually developed inclination towards religious philosophy. Bhai Gurdas received his early education under the guidance of Guru Amar Das and was always encouraged to attend the religious congregations to which he obediently followed and would engage himself in interaction with learned men who had deep insights in religious and moral subjects. He also, participated enthusiastically in the daily religious service. Gradually, he developed a great affection for Sikh Gurus teachings and remained engrossed in chanting the divine hymns and prayers. He would often sing hymns in his sweet and melodious voice and mesmerise the holy gathering.
In 1567, Guru Amar Das built a baoli or a well with stairs at Goindwal. On the Baisakhi day a great fair was held there which was attended by the disciples of Nanak and Bhai Gurdas served the visitors with zeal and enthusiasm. Guru Amar Das had established twenty-two Sikh manjis (religious dioceses) which were centres of territorial division as well as a missionary order for the purpose of preaching of Sikhism. Guru Amardas appointed men of knowledge, good character and devout followers of Nanak to head each manji. The word manji literally meant "string bed" and was symbolic of the seat of spiritual authority. The emissaries, so appointed, were responsible for spreading Sikhism among people and for the expansion of Sikh religion.
The most important diocese at Agra, the then capital of the Mughal Empire in India, was assigned to Bhai Gurdas ji to preach and propagate the ideals and values of Sikhism. He was to look after the interests of the Sikhs living in and around the capital and to extend the geographical frontiers of the new religion, Sikhism. He performed his diplomatic-cum-missionary assignment with zeal, commitment, religiosity and was always receptive to socio-political, religious, intellectual and the literary climate existing in then city of Agra.
Bhai Gurdas was well versed in, Brijbhasha, Persian and Gurmukhi, which enabled him to connect with the local people and also learnt Hindi and sanskrit to better understand and comprehend the Hindu scriptures. He was a keen learner and did not lose any opportunity to equip himself with acquiring in-depth knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of the major religions that were represented at Akbar's court and also perfected his own prosodic style followed by the poets who composed their literary works in the Braji language.
Mughal Emperor, Akbar, played a pioneering role in promoting secularism and his state policy aimed at 'Sulh-i-Kul' or Din-i-Ilahi or universal peace and amity. He initiated a tolerant and a very accommodative approach towards the non-Muslims. Akbar favoured and arranged for inter religious dialogues and conferences, the first such dialogue was held in 1578. And Bhai Gurdas who was about 27 years of age, must have enriched himself by exposing himself and learning from the multi religious scholarship that was then available at Agra.Thus , he was not just professing and propagating the ideals of Sikhism but was also passionately bringing these ideals in practice. His receptiveness to the values and tenets of other religions is a testimony to his scholarship.
Bhai Gurdas travelled to places like , Lucknow, Benaras, Burhanpur, and Rajasthan to spread Guru's word under the directions of Guru Amar Das. When Guru Amar Das ji left for heavenly abode, he was succeeded by Guru Ram Das ji.Bhai Gurdas contributed towards the foundation of the city of Ramdaspur that came to later known by the name Amritsar.
Bhai Gurdas also spent nearly 22 years of his life with the fifth Nanak, and during these years of association, Bhai Sahib devoted his life in the service of Nanak in the truest sense. Through sheer dedication and devotion, Bhai Sahib was able to earn a position of pre-eminence for himself. In his endeavour, to compile the Holy Granth, Guru Arjan Dev ji was assisted by Bhai Gurdas as the amanuensis of the Holy Granth. Both Guru Sahib and Bhai Gurdas used to spend 4-5 hours daily under the grove of Beri (Zizyphus Jajuba) trees on the bank of a pond now called Ramsar for the compilation of the Granth Sahib, which took them 19 years to complete the manuscript. Their long association happened to be a true Guru- disciple relationship from both the sides, in the sense. Despite insistence of Guru Arjan Dev ji to incorporate his verses in the Granth Sahib, Bhai Gurdas humbly declined as a true disciple saying that his works were not worthy of such a great honour and could not match the wisdom of those, who were his guiding stars.
