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The Sikh Prayer


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The Sikh Prayer

The prayer is at the center of worship. It is the natural result of religion. It is a ritual form designed to bring one into closer relation to the God. In simple words, we can say that to request something of a divine being is a prayer.

First duty of any human being is to meditate on the God. According to Guru Granth Sahib Ji, "Sarab Dharam meh shreshat Dharam. Har ko Naam jap nirmal karam". (Of all religions, the best religion is to chant the Name of the Lord and maintain pure conduct). (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 266). So, first of all, we remember the God in Sikh prayer. In the beginning, the Sikh Prayer says, "Ik Onkar, Waheguru ji ki fateh". (One Absolute manifest. Victory belongs to the Waheguru).

If we pray before the God, it is obvious we ask for something. Though we pray before the God for something we need, we do not abandon our efforts to get it. When we get it, we think that it has been gotten by our efforts. We start to think that we are victorious. The Sikh prayer makes us remember that the victory we got actually belongs to the God. That is why the Sikh prayer says that the victory belongs to the God, 'Waheguru ji ki fateh'.

Then the Sikh prayer says, "Sri Bhagauti ji sahaaye". (May the might of the All-powerful help!).

Both of the lines, (Ik Onkar, Waheguru ji ki fateh' and 'Sri Bhagauti ji sahaaye'), are 'mangals' (ecstasy). In Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, these lines have been used in the beginning of many 'banis' (holy hymns). Many Sikh poets have also used these lines in the beginning of their poetic works. Thus, these lines are used as blessings.

The first stanza of the prayer:-

Then, we say these words in the Sikh prayer, "Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji ki, Paatshaahee 10". 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee' is a part of 'Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji'. In most of copies of 'Sri Dasam Granth Sahib', it is named as 'Vaar Sri Durga Ji ki' instead of 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee'. 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee' is mostly known as 'Chandi di vaar'. Thus, this 'vaar' has three names, (1) 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee', (2) 'Vaar Sri Durga Ji ki', and (3) 'Chandi di vaar'.

Word 'vaar' belongs to Punjabi language. The 'vaar' is a long poem (ballad), which narrates a story of battle. In 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee', there has been given a story of goddess Durga. In the story, she fights against devils, to help the gods.

So, "Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji ki" means 'story (ballad) of Durga's battle'. And 'Paatshaahee 10' means the 10th master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, has written this 'Vaar'. [number ‘10’ has to be pronounced as ‘dasvee{n}]. Thus ‘Paatshaahee 10’ can be translated as ‘the composition of the tenth king’. In first stanza of 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji kee', the poet (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) remembers all of his nine Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. This first stanza of 'Vaar Sri Bhagauti ji ki' is also the first stanza of the Sikh prayer.

Here is the first stanza: “Pritham Bhagautee simar kai (Having first thought of the God), Gur Nanak layee{n} dhyaaye (think of Guru Nanak). Phir Angand Gur, te Amardaas, Ramdaasai hoyee sahaaye (Then, (think of) Guru Angad, (Guru) Amardas, (Guru) Ramdas- may they be our rescuers!). Arjan, Hargobind no, simrau Sri Har Rai (Remember, then, (Guru) Arjan, (Guru) Hargobind and (Guru) Har Rai). Sri Har Krishan dhiyaaeeye, jis dithhey sab dukh jaaye (Meditate then on revered (Guru) Har Krishan, on seeing whom all suffering vanishes). Tegh Bahadur simariye, ghar nau nidh aavai dhaaye (Think then of (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, remembrance of whom brings all nice treasures). Sab thaayee(n) hoye sahaaye (He comes to rescue everywhere).”

"Having first thought of the 'Bhagauti' (the God), think of Guru Nanak. Then, (think of) Guru Angad, (Guru) Amardas, (Guru) Ramdas- may they be our rescuers! Remember, then, (Guru) Arjan, (Guru) Hargobind and (Guru) Har Rai. Meditate then on revered (Guru) Har Krishan, on seeing whom all suffering vanishes. Think then of (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, remembrance of whom brings all nice treasures. He comes to rescue everywhere."

Because this part of Sikh prayer is taken from Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, no one has right to make changes in its text. In 'Sikh Reht Maryada', published by SGPC (www.sgpc.net), there has been given a footnote, which says, "…the initial composition with "Pritham Bhagauti…" and the concluding phrases commemcing "Nanak Naam…" must not be altered.

The Khalsa Panth added theses lines in first stanza of the Sikh prayer to remember the 10th Guru, "Daswaa{n} Paatshaah, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji! Sabh thaayee{n} hoye sahaaye" (The tenth lord, revered Guru Gobind Singh, who comes to rescue everywhere).

