In Sikhi, there is a tradition of reciting or singing compositions from the Guru Granth Sahib on every occasion, whether it’s joy or sorrow. Joyful Sabads are recited during the birth ceremony, and ‘Lava’ is recited and sung during the wedding ceremony. Similarly, the composition of Sadd is recited during the final rites of a recently deceased person and is thus related to the Sikh funeral ceremony. According to historical sources, this composition is also associated with the time when Guru Amardas Sahib (1479-1574 CE) departed the earthly realm.

Sadd is revealed in Rag Ramkali by Baba Sundar, the great-grandson of Guru Amardas Sahib. It is recorded on pages 923-924 of the Guru Granth Sahib. It has six stanzas of six lines each. It is revealed in the poetic form ‘sadd.’

Sadd narrates the protocols to be observed after the departure of Guru Amardas Sahib from the earthly realm as described by the Guru himself, who also urged the family and Sikhs to accept the will of IkOankar (the Divine). Where spiritual and social guidance is provided in this composition, historical facts are also found.

The first historical fact is that Baba Mohri (birth 1539 CE) obeyed the command of his father, Guru Amardas Sahib, and bowed to Guru Ramdas Sahib (1534-1581 CE). Secondly, the recording of Guru Amardas Sahib’s final instruction by Baba Sundar is also effectively a historical will handed to the Sikhs. Other such facts are also found in it.

This composition clearly opposes ritualistic practices like making rice balls, lighting lamps, and scattering ashes in the Ganges, etc.

Sadd as a Panjabi poetic form
Scholars interpret ‘sadd’ as an invitation, sound, voice, call, cry, and poetry sung with a stretched tone, elegy, summon of death, instruction, etc. In the Panjabi cultural context, ‘sadd’ refers to loudly calling a loved one. In Panjab’s villages, sending invitations to one’s community or friends for weddings or other events is also called ‘sadda dena’ (sending invites). From a poetic perspective, ‘sadd’ features a call in a stretched and loud tone, invitation, or summon. Because this call is for a loved one who has departed, it is dominated by the aesthetics of compassion (karuna ras).

Sadd is an original poetic form of Panjabi. The compositions related to Sassi, Mirza, etc., are very popular in Panjabi. Pilu’s (c.1550-1650 CE) famous story ‘Mirza-Sahiba’ is also in the poetic form of sadd. Baba Sundar’s use of this poetic form implies that it was popular during that period. Due to the popularity of this poetic form and the central message of the composition Sadd, it seems that he wrote this composition in the sadd poetic form.

According to Dr. Sohinder Singh Vanjara Bedi, while singing, the left hand is placed above the ear while the right hand is extended as one sings aloud. No specific poetic form is assigned to it. For this reason, they are composed in different poetic forms. The composition related to Mirza is in ‘dohra,’ while Sadd by Baba Sundar is in ‘hulas.’
Dr. Sohinder Singh Vanjara Bedi, Panjabi Lokdhara Vishvakosh, volume 1 and 2, page 264.

In the Sikh tradition, the famous composition ‘lakhi jangal khalsa’ is associated with the arrival of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib in the Malwa region. It is found in many manuscripts of ‘Dasam Granth.’
Bani recorded in this Granth is believed to be the work of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, but Sikh Panth is not unanimous about this. It is called ‘Dasam Granth’ because Guru Gobind Singh Sahib’s name is associated with it.
In this, Panjab’s Malwa region is named ‘lakhi jangal.’
Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi, Sikh Panth Vishvakosh, part four, page 1750.
According to this composition, on hearing about the arrival of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the Sikhs came running just like buffalos used to run towards Mahi (Ranjha) on hearing his call, leaving water and grass behind. The separation of the Sikhs ended when they met Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, for which they were thankful:
lakkhī jaṅgal khālsā, āi dīdār lago ne.
suṇ kai sadda māhī dā, meṁhī pāṇī ghāhu mato ne.
kise nāl na ralīā kāī, koī saük piyo ne.
giā phirāk, miliā mit māhī, tāhī shukar kito ne.
Kukkar Ram Kau (editor), Amrit Kirtan (Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, Bhai Gurdas Sahib Te Bhai Nand Lal Sahib Ji Rachit Banian Vicho 122 Parkarna vich Sadhe Tin Hazar Ton Vadh Sabada Da Sangrah, page 555.

