This composition is based on the Panjabi folk poetic form Alahania related to death. In the first stanza, the message of worldly destructibility is conveyed while glorifying IkOankar, the Creator. In the second stanza, the being is advised to give up pride and remember IkOankar. In the third stanza, the life of those beings is considered fruitful, who single-mindedly remember the eternal IkOankar. Everything happens according to the will of IkOankar; human effort is only a means to that end. In the last stanza it is conveyed that crying for worldly things is useless. Crying in longing and love of IkOankar is meaningful.
rāgu  mahalā  1    
gharu  5  alāhaṇīā  
ikoaṅkār  satigur  prasādi.  
dhannu  sirandā  sacā  pātisāhu   jini  jagu  dhandhai  lāiā.  
muhlati  punī    pāī  bharī   jānīaṛā  ghati  calāiā.  
jānī  ghati  calāiā    likhiā  āiā   runne  vīr  sabāe.    
kāṁiā  hans  thīā  vechoṛā   jāṁ  din  punne  merī  māe.  
jehā  likhiā  tehā  pāiā   jehā  purabi  kamāiā.  
dhannu  sirandā  sacā  pātisāhu   jini  jagu  dhandhai  lāiā.1.    
-Guru  Granth  Sahib  578-579  
Literal Translation
Interpretive Transcreation
Poetical Dimension
This composition is set in the rag or musical mode of Vadahans, which is common in wedding and death ceremonies. Vadahans is associated with folk traditions. In this composition, Alahania are the songs of sorrow that are sung after someone dies,  which vary based on the deceased’s age and the circumstances of their passing. Usually, the immediate female relatives sing these songs as a group and publicly display their grief and pain by beating themselves or wailing. Vadahans literally means the great swan. The swan is often associated with the self, the being, or the spirit within. In the Guru Granth Sahib, many compositions often distinguish between being swan-like (calm on the waters) versus being crane-like (full of pretension). This is about our potential to be swan-like and a more vastly understanding folk culture. These compositions are about more than the funeral ceremony, more than the folk culture around death, more than the folk culture of women grieving and lamenting physically, and the sadness of this occasion. Guru Nanak uses this common experience to guide us toward a deeper understanding of how we get through a painful time without building on that pain. How do we practice acceptance? How do we come to reflect in these times of mourning? How do we move toward remedies for our pain rather than picking at our wounds?

In the first stanza, Guru Nanak invokes the creative element of IkOankar (One Creative and Pervasive Force, 1Force, the One) and says, That eternal Creator, That Sovereign is praiseworthy, has engaged the whole world in various tasks and affairs. Whatever we are doing, have done, and will do, is all established by the Sovereign Creator. IkOankar is the master planner who has decided how long we will stay here, what we will engage in, and when our time will be fulfilled—when we will be called to the Court. The Guru describes what happens when our time is complete, when the Order comes for us to depart by using imagery from existing popular paradigms: the messengers of death chain us up and lead us to the hereafter. All our relatives weep, and the life-force separates from the body. The Guru describes our life-force as hans, the swan that separates itself from the body while invoking the mother, mae. The address or invocation of the mother is often done when we are in pain and need to confide in someone who loves us and will understand what is paining us. The Guru ends by emphasizing that whatever was the Writ, whatever we have earned from the Origin, that is what we receive. The stanza ends by repeating the first line again: praiseworthy is the Creator, the true Sovereign, Who has engaged the world in worldly affairs

From the beginning of this composition, the Guru urges us to focus on the Sovereign, the Creator, and to understand that One as praiseworthy. When people die, we struggle. We often find ourselves questioning the Creator, in denial, upset, and frustrated at the belief that those we love have been taken away from us too soon. We might be angry at the Divine; we might doubt the Divine; we might resist practicing devotion to the Divine. The Guru understands this common experience and centers us in the praise of that Sovereign Creator, the inevitably of our allotted time in this world, and the understanding that whatever we received was earned from the Origin. The Guru acknowledges that this is something we will all come to experience. We are not the ones who leave; we are the ones left behind. We grieve, are pained, and are reminded that we will also one day experience this departing. 

The last line is a repetition of the first, as Alahania are sung, and the message is reemphasized in that medium: praiseworthy is the Creator, the eternal Sovereign, Who has engaged the world in its affairs. Will we take the Guru’s invitation to shift our perspective in times of great sorrow? Will we come to understand death as part of the Command? Will we exacerbate our pain, or will we engage in things that act as a balm?