These were the ten Gurus of Sikhs. They showed us the right path. They had left their physical bodies, but their holy spirits are still near us. They are still very close to us. We can feel their holy light in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. That is why we say, in the last line of first stanza of Sikh prayer, "Dasaa{n} Paatshaaheeyaa{n} dee jot, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji de path deedar da dhyaan dhar ke, bolo ji Waheguru” (The embodiment of the light of all ten sovereign lordships, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji- think of the sight and reading of it and say, Waheguru).

The second stanza of the prayer:-

“Panjaa{n} piyaareyaa{n} (five beloved ones) , chauhaa{n} sahibzaadiyaa{n} (four princes), chaaliyaa{n} mukteyaa{n} (forty liberated ones), hathhiyaa{n} (steadfast ones), japiyaa{n} (the constant repearters of the Divine Name), tapiyaa{n} (those given to assiduous devotion), jinha Naam japiyaa (those who repeated the Name), vandd chhakiyaa (shared their fare with others), degh chalaayee (ran free kitchen) , tegh vaahee (wielded the sword), dekh ke ann-dithh keeta (overlooked faults), tinha piyaareyaa{n}, sachiyaariyaa{n} dee kamaayee daa dhyaan dhar ke (meditating on the achievement of the dear and truthful ones), Khalsa ji (O Khalsa), bolo ji Waheguru! (say Waheguru!)”

"Meditating on the achievement of the dear and truthful ones, including the five beloved ones, the four sons of the tenth Guru, forty liberated ones, steadfast ones, constant repeaters of the Divine Name, those given to assiduous devotion, those who repeated the Name, shared their fare with others, ran free kitchen, wielded the sword and overlooked faults and shortcomings, say 'Waheguru', O Khalsa".

This is the second stanza of the Sikh prayer. In this stanza, we remember some of ancient Sikh personalities. First, we remember 'the five beloved ones', who offered their heads to Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Here are their names:

1. Bhai Dya Singh Ji

2. Bhai Dharam Singh Ji

3. Bhai Himmamt Singh Ji

4. Bhai Mohakam Singh Ji

5. Bhai Sahib Singh Ji

It was 'Vaisaakhi' festival of the year 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh said in a huge gathering that he needed a head. It was amazing. Who wants to die! But a Sikh came forward and offered his head. His name was 'Dya Ram'. Guru ji took him inside a tent. In a moment, Guru ji came out of the tent and demanded for another head. This time a man named 'Dharam Chand' offered his head. Thus, Guru ji asked for five heads.

Guru ji took all of them into the same tent. When he came out of the tent finally, those five men accompanied him. Guru ji baptized them and gave new names. Now, they were 'Singhs' (lions). In Sikh history, these five men are known as 'Panj Piyaarey', or 'the five beloved ones'. They got the right to baptize anyone into the religion. Till now, only 'the five beloved ones' have right to baptize.

After remembering the five beloved ones, we remember the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh. Two of them sacrificed their lives in the battlefield of 'Chamkaur', a village (now town) in Punjab state of India. The others two were killed brutally by the order of the governor of 'Sirhind' (now a district of Punjab state).

Here is the list of names of Guru Gobind Singh's four sons:

1. Baba Ajit Singh Ji.

2. Baba Jujhaar Singh Ji.

3. Baba Zoraawar Singh Ji

4. Baba Fateh Singh Ji

[Word ‘Baba’ in names is used to show respect. Pronounced as ‘baabaa’]

Then, we remember 'Chaali Muktey' (the forty liberated ones). These forty liberated ones were the men who sacrificed their lives in the battlefield of 'Mukatsar', now a city in Punjab. Literary, ‘Mukatsar’ means ‘the pond of salvation’

In the second stanza of the Sikh prayer, we also remember 'hathheeyaa{n}' (steadfast ones), 'japeeyaa{n}' (constant repeaters of the Divine Name), 'tapeeyaa{n}' (those given to assiduous devotion).

Without dedication, we cannot meditate. It is not so easy to give up our bad habits. We need to be steadfast enough to follow the religious code of conduct. Great were those people, who could follow the religious code of conduct successfully. They are our role models. We have to follow them, so we remember them.

It the materialistic world, it is hard to find the people who chant the Divine Name. Such people were there in this world in the past. They are here even right now living in this so-called black age. We have to follow them, so we remember them.

To achieve the goal of unification with the God is not a joke. Though it is possible only by the grace of Guru, too much hard working is needed. Those given to assiduous devotion can get the goal, with the grace of Guru. We have to follow such a people, so we remember them.

