Asa-Di-Vaar – the Baba Sheikh Farid connection


Selected from a Katha by Sant Baba Hardev Singh Lulowale
Kenya Tour, 11-18 June 2006

Asa-Di-Vaar – means “A ballad of hope”; it is one of the basic sacred compositions for the Sikhs and is sung every morning in congregation in Gurduwaras. The Vaar is an heroic ode which describes the brave deeds of a hero. It is generally sung to inspire armies going to battle or to inspire people with martial spirit. Asa-Di-Vaar is normally sung in the Assa raga. It consists of 24 stanzas (Pauris) and 44 Staves (Salokas) and was originated by Guru Nanak later, Guru Angad added another 15 staves of his own. In congregation, the musicians sing this var along with Chhants (quatrains) of Guru Ramdas. The stanzas express the ideas in general, while the staves clarify them by example and detail. Social and religious issues are then related, to ordinary life.

Asa-Di-Vaar does not tell a story, its theme is: “How to become a spiritual person”. In it, Guru Nanak also warns us against the rituals and tricks of priests and monks (and of course, not leaving out the self-professed holy men of today). The most important thing is how to build up one’s character and how to remove the obstacles that lay in the path of a disciple, the most important of which is the ego, selfishness or conceit. Even holy persons, who are outwardly very good and kind, often suffer from religious pride. Sometimes so-called religious people, commit heinous crimes through self-righteousness and bigotry. It should be remembered that ego in its pure essence is self-awareness or identity which when regulated is an essential, for it is the basis of one’s character or moral nature. When regulated by right motivation and active service, it is positive and beneficial. But if uncontrolled through self pride of position or riches, it becomes selfish and mean. The effects of the Ego are particularly contemptible and disastrous when disguised by the apparent holiness or tradition, which exploits ordinary people’s ignorance and credulity. The practice of humility and love are the most effective qualities for keeping people away from sin, far better than all recitations and rituals of religion.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, as it is also with the other contributing Gurus, whose Divine Hymns fill Guru Granth Sahib Ji, revealed and recorded Gurbani according to the incidents that took place around them, according to the question raised, and according to the message that was of need. Thus, the Guru never rarely revealed Gurbani in one place. Guru Nanak Dev Ji composed the first nine Sloks in Multan (in today’s Pakistan) at the grave of Baba Sheikh Farid. Every year, there are huge religious melas in the town where Sheikh Farid’s grave is. Once, when Guru Nanak Dev Ji was in Sultanpur, Bhai Mardana made a benti to GuruJi to take him to the mela. GuruJi said, ‘O Mardana, prepare for a journey, and if you accompany me, I’ll show you more melas in the world than just the one at Multan. There is a Gurudwara there today, about half a mile from the grave of Sheikh Farid, where Guru Nanak Dev Ji sat with Bhai Mardana.

At the point of the grave, which is at a vantage point, one can clearly see the mela beneath that point. GuruJi and Mardana spent the night at the grave and at Amritvela, Bhai Mardana [because he was from the Islam faith] beseeched the Guru, ‘O Satguru! If you do not intend to witness the mela, please allow me to offer my respects. GuruJi lovingly said, ‘Mardaneya, tu kirtan kar. Rabaab khol.’ GuruJi continued, ‘Let’s sing the Praises of the Lord, and wait and witness the mela and pirs come right to where we are.’ It’s a point to note that if the strings of the Rabaab of Guru Nanak Dev Ji ever struck, it was at the grave of Baba Sheikh Farid. Though Guru Nanak Dev Ji began reciting and revealing Bani at the age of 6, the first time GuruJi and Bhai Mardana performed Kirtan was right there – at the grave of Sheikh Farid.

Imagine the bliss of the divine tunes stringing from Bhai Mardana’s Rabaab with Guru Nanak Dev Ji himself singing Gurbani. That is the time Guru Nanak Dev Ji penned the first Slok which is recorded in Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

aapae pattee kalam aap oupar laekh bhI thoo(n)
You Yourself are the writing tablet, and You Yourself are the pen. You are also what is written on it.

eaeko keheeai naanakaa dhoojaa kaahae koo
Speak of the One Lord, O Nanak; how could there be any other?

– Guru Nanak Dev Ji, SGGS 1291

This is where Guru Nanak Dev Ji sung those Divine Words – at the grave of Sheikh Farid. When the Divine Kirtan echoed all around during the Ambrosial hours, it is said that the air turned calm. According to the Janam Sakhis, even birds began listening to the Divine Music.

