Kirtan Sohela: Ode to My Beloved
Always better the next time! This article, previously published here at SPN, is by Gyani Jarnail Singh Arshi. It was recently published in Sikh Chic.
sikhchic.com | The Art and Culture of the Diaspora | Kirtan Sohela: Ode to My Beloved
The bani known as Sohela - more commonly referred to as the Kirtan Sohela - is the final nitnem bani recited at the end of each day.
It is also the bani that is recited at the final rites of a Sikh as the body is consigned to cremation.
Hence, it is also the last bani recited by each Sikh at bedtime everynight to mark the end of each day ... reflective of the ultimate, final "end".
When a Punjabi bride is about to wed her pritam, her beloved groom - her future life-partner - there is a celebration known as "maaiyaan". On this occasion, the bride is 'entertained' by her friends and relatives who sing songs that are sad and yet happy ... sad because she is about to leave her parents, brothers and sisters behind; happy because she is about to join her beloved husband, the future of her life.
In a way, this ceremony prepares the young bride for the unseen future. Normally, the young girl would be in fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead, of what the future hold for her ... a new life-partner, new 'parents', new friends and relatives.She is worried about her ability to cope with the sea of changes.
The maaiyaan songs are designed to put her unease to rest, to pacify her wildly-beating heart, by reminding her that the home with her parents was temporary, that she has been preparing all along to go to her true home one day ... and that day has come! The songs encourage her to be clam and peaceful and prepare her to make the most of the changes that are around the corner, and to enjoy her new life!
This most common of customs in Punjab is what Guru Nanak chose to write his Sohela about ... and just see how masterfully he combines man's fear of death with the joyous celebration of "maaiyaan". Sohela tells us that this earth, this life, is just a temporary place (the bride's parental home ) and all must, like the bride, soon depart for their real and permanent home! ... the home of Waheguru, our Pritam, our Beloved, our Husband, who awaits us. And we must make sure we are made welcome there through our gurmukhta - our piety - just like the new bride is in her in-laws' home, due to her good character, loving nature, friendliness, sweetness of speech, etc.
Just as the bride parts from her childhood home and family, we too will one day part from all that is here on earth when death arrives. Just like the new bride is 'afraid' of the uncertainty that awaits her, of what the future hoilds ... each one of us is also mortified of what awaits us after death!
And in Sohela, Guru Ji tells us exactly what happens after death. We go to our Beloved's House to be their in joy and bliss (if we deserve that and if we have prepared ourselves for that day ...)!
At the time of marriage of a girl, many women of the neighbourhood assemble at night and sing songs related to the marriage. These songs express a theme of separation with her parents and friends. they also contain blessings from them all, that she may live a life of peace and comfort in her husband's house. These songs are called Sohelrrha.
May 23, 2010