In the sadd composed by Pilu, after eloping with Mirza, Sahiba complained to Mirza that his mare, on which they were riding, was very weak. If Mirza did not have a good mare at home, he should have borrowed one because the strong horses of Sahiba’s brother, Khive Khan, will not let them escape:
māṛī terī ṭīrakī, mirziā liāiā kidhroṁ ṭor.
sukkā ihadā caukhaṭā, kāvāṁ khādhī kaṅgroṛ.
je ghar na sī tere bāp de, maṅg liāuṁdo hor.
ghoṛe khīve khān de, baṛe murātib khor.
bhajjiāṁ nūṁ jāṇ na deṇge, udhhal gaīāṁ de cor.
Harjodh Singh, Pilu: Jivan te Racna, page 162.

Poetic form Sadd and Alahani: Differences and Similarities
Both sadd and alahani are original Panjabi poetic forms related to death. While alahani is a poetic form directly related to death, originally, those songs were called sadd, in which a lover addressed their loved one and expressed some pain or feeling. Later, this poetic form came to be used for expressions of grief at the death of a loved one. Sadd and alahani are similar in that both refer to the virtues of a person after death and emphasize the transient nature of the world. The mournful environment is described in compassionate words. The basic difference between them is that alahani is sung while mourning a deceased person, but sadd can be sung at any time. The poetic form sadd is more subtle and sublime than Alahani because, in alahani, the meaning and sense reach the extremes of crudeness (crying and wailing), but in sadd, it remains balanced. The most distinguishable thing that separates sadd from alahani is the singing style. Sadd is always sung with a stretched tone. When it is sung, it appears as if someone is reminiscing about a separated relative or a loved one. Alahani is chanted in a loud and shrill tone while beating the chest and head in grief.
Dr. Sohinder Singh Vanjara Bedi, Panjabi Lokdhara Vishvakosh, volume 1 and 2, page 265.

Brief meaning of the composition Sadd
When Guru Amardas Sahib realized that the time had come for him to leave the earthly realm, he sent an invitation to his family and Sikhs and conveyed the message of his departure. With this, it was natural for the Guru’s loved ones to be aggrieved. The Guru noticed this and instructed them. Baba Sundar captured this instruction in the form of Sadd composition. Its summary is as follows:

The true Guru, Guru Amardas Sahib, received the call for eternal union from IkOankar. Guru Amardas Sahib found this command of IkOankar pleasing. Only that being, whom IkOankar’s command or will is pleasing, is endearing to IkOankar.

Eternal union with IkOankar happens through Sabad, and Guru Amardas Sahib is immersed in the Sabad. The eternal union with Sabad is akin to achieving a state of liberation, which Guru Amardas Sahib found through the grace of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Angad Sahib.

Guru Amardas Sahib instructed the Sikhs that no one should cry on or after his death. Whoever does so will not be endearing to him since everyone has to die eventually. It is a happy occasion for the Guru because IkOankar is embracing and honoring him with eternal union. Therefore, Sikhs should also be happy on this occasion.

