The veteran actor Balraj Sahni, who taught in Santiniketan in the late 1930’s, once asked Rabindra Nath Tagore, “You have written the national anthem for India. Why not write an international anthem for the whole world?”
It has already been written, not only for the world but for the entire universe. It
was written in the 16th century by Guru Nanak,” replied Tagore. He was referring to the Sikh Arti (the ceremony of light). Gurudev Tagore was so enamoured of this Arti that he had personally translated it into Bengali.
Every evening, after the recitation of Rehraas Sahib, the melodious rendition of this Arti, sung by the Raagis in Raga Dhanashri, can be heard in Gurudwaras. Listening to the Arti is a tremendously soothing experience, capable of taking one directly into the spiritual realms of devotion through music. It has been aptly mentioned by Guru Arjan Devji in the Sri Guru Granth Sahibji: “Arti kirtan sada anand”, which translates as “Singing God’s praises is His Arti, and this brings boundless bliss”.
As legend has it, it was during Guru Nanak Devji’s visit to the Jagannath Temple at
Anil Dhir Puri in 1506 CE that this Arti was composed. The temple priests conducted an elaborate Arti every evening. They brought a big platter on which were many lighted lamps, and the accompanying paraphernalia of flowers, incense, ornaments, pearls etc. and began the Arti. This was accompanied with the beating of drums and cymbals, the ringing of the bells and chants from the scriptures. Guru Nanak was a saint of the Bhakti Cult and its exponents had the goal of uniting the human race through true devotion to God and emphasised the oneness of God. He, along with the other exponents of the Bhakti Cult like Ramananda, Kabir, Chaitanya, Namdev, Tukaram and Ramdas had all originally believed the formless worship of the Lord. But the symbolic image of Lord Jagannath was neither of any “Akar” nor was it “Nirakar”. The perplexed Nanak seeing this “Kimkar” (of which form?) image, was simply astonished and was overwhelmed with deep reverence. He understood the universalism of Jagannath and started the ‘Namakirtan’ of the Lord in his own way. Basically, Nanak believed in the formless worship of ‘Nirakar’- Brahma and his motto was ‘Ek Onkar Satnam’. It means that he believed in ‘Onkar ’ or ‘Pranava Brahma’ which has no form and stressed on the ‘Satnam’ or the true Namakirtan of the Lord.
While at the Jagannath Temple, Guru Nanak observed that the priests were attaching more importance to the rituals rather then to the true faith of the Lord. He noticed that most of the devotees were joining the ritual not with their hearts; at best they were enjoying the spectacle of it. But, after seeing Jagannath for the first time, and the elaborate Arti, Guru Nanak Dev Jicould not reject him on the ground that he was incompatible with his own Bhakti philosophy. All the gathered devotees stood up and gazed at the Lord with great devotion, like they do even today. But Nanak was so charged with ecstasy that he could not mark these reactions of the people. He was filled with great pleasure, was transfixed, and thus remained seated. So overwhelmed was he, that tears rolled down his eyes.
A section of the orthodox priests marked this indifference of Guru Sahib and took it as disrespect to Lord Jagannath. After the Arti was over, they confronted him and asked him why he had not stood up during the Arti. They cast aspirations on his being a holy man and said that mere rosaries and a monastic garb don’t make a monk. Guru Nanak Sahib stood there as a silent spectator, as if
nothing had happened. However the priests persisted that he explains his conduct and then Guru Sahib spoke:
“Dear brothers ! Does our Jagannath exist only here and in this wooden image? Is he not dazzling in the aura of his own greatness, inside all creation? Cannot his Mahima be felt and experienced without the accompanying rituals? “
Guru Nanak Dev ji had by that time understood the real potentialities of Lord Jagannath. He had seen the touch of universalism and Vedic symbolism manifest in the wonderful image of Lord Jagannath. While uttering these words, Guru Nanak Dev ji became highly emotional and looking at the Lord, he started to sing a few stanzas from a Sikh composition. He spontaneously composed a Maha Arti wherein he said that when the Lord is Omnipresent and Omnipotent, how I can worship him with a small set of lamps and incense. He ought to be worshipped as grandly as his grandeur deserves. Guru Nanak Dev ji sang an Arti in his melodious voice, describing how the entire sky is the platter on which the sun and moon are lamps for worship. The stars and the planets are the gems and pearls, the mythical Mount Meru, covered with sandalwood trees is the incense and the wind blowing from all directions is the grand fan for the beloved.
