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The Lord's Nadar

Nadar, (Punjabi: ਨਦਰਿ s ) is a word commonly used in Punjabi which means "God's grace" or literally "in God's compassionate vision" or "in His merciful periscope". Nadar comes from the Arabic/Punjabi "Nazar", (ਨਜ਼ਰ s ) which means "vision". The word "Nadar" is used extensively in the Sikh holy scriptures called the Guru Granth Sahib. The concept of Nadar is dependent on several key concepts in Sikhism. Firstly, it based on the solid foundation that a Supreme entity called God or Waheguru exists; further that this God has power to influence His creation, etc.

Nadar exists due to the "innate" nature of Akal Purakh - He is merciful and compassionate; as the Guru tells us: "The Creator has showered His Kindness; He cherishes and nurtures all beings and creatures. He is Merciful, Kind and Compassionate. All are satisfied and fulfilled through Him. (3)" (SGGS p 103) Through His grace, He bless us as per our actions and deeds both done now and in the past - this give rise to the concept of Karma.

Other related concepts

Several of the important associated concepts are touched on below:


Main article: Karma

Karam also known as Karma is a record of our actions and deeds and is closely connected with the theory of rebirth and transmigration. This concept is the foundation of the religious traditions of Indian origin such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The term karam, as it is spelt in Punjabi and as it occurs in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, has three connotations.

As an inflection of Sanskrit karman from root kri (to do, perform, accomplish, make, cause or effect) it means an act, action, deed. It also stands for fate, destiny, predestination inasmuch as these result from one's actions or deeds. Also, karam as a word of Arabic origin is synonymous with nadar or Divine grace or clemency. It is with the first two connotations that the doctrine of karma is mainly concerned, although karam as God's grace is also relevant to the ultimate eradication of karma bringing moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.


Main article: Bhana

Phana or Bhana (Gurmukhi ਭਾਣਾ ) and also the word, Raza (pronounced: R'zaa), mean literally liking, pleasure, will, wish or approval, is one of the key-concepts in Sikh philosophy. In Sikhi, Bhaha refers specifically to God’s will and pleasure. Raza, an Arabic term popular in the context of various schools of Sufi thought, also appears frequently in the Sikh texts to express the concept of bhana and literally means "with His permission, in His domain".

According to this concept, the Divine Will is at the base of the entire cosmic existence. It was "His bhana", "His sweet will" which was instrumental in the world’s coming into being: "Whenever He pleases He creates the expanse (of the world of time and space) and whenever He desires He (again) becomes the Formless One (all by Himself)" (SGGS p 294).

Further, that all actions and happenings are subject to "His Will" expressed in the holy Granth thus: "In the Lord's Will, they practice meditation, austerity and self-discipline; in the Lord's Will, they are released. In the Lord's Will, they are made to wander in reincarnation; in His Will, they are forgiven. In His Will, pain and pleasure are experienced; in the Lord's Will, actions are performed." (SGGS p 963) Clearly, all our actions, our pain and pleasure, our worship, penance and self-discipline, metapsychosis and liberation, heaven and hell, are subject to His bhana.


Main article: Hukam

Hukam is a Gurmukhi word derived from the Persian "hukm", meaning command or order. The word is commonly used to refer to the Shabd {hymn} that is read after the Ardas prayer is said in the presence of the Sikh holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This first Shabd that is read is called the Hukamnama or just Hukam.

In Sikhism, the word literally means "divine command or order". A Sikh accepts that everything in the Universe happens according to the Will of an all powerful God, whose is referred to as Waheguru. It is by the command of Waheguru that we are born and we die. In the Sikh Scripture, the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak says: "O Nanak, by the Hukam of God's Command, we come and go in reincarnation. (20)" (SGGS p 4)

The whole of the Universe is subject to the Hukam of the Creator God. Nothing ever happens without the Will of Waheguru. This is accepted as one of the primary concepts of Sikhism. For the Sikh, the acceptance of His Hukam is a concept that needs to be learnt and understood. Guru Nanak at the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs asks: " ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਝ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤ੝ਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥ How does one become truthful? How can falsehood be discarded?" (SGGS p 1) And the answer and reply follows on the next line: "ਹ੝ਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥ By following the Hukam, Says Nanak, by accepting the Hukam, which is written along with everyone! (1)" (SGGS p 1)

Gurbani using this word

Lakh khusia pathsahia

In the shabad (hymn) below, the Guru tells us that unlimited joy and happiness comes to those individuals on whom the Lord showers His Nadar or "His merciful glance"; and if the person remembers the name of the Lord (Naam) then both the mind and body experience peace, well-being and good health. Further, those lucky ones who have such fortunate blessings endowed on them, hold firmly to the Lord's feet.

ਲਖ ਖ੝ਸੀਆ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੀਆ ਜੇ ਸਤਿਗ੝ਰ੝ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇਇ ॥
ਨਿਮਖ ਝਕ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ੝ ਦੇਇ ਮੇਰਾ ਮਨ੝ ਤਨ੝ ਸੀਤਲ੝ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਜਿਸ ਕਉ ਪੂਰਬਿ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਤਿਨਿ ਸਤਿਗ੝ਰ ਚਰਨ ਗਹੇ ॥੨॥
Lakẖ kẖusī▫ĝ pĝṯisĝhī▫ĝ je saṯgur naḝar kare▫i.