ਤੀਨਵੇਰਸ੍ਰੀਮੁਖਬਚਕਹਾ।ਭਾਈਅਲਪਤਾਂਹਿਕੋਲਹਾ। ਅਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਹੋਏ ।
ਦੀਨੋਵਰਭਾਈਰੁਚਜੋਏ। ਭਾਈਜੀਸੁਨੀਏਨਿਰਧਾਰ। ਤੁਮਰੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਅਗਮ ਅਪਾਰ ।
ਮਨੁਹਗ੍ਰੰਥਕਾਟੀਕਾਭਯੋ। ਯਾਹਿ ਪੜ੍ਹੇ ਦੁਖ ਸਗਲਾ ਗਯੋ ।
The Guru uttered his blessings to Bhai Gurdas thrice and blessed him calling his compositions as deeply profound. The Guru regarded his verses as a commentary (teeka) on the sacred Sikh scripture's verses for the benefit of mankind.
(Gurbilas Patshahi 6)
The above verse from Gurbilas Patshahi 6 highlights that Guru Arjan Dev ji asked Bhai Gurdas to incorporate his writings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji but Bhai Gurdas humbly declined the proposal. While on other side, Guru Arjan Dev ji in admiration and appreciation of Bhai Gurdas ji 's scholarly aptitude and humility declared that his compositions would always be revered as the key to the Gurbaani. And till date, his extensive exposition, classification and interpretation in his seminal work vaars gives a fine clarity on the essence and tenets of Sikhism and thoughts of the Gurus. In appreciation of the works of Bhai Gurdas ji, Guru Arjan Dev ji says
ਜੋ ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ ਕੀ ਗੁਰ ਮਹਿਮਾ ਭਾਰੀ॥
ਸਿਖੀ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤ ਪਠੇ ਤੇਂ ਵਿਮ ਲੇਹੁ ਬਿਚਾਰੀ॥
The verses of Bhai Gurdas are worthy of great praise
Whosever wishes to adopt Sikhi must read and reflect on these verses.
Bhai Sahib also supervised four other scribes (Bhai Haria, Bhai Sant Das, Bhai Sukha and Bhai Mansa Ram) in the writing of various other Sikh scriptures and assisted in the excavation of the sacred pool at Amritsar.
Besides, his knowledge of theology and interest in Sikhism, Bhai Sahib also played a key role in salvaging the Sikh sangat and the house of Guru from the serious financial crisis. With the thoughtful introduction of the dasvandh system, one tenth of the income was donated by the Nanak 's disciples for the community work and projects of public weal. With the exemplary display of managerial skills, Bhai Gurdas failed all attempts of Prithi Chand, Guru Arjan Sahib 's elder brother to obstruct the regular activities undertaken by the Guru Sahib. Further, it was Bhai Gurdas who recited the Holy Granth for Emperor Akbar who was incited by Prithi Chand that the Holy Granth contained verses intended to harm the sentiments of Hindus and Muslims. However, contrary to the allegations, on the random reading by Bhai Gurdas (as instructed by the Emperor ), Emperor found nothing that was offensive towards any religion in general or for that matter to Islam in particular. The first verse that Bhai Gurdas ji at that moment read was
ਖਾਕ ਨੂਰ ਕਰਦੰ ਆਲਮ ਦੁਨਿਆਇ ॥
God reduces worldly pedagogues to dust.– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 723
On further reading, the text that was read was the hymn
ਅਲਹ ਅਗਮ ਖੁਦਾਈ ਬੰਦੇ
God is eternal and men are his creation.– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1083
Emperor Akbar in order to verify the text asked his clerk, Munshi Sarb Dayal, who knew Gurmukhi, to read the Granth from another place. It said:
ਕੋਈ ਬੋਲੈ ਰਾਮ-ਰਾਮ ਕੋਈ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
Some call Him Ram, others Khuda.– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 885
Contrary to the plans of Prithi Chand, this episode ended in earning Emperor Akbar's respect and reverence for the new religion. The gesture of respect was exhibited by the Emperor by an offering of 51 gold mohars to the Granth, and by awarding robes of honour to its two bearers. Bhai Gurdas has brought out the mean acts of Prithi Chand and his associates in Vaar 36. The corrupt and deceitful are called by the name 'mIxw' by Bhai Gurdas. Bhai Sahib beautifully explains the destiny of the evil minded people in the following verse:
biDku nwdu suxwiekY ijau imrgu ivswhY[
JIvru kuMfI mwsu lwie ijau mCI PwhY[
kvlu idKwlY muhu iKVwie BvrY vyswhY[
dIpk joiq pqMg no durjn ijau dwhY[
kwlbUq hoie hsqnI mYglu EmwhY[
iqau nkt pMQu hY mIixAw imil nrik inbwhY ]
vwrW BweI gurdws: vwr 36 pauVI 6 pM. 6
Just as a hunter plays the music of Ghanda-bera and entraps deer.
