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DHUNI from Sanskrit Dhvani meaning sound, echo, noise, voice, tone, tune, thunder stands in Punjabi generally for sound and tune. In the Guru Granth Sahib, the term appears in the sense of tune at the head of 9 of the 22 vars (odes) under different ragas or musical measures. Directions with regard to the tunes in which those vars were meant to be sung were recorded by Guru Arjan when compiling the Holy Book. The classical system of Indian music had well-established tunes and corresponding prosodic forms; but the var, being basically a folk form, did not have any prescribed order. The Guru laid down tunes at least for odes for which models existed. The vars, with corresponding dhunis, are;

  • 1. Var Majh by Nanak I—Malak Murid tatha Chandrahara Sohia ki dhuni (GG, 137).
  • 2. Gauri Ki Var by Nanak V—Rai Kamaldi Mojdi ki Var ki dhuni (GG, 318)
  • 3. Asa ki Var by Nanak I—Tunde Asrajai ki dhuni (GG, 462).
  • 4. Gujari ki Var by Nanak III—Sikandar Birahim ki Var ki dhuni (GG, 508).
  • 5. Vadahans ki Var by Nanak IV—Lalan Bahalima ki dhuni (GG, 585).
  • 6. Ramkali ki Var by Nanak III—Jodhai Virai Purabani ki dhuni (GG, 947).
  • 7. Sarang ki Var by Nanak IV—Rai Mahme Hasane ki dhuni (GG, 1237).
  • 8. Var Malar Ki by Nanak I—Rane Kailas tatha Mal de ki dhuni (GG, 1278).
  • 9. Kanare ki Var by Nanak IV—Muse ki Var ki dhuni (GG, 1312).

Some scholars following Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin, an eighteenth-century work, assert that these dhunis were added in the Holy Book under the direction of Guru Hargobind, Nanak VI. They support their assertion by stating that in the original recension of Guru Granth Sahib preserved at Kartarpur, near Jalandhar, directions as to dhunis were written in a different pen above or in between the lines. But Bhai Jodh Singh who, along with Professor Teja Singh and Ganga Singh, minutely researched this rare manuscript in 1945, affirms that the dhunis were recorded by Bhai Gurdas who originally transcribed the sacred volume, there being no change of hand. Bhai Jodh Singh’s finding is that a finer pen has been used by him in recording dhunis above or in between the lines as he has done at places elsewhere to mark mahala indicating authorship of the verses.


1. Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin. Patiala, 1970

2. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Sri Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan. Patiala, 1968

3. Harbans Singh, Giani, Asa di Var Nirnaya. Amritsar, 1974

4. Teja Singh, Asa di Var. Amritsar, 1968

Above adapted from article By Major Gurmukh Singh

See also Raga, Kirtan, Sikh Kirtan, Taal