ਹਲੇ ਯਾਰਾਂ ਹਲੇ ਯਾਰਾਂ ਖੁਸਿਖਬਰੀ ॥
hale yārāṁ hale yārāṁ khusikhabarī.
O friends, O friends, any good news?
ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਂਉ ਹਉ ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਂਉ ॥
bali bali jāṁu haü bali bali jāṁu.
I am a sacrifice; I adore.
ਨੀਕੀ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਿਗਾਰੀ ਆਲੇ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
nīkī terī bigārī āle terā nāu.1. rahāu.
Labor to you is beauty; Divine is your Nam.1. Pause-Reflect.
نیکی تری بیگاری علی ترا نام
ਕੁਜਾ ਆਮਦ ਕੁਜਾ ਰਫਤੀ ਕੁਜਾ ਮੇ ਰਵੀ ॥
kujā āmad kujā raphatī kujā me ravī.
Where did you come from? Where did you go? And where are you going?
کجا امد کجا رفتی کجا می روی
ਦ੍ਵਾਰਿਕਾ ਨਗਰੀ ਰਾਸਿ ਬੁਗੋਈ ॥੧॥
dvārikā nagarī rāsi bugoī.1.
Tell me the truth, in the city of Dvarka.1.
دوارکا نگری راست بگویی
ਖੂਬੁ ਤੇਰੀ ਪਗਰੀ ਮੀਠੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਬੋਲ ॥
khūbu terī pagarī mīṭhe tere bol.
Your turban is so nice, your speech so sweet.
ਦ੍ਵਾਰਿਕਾ ਨਗਰੀ ਕਾਹੇ ਕੇ ਮਗੋਲ ॥੨॥
dvārikā nagarī kāhe ke magol.2.
Why are there Mongols in the city of Dvarka?2.
ਚੰਦੀਂ ਹਜਾਰ ਆਲਮ ਏਕਲ ਖਾਨਾਂ ॥
candīṁ hajār ālam ekal khānāṁ.
So many thousands of worlds, just one Creator.
چندان هزار عالم ایکل خنان
ਹਮ ਚਿਨੀ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ ਸਾਂਵਲੇ ਬਰਨਾਂ ॥੩॥
ham cinī pātisāh sāṁvale barnāṁ.3.
You are also my King, like the dark-skinned Krishna.3.
ਅਸਪਤਿ ਗਜਪਤਿ ਨਰਹ ਨਰਿੰਦ ॥
aspati gajpati narah narind.
You are Aspati, Ganesh, Indra, and Brahma.
ਨਾਮੇ ਕੇ ਸ੍ਵਾਮੀ ਮੀਰ ਮੁਕੰਦ ॥੪॥੨॥੩॥
nāme ke svāmī mīr mukand.4.2.3.
You are the Master of Namdev, liberator of all.4.2.3.
- Bhagat Namdev in Rag Tilang | Guru Granth Sahib 727
Reflections on this Transcreation
Persian-based Sabad is challenging to read and understand for both native Panjabi speakers and native Persian speakers. Panjabi grammar is imported into Persian and vice versa, creating new deviations of standard word spellings. The language of Gurbani takes influence from the languages of South Asia at the time (Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Braj, and many more) in which the bani was revealed, but often defies the rules of language and poetry to create new meaning. The language of Gurbani stands alone; therefore, the following commentary was written to help guide readers through the meaning of this Sabad and enrich understanding.
This Sabad (Divine Word) revealed by Bhagat Namdev paints an image of simultaneous dialogue, both with the Creator and the fellow creation. He begins by saying hello friends, hello friends, do you have any good news (خوش خبری , khusikhabarī)?
The dialogue then promptly shifts to the relationship between the humble devotee and the Divine. Using repeating words for emphasis, Bhagat Namdev declares himself a sacrifice to the Creator. Commitment to the Divine is not easy; it is difficult labor ( بیگاری , bigārī), but someone living in alignment with IkOankar (1-Ness) experiences this relentless labor as beauty (نیکی , nīkī) and feels unwavering greatness in Nam.