The Guru asked the Sikhs to sing kirtan and to invite other Sikhs to come and sing praises of IkOankar. To do so is the Guru’s way. There is no need to read any Purana or invite any Pandit.
A Hindu scholar learned in Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy and religion, typically also a practicing priest.
The company of virtuous beings is the sacred pool, joining in which a being becomes pure, and the light of wisdom illuminates within them. For such a being, performing rituals like lighting a lamp, making balls of rice,
Balls of boiled rice, which the Brahmins give on behalf of ancestors. According to the Guru’s thought Keso, i.e., the Nam of IkOankar, is akin to these rice balls. -Giani Gurbachan Singh Bhindrawale, Gurbani Path Darpan, page 485.
and scattering ashes in the Ganges, are useless. Therefore, remembering the Nam of IkOankar in the company of virtuous beings, singing kirtan, and the praises of IkOankar with love is like a beautiful bier that the Guru finds pleasing. This way, honor is received in this world and hereafter. The face becomes radiant. The cycle of birth and death comes to an end, and the being becomes one with IkOankar.

At that time, Guru Amardas Sahib told the Sikhs that Bhai Jetha (Guru Ramdas Sahib) would now lead them in his place and fulfill the responsibility of Guruship. The Guru, in his own presence, asked Guru Ramdas Sahib to sit on the throne of Guruship and bowed to him after circumambulating around Guru Ramdas Sahib. Then, Baba Mohri, the son of Guru Amardas Sahib, and all Sikhs stood up and bowed to Guru Ramdas Sahib. The singing of kirtan began, and in this way, the bier of Divine love, the praises of IkOankar, was prepared. Guru Amardas Sahib covered himself with a white sheet and absorbed himself in the deep meditation of Sabad.
Adapted, Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara, Jivan Katha Sri Guru Amardas Ji, page 81-83.

Selected words in Sadd composition and their meaning
(1) Keso Gopal Pandit (keso gopāl panḍit sadiahu hari hari kathā paahi purāṇu jīu.)
According to Hindu belief, a Pandit is needed twice in one’s lifetime: at the time of marriage and death. For a Hindu, these ceremonies cannot be conducted without a Pandit. The Guru describes the mediation of Pandits of IkOankar, that is, Wisdom-oriented (Guru-centered) virtuous beings, at two places in the Guru Granth Sahib. There is a mention of the time of death in Sadd composition, and a reference to ‘spiritual marriage’ is found in this way:
panḍit pādhe āṇi patī bahi vācāīā bali rām jīu. -Guru Granth Sahib 773.
Prof. Sahib Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan, part six, page 740.

Some interpret ‘keso gopāl panḍit’ in the line ‘keso gopāl panḍit sadiahu hari hari kathā paṛahi purāṇu jīu.’ of this composition to be a reference to a particular Pandit named Keso Gopal. But the last letter of both the words ‘gopāl’ and ‘panḍit’ is mukta-ending (short vowel, ‘a’). Had this been an instruction to invite a particular Pandit named ‘Keso Gopal,’ the last letter of these two words would have been suffixed ‘gopālu’ and ‘panḍitu,’ with an aunkar-ending (short vowel, ‘u’), but this is not the case. Additionally, if there were a reference to the reading of Purana by a particular Pandit named ‘Keso Gopal,’ then the singular verb would be ‘paṛai,’ but in this line, the verb is plural ‘paṛahi.’ These facts make it clear that the conjectures made by people with opposing views are an inaccurate representation of this line. According to the writing style of the Guru Granth Sahib and based on the word forms, their meaning is: ‘keso gopāl’ = Kesav Gopal, i.e., of IkOankar (genitive case; singular masculine noun); ‘panḍit’ = pandits (accusative case; plural, masculine noun); ‘paṛahi’ = should read (third person, plural, verb, subjunctive future tense). Which may be translated as: Call the Pandits, the enlightened Sikhs of Keshav Gopal,
One with dense and beautiful hair. According to Hindu mythology, the name of Vishnu or Krishna. But ‘keso’ and ‘kesaü’ are used for IkOankar in the Guru Granth Sahib: kabīr keso keso kūkīai na soīai asār. -Guru Granth Sahib 1376. pinḍu patali merī kesaü kiriā sacu nāmu kartāru. -Guru Granth Sahib 358.
the Divine, so that they sing the praises of the Divine (hari hari kathā). This is the recital of Purana; there is no need to read any other Purana.
Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara, Gurbani Da Saral Viakaran-Bodh, volume one, page 8.