We remember those, 'Jinha Naam japeyaa' (who repeated the Name). The Name is a sacred thing. The sacred thing makes us sacred. Only the Name of the God can purify our souls. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru, has said, "When a cloth is soiled and stained by urine, with a soap it can be washed clean. But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sins, it can only be cleansed by the Name." (Jap, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 4). Because we have to repeat the Name, so people who repeated the Name can be helpful to us. We need their blessings, so we remember them.

Also we remember those, 'vand chhakeyaa' (who shared their fare with others). Wherever we see, we find people busy in money making. They do not want to do something else. Though they have enough money, even then they are trying to collect more money. One need only one house to live in, but people are not satisfied with one house. They want many houses. One in the center of a busy city, one in the countryside, one on the mountain and one near the beach. An owner of many houses has no sympathy for a homeless poor. He is not ready to share one of his houses. A business-minded man is ready to throw his wheat into the sea to control market rates, but he will not distribute it into the poor. Such a people have forgotten their duties. They have forgotten the religion. They have forgotten their parents. They have forgotten their children. They have forgotten even themselves.

Such a people are living in this world. They were there in the past too. But there lived such a people too, who shared their fare with others. They were real human. We need to follow them. Such a people are much needed in this era of selfishness. They can be our role models, so we remember them in the Sikh prayer.

Food is major requirement for living beings. We see people dying without food. Great are those people, who provide the needy with food. They are nice people. We remember them, because they could see the God in the needy people.

If needy are not getting even proper food, they are insecure too. A big fish eats small one. A powerful nation attacks on a weaker one and impose a government of his choice. Great are those, who took up the arms in order to defend the weak people. They are respectable to us, so we remember them.

Then, we remember those, who “dekh ke ann-dithh keeta” (overlooked others faults and shortcomings).

So, remembering all of them (the five beloved ones, the four sons of the tenth Guru, the forty librated ones, the steadfast ones, constant repeaters of the Divine Name, those given to assiduous devotion, those who repeated the Name, shared their fare with others, ran free kitchen, wielded the sword and overlooked faults and shortcomings), the Khalsa is asked to say 'Waheguru'.

The third stanza of the prayer:-

“Jinha Singhaa{n}, Singhaneeyaa{n} ne” (the male and female members of the Khalsa), Dharam het see dittey (laid down their lives in the cause of dharma), bandd-bandd kataaye (got their bodies dismemebered bit by bit), khopriyaa{n} luhaayeeyaa{n} (got their skull sawn off), charakhiyaa{n} te charhey (got mounted on spiked wheels), aariyaa{n} naal chiraaye gaye (got their body sawn), Gurdwariyaa{n} dee sewa layee Qurbaaniyaa{n} keeteeyaa{n} (made sacrifices in the service of the Sikh shrines), Dharam nahee{n} haariyaa (did not betray their faith), Sikhi kesaa{n} suaasaa{n} naal nibaahee (sustained their adherence to the Sikh faith with hair up till their last breath), tinha dee kamaayee daa dhayaan dhar ke (meditating on their achievement), Khalsa ji bolo ji ‘Waheguru’! (O Khalsa, say Waheguru!)”.

"Meditating on the achievement of the male and female members of the Khalsa who laid down their lives in the cause of dharma (religion and righteousness), got their bodies dismembered bit by bit, got their skulls sawn off, got mounted on spiked wheels, got their bodies sawn, made sacrifices in the service of the shrines (gurduwaras), did not betray their faith, sustained their adherence to the Sikh faith with hair up till their last breath, say, "Wondrous destroyer of darkness", O Khalsa."

'Dharam' is Punjabi form of Sanskrit word 'dharma'. Often, English word 'religion' is used to translate it, but 'dharma' (or 'dharam') is not just 'religion'. In Sanskrit/Punjabi, it means (1) the nature of the world, (2) social order, (3) cosmic law, (4) social law, (5) good deed, (6) religion etc. So, when we use word 'religion', we should remember all the meanings of Punjabi/Sanskrit word 'dharma'.

In the third stanza of the Sikh prayer, first of all we remember those 'Singhs' (the male members of the 'Khalsa') and 'Singhanis' (the female members of the 'Khalsa'), who laid down their lives in the cause of dharma. Literally, 'Singh' means lion and 'Singhni' means lioness.

One can lay down his/her life fighting 'dharam-yudh' (religious-war). The Sikh concept of 'dharam-yudh' is entirely different from that of Islamic concept of 'Jihad'. Jihad is the duty of the Muslims. 'Dharam-yudh' is duty of all human beings. Jihad is a war to defend the Islam; the 'dharam-yudh' is a war to defend the humanity.

The dharam-yudh is different from the crusade too. The crusade is the war by Christians for the Christianity.

