Ramkali Ki Vaar (also known as Tikke Di Var or "Coronation Ode"), is the joint composition of the bards Balvand and Satta. In the title given by Guru Arjan Dev Jee in the Guru Granth Sahib, the former is particularized as a Rai, or panegyrist, and the latter as a Dum, or minstrel, both words being interchangeable here. The Vaar comprises eight pauris or stanzas, of unequal length, varying from seven to twenty-one lines with no sloks added.
The talented bards and versifiers from such clans earned their livelihood by singing eulogies of their patrons, landed aristocrats, especially of their heroic deeds performed in combats, feuds, and battles in an exalted, epic style and form. Balvand and Satta, related to each other, however, performed tartan in the time of Guru Arjan who could scarcely pay them a more befitting compliment than immortalizing their names and poetic skill by including their Vaar in the Guru Granth Sahib. As it appears, these bards were in their moment of inspiration taken with the idea of paying homage to the Gurus, conceiving them as kings, kings of the House ofNanak, imaginatively and retrospectively at their installation. They sang a coronation song to commemorate the ceremony, anointing each of the four successors of Guru NANAK as Guruking. Guru Nanak is described as having been installed as Guru Panncshar by Parbrahm Parmeshar. Going by the indications in this composition, the first three stan/aswcrc composed by Balvand, llie next three by Sana and the remaining two were added by them jointly later, though they preferred to remain anonymous. Each of them conceptualizes the House ofNanak as instituted by the Supreme Being Himself. This was entirely a new ministry that had been launched by the Supreme Being. Here, both joli, spiritual light, jugati, method of practical living, had been combined.
The House of Nanak was blessed with the true royalty that depends for its greatness not on mundane glory and power, but on holiness to save and guide humanity. These minstrels have brought out not only the celestial grandeur marking the coronation of the Gurus but have also given expression to one of the fundamental SIKH convictions, namely the identity in spirit of all the Gurus, whose line of descent is not of the flesh but of the Word communicated from one to the other. Also in this Vaar are glimpses of historical value, such as the institution of langar by the Gurus, who won the veneration of men by the purity of their teaching and of their lives. They also initiated traditions which constitute the basis of Sikh corporate living to this day. The bards have described the coronation in the figures of crown and sceptre. Balvand proclaims that Nanak founded the royal dynasty (Ndnaki rdju chaldid); he, then, unfolded the royal canopy over the head ot`Lahina, GuruAngad, (I.ahine dharionu chhatu sin). The canopy is then unfolded over the head of Lahina. Lahina was proclaimed king; he occupied ihc throne, iakhatu; he v/as the sachchd pdlishdh, true king. Satta, similarly speaks of the canopy spread out over the head of Lahina, i.e. Arigad.
Both Satta and Balvand allude to the spiritual and regal dignity of the House of Guru Nanak; Balvand declares that all the Gurus shared the same light and the same path. Satta says they share the same tikkd, mark, the same throne, and the same court. Both Satta and Balvand jointly refer in stanza VIII to Guru Arjan`s coming to the throne. The conception of the spiritual ministry of Nanak was articulated for the first time by these minstrels, and it at once caught at imagination of the Sikh people. BhaT Gurdas spoke of Guru Nanak in almost identical terms. The two bards, for the first time spoke of joti, spirituality, and jugati, ideals of conduct, as combined in the vision of Nanak. This Vaar, for the first time, proclaimed the nature of the law of succession in the House of Nanak. The succession was spiritual and not dynastic. The law lays down that succession is not hereditary. It is the noblest of the disciples who had completely surrendered himself to the Guru and identified himself with his will who would carry the mantle. Balvand opens his first paunor stanza by referring to the justice or decree of the Creator which none can challenge. He alludes to the Guru`s bowing before his disciple to install him as Guru in his own place, transferring his joti, spiritual light to him. Satta refers to the same law of succession as "reversing the flow of the Gariga"implying the departing Guru`s offering obeisance to his own disciplesuccessor making him the repository of the holy Word. In the spiritual sequence both of them refer to Guru Nanak as the grandfather, Arigad as the son of Nanak and Amar Das as the grandson of Nanak.
This Vaar, distinctively again, describes and interprets the ideals and institutions of the Sikh tradition. Balvand declares that Guru Nanak set up the strong fortress of his spirituality solely on the bedrock of truth; Guru Arigad carried forward his teaching wielding his spiritual sword. Sana, again referring to Guru Nanak, says that he churned out the fourteen gems of Divine virtues; referring to Guru Amar Das, he says that he bestrode the steed of poise, had chastity for his saddle, truth for his bow and praise of the Lord for arrow. The Vaar refers to the institution of Langar, community kitchen. Balvand refers to the part played by Mata Khivl, Guru Arigad`s wife, in organizing the langar, and to khir ghidH, rice cooked richly in milk and ghee, freely distributed therein. Satta refers to the new scat at Khadur established by Guru Arigad, for the propagation of the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak. He also refers to the many centres set up by Guru Amar Das throughout the length and breadth of the country for this purpose. Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan have been praised as souls completely identified with the Supreme Being, for they had transcended all human limitations. They were one in spirit Nanak, Arigad and Amar Das, though different in body. Ramkali Di Vaar expounds the Sikh mystical doctrine of spiritual succession through the Sabda (holy Word) and carries intimations of the nascent faith`s social concerns and ideals.
The Rais and Dums, the bard clans, were Muslim by faith. Their descendants, remaining within the Islamic fold, served as minstrels and choristers in Sikh holy places, including the Harimandar at AMRITSAR. Balvand and Satta were Muslim rabdbis at the Guru`s court and their vocabulary contains words current in their own tradition, especially in Sufi circles. Ars.sariir, nur, etc., have a peculiarly Muslim flavour. The texture of the language and inflexions are peculiarly PUNJABI and in themselves have historical importance as evidence of the style current in such poetry in those times. Pregnant phrases and expressions from Ramkalt ki Varhave become current in the Sikh tradition. For instance, sil alum (rock tasteless), in referring to attempt something involving great personal sacrifice; or putri kaulu na pdlio... dili khotai dki phirani, referring to the irreverent attitude of Guru Nanak`s sons to their holy father. The lines in stanza II, hovai sifati khasamm di nuru arasahu kurasahu jhatlai, tudhu dithe sache pdiisdh malu janam janam di katlai, constitute the customary prelude to the opening for recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib. In style, purity of diction and quotability this Varmay be compared with the Vaars of Bhai Gurdas, a contemporary and possibly the spiritual guide of these minstrels.
Ramkali Ki Vaar - Recording, read by Bhai Jarnail Singh