Nimakẖ ek har nĝm ḝe▫e merĝ man ṯan sīṯal ho▫e. Jis ka▫o pūrab likẖi▫ĝ ṯin saṯgur cẖaran gahe. (2)

Hundreds of thousands of princely pleasures are mine, if the True Guru bestows His merciful glance.

Even for a moment if He bestows His Name, my mind and body are cooled and soothed. Those who have such pre-ordained destiny hold tight to the Feet of the True Guru. (2)

Jis noo nadar tumari jio

ਆਪੇ ਮੇਲੇ ਆਪਿ ਮਿਲਾਝ ॥ ਆਪਣਾ ਪਿਆਰ੝ ਆਪੇ ਲਾਝ ॥ ਪ੝ਰੇਮ ਕੀ ਸਾਰ ਸੋਈ ਜਾਣੈ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਨਦਰਿ ਤ੝ਮਾਰੀ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Āpe mele ĝp milĝ▫e. Āpṇĝ pi▫ĝr ĝpe lĝ▫e. Parem kī sĝr so▫ī jĝṇai jis no naḝar ṯumĝrī jī▫o. (1)(rahĝ▫o.)
He Himself unites in His Union. He Himself inspires us with His Love.

He alone appreciates the value of Your Love, upon whom You shower Your Grace, O Lord. (1)(Pause)

Nadar kare prabh apnee

ਵਿਣ੝ ਨਾਵੈ ਸਭ ਡ੝ਮਣੀ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਖ੝ਆਇ ॥ ਤਿਸ੝ ਬਿਨ੝ ਘੜੀ ਨ ਜੀਵਦੀ ਦ੝ਖੀ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਇ ॥

ਭਰਮਿ ਭ੝ਲਾਣਾ ਅੰਧ੝ਲਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇ ਪ੝ਰਭ੝ ਆਪਣੀ ਆਪੇ ਲਝ ਮਿਲਾਇ ॥੩॥

viṇ nĝvai sabẖ dumṇī ḝūjai bẖĝ▫e kẖu▫ĝ▫e. Ŧis bin gẖaṛī na jīvḝī ḝukẖī raiṇ vihĝ▫e.

Bẖaram bẖulĝṇĝ anḝẖulĝ fir fir ĝvai jĝ▫e. Naḝar kare parabẖ ĝpṇī ĝpe la▫e milĝ▫e. (3)

Without the Name, all are miserable. In the love of duality, they are ruined.

Without Him, I cannot survive even for an instant, and my life-night passes in anguish. Wandering in doubt, the spiritually blind come and go in reincarnation, over and over again. When God Himself bestows His Glance of Grace, He blends us into Himself. (3)

Ja apaa Nadar karae

ਜਿਨਿ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਰਣ੝ ਧਾਰਿਆ ਸੋਈ ਸਾਰ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ ਗ੝ਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਪਛਾਣੀਝ ਜਾ ਆਪੇ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇਇ ॥

ਸੇ ਜਨ ਸਬਦੇ ਸੋਹਣੇ ਤਿਤ੝ ਸਚੈ ਦਰਬਾਰਿ ॥ ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਸਚੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਆਪਿ ਮੇਲੇ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ॥੨॥

Jin kar kĝraṇ ḝẖĝri▫ĝ so▫ī sĝr kare▫i. Gur kai sabaḝ pacẖẖĝṇī▫ai jĝ ĝpe naḝar kare▫i.

Se jan sabḝe sohṇe ṯiṯ sacẖai ḝarbĝr. Gurmukẖ sacẖai sabaḝ raṯe ĝp mele karṯĝr. (2)

Having created the creation, He supports it and takes care of it.

The Word of the Guru's Shabad is realized, when He Himself bestows His Glance of Grace.
Those who are beautifully adorned with the Shabad in the Court of the True Lord -
those Gurmukhs are attuned to the True Word of the Shabad; the Creator unites them with Himself. (2)

Definition in technical terms

NADAR (from Arabic 'nazar': glance, favourable regard, favour) implying Divine grace, is a concept central to Sikh religious tradition affirming its faith in a Transcendental Being responsive to human prayer and appeal for forgiveness and mercy. It reiterates at the same time a belief in the sovereignty of Divine Will (raza) overriding the law of karma which itself is a constituent of hukam, the all-pervading and all-regulating Divine Law. From His Will flows grace which as the divine initiative leads the seeker to his ultimate destiny. It is postulated as the critical determinant in this process.

In their holy utterances recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Gurus have repeatedly stressed how indispensable is God’s grace in one’s spiritual quest and how in devotion and contemplation it be constantly solicited.

Some other terms used to express the concept of nadar are prasad (graciousness, favour, mediation), kirpa (krpa: tenderness, favour, clemency), kirpa katakh (krpa kataksa: glance or nod of grace), and daya or taras (pity, mercy, compassion) drawn from Indian tradition. Others, drawn from Islamic tradition, particularly of Sufi orientation, are karam (bounty, favour, grace), bakhshish or bakhshish (gift, grant, beneficence) and mihar (love, favour, mercy).

