The musicians began to believe that they were more significant than the Guru and that this was the reason people attended the Guru's court. 

Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, had a talented musician named Mardana. Mardana played music while the Guru sang holy songs for many years. After Mardana died, two young musicians, Balwand and Satta, became important in the Guru's court. They played music for Guru Nanak and the next four Gurus: Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, and Guru Arjan.

In the Guru's court, visitors would give gifts to the Guru. If the musicians played well and helped people meditate, visitors might give them gifts too. This is how the musicians earned money. Later, Satta's granddaughter wanted to get married. The family needed a lot of money for the wedding. So, Balwand and Satta asked Guru Arjan for money to pay for the wedding.

Guru Arjan Ji 

It was only recently that Guru Arjan became a Guru. Priti Chand, the elder brother of Guru Arjan, believed he should have been crowned as Guru, and there had been considerable misunderstanding and intrigue during the transition between Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan. There was a time when fewer people were seeing Guru Arjan as a result of this misconception. Therefore, there wasn't much money available when Balwand and Satta approached Guru Arjan for the money for their wedding. The musicians felt that even though the Guru had given them everything he could, it was insufficient. They reacted, getting irate. They entered the spiritual stage known as "Shakti Pad," which is characterized by turbulent challenges to one's highest ideals and the facing of the ego. 

Musicians considering themselves as supreme 

The musicians began to believe that they were more significant than the Guru and that this was the reason people attended the Guru's court. They made the decision to stop performing music in the Guru's court. Guru Arjan sent a message the following day inviting the musicians to perform in the Guru's Court, but they declined. The musicians refused to return to the Guru's court, even after the Guru dispatched some of his most esteemed Sikhs to ask them to. Even after Guru Arjan personally addressed the musicians, they refused to alter their stance. The musicians began disparaging and critiquing the Gurus they had followed. Guru Arjan said he had no problem listening to criticism of himself, but he could not tolerate criticism of his Guru, Guru Ram Das, and, by extension, Guru Nanak.

Finally, Guru Arjan declared that the musicians were no longer welcome in the Guru's court and that anyone who dared to say otherwise would have coal applied to his face and be led about the town on a donkey, facing backwards.

The Guru's court underwent a significant change. For a long time, Balwand, Satta, and a few other professional musicians called Rababis had provided the music. Few of the Guru's followers, known as Sikhs, had learned music. When Balwand and Satta left, there were few skilled musicians left.

Guru Arjan then ordered his Sikhs to study music theory and practice. He taught them Kauri Kriya, a meditation practice involving singing a 19-note scale. Through dedicated practice, several Sikhs became skilled enough to play music in the Guru's court.

Guru Arjan told his followers they should no longer rely on professional musicians. Instead, volunteer musicians called Ragis should lead the singing and chanting. Guru Arjan himself became good at music and even created his own stringed instrument called the Sarinda, which he played while leading songs.

At this time, Guru Arjan clearly stated the qualities every Ragi should have:

  • Clear mind and deep love for God
  • Not attached to money or worldly things
  • Five virtues: Truth, Contentment, Faith, Compassion, and Patience
  • Free from pride and fake behavior
  • Feeling God's presence with joy and peace
  • Dedicated to serving the holy congregation

Things settled down in the Guru's court, and more visitors came to receive the Guru's blessing. Satta's granddaughter, who was going to get married, began telling her grandfather that he and Balwand had made a mistake. She said they shouldn't have left the Guru's court or turned their backs on the Guru. Slowly, Balwand and Satta started to change their minds. They realized this had all been a test of how committed they were to their spiritual path. This realization led them to have a spiritual awakening.

Balwand and Satta 

Balwand and Satta were inspired by their renewed desire to be with the Guru. They wrote beautiful spiritual songs called "Balwand di Var" to honour the five Gurus they had served. The song "Dhan Dhan Ram Das Gur" was part of this work. However, they still couldn't go to Guru Arjan's court because he had banned them. They asked a wise Sikh from Lahore for help. This wise Sikh showed great humility. He blackened his face and rode a donkey backwards through town to see the Guru. When Guru Arjan saw this, he allowed Balwand and Satta to return.

When they first came back, Balwand and Satta performed their new songs praising the five Gurus. Guru Arjan was very happy with their spiritual growth and their songs. He welcomed them back warmly. He thought the songs were so good that he decided to include them in the Adi Granth, a big collection of spiritual writings he was making.

This was the first time a song was included that wasn't written by a well-known holy person. Balwand and Satta came from simple backgrounds and weren't seen as divine. But their personal growth was so amazing that their songs were considered good enough for what later became the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. This song has been sung at least once a day in the Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar for over 400 years. Many people in and around the Harimandir Sahib often say the words of this song. It has become like a common saying for people who live in Amritsar and visit the Harimandir Sahib daily. There are many stories about how saying this song has helped people in seemingly hopeless situations.


*Based on an article by Pritpal Singh Khalsa, published in on 3rd November 2015


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