A Fisherman attaches a balt of meat to the hook and catches the fish.
The lotus flower shows his blossomed face that attracts the black bee
who spends the whole night trapped in it.
The flame of a lamp burns the moth like an enemy.
Just as a paper model of female elephant attracts and pleases the male
elephant out of passion and lands him in the ditch.
So is the path of inveiglers. One who enjoys their company falls straight
Bhai Gurdas has articulated his pain and grief at the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev under the orders of Jahangir as follows:
ਰਹਿਦੇ ਗੁਰੁ ਦਰੀਆਉ ਵਿਚਿ ਮੀਨ ਕੁਲੀਨ ਹੇਤੁ ਨਿਰਬਾਣੀ।
ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਪਤੰਗ ਜਿਉ ਜੋਤੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮਾਣੀ।
ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਲਿਵ ਮਿਰਗ ਜਿਉ ਭੀੜ ਪਈ ਚਿਤਿ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਆਣੀ।
ਚਰਣ ਕਵਲ ਮਿਲਿ ਭਵਰ ਜਿਉ ਸੁਖ ਸੰਪਟ ਵਿਚਿ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਣੀ।
ਗੁਰੁ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਨ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਬਾਬੀਹੇ ਜਿਉ ਆਖ ਵਖਾਣੀ।
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲੁ ਪਿਰਮ ਰਸੁ ਸਹਜ ਸਮਾਧਿ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਿ ਜਾਣੀ।
ਗੁਰ ਅਰਜਨ ਵਿਟਹੁ ਕੁਰਬਾਣੀ ॥
ਵਾਰਾਂਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੨੪ ਪਉੜੀ ੨੩ ਪੰ. ੭
For merging his light eternal with the Lord, Guru Arjan Dev ji got himself deeply engrossed in the divine and ever stable river-like God, as a fish is involved in the water. Seeing the radiant Lord, the light eternal of Guru Sahib merged in it as a moth consumes itself on the flame of lamp. When Guru Arjan Dev ji was put through pain and suffering, he entertained no other thought in his mind than oneness of his consciousness with Him, just as a deer remains intoxicated in the sound of Ghanda-bera instrument. On the penultimate night of sufferings, Guru ji had his consciousness shut in the comforting box-like feet of the Lord just as a bumble-bee entrapped by the sweetness of lotus flower closes itself in its petals. (Did he remain in divine peace and comfort?) No. He did not forget to continue imparting sermons to his Sikhs.
Guru Arjan, the Tru Gurmukh had always held Sadh Sangat as most blissful and peaceful where one can achieve equipoise in the love of the Lord.
I am sacrifice unto Guru Arjan who has such amazing deeds to his credit.
Guru Hargobind Ji and Bhai Gurdas
Guru Hargobind became Guru in 1606 AD. The tilak of succession was applied by Bhai Budha who adorned the Guru with two swords of Miri and Piri. The Holy Granth was recited by Bhai Gurdas.
Bhai Gurdas along with Baba Buddha ji played a key role in re defining the purpose of Sikhism when Guru Hargobind sahib initiated the Miri-Piri tradition and laid the foundation of Akal Takht Sahib. He assisted in the construction of raising a platform that was originally named as Akal Bunga, where the Guru sat and administered justice entrusted upon him by the Divine Will. So much was the truth of Guru Hargobind in Bhai Gurdas' capabilities that Guru Hargobind Sahib found no other better person than Gurdas ji to discharge duties as the first Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.
Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha ji were present at the marriage ceremony of Guru Hargobind ji in 1661, when Guru Sahib tied knot with Narayan Das' daughter Mata Damodari. Bhai Gurdas through his poetic composition beautifully explains the transformation of Guru Hargobind Sahib who settled all the unrest that grew among the followers of Nanak. The aura and personality of Guru Hargobind Sahib was thus captured in the following words
ਧਰਮਸਾਲ ਕਰਿ ਬਹੀਦਾ ਇਕਤ ਥਾਉਂ ਨ ਟਿਕੈ ਟਿਕਾਇਆ।
ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ ਘਰਿ ਆਵਦੇ ਗੜਿ ਚੜਿਆ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ ਚੜਾਇਆ।
ਉਮਤਿ ਮਹਲੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਦੀ ਨਠਾ ਫਿਰੈ ਨ ਡਰੈ ਡਰਾਇਆ।
ਮੰਜੀ ਬਹਿ ਸੰਤੋਖਦਾ ਕੁਤੇ ਰਖਿ ਸਿਕਾਰੁ ਖਿਲਾਇਆ।
ਬਾਣੀ ਕਰਿ ਸੁਣਿ ਗਾਂਵਦਾ ਕਥੈ ਨ ਸੁਣੈ ਨ ਗਾਵਿ ਸੁਣਾਇਆ।
ਸੇਵਕ ਪਾਸ ਨ ਰਖੀਅਨਿ ਦੋਖੀ ਦੁਸਟ ਆਗੂ ਮੁਹਿ ਲਾਇਆ।
ਸਚੁ ਨ ਲੁਕੈ ਲੁਕਾਇਆ ਚਰਣ ਕਵਲ ਸਿਖ ਭਵਰ ਲੁਭਾਇਆ।
ਅਜਰੁ ਜਰੈ ਨ ਆਪੁ ਜਣਾਇਆ ॥
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੨੬ ਪਉੜੀ ੨੪ ਪੰ. ੮
It had been the practice of earlier Gurus that they would stay put at Dharmsata but this Guru (Hargobind) does not stay put at one place.
Emperors used to visit the house of earlier Gurus but this Guru is confined in the custody of the emperor in a fort.
Earlier Sikhs used to visit the palace of the Guru for his glimpse but now they don't find him there because he is always on the move undaunted by anyone's threat or fear.
Earlier Gurus used to sit on their divine seat and advise people to be patient but this Guru has kept dogs and goes out hunting.
Earlier Gurus used to compose, recite and sing Gurbani but this Guru does not compose bani nor listen and sing it.
The erstwhile Gurus would keep their followers with them in their service but he bestows honour on those who are offenders and Gurprits.
But the truth canot be concealed despite these changes. The Sikhs remain dedicated to the Guru like black bee in the flower.
Due to the religious and moral philosophical insights and deep knowledge about the ancient classics, Bhai Gurdas ji was appointed by Guru Hargobind sahib to tutor his young son Guru Tegh Bhadur, then known by the name, Tyag Mal. When Guru Hargobind left for Delhi, both Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha were entrusted to look after the affairs of the sangat and the Guru ghar and the verse below from Gur Partap Suraj reflects Guru Hargobind ji 's faith in Gurdas and Buddha ji which the Guru conveys to Mata Ganga.
ਪਾਛੈ ਬ੍ਰਿਧ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ।
ਸਕਲ ਕਾਰ ਕਰਿ ਹੈ ਤੁਸਿ ਪਾਸਿ ।
ਸਭਿ ਬਿਧਿ ਮਹਿੰ ਦੋਨੋਂ ਬਹੁਤ ਸਯਾਨੇ।
ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਮਹਾਨੇ।
After the Guru's demise,
The elderly Bhai Gurdas was appointed caretaker.
Both Bhai Gurdas & Baba Budha ji being more wise were directed to
manage the affairs of Harmandar Sahib
Bhai Gurdas happily offered his services to the Guru and travelled to preach Sikhism and also accompanied Guru Hargobind ji whenever he travelled to preach Nanak's philosophy and ideals.
Bhai Gurdas' sincerity and faithfulness was always respected and reciprocated by delegating them works and tasks, which distinguished from the others who served the Guru. One such assignment was that following Mata Ganga's desire Bhai Sahib led a batch of Sikhs, to the Gwalior fort where Guru Hargobind Sahib was detained.
Bhai Gurdas offered the ceremonial ardas on the demise of Mata Ganga ji, wife of Guru Arjan Dev ji and mother of Guru Hargobind Sahib ji in 1621. And when Baba Buddha ji breathed his last both Guru Hargobind Sahib and bhai Gurdas ji were by his bedside, and as says the Gurbilas Chhevin Patshahi, the Sixth Nanak gave his shoulder to the bier and performed the last rites. latter recited the the Holy Granth.
Compositions of Bhai Gurdas
Bhai Gurdas was a great scholar of Persian and Sanskrit and of comparative religion. He was a poet of superb beauty and his compositions are a testimony of the lucid style of writing. His works can be broadly categorised under three heads:
a. Sanskrit slokas
b. Kabit Swayyas
Sanskrit Slokas: As per Bhai Santokh Singh's Gur Partap Suraj Granth, these are six in numbers and are non- existent.
