Var Haqiqat Rai

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VAR HAQIQAT RAI, by Aggra or Aggar Singh, is a versified account of the life and martyrdom of Haqiqat Rai. No biographical details are available about Aggra, except that he was a contemporary of Haqiqat Rai and that he came of a Sethi Khatri family. Haqiqat Rai was the son of Bagh Mall and the grandson, on the mother's side, ofBhai Kanhaiya, a devout Sikh of the time of Guru Gobind Singh. The Var was completed in 1841 Bk/AD 1784, and it comprises 212 stanzas.

Each stanza is preceded by a dohira or couplet and a chhand or lyric. Beginning with an invocation to Ganesa, a Hindu god, the goddess Durga and the Supreme Lord, the creator of all gods and goddesses, the poet panegyrizes Guru Nanak and other Gurus who made mankind remember God and who saved the janeu (sacred thread), the religious symbol of the Hindus (5). According to Aggra, Haqiqat Rai was born, on Kartik vadi 2/October (7), but he does not mention the year : he, however puts Haqiqat Rai's age at the time of his martyrdom in 1791 Bk/AD 1734 at 12 years which brings the year of his birth to 1779 Bk/ AD 1722.

Haqiqat Rai started his informal education with a Mullah at the age of seven (20), and was betrothed at eight (25) and married when ten (26). His formal schooling began at the age of 12 when he was sent to a mosque (51). It was here that some Muslim students in the mosque spoke ill of the goddess Bhavani which provoked Haqiqat Rai into a polemic with his fellow students. He was charged with having slandered Prophet Muhammad (58) and taken prisoner to the court of Nawab Zakariya Khan at Lahore. The Nawab felt like pardoning the innocent child (121), but the qadi threatened to take up the matter with the Delhi court. Thereupon the Nawab tried to lure Haqiqat into Islam, failing which he was threatened with death (136). Haqiqat Rai turned down the temptations offered by the Nawab and the requests of his mother to give up his faith to save his life. He was tortured and finally executed (196). He was cremated at Lahore on the banks of the River Ravi. Aggra's Var is very significant from historical and sociological viewpoints. It is perhaps the only contemporary work relating to Haqiqat Rai in any language. It describes, in fair detail, the ceremonies and rituals observed in the eighteenthcentury Punjab at the time of birth and marriage. The language is simple Punjabi, with no literary pretensions.

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