Giani Gurbachan Singh Bhindrawale has interpreted the above line as follows: Summon such Pandits, who are the knowers of the essence.
so panḍitu jo tihāṁ guṇā kī panḍ utārai. -Guru Granth Sahib 1261.

Calling the Divine through prayers alone is summoning Pandits. Reading the story of IkOankar, the Dispeller of suffering alone is reading Purana:
hari merī prīti rīti hai hari merī hari merī kathā kahānī jī.
…hari merā simriti hari merā sāstra hari merā bandhapu hari merā bhāī. -Guru Granth Sahib 490.
Giani Gurbachan Singh Bhindrawale, Gurbani Path Darpan, page 485.

(2) Pind, Patal, Kiria, and Hari Sari (pinu patali kiriā dīvā phul hari sari pāvae.)
In Hinduism, it is believed that it takes one year for a mortal to pass from this world to the next (realm of Yama, the messenger of death). During this journey, balls of rice (pinḍu) are offered to the dead to eat. These are usually made of barley or rice flour in the shape of round balls. They are placed on a platter of leaves and floated on water in a ritual called ‘pind-dan.’ Pind-dan is typically performed during the first year of a person’s death and is said to help the person during the journey to the next world. The offering made during the second year is said to help the deceased person’s stay in the next world.
Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi, Guru Granth Vishvakosh, part two, page 218.

A series of rituals performed on behalf of the dead are called ‘kiria.’ According to Gurbaksh Singh Gulshan, as per the Brahminical tradition, the son of the deceased, through a Brahmin, performs recitation of Puranas, ‘tilanjali’ (an offering or oblation of water mixed with sesame made to one’s ancestors), ‘pind-dan’ (offering of a ball made of a mixture of wheat and rice flour), ‘phul’ (a ceremony of scattering ashes of the dead in the river Ganges), etc. are a part of kiria, done for the liberation of the deceased. The kiria of the deceased is considered complete on the day that the donation is given to the Brahmin after completing the recitation of the Puranas. Bhai Gurdas, when discussing the ritual of donation of material items for an ancestor, states that ignorant beings donate thirteen items (umbrella, pair of shoes, clothes, seal, begging bowl, seat, five utensils, stick, plate, raw grain, ripe grain, cash, and sacred thread) for their ancestors: terah pad kari jag vici pitar karam kari bharami bhulāiā. -Var 7, Pauri 13.
Gurbakhsh Singh Gulshan, Darpan Sikh Rahit Maryada, page 185.

According to Sadd, such rituals do not conform to the Guru’s teachings. The Guru considers the company of virtuous beings higher than performing any of these rituals. The company of virtuous beings is that sacred place where, by singing the praises of IkOankar, one becomes pure and illuminated with wisdom.

Guru Nanak Sahib instructs that there is no need to perform any ritual by the being who remembers IkOankar. Remembering the eternal Nam of IkOankar is everything. This alone is the true support, here and hereafter: pinḍu patali merī kesaü kiriā sacu nāmu kartāru. aithai othai āgai pāchai ehu merā ādhāru.2. -Guru Granth Sahib 358.

The phrase ‘hari sari’ (pool of Hari) in Sadd is sometimes misinterpreted as the river Ganges. In ‘Mahima Prakash’ written by Sarup Das Bhalla, it is documented that Baba Mohri asked Guru Amardas Sahib what should be done when the Guru leaves the earthly realm. The Guru said that rituals should not be performed. Still, put my ashes in the Ganges to fulfill worldly customs. Regarding this, Giani Sohan Singh Sital is of the opinion that Sarup Das Bhalla seems to be mistaken (or he seems to be influenced by Sanatan
This literally means traditional, but here refers to the Hindu religion and its traditions.
belief), which is due to not understanding the above line of this composition by Baba Sundar.
Giani Sohan Singh Sital, Sikh Itihas De Some, part two, page 124.

