Sacred Literature & Sikh Studies

Give the substance of the Aasa-ki-vaar.

Guru Nanak’s Aasa-ki-vaar or the morning prayer, consists of Slokas and 24 Pauris. Guru Ramdas Ji added 24 Chhands (Quatrains). A vaar or ode is a heroic measure, popular in the Panjab. This particular var is sung in the early morning in all Sikh Temples. Here Guru Nanak sings of the glory of God and “The Name”. He details the process by which an ordinary man can become a perfect servant to God. Even so God’s grace is essential, and one has to deserve it:

“God Himself shapes men as vessels, and brings them to perfection.
In some is put the milk of loving and kindness, others ever are set on the fire of passion.
Some lie down to sleep on cushions, others stand to watch over them.
God regenerates those on whom He looks with grace. (24)”

The hurdles on the path to divinity like the Ego, hypocrisy, evil thoughts and actions, are discussed and various remedies are suggested.

According to Prof. Teja Singh, The “Aasa-ki-vaar” resembles an ancient choral in Greek. There is a great similarity in the way both var and ode are sung. It may be noted that there are 22 vaars in the Granth, out of which three, including Aasa-ki-vaar, are by Guru Nanak. Often Shabads (Hymns) are interspersed between Pauris and this provides for both a variation of musical score and changes of thought.

Krishna Chaitanya, an Indian musicologist writes about the effect of the chant of Asa-di-var as under:

“In musical impact it is like the plain chant of European Christianity. It is recitative which has taken wings, rather than an abstract arabesque of sound. In its musical texture, it is wholly different from plain chant. This is because plain chant comes early in the evolution of European music whereas the melodic pattern of the Aasa-ki-vaar is derived by the simplification of a mature classical tradition.”

We understand the message and feel the melody at the same time. When the Asa-di-var is sung before dawn – Amrit Vela – it produces a feeling of inner repose and peace.

Gramophone records of the Aasa-ki-vaar are available in the market. The most popular is that of the late Surjan Singh.