Kabitt-Swayye: Kabitt-Swayye is another type of composition, which was written in Braj language. Till late thirties of the last century, the number of Kabitt-Swayye's were 556 and by 1940, Bhai Vir Singh found that there were 119 more kabitts and published them under the title Kabitt-Bhai Gurdas- Dusra Skandh. Thus the composition comprised in all 675, 672 Kabits and 3 Swayyas. Since they are written in Braj Bhasha, scant attention is given to them for scholarly work.
Vaars: The Vaars are the most prominent compositions of Bhai Gurdas. Although Bhai Gurdas is credited for authoring 39 vaars and later the 40th vaar was also ascribed to Bhai Gurdas. Many scholars like Bhai Vir Singh, Macauliffe, Bhai Kahn Singh, Giani Niranjan Singh, Giani Hazara Singh who have worked on Bhai Gurdas have accepted that the 40th Vaar too is the composition of Bhai Gurdas.
The Distinctive Features of the Vaars Composed
As is a known fact that through the composition (Vaaran) , an attempt to interpret Gurbani is made. Bhai Gurdas has followed a poetic style for interpretation and by using different forms of poetry like descriptive analysis, phrases, verses, has sought to make exegetical work smoother and easier. Moreover, the usage of these modes of interpretation proves his immense knowledge in interpretation. It is worth mentioning that the compositions made by Bhai Gurdas followed the prosodic form of the folk poetry rather than the Indian Classical Ragas. There is an extensive usage of symbols and analogies for the explanation of various concepts and ideology of Gurus. Thus not only the concept and words are beautifully explained by Bhai Sahib but also the Gurmat ideology is effectively explained and interpreted.
Further, Bhai Gurdas was blessed with the creative genius. All words, phrase and analogies used by Bhai Gurdas ji seem so perfect and convey the eternal truth.
His compositions are unique which and distinguish him from all other poetic contemporaries of his time.
Bhai Gurdas also makes use of the immortal folk tales of Laila-Majnu, Sassi-Punnu, Sohni-Mahiwal , Hir Ranjha to put forth his ideas about the everlasting loving and affectionate Guru disciple relationship his inseparable affiliation to Sikh Gurus:
ਲੇਲੈ ਮਜਨੂੰ ਆਸਕੀ ਚਹੁ ਚਕੀ ਜਾਤੀ।
ਸੋਰਠਿ ਬੀਜਾ ਗਾਵੀਐ ਜਸੁ ਸੁਘੜਾ ਵਾਤੀ।
ਸਸੀ ਪੁੰਨੂੰ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਹੁਇ ਜਾਤਿ ਅਜਾਤੀ।
ਮੇਹੀਵਾਲ ਨੋ ਸੋਹਣੀ ਨੈ ਤਰਦੀ ਰਾਤੀ।
ਰਾਂਝਾ ਹੀਰ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ਓਹੁ ਪਿਰਮ ਪਰਾਤੀ।
ਪੀਰ ਮੁਰੀਦਾ ਪਿਰਹੜੀ ਗਾਵਨਿ ਪਰਭਾਤੀ॥
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ: ਵਾਰ ੨੭ ਪਉੜੀ ੧ ਪੰ. ੬
In this composition Bhai Gurdas ji has also endeavoured hard to expound on the basic tenets of Gurbani such as Truth, the Sikh concept of God, the world, the gurmukh, the manmukh, humility haumein, simran, sewa, sacrifice and has also discussed about prominent saints of India Dhanna, Pipa, Kabir, Ravidas. Bhai Gurdas has also taken up social themes like Hindu Muslim unity, opposition to ritualism and derogatory social practices as well. The verse below highlight Bhai Sahib's rejection of ritualism and stress that a Gurmukh does not get engaged in such baseless practices.
