Bhai Mardana and the Adi Granth

There are three saloks (verses) in the Ad Granth which are associated with Bhai Mardana, the iconic first rababi within Sikh history. There is much speculation about the authorship of these saloks: whether they were actually composed by Mardana (i.e. that Mardana was permitted by Nanak to use his name) or were addressed by Guru Nanak to Bhai Mardana. They are cited either as ‘Mardana 1’ or ‘Mahala 1’ which literaly refers to the ‘first house’ i.e. the house of the first Guru.

ਸਲੋਕ ਮਰਦਾਨਾ ੧ ॥

Mardaanaa 1:

ਕਾਇਆ ਲਾਹਣਿ ਆਪ ਮਦ ਮਜਲਸ ਰਿਸਨਾ ਧਾਤ

The human body is the vat, self-conceit is the wine, and desire is the company of drinking companions. 

ਮਨਸਾ ਕਟੋਰੀ ਕੂੜਿ ਭਰੀ ਪੀਲਾਝ ਜਮਕਾਲ

The cup of the mind’s longing is overflowing with falsehood, and the Messenger of Death is the cup-bearer.

ਇਤ ਮਦਿ ਪੀਤੈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਬਹ ਤੇ ਖਟੀਅਹਿ ਬਿਕਾਰ

Drinking in this wine, O Nanak, one takes on countless sins and corruptions.

ਗਿਆਨ ਗੜ ਸਾਲਾਹ ਮੰਡੇ ਭਉ ਮਾਸ ਆਹਾਰ

So make spiritual wisdom your molasses, the Praise of God your bread, and the Fear of God the meat you eat. 

ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹ ਭੋਜਨ ਸਚ ਹੈ ਸਚ ਨਾਮ ਆਧਾਰ

O Nanak, this is the true food; let the True Name be your only Support. ||2||

As you read this salok, you will notice Mardana’s voice in the first person and Nanak’s in the third person. Other saloks show the reverse, showing the symbiotic relationship between scripture and its oration. Setting the speculative detail of authorship aside, the very mention of Mardana in the scripture shows in itself an elevation of the status of the minstrel to that of scriptural and spiritual acknowledgment.

Return to the Rababi Tradition of Kirtan page.


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