Sacred Literature & Sikh Studies

What is the substance of the Rehras?

Rehrās is the name given to the main evening prayer of the Sikhs. The word itself implies supplication, though some traditionalist scholars have interpreted it as rāh-i-rāst which, in Persian, means the straight path, the path of faith and devotion as against that of mere ritual practices or yogic austerities. The title ‘Rehrās’ however does not occur anywhere in Guru Granth Sahib Ji itself, nor is the text, as it is recited today, recorded as a single whole.

Besides its two major constituents, “So Dar” and “So Purakh”, it has three further sections-the ChaupaÄ« from among Guru Gobind Siá¹…gh Ji’s compositions in the Dasam Granth, Anand Sahib (only the first five stanzas and the last from among Guru Amar Daas Ji’s) and the Mundāvaṇī from among Guru Arjan Ji’s.

The total text is a case of ‘editing’ by tradition. The Rehrās in its current form has evolved in the course of a period of time. The earliest text was but “So Dar” which, as says Bhāī Gurdās ( Vārā’á¹…, I.38), used to be recited in the evening assemblies in Guru Nanak Sahib Ji’s day. Guru Arjan Sahib Ji supplemented it with “So Purakh” hymns and the two were recorded by him jointly in Guru Granth Sahib Ji after the Jap Ji Sahib. The complete text, with three more sections subsequently added, has come down the generations through guá¹­kās or small prayer books, but with minor variations as regards the number of hymns or of the stanzas thereof included. The text as it appears in the guá¹­kās issued by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee and approved by the Panth is the accepted form today.

The title ‘Rehrās’ comes from the hymn of Guru Raam Daas Sahib Ji included under “So Dar” wherein the word occurs once in the line: gurmati nām merā prān sakhāī har kÄ«rat hamrÄ« rehrās (The name Divine is my life’s companion; laudation of the Lord my supplication).

Rehrās is included in Nitnem, Sikhs’ daily regimen of seven prayers. It is recited in the evening in gurdwaras and may be preceded or succeeded by keertan i.e. holy singing. Those who are unable to join the evening assembly may say it individually at home or wherever they should be at that hour.

In the hymns entitled “So Dar”, that is, the Divine Portal, is portrayed the cosmic hall in which dwells the Supreme Being, the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. Rāg, that is harmony, reigns here. Every element or being, however great and powerful, is here perfectly attuned to the Will of the Supreme Lord and works in complete unison with it. All the powers symbolized by wind, water, fire, the celestial judge, the invisible scribes of good and evil deeds, Īśvara (Åšiva), Brahmā, the goddess, Indra, devās or gods, siddhas, sādhÅ«s, virtuous beings, paṇḍits, fairies, the jewels’ churned out of the ocean, holy places of pilgrimage, the four khāṇīs or sources of life, the planets and parts of the universe, the blissful bhaktas and myriads of other entities, sing praises of the Lord and give complete obedience to His Will. So Dar is by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji; so is the hymn following. This hymn proclaims how great, how beyond utterance, how beyond compute is the Supreme One. The third hymn, also by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, says that the Supreme Being is intrinsically great for He neither dies nor experiences sorrow. Remembering Him one lives; forgetting Him one dies. In the fourth hymn, Guru Raam Daas Ji asks for the favour of Name enlightenment. Guru Arjan Sahib Ji next says that he who with satsaá¹…gat, holy company, mingles is liberated.

“So Purakh” (That Being) by Guru Raam Daas Sahib Ji praises the Supreme Being who is transcendent as well as immanent, infinite, all pervading, residing in every heart, above fear, beyond measure, eternal, creator and sustainer. His Will reigns supreme. Those who remember Him are freed from fear, are liberated. They truly are the sincere devotees who find approval with Him, not those who merely perform formal acts of worship. Those who on Him meditate, into Him are merged. The next hymn, also by Guru Raam Daas Sahib Ji, lays stress on the unicity of the Ultimate Reality that is God. All creatures have their being in the Creator. His Will is supreme. It is the gurmukhs (the devoted) who find the jewel of the Name; the manmukhs (the self-willed) forfeit that precious object. Guru Nanak Sahib Ji in the following hymn seeks shelter with those who forever remember the Lord. In the concluding hymn in this section, Guru Arjan Sahib Ji reminds men that in this human birth they have the opportunity to unite with Govind, the Lord. They must, to this end, meet in saá¹…gat, holy fellowship and repeat the Name.

In the ChaupaÄ«, Guru Gobind Singh Ji invokes the Timeless Being who cherishes his saints and cancels the sorrows and faults of those who pronounce his Name. Anand Sahib, in the Rehrās comprising six stanzas from Guru Amar Daas Ji’s bāṇī of this name with which conclude all Sikh services, expresses joy and bliss in God achieved through sahaj, that is the path of serene prayer and meditation. Munavaṇī (the seal, finale), concluding the Rehrās, is Guru Arjan Sahib Ji’s brief composition which forms the epilogue to Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Here Guru Arjan Sahib Ji presents the Sacred Volume as an amalgam of the spiritual values of truth, equipoise and contemplation. He also renders gratitude to God almighty for bringing to fulfilment the task of compiling the Holy Granth he had undertaken.