New Year Wish: Seeking Grace

As per the Nanakshahi and Bikrami calendar, the new year is on Chet 01 (March 14). BHUPINDER 'BO' SINGH focuses on the start of the year

Sketch by Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh
By Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh OPINION |

Well talking about the New Year this time of the year, when already 2.5 months of the New Year have passed. As per the historical information in records, the New Year celebrations have been in vogue for at least four millennia, first starting in Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darknes —heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was harvested in the spring). As per the Gregorian calendar the New Year is on January 01 and its celebrations start by the New Year eve i.e. December 31. However, according to the Chinese Lunar calendar the New Year is around end of January to middle of the February. The Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival and is traditionally a time for family reunions and honoring the ancestors.

According to the Bikrami and Nanakshahi calendar the New Year is middle of March the beginning of month of Chet which in Hindi called Chaitra. The wheat crop is almost ready and the farmers are filled with joy in anticipation of upcoming bumper harvest in a month’s time. Guru Arjan Dev Ji has a composition called Barah Maha where Guru Ji has penned the change in moods and emotions and the yearnings of human heart in terms of changing mood of nature over the twelve months period of the year. Guru Ji’s composition on the first month of Chet starts with:

ਚੇਤਿ ਗੋਵਿੰਦੁ ਅਰਾਧੀਐ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਨµਦੁ ਘਣਾ ॥

Chet govindh araadheeaai hovai anandh ghanaa. (SGGS, Pg. No. 133)

Translation: By meditating on God in the month of Chet, a deep and extreme blissful state is experienced.

The month of Chet is beginning of spring season and the vegetation has just sprung open after being dormant during winter months. In the process of the unfolding the fresh, new green foliage, together with the burst of colors in flowers have totally permeated the environment in hope, joy and excitement. Just, as the onset of spring has invigorated nature to blossom forth; it has also filled the human hearts with excitement, expectations and hopes. It is a month of splendor where nature, plants, birds and even insects as bumble bee, each contribute in generating excitement and enthusiasm. Interestingly, all these cultures usher in New Year, at the start of spring and which is also time for spring harvest. With the welcoming of this first day of the year, if desire for union with Almighty can be unleashed then the upcoming time will become blissful.

Besides, the composition referred above; there is another composition in Guru Granth Sahib on the 12 months in Raag Tukhari by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. There, Guru Ji has described why the month Chet is appealing as it brims with excitement in these words:

ਚੇਤੁ ਬਸੰਤੁ ਭਲਾ ਭਵਰ ਸੁਹਾਵੜੇ ॥ ਬਨ ਫੂਲੇ ਮੰਝ ਬਾਰਿ ਮੈ ਪਿਰੁ ਘਰਿ ਬਾਹੁੜੈ ॥ ਪਿਰੁ ਘਰਿ ਨਹੀ ਆਵੈ ਧਨ ਕਿਉ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਵੈ ਬਿਰਹਿ ਬਿਰੋਧ ਤਨੁ ਛੀਜੈ ॥ ਕੋਕਿਲ ਅੰਬਿ ਸੁਹਾਵੀ ਬੋਲੈ ਕਿਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਅੰਕਿ ਸਹੀਜੈ ॥ ਭਵਰੁ ਭਵੰਤਾ ਫੂਲੀ ਡਾਲੀ ਕਿਉ ਜੀਵਾ ਮਰੁ ਮਾਏ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਚੇਤਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਵੈ ਜੇ ਹਰਿ ਵਰੁ ਘਰਿ ਧਨ ਪਾਏ ॥੫॥

Chet basant bhalaa bhavar suhaavaRe. Ban phoole manjh baar mai pir ghar baahuRai. Pir ghar nahee aavai dhan kiau sukh paavai bireh birodh tan chheejai. Kokil amb suhaavee bolai kiau dhukh ank saheejai. Bhavar bhavantaa phoolee ddaalee kiau jeevaa mar maae. Nanak chet sahaj sukh paavai jae har var ghar dhan paae. 5. (SGGS, Pg. No. 1107)

Translation: Using the metaphor of a separated bride from her groom, Guru Ji is describing the pangs of separation. Guru Ji says in the month of Chet-beautiful spring time, even the bumble bees hum with joy from flower to flower, and the meadows are blossoming with wild flowers. (How I wish) if only my Beloved would return to my home! Without my Husband Lord’s presence at home, how can the soul- bride find peace (or feel elation)? (In fact) my body is becoming frail from the agony of separation. The melodious Asian Koel sings, perched on the mango tree (which pierces my heart); how can I endure the agony in the depths of my being? (Even) the bumble bee is buzzing around from one flower to another; (but I am dying from pangs of separation) how can I survive, O my mother! O Nanak, in Chet, bliss is easily experienced by the soul-bride with the company of her Groom in her own heart. 5.

Here, Guru Ji is sharing the desolation and forlorn moods because of separation from God. The nature is bursting in splendor, with flowers in full bloom, air permeated in fragrance. Even the birds, creatures including bumble bee celebrate the vibrant atmosphere. The all-round excitement dampens the spirits of ‘young woman’ who shrivels at the pangs of separation from her beloved, who is away. The natural splendor sharpens her sense of separation, and heightens her longing for union.

Guru Ji is saying all this excitement is only appealing and attractive if my beloved comes home. Everyone is excited and in a celebratory mood, yet soul-bride shrivels away in pangs of separation. Guru Ji is not trying to turn our exuberance into damp squib by this down right portrayal of pangs of separation. Guru Ji is trying to inspire us to have union with Supreme-Soul so that we can be eternally happy. Once, we have that happy feeling, then the ‘Chet’ will really be enjoyable and all the celebration will become worthwhile. From that spring time onwards the pleasant atmosphere starts undergoing transformation with escalation of severity first with summer heat and afterwards follows the frigid cold season. The month of “Phagan” is the culmination of severe weather and blossoming within with God.