At that time, Sheikh Farid’s grandson, Sheikh Ibrahim, was one of the spiritual leaders present aat the mela at that time. And it is from Sheikh Ibrahim that Guru Nanak Dev Ji sourced the writings of Baba Sheikh Farid which are today preserved in the contents of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Some of the fakirs from the mela who were wandering outside, the sounds of Guru Nanak’s kirtan filled their ears through the early morning fog. The fakirs were irked as the singing of kirtan is not permitted when the Muslims are in prayer – an injuction of Hazrat Mohammad Sahib – which is why Muslims perform their namaaz in silence.

When the fakirs reached the point where Guru Nanak Dev Ji was seated with Bhai Mardana, entraptured in singing of Divine Kirtan, they could do little to complain owing to the biting cold temperatures. The warmth of the rising light of Divine Bliss prompted the Muslim fakirs to listen to the hymns of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. But when they heard one of the Sloks being sung by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, they were disturbed as it contradicted what they believed. They left forthwith to complain to their Pir and lamented that that particular mela would be in vain as a kafir atop had dared sing Kirtan at a time when they was to be none of it. But a fact os note is that besides their complaint, they Muslim fakirs also presented their positive feelings and what was worthy of praise. They remarked that a Hindu kafir was singing Kirtan in the company of a Muslim rabaabi, and said to their Pir, ‘Though he (Nanak) was singing hymns in direct challenge to our beliefs, but our ears thirsted to hear to what he was singing, and we wished to remain seated there!’

They continued to praise what they witnessed, ‘His being was engulfed in bliss and what he was singing was sweet.’ On hearing the fakirs, Sheikh Ibrahim arose and headed for where Guru Nanak Dev Ji was reported to have been seated singing Kirtan. As Sheikh Ibrahim trekked to the point, the entire mela followed behind him. Upon getting to the point where Guru Nanak Dev Ji was, everyone sat down. The wiser ones bowed their heads down in reverence while the grumbling exhibited their contempt. This is the point in history where Asa-Di-Vaar begun to be composed – at the grave of Baba Sheikh Farid. As the questions were posed, Guru Nanak Dev Ji answered in hymns of the Divine, which now form the first 9 Sloks of Asa-D-Vaar.




  1. Davinderpal Singh said,

    June 14, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.


    Exclent work paji i have a request if possible please post the rest of the katha diwans by Sant ji so that people like me who weren’t blessed enough to be there can benefit from it.

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

  2. lakhvir said,

    June 14, 2006 at 9:41 am

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    Thank you to you, veer, for allowing me to use your mp3 recorder so that I could archive SantJi’s precious bachans and listen to them over and over again so that a moorakh like myself can try and understand even an iota of the Guru’s Word.

    All the Diwans will be transcripted and posted on this blog, so not to worry if you couldn’t make it. I can imagine the pain of sepration for a GurSikh like yourself who loves to hear the Kirtan of the Lord’s Praises, but held back as of time because of your exams. May Guru Sahib bless you with success in all that you endeavour in.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

  3. Harkirat Kaur said,

    June 14, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Fateh Paji,

    Finally got a chance to visit the blog.

    Dhan Guru Naanak. Just remembered this phrase from Asa-di-Vaar:

    Salaam Jawaab Dove Kare – Mundho Kutha Jaae….

    Always makes me think what a hypocrite I am…on one hand I bow to HIM, on the other I question HIS actions…

    Thanks for the viakhya and extra knowledge, will keep checking for the articles on all Bhai Sahibs divans as might not be able to attend them.

    Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  4. July 6, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Dear Lakhvir Singh

    Congratulations on such a beautiful forum !
    Really Impressed !

    I have one lttle question if you can help

    YOU wrote :
    Though Guru Nanak Dev Ji began reciting and revealing Bani at the age of 6, the first time GuruJi and Bhai Mardana performed Kirtan was right there – at the grave of Sheikh Farid

    Can you tell me what Bani did Guru Ji revealed at age of 6

    I am still reading topics here so will give your more feedback about this beautiful forum you made with the grace of AKAL

    My best wishes are with you

    Jatinder Singh

  5. lakhvir said,

    July 6, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    Jatinder Singh Ji,

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    Thank you for your kind humbling words and hope that we can all share our Sikhi to enable us to develop our love for our Guru which is what will help make us more attuned to Akaal Purakh. About which Bani Guru Nanak Dev Ji revealed at the age of 6, I have to do some research on that and hope that we may be able to get some deeper insights.

