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“Rahao� - Flow and Pause in Gurbani & Keertan

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“Rahao†- Flow and Pause in Gurbani & Keertan

Amardeep Singh, Singapore

It is important to understand a few terminologies before we proceed further.

Rahau: While reading through a Shabad in Guru Granth Sahib, we find that one line has a word RAHAU written at the end. 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.) it has that many defined lines. Somewhere in the middle, or in the beginning of the Shabad one line has the word Rahau mentioned, with the numeral 1.

The word rahau means WAIT.... PAUSE....in Punjabi "Therau". 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 meanigful: 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 2,3 or 4) convey the same central theme: reflect on truth. Gurus thought it appropriate to explain the same central theme in different combination of words and therefore gave more than one Rahau.

Asthai: In Keertan (or any music) we find one line keeps getting repeated time and again. This common line, which is repeated each time after a different line, is known as Asthai in Indian Classical Music, or Chorus in the Western Music.

Antra - In Keertan (or any music) after singing the Asthai (the repetitive line) a different line is sung, and upon its completion the Asthai is sung again and then a second different line is sung, followed by Asthai. This changing line is known as Antra in Indian Classical Music.

The purpose of Keertan is to deliver the Gurus’ message sweetly to the listener. As Rahau has the central theme of the Shabad and contains the spiritual message, its usage, as an Asthai is repeated time and again after every Antra, which helps in the message getting drilled into the listener’s mind. The result is that the Guru’s message gets delivered many times while the Shabad is being sung. This increases the probability of retention of the central theme (Gurmat Vichar) by the listener’s mind.

Let me take a very popular Shabad from Siri Raag, Page 44, which is sung by Raagis during a happy occasion in the family. Most of the Sikhs will remember the shabad by its popularly known line:

Lakh khushiya patshahiya

jey satgur nadar karey ..........

It’s commonly found that Raagis make the above line as the Asthai while singing the shabad because of the word Khushiya (Happiness). This line is the second non-Rahau line in the Shabad and gets commonly used as the Asthai while singing.

The English translation of the Shabad is:

SRI RAAG, MEHLA V: All happiness is achieved only by Thy Grace. The precious gift of this human life becomes fruitful when one chants the True Word. One who has such destiny written on his forehead enters the Mansion of the Lord’s Presence through the Guru. || 1 || O my mind, focus your consciousness on the One. Without the One, all involvlements are worthless; emotional attachment to a mirage is verily false. || 1 || Pause || Hundreds of thousands of princely pleasures are yours to enjoy if the True Guru bestows His Glance of Grace. If He bestows the Name of the Lord, even for a moment, my mind and body are soothed. Those who have such pre-ordained destiny hold tight to the Feet of the True Guru. || 2 || Blessed is that moment, and fruitful is that time, when one is in love with the True Lord. Suffering and sorrow do not touch those who have the Support of the Name of the Lord. Grasping him by the arm, the Guru lifts them up and out, and carries them across to the other side. || 3 || Embellished and immaculate is that place where the Saints gather together. He alone finds shelter who has met the Perfect Guru. Nanak builds his house upon that site where there is no death, no birth, and no old age. || 4 || 6 || 76 ||

If we were to sing this Shabad in proper Keertan singing style by making Rahau (Mere man eikas sio chit laaye/eikas bin sabh dhund hai/sabh mithiya moh maye) as Asthai for repetition, then upon reaching second Antra, the message that will get repetitively get delivered to the mind will be that we need to first make an effort to get our mind to focus on One God, give up attachment to Maya and emotional entanglements. If we succeed in achieving this state of mind, then (as stated in the second Non-Rahau line) thousands of Pleasures will be attained (only if) if His Grace falls upon us.

Note that the CONDITION (Rahau line to be used as Asthai) is that we make the effort to rid our mind of attachment/Maya, then the RESULT (Non-Rahau line to be used as Antra) is - if Satguru deems it worth then he provides hundreds of pleasures to the devotee.

Unfortunately, this Shabad is commonly sung by Raagis by making the non-Rahau Line No.2 as the Asthai (Lakh khushiya patshahiya jey satgur nadar karey....), which gets repeated many a times during the Shabad singing. Now see the change in deliverability of the message to our mind. We are seeking from our Guru thousands of pleasures, by His Grace and, upon getting them, we will then strive towards ridding our mind of attachment/Maya! Note that by using the non-Rahau line as Asthai, the CONDITION has changed to: if Satguru deems it worth, then He provides hundreds of pleasures to us and the RESULT (Rahau line being used as Antra) is that we will make the effort to rid our mind of attachment/Maya!

By using the non-Rahau line in this Shabad as Asthai, our mind is subconsciously being told to live on HOPE, rather than make the EFFORT, which is the reverse of what the Guru is telling us in this Shabad, viz.- Devotee first makes the EFFORT and then HOPE should arise for His Grace.

Interesting....isn’t it? We tend to ignore the finer details of Gurus’ message, which is so clear.................Probably that’s the reason why Sikhs of today lack the spirit/spiritual discipline for which our forefathers were known. I hope people will start making an effort of getting the Sikhs in their immediate contact to understand the importance of Rahau in Keertan singing, and strive towards singing Keertan in the correct manner.

Those who are active in Gurudwara Management/teaching Keertan should make it a point to teach to the youth only those Shabads in which Rahau is made the Asthai. For a teacher to correct what he has already learnt in so many years is a tough proposition, but he can definitely make an effort to select those Shabads from his Keertan bank for teaching the youth/children, in which the Rahau is made the Asthai. In this way, we may be able to slowly steer in the direction of true deliverance.

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