According to Giani Gurbachan Singh Bhindrawale, ‘hari sari’ means the company of virtuous beings. For the Sikhs, being in this company is akin to scattering ashes (phul) in the water:
hari sari vāsā pāvaṇiā. -Guru Granth Sahib 129.

According to these lines, ‘hari sari’ is not river Ganges, but the company of virtuous beings and the Nam of IkOankar. In the Guru Granth Sahib, the names Ganga, Jaharnavi, and Sursuri are used for the river Ganges. Even in Hindu scriptures, the phrase ‘hari sari’ does not appear for the river Ganges. Regarding the Ganges, Guru Nanak Sahib states: O IkOankar! For us, singing Your praises is akin to going to Ganges and the pilgrimage of Kashi:
gaṅg banārasi siphati tumārī nāvai ātam rāu. -Guru Granth Sahib 358.

Some people consider ‘hari sari’ to mean Darbar Sahib’s (Harimandar Sahib’s) sacred pool and covertly put ashes there. Others grind the ashes of the dead person’s forehead and place it next to the legs of the cot or the platform on which Guru Granth Sahib is placed. This is contrary to the Guru’s way. According to the Guru’s way, joining the company of virtuous beings and contemplating the Nam of IkOankar is everything.
Giani Gurbachan Singh Bhindrawale, Gurbani Path Darpan, page 485.

Regarding the rituals after the cremation of the deceased, the Sikh Rahit Maryada states that when the pyre is burnt out, the whole bulk of the ashes, including the burnt bones, should be gathered up and immersed in flowing water or buried at that very place and the ground leveled. Raising a monument to the memory of the deceased at the place where his dead body is cremated is taboo. Adh marg (the ceremony of breaking the pot used for bathing the dead body amid doleful cries halfway towards the cremation ground), organized lamentation by women, fuhari (sitting on a straw mat in mourning for a certain period), diva (keeping an oil lamp lit for 360 days after the death in the belief that that will light the path of the deceased), pind (ritual donating of lumps of rice flour, oat flour, or solidified milk (khoa) for ten days after death), kiria (concluding the funeral proceedings ritualistically, serving meals and making offerings by way of shradh, budha marna (waving of a whisk, over the hearse of an old person’s dead body and decorating the hearse with festoons), etc., are contrary to the approved code. So, too, is the picking of the burnt bones from the ashes of the pyre for immersing in the Ganga, at Patalpuri (Kiratpur), at Kartarpur Sahib, or at any other such place.
Sikh Rahit Maryada (The Code of Sikh Conduct & Conventions), page 47.

(3) Tilak, Nishan (rāmdās soḍhī tilaku dīā gur sabadu sacu nīsāṇu jīu.5.)
Some Sikh sources mention the offering of five ‘paise’ (one-hundredth of a rupee) and coconut by the Gurus, putting a saffron mark on the forehead (tilak), and giving of a woolen cap (emblem of leadership in certain religious orders) during the ceremony of transferring Guruship. These accounts can only be attributed to the bias of writers having been influenced by Sanatan beliefs. According to the Guru’s thought, the eternal symbol of Guruship is the Wisdom (Guru). Therefore, in the above line of Sadd, Baba Sundar is pointing to the Wisdom, the true mark or sign (Tilak or Nishan).

Giani Balwant Singh Kotha Guru has mentioned the ancient method of passing on the Guruship started by Guru Nanak Sahib. According to him, at the time of passing on the Guruship, the Gurus used to bow to their successors by handing over to them the collection (pothi) containing their revelations (Gurbani). This is why whoever tried to become a so-called Guru (Prithi Chand, Meharwan, Dhirmal, Ramrai, etc.) argued they had the collection (pothi) of revelations with them. The fabricated story of a Brahmin giving tilak, five paise, and coconut at the time of passing on the Guruship has no merit. It is certain that at the time of the Gurus, the only symbol of Guruship was the treasure of Gurbani. According to Puratan Janamsakhi (page 137), Guru Nanak Sahib blessed Guru Angad Sahib with the collection (pothi) of Gurbani while passing on the Guruship:
tit mahali shabadu hoā so pothī ju thāni gur aṅgad jog milī.