To fight for freedom of own religion and others' religion is neither Jihad, nor crusade; it is the dharam-yudh. One who fights for his or other religions is called 'dharam-vir' (religious warrior). It does not matter whether a 'dharam-vir' sacrificed himself in a battlefield or he was killed in the imprisonment of the enemy. Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, sacrificed himself in the imprisonment, for others. So, he was the 'dharam-vir'.

We remember those Sikhs, who sacrificed themselves for the 'dharam'. Some of them were killed brutally. Bhai Mani Singh, a courtier of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, got his body dismembered bit by bit in the city of Lahore (now in Pakistan), when he refused to embrace Islam. He refused to abandon his own religion, the Sikhism, so he is the 'dharam-vir'. When we say 'bandd-bandd kataaye' (got their bodies dismembered bit by bit) in the Sikh prayer, we remember Bhai Mani Singh.

The next words of the prayer are "khopariyaan luhaaiyaan" (got their skulls sawn off). Bhai Taaru Singh got his skull sawn off, when he refused to cut his hair and embrace Islam. We remember the sacrifice of Bhai Taaru Singh, when we say these words "khopariyaan luhaaiyaan" (got their skulls sawn off).

We remember Bhai Subeg Singh and Shahbaaz Singh, when we say these words "charkhiyaan te charhey" (got mounted on spiked wheels). Both of them were got mounted on spiked wheels, when they did not agree to accept Islam.

Bhai Mati Daas got his body sawn, so we remember him by these words "aareyaan naal chiraaye gaye" (got their bodies sawn). Bhai Mati Daas was a minister in the holy court of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the ninth Guru. He got his body sawn before the eyes of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib in the city of Delhi, when he refused to abandon the Sikhism. When he was asked his last wish, he said that he wanted to die seeing Guru Tegh Bahadur's holy face. His wish was fulfilled. We remember him using these words "aareyaan naal chiraaye gaye" (got their bodies sawn).

Then we remember those, who "Gurdwareyaan di sewa layee Qurbaaniyaa{n} keetiyaa{n}" (made sacrifices in the service of Sikh religious places). While British rule in India, Many Gurdwaras were under control of corrupt 'mahants' (Monks). Sikhs agitated to take control of the Gurdwaras in their hands. Many Sikhs were killed in the agitation. At last Sikhs succeeded and the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee) came into the existence. We remember those who sacrificed their lives during the agitation by these words "Gurdwareyaan di sewa layee Qurbaaniyaan keetiyaan" (made sacrifices in the service of Sikh religious places).

We also remember those, who "dharam nahi haareyaa" (did not betray their faith) and "Sikhi kesaan suaasaan naal nibaahee" (sustained their adherence to the Sikh faith with sacred unshorn hair up till their last breath).

And in the last line of the third stanza of the Sikh prayer, the Khalsa is asked to say 'Waheguru', meditating on the achievement of the martyrs in these words "tina di kamaayee da dhyaan dhar ke, Khalsa ji, bolo ji 'Waheguru' (meditating on their achievement, say 'Waheguru', O Khalsa!).

The fourth stanza of the prayer:-

“Panjaa{n} takhtaa{n}, sarbat Gurdwareyaa{n} da dhyaan dhar ke bolo ji ‘Waheguru’.”

“Thinking of the five thrones (seats of religious authority) and all Gurdwaras, say ‘Waheguru’, O Khalsa”.

The word ‘takht’ belongs to Persian and Arabic language. It means a ‘throne’, a royal seat. ‘Takhtaa{n}’ is plural form of word ‘takht’.

The Guru is a king of religion, and his seat is considered a throne for his Sikhs. According to the ‘Sikh Reht Maryada’, there are five ‘takhts’ or thrones of the Sikh: -

1. Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, (in the city of Amritsar, in Punjab state of India).

2. Takhat Sri Patna Sahib, (in the city of Patna Sahib, in Bihar State).

3. Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib, (in the city of Anandpur Sahib, in Punjab).

4. Takhat Sri Hazoor Sahib, (in the city of Nanded, in Maharashtra state).

5. Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib, (in Talwandi Sabo, Punjab).

Before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, there were only four ‘takhts’. Sri Damdama Sahib was declared a ‘takht’ by the SGPC after the partition. Takht Sri Patna Sahib and Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib did not, officially, recognize Sri Damdama Sahib as the fifth takht of the Sikh till now.

Many old ‘gutkas’ (the booklets containing the holy hymns) mention only the four ‘takhts’. In his ‘Mahaan Kosh’, Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha describes ‘the Khalsa congregation in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib’ as the fifth ‘takht’ (see entry of word ‘Panj takht’ in ‘Mahaan Kosh’). If we see the third entry of word ‘takht’ in his ‘Mahaan Kosh’, we find that only four ‘takhts’ have been mentioned.

