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Birds and their significance in Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Birds and their significance in Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Birds and their significance in Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Out of nature’s bounty, birds are the mystical organisms that conquer the skies above us. Humankind has always been fascinated by the structure, habits and natural tendencies of the birds as revolutionary texts have been written and celebrated in the admiration of these beautiful beings. The Sikh literature’s holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, and the active Guru of all Sikh progeny have many shreds of evidence of metaphoric and personified mentions of birds. The life of the Gurus was prominently influenced by the abundance of nature and in the Guru Granth Sahib, there is a mention of 12 various birds articulated with many representations in eternal and worldly forms doing actions that the natural soul would do.

The Gurus watched nature closely, getting inspired from the varied social instincts we procure from the nestlers and how one could compare their relationship with the active birth life and the eternal tendency of natural existence. In the Gurbani, 12 birds have been used to depict behaviors such as eternal love, dancing for the divine, and some elucidating social fallacies such as lying and greed. Here are some honorable mentions that hold integral status in the metaphorical and personification features of the Gurbani:

  1. Cuckoo (Koel):
    Koel Cuckoo
    Koel Cuckoo

    The morning always gets adorned by the beautiful singing of the Cuckoo Bird, the Koel who according to the Gurbani sings in the devotion of the almighty has a distinct quality to represent. In the lyrical masterpiece Barah-Maah Tukhari, Guru Nanak Dev Ji personified the cuckoo bird with the lover of God who, as humans do, sang melodious, ear-pleasing hymns that make the pain of any human vanish within seconds. In Barah-Maah, in spring, when the soul-bride reaches her master and her lover (God) the cuckoo cries in happiness and praises the divinity of the lords.

  2. Hawk-Cuckoo (Babiha, Bambiha, Papiha, Saranga): 
    Hawk Cuckoo Bambiha
    Hawk Cuckoo Bambiha

    This bird is one with a loving relationship with the rains as commonly it sings in its bountiful voice as the rain showers on the surface of Earth. Referring to the Gurbani, this bird especially loves the special drop of ‘swanti’. The Babiha gazes at the skies and cries for more of the ‘swanti-boond’ and chirps in the blessing of the Lords. In the Sri Raga Mehla 1, Ashtapatee pada 3, page 60 ‘You must love the Master as papiha loves a special raindrop. There is water all around but she longs for the Swanti raindrops’. In the Rag Malar, Var page 1285; Shloka M:3, The Babiha chirps in the early hours of the morning before dawn; its prayers are heard in the divine court. The order is issued to the clouds, to let the rains of mercy shower down.

     

  3. Swan (Hans):
    Swan Hans
    Swan Hans

    Everyone is aware of the very graceful swans loitering in the lakes and ponds in pairs. Swans are known for their eternal love for their partner swans and adorn a graceful neck. Swans possess a distinct feature where they feed on pearls found in the lakes. This makes them often personified as beings who look for good even in the marshes of the world and thrive on finding goodness with loyalty towards their lord. In the Sriraga ki Vaar, Mehala 4, Sloak M:1, “With his grace God can transform a swan into a heron. He does whatever is pleasing to Him. Even a black crow can be transformed into a milk-white Hans. Also in Raga Dhanasari, Bhagat Namdev, Shabad 3, Page 693; it has been mentioned clearly that “as the rain is dear to the Earth, and the flower’s fragrance is dear to the buzzing bee, and the mango is dear to the Cuckoo, so is the God (Ram) is dear to my mind. As the sun is dear to the Migratory Chakvi Duck, and the lake of Man Sarovar is dear to the swan, and the husband is dear to his wife, so is God dear to my mind.”

  4. Crow (Kaa):
    Crow (Kaa)
    Crow

    The commonly found bird in the state of Punjab and surrounding areas is one with a witty stance that makes everyone wait for their loved ones as it caws on the rooftops of any Sikh household. In the Granth Sahib too, the crow displayed a role of greed and showed characteristics of turpitude. Sheikh Farid, who penned the famous ‘Fir dekhan ki aas’ articulated the conversation with a crow saying “Kaaga Karang Dhadholya, Sagla Khaya Maas, Eh dohe Naina mat Chhuo, fir dekhan ki aas” where he says that the crows have encroached my skeleton and eaten all my flesh, but please do not touch my eyes; I still have hope to see my beloved Lord. This represented the crow as the master of his will, a treacherous being who feeds on the flesh of those who are dead.

  5. Sheldrake (Chakkvi):
    Sheldrake chakvi
    Sheldrake chakvi

    Now, this is the bird that very few people know about and surprisingly enough the significance of its personified conceit is far fetched in the Granth Sahib. This member of the flying duck family has a tendency to fly at great heights and in the Gurbani, many instances are indicative that Chakvi is passionate and could literally hug the Sun. Due to its natural instinct of separation anxiety, the Chakvi bird is personified to lament over the abandonment of its beloved God. The great Sant Kabeer called himself a Chakkvi bird who was hungry and thirsty even when it is surrounded by the worldly water, but salvation only occurs when the pure drop of water pours from the land of the Lord Almighty.

  6. Nightingale (Bulbul):
    Nightigale bulbul
    Nightigale bulbul

    The nightingale or Bulbul is a common bird in the west and is often associated with the gracefulness it showcases as a member of the natural family. The scientific name of Nightingale is Luscinia megarhynchos and as far as shape is concerned, it is a small bird with a melodious chirping voice. Often all across the world, the nightingale is metaphorically associated with tenderness, dexterity and is feminised due to its euphonious utterances. Many ideals of generosity and social appreciation are often titled as Nightingales of the nation.

  7. Crane (Bagla):
    Crane (Bagla)
    Crane (Bagla)

    Cranes or Herons belong to the same family of marsh birds that dwell along the shore. Seldom do we hear Punjabi folklore that shows the crane bird as a mischievous creature who pretends to be a Saint but has an evil eye on the fish in the pond. The term Bagla Bhagat often comes across as a satire to pupils who have a split personality with one side of them being an idealistic person but on the other hand, being an adulterated being of lust and greed.

  8. Peacock (Mor):
    Peacock
    Peacock

    Peacocks and Peahens are majestically beautiful birds with a fairly large connection to Asian royalty and spirituality. The Peacock happens to be a large sized bird that dwells in groups in dry forested lands. The aesthetically pleasing harem is mind-blowing when the Peacocks dance as the sky gets cloudy. As royal as it may look, it is also the national bird of India.

In the Guru Granth Sahib, the association of the peafowl is connected to the blissful dance of joy. The Raga Nat Narain Mehla 4, Shabad 2 says The master Bhagats love the Master in his mind, like the lotus flower gazes at the moon. The clouds hang low, the clouds thunder and with that, the mind dances joyfully like a peafowl. Nature and its magnificent glory helps us humans to learn more about human life as compared to our rhetoric behavior. The natural aviators surely had influenced the writings of the Granth Sahib, and one must look for real learning of the natural family as the life matures and retires. 

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