Kids Corner

Image, second from below - detail from painting by G.S. Sohan Singh.


Kirtan Sohela: Ode to My Beloved




The bani known as Sohela - more commonly referred to as the Kirtan Sohela - is the final nitnem bani recited at the end of each day.

It is also the bani that is recited at the final rites of a Sikh as the body is consigned to cremation.

Hence, it is also the last bani recited by each Sikh at bedtime everynight to mark the end of each day ... reflective of the ultimate, final "end".

When a Punjabi bride is about to wed her pritam, her beloved groom - her future life-partner - there is a celebration known as "maaiyaan". On this occasion, the bride is 'entertained' by her friends and relatives who sing songs that are sad and yet happy ... sad because she is about to leave her parents, brothers and sisters behind; happy because she is about to join her beloved husband, the future of her life.

In a way, this ceremony prepares the young bride for the unseen future. Normally, the young girl would be in fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead, of what the future hold for her ... a new life-partner, new 'parents', new friends and relatives.She is worried about her ability to cope with the sea of changes.

The maaiyaan songs are designed to put her unease to rest, to pacify her wildly-beating heart, by reminding her that the home with her parents was temporary, that she has been preparing all along to go to her true home one day ... and that day has come! The songs encourage her to be clam and peaceful and prepare her to make the most of the changes that are around the corner, and to enjoy her new life! 

This most common of customs in Punjab is what Guru Nanak chose to write his Sohela about ... and just see how masterfully he combines man's fear of death with the joyous celebration of "maaiyaan". Sohela tells us that this earth, this life, is just a temporary place (the bride's parental home ) and all must, like the bride, soon depart for their real and permanent home! ... the home of Waheguru, our Pritam, our Beloved, our Husband, who awaits us. And we must make sure we are made welcome there through our gurmukhta - our piety - just like the new bride is in her in-laws' home, due to her good character, loving nature, friendliness, sweetness of speech, etc.

Just as the bride parts from her childhood home and family, we too will one day part from all that is here on earth when death arrives. Just like the new bride is 'afraid' of the uncertainty that awaits her, of what the future hoilds ... each one of us is also mortified of what awaits us after death!

And in Sohela, Guru Ji tells us exactly what happens after death. We go to our Beloved's House to be their in joy and bliss (if we deserve that and if we have prepared ourselves for that day ...)!

At the time of marriage of a girl, many women of the neighbourhood assemble at night and sing songs related to the marriage. These songs express a theme of separation with her parents and friends. they also contain blessings from them all, that she may live a life of peace and comfort in her husband's house. These songs are called Sohelrrha.


May 23, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 23, 2010, 4:14 PM.

What an exquisite piece on life's journey by Jarnail Singh ji. The fear of death occupies everyone's mind of the ultimate reality whether we believe in it or not. We have a satsang group in Kuala Lumpur that meets every Sunday. Only yesterday, we were going through Sheikh Farid's bani: 'Jind vahutee maran var lai jaasee parnaa-ay' [GGS:1377.17) - 'The soul is the bride and death the groom; he'll marry and take her away'. What is on the other side? As an example, a very sick man confided to his doctor that he was afraid to die and didn't know about the life hereafter. While they were talking, there was a sound of scratching and whining. As the doctor opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on his master with utter joy. This is perhaps the answer you are seeking. The dog had never been in that room before. But, it knew that his master was there. Kirtan Sohela prepares us nightly for this eventual trip, and one day you may be right. Another example: Once in the darbar of Guru Gobind Singh, a visiting Raja had some deep thoughts about worldly pleasures and the beautiful women in the congregation, and the likely impact on man's lust. Guru Sahib smilingly heard him out and informed him that he had only seven days of life left, and that he should make the best use to finish his worldly business and enjoy the beautiful women, and die peacefully. Instead, it proved to be a most uneasy period as the Raja the expiry date on his life. He prayed like never before for the Guru's darshan before his departure. The Guru asked him if he had made full use of his last few remaining days. The Raja wept that fear of death had hung on his head every second and had shown him the reality. Even the kaam, krodh, moh and ahankaar had disappeared. The thought of death was the key to life eternal and that is what is Kirtan Sohela's nightly reminder.

2: Tarlochan Singh (India/ Australia), May 23, 2010, 9:30 PM.

Sohela is a song of joy when one expects to meet one's beloved. The article by S. Jarnail Singh definitely conforms to the spirit of the shabad and its comparison to 'maaiyaan' sung before a Punjabi marriage seems to be in place and helps the reader understand the text easily and smoothly. I appreciate the efforts of the writer in this.

3: Kulbir Singh (Sydney, Australia), May 23, 2010, 11:58 PM.

Beautiful explanation by Arshi Gyani ji and a beautiful explanation by Sangat Singh ji. Some addition to seven days ... The Raja knew that the Guru couldn't tell a lie. The 8th day arrived and the Raja was still alive. He went to Guru Ji's and asked "What is this riddle?" Guru Ji replied, "There are only seven days in life - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc ... You will die on one of these 7 days. But if you remember death, you will be free from the five enemies ..."

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 29, 2010, 4:19 PM.

Giani ji's perspective is always insightful and his writings on gurbani a pleasure to read. I would invite him - and others on this discussion - to join us on The Talking Stick Colloquium every week and share his knowledge with us. Incidentally, the bani being discussed now on the Talking Stick is Kirtan Sohila.

5: Inder Asnani (Bhilwara, India), September 30, 2010, 12:59 PM.

I am enriched to learn the real reality``. Thanks to Guru Nanak ... every time, every day, every moment!

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