ਸਉਣ ਸਗੁਨ ਵੀਚਾਰਣੇ ਨਉ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਬਾਰਹ ਰਾਸ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ।
ਕਾਮਣ ਟੂਣੇ ਅਉਸੀਆ ਕਣਸੋਈ ਪਾਸਾਰ ਪਸਾਰਾ।
ਗਦਹੁ ਕੁਤੇ ਬਿਲੀਆ ਇਲ ਮਲਾਲੀ ਗਿਦੜ ਛਾਰਾ।
ਨਾਰਿ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨਿ ਛਿਕ ਪਦ ਹਿਡਕੀ ਵਰਤਾਰਾ।
ਥਿਤਿ ਵਾਰ ਭਦ੍ਰਾ ਭਰਮ ਦਿਸਾਸੂਲ ਸਹਸਾ ਸੈਸਾਰਾ।
ਵਲ ਛਲ ਕਰਿ ਵਿਸਵਾਸ ਲਖ ਬਹੁ ਚੁਖੀ ਕਿਉ ਰਵੈ ਭਤਾਰਾ।
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲ ਪਾਰ ਉਤਾਰਾ ॥
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ: ਵਾਰ ੫ ਪਉੜੀ ੮ ਪੰ. ੭
Many consult tomes of astrology to work out good omens, from the position of nine planets (Moon, Sun, Mars, Jupiter etc), and the twelve positions of the Sun (Ras).
Many women indulge in exorcism and prediction and many other such-like acts - the product of ignorance and dark age.
Some take auspicious and inauspicious cues from the sighting or position of the donkey, dog, cat, eagle, jackal or whirlwind that they may see or come across while setting out from home on way to some business.
Coming across a female with water-filled pitcher or a male, or a fire, has good or bad significance in their scheme of things, Some try to take a cue of good or bad omen from one/two sneezes or hiccups.
The entire world is entangled in the doubts and suspicions to Thit, Var and Bhadra.
How will a woman with multi-tastes and desires (a prostitute) and who uses countless deceits enamour the Lord husband?
Gurmukhs obtain fruits of comfort and peace (from the divine word of the Guru) and thus are emancipated.
It also needs to be highlighted that Bhai Gurdas was a reliable Sikh historian as well and has documented the Sikh history in his writings and has solved some of the historical riddles about Guru Nanak Dev's visit to Mecca, Medina, and other parts of the world. According to Khushwant Singh "Bhai Gurdas's Vaars are the only really authentic references to the period of 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th gurus by a Sikh. His commentary on Sikh practices is valuable indications of the state of things at the time and are, therefore, regarded as "Key" to understanding of the Sikh scripture.
Many of the lines from various pauris of the Vaars have become household phrases and idioms like:
ਵਿਣੁ ਸੇਵਾ ਧ੍ਰਿਗ ਹਥ ਪੈਰ ਹਰ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਕਰਨੀ|
Cursed are those feet and hands who engage themselves in false and fruitless services instead of serving their Guru.
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ, ਵਾਰ 27 ਪਉੜੀ 10, ਪੰ 5
ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਵਿਣੁ ਸੰਗੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਕਚਾ ਚਾਉ |
All assemblies other than Sadh sangat are transitory pleasures. These do not attribue to the success of life.
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ, ਵਾਰ 27 ਪਉੜੀ 17, ਪੰ 5
ਅਖੀ ਵੇਖਿ ਨ ਰਜੀਆ ਬਹੁ ਰੰਗ ਤਮਾਸੇ |
the eyes are never satisified looking at the beauty and glamour of the world.
ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ, ਵਾਰ 27 ਪਉੜੀ 9, ਪੰ 1
Thus the vaars composed by Bhai Gurdas address multifarious issues that hold relevance till date.
Bhai Gurdas's death
According to Bhai Kahn Singh Mahan Kos, Bhai Gurdas ji breathed his last in 1637. Before his departure, he expressed to Guru Hargobind Sahib that no memorial should be built in his memory. He left for heavenly abode at the ripe age of eighty eight years and Guru Hargobind Sahib performed the last rites. Moreover, Bhai Gurdas ji remained a celibate throughout his life and dedicated his life in service of Nanak.
The biographical sketch of Bhai Gurdas ji, a person of spiritual and literary grandeur can be best summarised in the words of Dr. Jodh Singh " Bhai Gurdas ji was not only an adept administrator of the House of the Gurus but also a versatile genius well entrenched in the tenets of Sikh philosophy and theology and well versed in Indian vernaculars as well as classical Sanskrit and used these languages to bring forth the ethos and culture of Indian sub-continent, ofcourse, putting Sikhism always at the fore front".
1 Singh Jodh (1998) Varan Bhai Gurdas: Text, Transliteration and Translation, Vol (1) Vision and Ventures Publishers, Patiala and New Delhi.
2. All the translations of Bhai Gurdas' Vaars are taken from "Varan Bhai Gurdas" translated by Shamsher Singh Puri, published by Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2009.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2019, All