This Post is Based on Translation from SikhitotheMax and Information on the Bara Maha from SikhiWiki.
Note: the month of Katak typically takes place mid-October through mid-November on the Gregorian Calendar.
Words from the Guru
In the month of Katak, do good deeds. Do not try to blame anyone else.
Forgetting the Transcendent Lord, all sorts of illnesses are contracted.
Those who turn their backs on the Lord shall be separated from Him and consigned to reincarnation, over and over again.
In an instant, all of Maya’s sensual pleasures turn bitter.
No one can then serve as your intermediary. Unto whom can we turn and cry?
By one’s own actions, nothing can be done; destiny was pre-determined from the very beginning.
By great good fortune, I meet my God, and then all pain of separation departs.
Please protect Nanak, God; O my Lord and Master, please release me from bondage.
In Katak, in the Company of the Holy, all anxiety vanishes. || 9 ||
– Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 135)
In Katak, that alone comes to pass, which is pleasing to the Will of God.
The lamp of intuition burns, lit by the essence of reality.
Love is the oil in the lamp, which unites the soul-bride with her Lord. The bride is delighted, in ecstasy.
One who dies in faults and demerits – her death is not successful. But one who dies in glorious virtue, really truly dies.
Those who are blessed with devotional worship of the Naam, the Name of the Lord, sit in the home of their own inner being. They place their hopes in You.
Nanak: please open the shutters of Your Door, O Lord, and meet me. A single moment is like six months to me. || 12 ||
– Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 1109)
Listen to the Month of Katak in English by Don Cooper (Bara Maha Musical English Translation)
About the Bara Maha
“The twelve months, the seasons, the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes and the seconds are all sublime, when the True Lord comes and meets her with natural ease.
God, my Beloved, has met me, and my affairs are all resolved. The Creator Lord knows all ways and means.”
– Excerpt from Bara Maha by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 1109)
Bara Maha is a form of folk poetry in which the emotions and yearnings of the human heart are expressed in terms of the changing moods of nature over the twelve months of the year. In this form of poetry, the mood of nature in each particular month (of the Indian calendar) depicts the inner agony of the human heart which in most cases is described as a woman separated from her spouse or lover. In other words, the separated woman finds her own agony reflected in the different faces of nature.
The tradition of Bara Maha poetry is traceable to classical epochs. In Sanskrit, the Bara Maha had the form of “shad ritu varnan,” i.e. description of the six seasons (shad = six; ritu = season; varnan = description), the most well known example being Kalidasa’s Ritu Sanhar.
The mode was commonly employed to depict the moods of the love stricken woman in separation, and it became an established vogue in medieval Indian poetry. Modern languages of northern India claim several distinguished models.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Barah Maha in the measure Tukhari is not only the oldest composition belonging to this genre but also the first in which the theme of love poetry has been transformed into that of spiritual import. He made the human soul the protagonist which suffers in the cesspool of transmigration as a result of its separation from the Supreme Soul. This is followed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s Barah Maha.
Guru Nanak’s Bara Maha or “twelve months” composition in Raga Tukhari in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (pages 1107 to 1110,) stands out in Sikh literature for its poetic splendor and philosophical import . . . Herein, time and space universal as well as particular have been richly fused in the person of a young bride ardently searching for her Divine Bridegroom through the cameos of the changing reality of the twelve months.
It is Guru Arjan’s calendar poem in the measure Majh included in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (pages 133 to 136). The bani was composed at the behest of Sikh Sangat when they approached Guru Arjan and requested that Guru Nanak Sahib’s composition mentioned below in Tukhri raag is very difficult for them to understand. The opening verse of the composition presents the binary theme of the poem: the factual situation of the human soul’s separation from the Divine Soul and its quest for union with Him.
Later some Sufi poets such as Ali Haider, Bulleh Shah, Hasham, and Shah Murad also wrote bara mahas.
Listen to the Bara Maha
Bara Maha – Professor Satnam Singh Sethi:
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