Gagan mein thaal rav chand dipak bane, tarika mandal janak moti,
dhoop malyanlo pavan chavro
kare saal banray phulant joti, kaisi arti hoye
bhav khandna teri arti. Anhata Shabad Vajanta bheree
The sky is the puja thaal (platter used for the artis), in which the sun and the moon are the diyas (lamps) The stars and planets in the
constellations are your jewels
The wind, laden with sandal-wood fragrance, is the celestial fans
All the flowering fields, forests are radiance! O! What a wonderful Arti, this is!
You, are a destroyer of Fear,
The sound of Your Name, which is so subtle, that It goes unheard,
The priests and pilgrims had collected around Guru Nanak and they were thrilled to hear him sing such praises to the Lord. Nanak’s Arti conveyed that Natures tribute to the Creator was superior to any ritualistic oblation offered before images. His melody reverberated around the whole Temple and touched the hearts of one and all. The priests realised that they had an enlightened soul visiting them.
Guru Nanak then further described Jagannath in his exalted verse:
Sahas Tav Nain na na
Nain hai Tohey kau
Sahas moorat Nana Ik Tohee
Sahas Pad Bimal Na na
Ik Pad Gandh bin
Sahas Tav Gandh Iv
Sabh Mah Jot Jot Hai Sohee
Tis Dat Chaanan Sabh Mah Chaanan Hoi Gur Sakhi Jot Pragat Hoi
Har Charan Kamal Makrand Lobhit Mano Ana Din Mohey Aayey Pyaasa Kirpaa Jal Dey Nanak Sarang Kau Hoi Jaatey Terey nai Vaasa
Jo Tis Bhaavey So Aarti Hoi
You have a thousand eyes, forms, feet, noses… And you have none…
I am charmed !
Your Light enlightens all !
It is by the Grace of the Guru that the real Light (Knowledge) Manifests.
What pleases the Almighty is this Aarti (Creation) I yearn for Your Lotus feet, Night and day, Nanak is like the thirsty bird that asks,
For a drop of water, From You O Lord !
That drop (Grace) will make Nanak find comfort, In the uttering of Your Name.
This original Arti was composed by Guru Nanak himself though later four more stanzas were added. However the depth of thought that is conveyed in these few words makes it one of the best compositions of Godhead and nature.
In describing Jagannath’s form, Nanak describedHimsayingthat youhavenoeyes,but I can feel your penetrating gaze, you have no hands, but I can feel the all encompassing embrace of your love, you have no nose but I can feel the warmth of your breath, you have no ears but I know that you can hear my yearnings, you have no feet but I dream of spending my days worshiping these lotus feet.
The Aarti was further appended by the versesof Bhagat Ravi Das Ji who incidentally ,was a cobbler by profession. He too was a mystic Bhakti Saint whose writings have been included in the Sikh Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib. The following lines were added to the Arti from his works:
Naam Tero Aarti Majan Muraarey
Har Kay Naam Bina Joothey Sagal Pasaarey Naam Tero Aasno Naam Tero Ursaa Naam Tero Kesro Lay Chhitkaarey Naam Tera Ambhula Naam Tero Chandno Ghas Japey Naam Lay Tujahee Kau Chaarey Naam Tera Deeva Naam Tera Baatee Naam Tero Tel Lai , Maahee Pasaarey Naam Terey Kee Jyot Lagaayee Bhaiyaa Ujiyaaro Bhavan Saglaarey Naam Teraa Taagaa Naam Phul Maalaa Bhaar Athaarah Sagala Joothaarey Tero Keeyaa Tujhahee kyaa arpau Naam Tera Tuhee Chavar Dhulaarey Das Atha Atha Sathey Chaarey Khaanee Ehay Vartan Hai Sagal Sansaare Kahay Ravdaas Naam Tero Aartee
Sat Naam Har Bhog Tuhaarey
O Lord, Your name is the Aarti,
Your name is the Flower, the saffron, and the sandalwood That is offered to You.
