This Post is Based on Translation from SikhitotheMax and Information on the Bara Maha from SikhiWiki.
Note: the month of Saawan typically takes place mid-July through mid-August on the Gregorian Calendar.
Words from the Guru
In the month of Saawan, the soul-bride is happy, if she falls in love with the Lotus Feet of the Lord.
Her mind and body are imbued with the Love of the True One; His Name is her only Support.
The pleasures of corruption are false. All that is seen shall turn to ashes.
The drops of the Lord’s Nectar are so beautiful! Meeting the Holy Saint, we drink these in.
The forests and the meadows are rejuvenated and refreshed with the Love of God, the All-powerful, Infinite Primal Being.
My mind yearns to meet the Lord. If only He would show His Mercy, and unite me with Himself!
Those brides who have obtained God-I am forever a sacrifice to them.
O Nanak, when the Dear Lord shows kindness, He adorns His bride with the Word of His Shabad.
Saawan is delightful for those happy soul-brides whose hearts are adorned with the Necklace of the Lord’s Name. || 6 ||
– Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 134)
In Saawan, be happy, O my mind. The rainy season has come, and the clouds have burst into showers.
My mind and body are pleased by my Lord, but my Beloved has gone away.
My Beloved has not come home, and I am dying of the sorrow of separation. The lightning flashes, and I am scared.
My bed is lonely, and I am suffering in agony. I am dying in pain, O my mother!
Tell me – without the Lord, how can I sleep, or feel hungry? My clothes give no comfort to my body.
O Nanak, she alone is a happy soul-bride, who merges in the Being of her Beloved Husband Lord. || 9 ||
– Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 1108)
Listen to the Month of Saawan 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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