ਨਾਨਕ ਮੇਲਿ ਲਈ ਗੁਰਿ ਅਪਣੈ ਘਰਿ ਵਰੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਨਾਰੀ ॥੧੬॥

Nanak mel liee gur apanai ghar var paiaa naaree. 16. (SGGS, Pg. No. 1109)

Translation: O Nanak, the Guru has united me (the bride) with the Groom, she (the soul-bride) has found her Groom, within the home of her own heart. ||16||

Month is just a division of time. Besides months there are other divisions and measures of time, including dates of the month, days of the week, sub-divisions of day, hours, minutes, seconds etc. A year is also time division; but a progression in other direction, to comprise twelve months. Interestingly, there are banis in Guru Granth Sahib about those other sub-divisions of time under their own headings. But in the conclusion of this shabad, Guru Nanak Dev Ji talks about the circumstances when bride-soul can feel happy, when she is united with beloved God. Guru Ji says:

ਬੇ ਦਸ ਮਾਹ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਭਲੇ ॥ ਘੜੀ ਮੂਰਤ ਪਲ ਸਾਚੇ ਆਏ ਸਹਜਿ ਮਿਲੇ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮਿਲੇ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਸਾਰੇ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਭ ਬਿਧਿ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਸੀਗਾਰੀ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਪਿਆਰੀ ਮੇਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਾਣੈ ॥ ਘਰਿ ਸੇਜ ਸੁਹਾਵੀ ਜਾ ਪਿਰਿ ਰਾਵੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਭਾਗੋ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਰਾਵੈ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਰੁ ਥਿਰੁ ਸੋਹਾਗੋ ॥੧੭॥੧॥

Bae dus maeh rutee thitee vaar bhale. GhaRee moorat pal saache aae sahaj milae. Prabh milae piaare kaaraj saare karataa sabh bidh jaanai . Jin seegaaree tiseh piaaree mel bhiaa rang maanai . Ghar sej suhaavee jaa pir raavee gurmukh masatak bhaago. Nanak ahinis raavai preetam har var thir sohaago. 17. 1. (SGGS, Pg. No. 1109)

Translation: The two (plus) ten (total twelve) months, the (six) seasons, the weeks, the days, the hours, the moments and the instants are all sublime, when God comes and meets her imperceptibly. (As a result) when God, her Beloved, meets her, (then) all her affairs are resolved. Because, the Creator Lord; knows all ways and means (to get things done). He has adorned her with virtues and has embellished and exalted her; on meeting Him, she savors His Love blissfully. The bed of her heart (which was pricking like a spike board) has become truly comforting, as she is united with her Husband Lord. It is by Guru’s grace that her destiny has been awakened. O Nanak, (such a blessed bride) day and night enjoys the company of her beloved Spouse and experiences eternal union. 17. 1.

The true seeker is yearning for this blissful experience, when every day, every moment becomes a celebration. The union would have been the fruitification of the soul’s purpose of existence, as a separated ‘young woman’ yearning for the Groom. Guru Arjan Dev Ji shares with us how to pray for it so that we can experience the joy of New Year every moment:

ਮਾਹ ਦਿਵਸ ਮੂਰਤ ਭਲੇ ਜਿਸ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮੰਗੈ ਦਰਸ ਦਾਨੁ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਹੁ ਹਰੇ ॥੧੪॥੧॥”

Maah divas moorat bhale jis kau nadhar kare. Nanak mangai dharas dhaan kirapa karau harae. 14. 1. (SGGS, Pg. No. 136)

Translation: The most essential thing is getting the Grace of God, then (all) the months, the days, and the moments are auspicious. Nanak begs for the gift of Your Vision (of Grace). O Lord! Please, shower Your Mercy (and bless me with this gift)! ||14||1||

The final stanza, epilogue encapsulates the benefits that come from union with the Lord. That union is only possible with divine grace. No wonder the closing couplet first makes that declaration and begs for the shower of mercy of grace to experience that blessed vision. Guru Ji does not just want us to usher in a new month or a New Year alone, but to experience a new life; the life free of worries, totally blissful. Let us ask God to 'Grant us Grace', so that we experience, the glance of His face – ‘Kirpa karau harae’.

Guru Ji wants us to be in ecstasy, no matter what the outside season and associated month is like. Guru Ji is saying the external conditions should not cast any shadow, influence on the internal bliss. If we can learn to get His grace then New Year celebration will be morphed into a new, eternal life celebration. The life will become full of ecstasy when the soul is united with universal soul – God. When that feeling envelopes us within, then only THANKFULNESS will be coming out of the being.

1. Singh, Prof. Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan, Volume 1 and 8. Raj Publishers.
2. Singh, Dr. Taran. Barahmah Darpan. New Book Co.
3. Singh, Bhai Vir. Santhiya Sri Guru granth Sahib, Volume 2. Bhai Vir Singh Shaitya Sadan.
4. Jawa, Daljit Singh. It is Same Light, Volume 1 and 8. Xlibris LLC.

Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh, Houston. Born in Bhamo, Myanmar, he now lives in Houston, US, where he runs a manufacturing company formed with his son. A mechanical engineer by training, he has authored a number of books, including Connecting with the Master – A collection of essays on topics related to Sikhism (2006) and In Bully’s Eyes – An Illustrated Children’s book on Bullying (2019).

Khalsa Diwan Malaysia powers ahead with original Nanakshahi calendar (Asia Samachar, 10 Jan 2020)

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