Thus, we come to know that the fifth takht, ‘Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib’, was declared a ‘takht’ after the partition of India and Pakistan. So, according to the ‘Sikh Reht Maryada’, now there are five ‘takhts’.

The five ‘takhts’ have right to punish any Sikh, who committed any default in the observance of the Sikh discipline. Sri Akaal Takht is considered supreme authority in the Sikhism.

In the fourth stanza of the Sikh prayer, we remember all of these five takhts and other Gurdwaras all over the world.

The fifth stanza of the prayer:-

“Prithmey sarbat Khalsa ji kee ardaas hai ji (Now it is the prayer of the whole Khalsa), sarbat Khalsa jee ko Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru chitt aavey (May the whole Khalsa remember the God), chitt aavan kaa sadkaa (and in consequence of such remembrance), sarab such hovey (may total well-being obtain). Jahaa{n}-jahaa{n} Khalsa ji sahib (Wherever there are communities of the Khalsa), tahaa{n}-tahaa{n} rachhchhiya riyaayat (may there be Divine protection and grace), Degh tegh fateh (the victory in ‘the community kitchen’ and in ‘the sword’), Bird kee paij (save the honor of your nature), Panth kee jeet (victory of the Panth), Sri Sahib ji sahaaye (Sri Sahib, the God is helpful), Khalsa ji ke bol baaley (ascendance of the Khalsa), bolo ji ‘Waheguru’ (say Waheguru).”

The English translation by the SGPC has translated it as, “Now it is the prayer of the whole Khalsa, May the conscience of the whole Khalsa be informed by Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru, and in consequence of such remembrance, may total well-being obtain. Wherever there are communities of the Khalsa, may there be Divine protection and grace, the ascendance of the supply of needs and of the holy sword, protection of the tradition of grace, victory of the Panth, the succor of the holy sword, ascendance of the Khalsa. Say, O Khalsa ‘Waheguru’.”

In first four stanzas of the Sikh prayer, there is no demand. We only remember our Gurus, martyrs, lovers of the God, our holy religious places etc.

Now, we have some demands. “Prithmey sarbat Khalsa ji kee ardaas hai ji” (first of all, this is the prayer of the whole Khalsa) that “Sarbat Khalsa jee ko Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru chitt aavey” (May the whole Khalsa remember the God). We want to remember Waheguru. The Khalsa should always remember the God. Our first duty is to worship the Almighty. That is why we are here in this world.

Next thing we want is “chitt aavan ka sadka (in consequence of remembrance of the God), sarab sukhkh hovey” (May there be total well-being). We want total well-being of the Khalsa, all the comforts for the society. We can obtain ‘total well-being’ only through the worship of the God. We can obtain all the comforts for the society if the Almighty informs the conscience of the whole Khalsa.

What is the comfort? What is the happiness? What is the pleasure? What is the joy?

It is a state of mind.

How can we achieve this state of mind?

The Guru Granth Sahib has its answer. The holy book says, “Jau sukh ko chaahai sada, saran Ram kee leh” (If you desire for pleasure forever, then seek the Sanctuary of the Lord). [Guru Granth Sahib, page 1427].

So, the Khalsa seeks the Sanctuary of the God, and in consequence of the Sanctuary, the total well-being can be obtained.

Then, we pray, “jahaa{n} jahaa{n} Khalsa ji sahib, tahaa{n} tahaa{n} rachhchheyaa riyayat” (Wherever there are communities of the Khalsa, may there be Divine protection and grace).

The Khalsa is not limited in the Punjab or India now. It is everywhere all over the world. We want every member of the Khalsa in the Divine protection. We want the grace of the God for every member of the Khalsa.

Next thing demanded is “degh tegh fateh” (the victory in ‘the community kitchen’ and in ‘the sword’).

‘Degh tegh fateh’ is a very famous slogan of the Khalsa. The word ‘degh’ stands for a big cooking pot. ‘Degh’ is a symbol of the community kitchen. The word ‘Tegh’ means the ‘sword’. A sword represents all the weapons. A sword is a symbol of war of weapons. ‘Fateh’ means the victory. Thus, the Khalsa wants to be successful when it makes arrangements for the community kitchen and when it goes into the battlefield.

Food is basic necessity of living beings. No one can live without food. To provide everyone with food is the duty of whole of the society. The Khalsa is a society itself, so the Khalsa runs free kitchen for all.

If we know the reason for creation of the Khalsa, we will be able to understand why the Sikh prayer wants ‘the victory in the battlefield’. What the Khalsa was created for? What was the aim of its creation?