    Do keep a regular visit to the blog and hope that you may find it useful. Do add the ‘Inner Journey’ link to your website, if possible, so that this blog can reach as many Sikhs as possible.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

  6. July 7, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    Dear Lakhvir Singh

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

    About First Guru Ji Guru Nanak Dev Ji , I dont have any information regarding the Bani in question but is important point because some scholars do believ that guru ji started his mission after he emerged from Vehi after missing for 3 days . So if we can relate the bani with Guru JI at age of 6 then we can conclude that Guru Ji was on mission since birth and so is their Divinity which I also personally believe .

    About your website I have already sent request to the Administrator or . So i will get back to you soon.

    Sure;y I will be visiting this forum regularly 🙂

    Always be in Chardi Kala

    Jatinder Singh

  7. lakhvir said,

    July 7, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Jatinder Singh Ji,

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    From the janamsakhis’ closer study of the pattern of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s compositions, it is evident that GuruJi was on a Divine Mission right from the moment of birth, and not necessarily from the point GuruJi returned from his 3-day absence. Scholars have misunderstood the very person of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and that is why they will remain scholars, for they only dig on the surface and fail to penetrate into the spiritual aspects of the Gurus’ lives.

    We know that Guru Nanak was heralded as Nirankar by Bebe Nanaki Ji, Pandit Hardial Ji and by the midwife, the moment Nanak was born. GuruJi embarked on a Divine Mission (Udasian) after his emergence from the river after 3 days. He had been proved to have the Divine Wisdom right from childhood – like the instances of the janeu, the pandit who could not teach him any more than Nanak already knew and the doctor who failed to give him the medicine that Nanak asked for. If we study closely the events that took place in GuruJi’s life and attach them to the Bani we read today, then we will able to know where and how GuruJi revealed the Divine Shabads.

    This of course, is a life-long study and for a Sikh, we only discover newer and newer gems from Gurbani and from stories of the lives of the Gurus as per our sincere longings.

    So in my humble understanding, while a mahapursh like Lord Buddha, for example, found enlightenment in life, Guru Nanak was born enlightened. He was here for a mission and his life stands proof of that mission.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

  8. July 8, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    Dear Lakhvir Singh Ji,

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh

    I agree with you that in modern day , there has been lot of emphasis on logic and reasoning even dealing your Guru Ji and offcourse one losses a lot in this way but as everything is in will of Akal Purakh so there should be nothing for us to worry but still finding out as much historic / scientific evidense is benificial for people who start on the flight of Gurmat .

    About janamsakhis you are very right that they talk about devine nature of guru even from the first breath of his life when guruji smiled contrary to cry and anguish of coming to the world but again the problem with scholares id that they dont usually believe these supporting historical documents and at the best dispose them as metaphors .

    This was the reason I was more interested in gurbani ,any way nothing to worry if Akal willed then we will find a answer as always .

    About Link of your website : Administrator has included your link on main page in under our Partners heading and he he realy liked your blog and also requested reciprocal link of his site on your blog .I will also put a post in the forum for attention of active members.

    Take care
    Always be in Chardikala!

    Jatinder Singh

  9. June 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Bhai Sahib ji
    It was very interesting to learn about the historical event giving details of the history of Asa Di Var.
    I will appreciate if you could clarify one point as to why at Darbar Sahib Amritsar Asa Di Var is sung in two parts. This morning 16 Chhants were Sung by the Hazuri Ragi Sahiban before the arrival of Guru Maharaj’s Palaki and remaining 8 after the Hukamnama.
    And is this 16:8 ratio is maintained every day or it can be changed. Any history about this?

  10. Gurmesh Singh Sidhu said,

    August 29, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Deal all,

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    I am very curious about one thing. If Salok Sheikh Fareed Ji Ke, normally it is always being mentioned ‘Fareed’ in his tokh to signify that it is his salok/tokh. But my question is, why is ‘Nanak’ mentioned 5 times throughout Sheikh Fareed Ji’s Bani?

    Here are the tokh that mentions ‘Nanak’ instead of ‘Fareeda’ which is the normal case. Why is there ‘Nanak’ being mentioned instead of ‘Fareed’?

    O Nanak, she is the happy soul-bride, who is pleasing to her Carefree Lord. ||32||
    O Nanak, those humble beings are beautiful, who are imbued with the Lord’s Love. ||52||
    O Nanak, even sitting in your own home, you can meet the Lord, if your mind is in the right place. ||104||
    O Nanak, the Unseen Lord cannot be seen; He is revealed only to the Gurmukh. ||121||
    If it pleases Him, O Nanak, He changes a crow into a swan. ||124||

    My second question is, we all know Sheikh Fareed Ji only met Guru Nanak Dev Ji on two Occasions but what I am not clear about is whether was it Farid Shakarganj’s verses or Sheikh Bhram’s verses that were incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    Gurmesh Singh

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