Your Name is the (Deeya)
The Lamp, the oil and the cotton
That is lighted in it.
With the Light that Your Name gives out, The whole world is brightened.
Your Name is the Thread and Your Name is also The Flowers that are strung into that thread. All that I offer to You is Yours.
Your Name is the flywhisk, that you use, The (Chant of Your) True Name,
We offer to You,
All is false except Your Name !
The glory of the Arti was further enriched with the addition of the verses of Sant Sain, who too was a mystic saint of humble origins. He was a barber in the court of Raja Ram, the King of Rewa.
WhatisthebestArti orformofadoration of the Lord is the theme of Sain’s verses incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib. According to Sain singing of God’s praise and meditating constitute the highest worship.
Dhoop Deep Dhrit Saaj Aartee Vaarney Jaau Kamlapati Mangalaa Har Mangalaa
Nit Mangal Raaja Raam Raaiko Uttam Deeyaraa Nirmal Baatee Toohee Niranjana Kamlaapati Raam Bhagat Raamaananda Jaaney Pooran Paramaananda Bakhaaney Madana Moorata Bhay Taarey Govindey Sain Bhanay Bhaj Paramaananda
The Aarti is adorned by the lighted lamp And the fragrance of the incense.
All is Auspicious.
Thou art the Supreme and Pure Light. Thou art the Lord of the Goddess of Wealth. My obeisance to Thee.
And to the Lord Rama, Beautiful Govinda, Who is described as Replete Pure Bliss !
Sain prays to Thee, Who obliterates all Fear.
Aarti was further illuminated by incorporating the words of Sant Kabir, the greatest of the proponents of the Bhakti Cult. Needless to say, Sant Kabir was a humble Muslim weaver, who like Guru Nanak took the lonely road and travelled far and wide
spreading his simple and humble words of humaneness and compassion.
Sun Sandhyaa Teree Dev Devaakar AdhPati Aadee Samaayee
Sidh Samaadhee Anta Naheen Paayaa Laagee Rahey Sarnaayee
Leho Aartee Ho Purakh Niranjan Satguru Poojo Bhaai
Thaada Brahmaa Nigam Bichaarey Alakh Na Lakhiyaa Jaayee
Tat Tel Naam Keeyaa Baatee Deepak Deh Ujiyaaraa
Jyot Laayee Jagadeesha Jagaaiyaa Boojhey Boojhana Haaraa Panchey Sabada Anaahada Baajey Sangey Saaringa Paanee Kabeer Daas Teree Aartee Keenee Nirankaar Nirbaanee
The Greatest of Yogis have not been able to comprehend You,
Those who worship the unmanifest,
Fail to realise You.
Even though they have persevered in their quest. Your Name resounds unheard (By the worldly) And only He can hear (On who Your Grace descends) Pray to Your Satguru! Almighty Lord! Accept the Aarti, with the oil lit with the Chant of Your Name, By You, the Lord of the Universe! Kabirdas performs the Aarti of the ‘Beyond
Description’ and the ‘Without Form’
Bhagat Dhanna was a simple Jat farmer from Rajasthan from whose works the following lines were added to the Arti.
Gopaal Teraa Aartaa
Jo Jan Teree Bhagat Karantey Tin Key Kaaj Sanvaartaa Dal Seedhaa Maangau Ghee Hamraa Khusee Karey Nit Jee Pania Chaadan Neekaa Anaaj Maangau
Gau Bhais Maangau Laaveree Ik Taajana Turee Changeree Ghar Kee Geehanee Changee Jan Dhanaa Levey Mangee Gopaal Tera Aartaa
Hey Dayaal Teraa Aartaa
O Gopaala, (Accept) your Aarti!
You grant the wishes of those who worship You!
I ask for my basic sustenance (food, oil, lentils, good quality grains)
Which makes me feel fulfilled.