To support his point, Giani Balwant Singh Kotha Guru quoted Bhai Kushal Das:
aṅgad aṅk lagāi, kān mantra dīyo. pothī mālā bakhasi, thāpi satigur kīyo.
Jaspreet Kaur Patiala (editor), Giani Balwant Singh Kotha Guru Rachnavali (part 1), pages 34-35.

The words ‘ṭikā’ and ‘ṭikionu’ also appear in Ramkali Ki Var composed by Bhai Sata and Bhai Balvand:
jāṁ sudhosu tāṁ lahṇā ṭikionu. -Guru Granth Sahib 967
sahi ṭikā ditosu jīvdai. -Guru Granth Sahib 966

Here also, ‘ṭikionu’ (established) means ‘establishing or putting on the position of Guru.’ Here, ‘ṭikā ditosu’ (established) does not mean applying a mark of sandalwood paste but bestowing the ‘insignia of the Sabad.

Also, when Guru Arjan Sahib attained Guruship, Guru Ramdas Sahib bequeathed to him the precious treasure of the Sabad:
pīū dāde kā kholi ḍiṭhā khajānā. tā merai mani bhaïā nidhānā.1. -Guru Granth Sahib 186.

According to the prescribed way of life by the Guru, there is no rule of applying tilak of sandalwood, saffron, or ash on different parts of the body (heart, navel, arms, forehead, etc.) like Yogis, Sannyasis, or Vaishnavas. According to Bhai Gurdas, Guru Nanak Sahib erased the twelve tilaks of the twelve sects of Yogis and offered the Sabad as the insignia of the Wisdom-centered beings:
bārah tilak miṭāikai gurmukhi tilaku nīsāṇu caṛāiā. -Var 7, Pauri 12.

According to Bhai Gurdas, the dust of the company of the Wisdom-oriented virtuous beings is the mark (tilak) on the forehead of a Sikh, meaning humility, which makes the face of a Sikh graceful:
caraṇ saraṇi mastaku dharani caran reṇ mukhi tilak suhande. -Var 6, Pauri 7.

Thus, even in Sadd, the meaning of Tilak or Nishan is the insignia of Sabad and not saffron or sandalwood mark.

(4) Baba Mohri (moharī putu sanmukhu hoiā rāmdāsai pairī pāi jīu.)
Baba Mohri was the younger son of Guru Amardas Sahib. He was born to Mata Mansa Devi in 1539 CE in the village Basarke Gillan (Amritsar, Panjab). It is indicated in the above line that following his father’s command; Baba Mohri was the first to accept Guru Ramdas Sahib as his Guru.

Baba Mohri’s elder brother Baba Mohan did not obey his father, Guru Amardas Sahib. It is also mentioned in ‘Gurbilas Patshahi 6’ that Baba Mohan told Guru Arjan Sahib, “When father (Guru Amardas Sahib) passed on the Guruship to Guru Ramdas Sahib, he summoned us. Baba Mohri went and bowed to Guru Ramdas Sahib, but I did not.” Regarding this, Baba Sundar also told Guru Arjan Sahib:
rāmdās ko tilak jas, amardās gur dīn. moharī sut carnī lago, kahī kathā jiuṁ cīn.64.
Giani Sohan Singh Sital, Sikh Itihas De Some, page 52.

This statement of Bhai Gurdas also seems to indicate the condition of Baba Mohan due to his unwillingness to accept the command of his father. Here, Bhai Gurdas is saying that Mohan went mad in anger, and Baba Mohri started getting served in a lofty house:
mohaṇu kamlā hoiā caübārā moharī manāiā. -Var 26, Pauri 33.