To capture the essence of this statement, one must take notice of the full meaning of Nam. The word Nam indeed comes from the common Indo-European word for name, but Nam holds more than “name” in its meaning. We all have names as signifiers and means of identification, as a way to command and direct attention towards ourselves and others. A name provides an anchor by which we orient our interactions. So when it comes to the Nam of IkOankar (1-Ness), of the ultimate Being, Nam becomes the ultimate signifier. It is the anchor by which we can orient every single interaction, no matter who or what we are engaging with, for there is nothing that exists outside of Nam’s structure. To live in Nam’s orientation becomes an experience that guides all interaction with 1-Ness, chosen, and done with intention. Nam describes the act of re-anchoring ourselves in the vastness and existing beyond our ego’s confines.
Bhagat Namdev then asks a series of questions in fluent Persian speech: From where did you come? Where did you go? Where are you going? These questions may be interpreted as questions posed to IkOankar (1-Ness), which complicates the answers, for IkOankar is the only being with no beginning or end. Therefore the origin and destination of the Ultimate Being are one and the same. However, these questions flow directly into a concern over a worldly matter. Bhagat Namdev requests, again in fluent Persian speech: Tell me the truth about the city of Dwarka. His concerns are woven continuously with his ever-present experience of beauty; whether this beauty is that of the individuals surrounding him or the beauty of how he pictures the Divine is irrelevant. In the Sikh paradigm, experiencing the beauty of any one element is the same as experiencing the beauty of 1-Ness. There is no separation between Creator and creation.
Bhagat Namdev then declares: Your turban is so nice! Your speech is so sweet.
The questions regarding worldly affairs appear once again, with Bhagat Namdev asking: Why are there Mongols in the city of Dwarka? This line often gets mistranslated as “why are there Mughals in the city of Dwarka,” but the Mughal Empire began in the lifetime of Guru Nanak Sahib with Emperor Babar’s overthrow of the Lodi Dynasty in 1526. Meanwhile, Bhagat Namdev lived between 1270 and 1350. The word “Mughal” is a Persianized version of the word “Mongol,” which refers to the Central Asian and Turkic origins found in most Muslim dynasties in South Asia in the overarching era. Within Bhagat Namdev’s lifetime, between 1221 and 1327, Mongol forces launched several invasions into the Indian subcontinent.
None of these invasions reached as far as Dwarka directly. Still, Bhagat Namdev may be referring to a range of attacks by dynasties of Central Asian origin, or the reflections may not be in hindsight at all. Dwarka may stand in as a symbol that if the Mongols were to make it that far, new heights of instability would be reached. We can easily relate to our era of instability and chaotic news streams and see similar examples in our daily conversations with our peers of exaggeration, prediction, and processing future events through the lens of events from the past, and vice versa.
Bhagat Namdev finishes the Sabad by describing how the ultimate vastness, every manifestation in existence, can be found in IkOankar. He begins with a Persian sentence, “So many thousands (چندان هزار, candīṁ hajār) of worlds (عالم, ālam) only one (ایکل) Creator (خنان , khānāṁ).” He then flows directly in the Indic and Hindu context by describing how every attribute is present in the One; therefore, the One has the attributes of any individual deity and more. There is only one Sovereign ( پادشاه, pātisāh) to bow down to, and this power is not limited to the attributes of any single deity; this ruler is the Lord of Horses, Ganesh, Indra, Brahma, everything in between, and everything more. What need is there for idols that divide Divinity into limited pieces when one can be devoted to the ultimate Being?
The Persian Voice of the Guru is an unprecedented effort to elucidate the meaning of the Guru’s word as written in the Persian language in Gurmukhi script. I would like to thank the SikhRI team for their invaluable contributions to making this series possible. Thank you to Harinder Singh for helping transcreate complex hybridized language and to Inni Kaur for reflections on how to convey the true essence of the Sabad. Much gratitude to Surender Pal Singh and Ebrahim Tahassoni for their insights in transcription, making it possible for this text to be read in multiple scripts. And most of all, thank you to Jasleen Kaur, Damanpreet Singh, and Imroze Singh for their unwavering support.