I also pray for a good wife, good clothes, good grain, a horse, a cow…
The final touches to this great composition were given by none other than the tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji,
Yaa Tey Prasann
Bhayey Hain Mahaa Muni
Devan Key Tap Mein Sukh Paavey
Jag Karey Ik Ved Rarey
Bhav Taap Harey
Mili Dhyaan Hi Laavey
Jhaalar Taal Mrudanga Upanga
Sur Saaj milaavey
Kinnar Gandharva Gaana Karey
Gani Jachha Upachhara Nirata Dikhaavey Sankhana kee Dhunee Ghantan kee Kari Phoolan Kee Barkhaa Barsaavey
Aartee Kot Karey Sur Sunder
Pekh Purandar Key Bali Jaavey Daanatee Dachhan Dey Key Pradachhan Bhaal Mein Kum Kum Achhan Laavey
Hot Kulaahal DevPuree mil Devan KeyKuli Mangal Gaavey
Aisey Chand Partaap Tey Devan Badhyo Prataap Teen Lok Jai Jai Karey Rarei Naam Sat Jaap Sagal Dwaar Ko Chaad Key Gahyo Tumhaaro Dwaar Baanh Gahey Kee Laaj Rakh Govind Daas Tuhaar Aagya Bhayee Akaal Kee Tabhee Chalaayo Panth Sabh Sikhan Ko Hukum Hai Guru Maaniyo Granth Guru Granth Jee Maaniyo Pragat Guraa Kee Deh Jaa Kaa Hirdaa Shudh hai Khoj Shabad Mei Leih Vaanee Guru Guru Hai Baanee Vich Baanee Amrit saarey
Gurbaanee Kahey Sevak Jan Maaney Partakh Guru Nistaarey
The Lord is pleased by the penance, prayers, rituals recitation of the Scriptures, Meditation, music, dance of the Celestial Beings, adorned with vermilion, various musical instruments, Ringing of bells and the showering of flowers, and the tune of the Aarti . The cosmic worlds rejoice and chant the Divine Name.
I have come to Your door-step O Lord, having left the world behind, Protect me, I am in Your service. Because of the Lord’s command, this order (Sikhism) Came into being.
The Sikhs are urged to believe that the Granth is the Guru manifest, Whoever is pure in heart, will find the answers within the words of the Guru Granth Sahib. Its words are the Guru, and the Guru is in the Guru Granth’s Utterings,
And within the words is the nectar (Of knowledge) And the words urge disciples to believe in the Guru
Thusthe completeArtithatissungtoday has in reality been composed by two Gurus, a cobbler, a barber, a weaver and a farmer, all from humblestock.Thisis proof enough thatSikhism believes in the equality of all humankind. The Guru Granth is an ecstatic pouring of a Spiritual Heart.
In this Arti, Guru Nanak described what he saw and experienced, yet even to him it was a very difficult task, because when it came to describing the Lord, words failed him.
Awal Allah noor upaya Kudrat ke sab bandey Ek noor te sab jag upjaya Kaun bhale ko mande.
‘First of all, God created light;
Mother Nature created all human beings equal; from that one Light the entire world came into being; so how do we differentiate that one is better than the other ?’
I find it rather sad and intriguing that connection of Guru Nanakji and the Guru Granth Sahib in particular and Sikhism in general with the Jagannath Temple is little known. Nanak did visit many of the holy spots during his first Udasi, but the impact that Jagannath had on him and his belief is reflected in the Guru Granth Sahib and his later writings and preaching.
Another little known and important fact that has remained unsung is the influence of Jayadeva’s work the “Geet Govinda” in the Guru Granth Sahibji. Two hymns composed by Jayadeva have been incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahibji. It is evident that these hymns found their way to the Sikh religion due to the profound influence that Jayadeva had on Guru Nanak during the latter’s visit to Puri.
The Bauli Mutt and the Mangu Mutt at Puri both have the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and the relevance to the Guru’s visit is recorded. While on his deathbed in 1839 Maharaja Ranjit Singh willed the Kohinoor to the Jagannath Temple. Bhai Himmat Singh from Puri was one of the five disciples popularly known as ‘Panch Pyare’. Odisha has seen the thriving of different religions in all their forms from ancient to modern times. Hinduism, with its various aspects like Saivism, Saktism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam have all thrived and gained relevance in the State. Good research will definitely bring into notice the relevance of Puri and Lord Jagannath in the Sikh history and religion.