Poet ‘Sainapati’ tells the reason. He was one of the poets in the holy court of Guru Gobind Singh ji, the tenth Guru. In his biography of Guru Gobind Singh ji, he tells that: -

“Asur sanghaarbey ko, durjan ke maarbey ko,

Sankat nivaarbey ko Khalsa banaayo hai”.

(Khalsa has been created to wipe out the devils, to kill the bad ones, and to put aside the crises).

(Sri Gur Sobha, stanza 130)

If the Khalsa has been created to kill the bad ones, then it is obvious that a Sikh prays for victory. It is not his victory; it is God’s victory, as mentioned in the beginning of the Sikh prayer ‘Waheguru ji ki fateh’ (victory belongs to the God).

The next words of the prayer are “Bird ki paij”. These lines have been translated as ‘protection of the tradition of grace’, in the English version of ‘Sikh Reht Maryada’, published by the SGPC.

‘Bird’ means ‘nature’. ‘Ki’ means ‘of’. And ‘paij’ means ‘honor’ or ‘reputation’ or ‘fame’.

The word ‘bird’ has been used in the Guru Granth Sahib: -

“Jo saran aavai, tis kanthh laavai, eh BIRD suaami sanda” (He lovingly embraces whoever comes to His Sanctuary - this is the NATURE of the Master).

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 544).

Thus, by using the words ‘Bird ki paij’, we pray, ‘O God! Save the honor of your nature’. What is His nature? ‘Jo saran aavai, tis kanthh laavai’ (He lovingly embraces whoever comes to His sanctuary); it is His nature. So, actually we are praying, “O God! Do embrace whoever comes to your sanctuary”.

The next words are ‘Panth ki jeet’ (the victory of Panth). ‘Panth’ means the path and this word has been used for the Khalsa, in the Sikh literature.

The victory belongs to the God (Waheguru ji ki fateh), according to the beginning words of the Sikh prayer. The Sikh slogan says that the Khalsa belongs to the God (Waheguru ji ka Khalsa). So, it is understandable that a victory by the Khalsa is actually a victory of the God. Thus, ‘Panth ki jeet’ (the victory of Panth/Khalsa) is actually ‘Waheguru ji ki fateh’ (the victory of the God). If ‘A’ belongs to ‘B’, and ‘B’ belongs to ‘C’, then we can say that ‘A’ belongs to ‘C’. The word ‘jeet’ is Hindi word and ‘fateh’ belongs to Arabic language. Both of the words have same meaning, ‘victory’.

Then we say next words in the prayer, “Sri Sahib ji sahaaye” (the God is helpful).

The words ‘Sri Sahib ji’ have been used for both, the sword and the God, same as word ‘Bhagauti’. ‘Sahaaye’ is Brijbhasha’s word. It is synonymous of Hindi/Punjabi word ‘sahaayak’ (helpful). ‘Sri Sahib ji sahaaye’ means ‘Sri sahib ji mere sahaayak hain’ (the God is my helper) or (the God is helpful to me).

Then we pray for “Khalsa ji ke bol baley” (dominance of the Khalsa). And at last, in this fifth stanza, we say, “Bolo ji, Waheguru” (say ‘Waheguru’).

The sixth stanza of the prayer:-

“Sikhaa{n} noo Sikhee daan (Grant to Sikhs; the gift of discipleship), kes daan (the gift of hair), reht daan (the gift of discipline), bibek daan (the gift of sense of discrimination), visaah daan (the gift of trust), bharosa daan (the gift of confidence), daanaa{n} sir daan (the supreme gift of all gifts), Naam daan (the gift of the Name), Sri Amritsar jee ke ishnaan (bath in the holy pond of Amritsar), chaukiyaa{n} (Hymns-singing parties), jhandey (the flags), bungey (the boarding schools), jugo-jug atal (indestructible for the ages), Dharam kaa jaikaar (May the Dharma prevail!), bolo ji Waheguru (say Waheguru)”.

“Grant to Sikhs; the gift of discipleship, the gift of hair, the gift of discipline, the gift of sense of discrimination, the gift of trust, the gift of confidence and the supreme gift of all gifts, the gift of the Name. (May Sikhs) bath in the holy pond of Amritsar. Hymns-singing parties, the flags, and the boarding schools remain indestructible for the ages. May the Dharma prevail! Say ‘Waheguru’.”

We want some other gifts to all the Sikh people. We want the gift of ‘discipleship’. It is not easy to be a Sikh.

We want the gift of hair. It means that we want to keep our hair uncut. Many Sikhs were killed because they refused to cut their cut.

We also want the gift of the discipline of the faith. It means we want to follow the code of conduct. Guru Granth Sahib is the main source of the Sikh code of conduct. Here the word ‘reht’ means ‘living according to Gurus’ instructions’. Guru Granth Sahib itself is a collection of Guru’s instructions. Thus, when we want the gift of ‘reht’, actually we are demanding the gift of living according to Guru’s instructions.

Then we ask for ‘bibek daan’ (the gift of sense of discrimination). In our daily life, we need the sense of discrimination. We must have the sense to judge the things whether they are good or bad. We must have the sense of discrimination so that we could know what we are going to do is good or not. To follow the Guru’s instructions is the Sikhi (discipleship), and knowing what is good or bad according to the Sikhi is ‘bibek’. ‘Bibek’ is much-needed gift to remain a true Sikh.

We need ‘visaah daan’ (the gift of trust).

We need ‘bharosa daan’ (the gift of confidence).

Then we ask for ‘daanaa{n} sir daan Naam daan’ (the gift of the gifts, the Name). The Name of the God is perfect donation one can get. Guru Granth Sahib says, “Naam hamaarai pooran DAAN” (The Name is my perfect DONATION of charity) (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1145).

Gurbani says, “Dhanwantey seyee pardhaan. Nanak jaa kai Naam nidhaan” (Only those are wealthy and supreme, O Nanak, who have the treasure of the Name). (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1144).

So, for a Sikh the Name of the God is the biggest donation or gift; that is why he asks the God to donate it.

‘Amritsar’ is considered a sacred pond of the Sikh people. It is situated in the city of Amritsar. In the Sikh prayer, we say, “Sri Amritsar ji de ishnaan” (bath in Amritsar).

Sometime people ask why the Sikh prayer demands for a bath in Amritsar, when the Gurbani criticizes those who go to sacred bath in religious places.

That is true. The Guru Granth Sahib says, “Naavan challey tirathhee{n}, mann khotey tann chor. Ik bhao lathee naateyaa{n} duyee bha charhiyas hor” (They go and bathe at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, but their minds are still evil, and their bodies are thieves. Some of their filth is washed off by these baths, but they only accumulate twice as much.

). (Guru Granth Sahib, page 789).

But the lines given in the Sikh prayer (“Sri Amritsar ji de ishnaan”, bath in Amritsar) have historical value. There was the time, when Sikhs were not allowed to take bath into the holy pond, especially when ‘Massa Rangharh’ was the local ruler of ‘pargana’ (sub-division) of Amritsar. He started to stay in Sri Darbar Sahib, a beautiful shrine constructed in the center of the holy pond of Amritsar. Prostitutes used to dance in the holy shrine. Sikhs wanted to visit their holy shrine, but they were not allowed. It was then this words were added into the Sikh prayer. These words remained in the prayer, because they make us remember the bad time, when we were not allowed even to see our holy shrine.

(Bhai Sukh Singh and Mehtab Singh, two Sikh warriors, killed Massa Rangharh, the local ruler of Amritsar, in near about 1720).

Words ‘chaukiyaa{n}’ indicate the hymns-singing parties, especially in the holy shrine of Amritsar. The word ‘chaukee’ (singular form of ‘chaukiyaa{n}’) was used to indicate a hymns-singing party. ‘Chau’ means four. Because there were traditionally four people in a party, so it was called ‘chaukee’ (the group of four). It will be interesting to know that a police post was also called ‘chaukee’, because there were, often, four people in a police post. In Punjab, people still call it ‘chaukee’.

The fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji, started the tradition of ‘chaukiyaa{n}’. There were four ‘chaukees’ (singular: -‘chaukee’). Here is the list of four ‘chaukees’: - (1) ‘Chaukee vaar Aasa’, before the sunrise, (2) ‘Charan kawal dee chaukee’, after the sunrise, (3) ‘Sodar dee chaukee’, after the sunset, and (4) ‘Kalyaan dee chaukee’, in night.

We also remember ‘jhandey’ (the flags). A flag is a sign of sovereignty. A flag declares the freedom of its nation. Khalsa is not ready to live under others rule. It means Khalsa cannot be made slave. The Khalsa is either a free, or a rebel. In the Guru Granth Sahib, we find these words, “Fareeda, baar praayeai baisna, Saanyee mujhey na deh. Je too eivai rakhsee, jio sareeroh leh” (Fareed says, O Lord, do not make me sit at another’s door. If this is the way you are going to keep me, then go ahead and take the life out of my body). (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1380).

The word ‘bungey’ in the Sikh prayer has been used for traditional boarding schools. ‘Bungey’ is the plural form. Its singular form is ‘bungaa’. Bungaas were traditional boarding schools, where the Sikh students used to get their religious as well as other education. ‘Ramgarhiyaa{n} daa bungaa’ (boarding school of Ramgarh-people) is still there near Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. [Though word Ramgarhiya now is used for a particular caste in Punjab, but actually it indicated a person living in Ramgarh, an old fortress near Amritsar].

“Jugo-jugo atal” (indestructible for the ages), these are next words of our prayer. The Khalsa wants ‘chaukiyaa{n}’ (the hymns-singing parties), ‘jhandey’ (flags) and ‘bungey’ (boarding schools) to be indestructible for the ages.

Next words are ‘Dharam kaa jaikaar’ (May the dharma prevail!). ‘Dharma’ is righteousness. ‘Dharma’ is goodness. Thus, we pray that the ‘dharma’ prevail over ‘adharma’ (what is wrong).

Once again, we say in the prayer, ‘Bolo ji Waheguru’ (say Waheguru)’.

The seventh stanza of the prayer:-

There is one more demand for whole of the Sikh people, “Sikhaa{n} da mann neeva{n}, matt uchchee, matt daa raakhaa aap Waheguru” (May the Khalsa be imbued with humility and high wisdom! May the God be protector of its wisdom!).

The eighth stanza of the prayer:-

“Hey Akaal Purkh (O Immortal being), apney Panth dey sada shaayee daataar jeeo! (always helpful to your Panth!) Sri Nankaana Sahib te hor Gurdwareyaa{n} Gurdhaamaa{n} dey (Sri Nankaana Sahib and other Gurdwaras and places of the Guru), jinhaa{n} to{n} Panth noo vichhorheyaa gya hai (from which the Panth has been separated), khulley darshan deedaar te sewa sambhaal daa daan Khalsa ji noo bakhsho (bestow on the Khalsa the beneficence of unobstructed visit to and free management)”.

(O Immortal being, always helpful to your Panth [the Khalsa]! bestow on the Khalsa the beneficence of unobstructed visit to and free management of Sri Nankaana Sahib and other Gurdwaras and places of the Guru from which the Panth has been separated).

After the partition of India and Pakistan in the year of 1947, most of the Sikh people decided to live in India. Many Sikhs living in Pakistan came to India in and after 1947. But the Sikh people could not forget their holy places, like Gurdwara Sri Nankaana Sahib, in Pakistan. So, after 1947, this eighth stanza was added in the Sikh prayer.

Sikhs living in Pakistan do not use this stanza in their prayer, because they have not been separated from Gurdwara Nankaana Sahib etc. They feel that they have been separated from Gurdwaras in India instead.

Now, the Khalsa Panth is not limited only in Punjab or India. Sikhs live in every corner of the world. To visit any Gurdwara in India is as difficult/easy as visiting any Gurdwara in Pakistan for a British or an American Sikh.

Only Sikhs living in Punjab or India are not the Panth. They are a part of it.

The concluding part of the prayer:-

“Hey nimaaneyaa{n} dey maan (O the honor of the humble), nitaaneyaa{n} dey taan (the strength of the weak), nioteyaa{n} dee ot (aid unto whose who have none to rely on), sachchey pita (True Father), Waheguru! (The God!) Aap dey huzoor ………… dee ardaas hai ji (we humbly render to you…………..)”.

(O the honor of the humble, the strength of the weak, aid unto whose who have none to rely on, True Father, The God! we humbly render to you…………..).

In the blank space given above, we mention the name of the scriptural composition that has been recited or, in appropriate terms, the object for which the congregation has been held.

“Akhkhar vaadha ghaata bhul chuk maaf karnee”. (Pardon any impermissible accretions, omissions, errors, and mistakes).

“Sarbat dey kaaraj raas karney”. (Fulfill the purposes of all).

“Seyee piyaarey mel” (Grant us the association of those dear ones), “jinha mileyaa{n} tera Naam chitt aavey” (on meeting whom one is reminded of Your Name).

(Grant us the association of those dear ones, on meeting whom one is reminded of Your Name).

“Nanak Naam charhdee kala. Tere bhaaney sarbat da bhala”.

(O Nanak, may the Name be ever in ascendance! In Your will may the good of all prevail!).

On the conclusion of the Prayer, the entire congregation participating in the Prayer genuflects before the revered Guru Granth Sahib. Then it again stands up and calls out “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji kee fateh” (the Khalsa is of the God. The victory is of the God).

Then the man doing prayer raises the slogan “Boley so nihaal” (whosoever says will be blessed). In reply the congregation says loudly “Sat Sri Akaal” (The Immortal is the reality).

(Whosoever says will be blessed; ‘The Immortal is the reality’).

Once again, the whole of the congregation says “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji kee fateh” (the Khalsa is of the God. The victory is of the God).

NOTE: - Symbol {n} has been used to show 'Bindi' and 'Tippi' of Punjabi language.

-Amrit Pal Singh 'Amrit'

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