Cosmic order

Nadar implies a cosmic order wherein a law superior to the law of karma, i.e. ordained system of retribution, operates. In systems like the Sankhya and Purva Mimansa and in the creeds like Buddhism wherein karma is held as supreme in determining and shaping destiny, the concept of nadar will have little relevance. It is in the theistic creeds, particularly those with attachment to devotionalism and with sensitiveness to cosmic mysteries that it takes priority as a principle overriding the retribution.

Within the traditional Indian religious thought, the concept of grace finds its strongest expression in the philosophy of Visistadvaita (identity in difference) formulated by Ramanuja. In Islamic tradition which describes Allah employing epithets such as rahman and rahim (merciful), karim (beneficent, gracious), ghafur (forgiving, clement), sattar (concealer of sins) and rauf (benign), karam and fazal are the words used for grace.

Concept of Grace

In Christianity, too, the concept of grace is firmly established. But even in these creeds grace is not "un-caused" or an arbitrary favour, but is the result of good actions, devotion and complete surrender and submission of the self to the Universal Self.

Yet the phenomenon is not unknown that of the many who tread the path of good actions and devotion and strive to grasp the Ultimate Truth, only a few in fact lay hold on it. As says Guru Nanak: "tere darsan kau keti bilalai, virla ko chinasi gur sabadi milai" — "many there be who long for Thy vision; but few encounter and perceive the Guru’s Word" (GG, 1188).

Nadar and Karam

In the Sikh system the doctrine of nadar is juxtaposed to that of karma. Karma is certainly important in that it will determine a favourable or unfavourable birth. At times the theory seems to receive support in the Sikh scriptures that those who in their previous existences have lived lives of relative merit acquire thereby a faculty of perception which enables them to recognize the Guru.

But the total order of creation visualized in Sikhism, besides according a necessary place to karma as far as the initial perception of the Word is concerned, specifies mercy or grace as the ultimate arbiter.

Liberation is through Nadar

It is finally through nadar that the initial desire for liberation is roused as well as opportunity to lay hold on the means of liberation is obtained. In a significant line in the Japu, Guru Nanak contrasts the two, karma and nadar, karami avai kapara nadari mokhu duaru—karma determines the nature of our birth, but grace alone reveals the door to liberation (GG, 2).

Nadar is the basic and primal factor even in prompting the human self (jivatman) to devotion. Says Guru Arjan: "ja kau kirapa karahu prabh ta kau lavahu sev" — "whomsoever Thou favourest, O Lord, him Thou putest in the path of devotion" (GG, 814). And, again, it is through God’s grace that the seeker reaches his goal: "gur parsadi hari paiai matu ko bharami bhulahi" — "through Divine grace is union with God attained, let no one linger in doubt about this" (GG, 936).

Reason for Nadar

Just why Akal Purakh should show mercy or grace in this manner is a matter which must remain a mystery. Mankind’s understanding of the Divine Order will not provide an explanation for the fact that the prerequisite perception is awakened in some, whereas others remain bereft of it. There is a point beyond which the human understanding cannot proceed, and the giving or withholding of such perception is an issue which lies beyond that point.

Akal Purakh confers this awareness of naam, sabda and hukam, through His sovereign Will (raza) and Grace (nadar), freely and openly bestowed, yet not upon all seekers. The ability to find the True Guru, to hear to the Guru’s voice (sabda) and to respond to it comes to some by Akal-Purakh’s gift of mercy. Were He to withhold it, there is nothing a man can do.

"Divine stirring" in our mind

Without this gift of initial perception, without a divine stirring, the Guru will not be heeded and the divine Name remains unrecognized. There is, however, no cause for fatalism and despair. Sovereignty of the Divine Will notwithstanding, Guru Nanak points to the path to divine favour. One is to be content in His Will and to cleanse the mind with a view to deserving and receiving His Grace, if and when bestowed.

Resorting to the imagery of curd-making for which the vessel must be thoroughly washed, the Guru affirms at the opening of Raga Suhi: "bhanda dhoi baisi dhupu devahu tau dudhai kau javahu" — "wash the vessel, purify it with incense, only then proceed to receive the milk" (GG, 728). Another helpful way is that of sukrit (right action) which has a lasting effect. Says Guru Nanak: “Listen, listen to our advice, O my mind, it is the right action that will last; and there may not be another chance” (GG, 154-55).

Prayer may lead to Nadar

At another place, he says: “Everyone desires, but whether one will be fortunate enough to achieve depends upon karam” (GG, 157). The use of the term karam raises a kind of ambiguity. Karam as spelt and pronounced in Punjabi may mean either the Sanskrit karma (action) or its resultant karam of Punjabi meaning fate or destiny, or it may mean the Persian karam (grace, favour).

In any case, the doctrine in Sikhism is that nadar is most likely to descend on one who engages in good actions. Another way to earn grace is ardas, prayer and supplication in extreme humility, self-abnegation and self-surrender to Divine Will. Such humility of spirit is the basis on which the spiritual and ethical life pleasing to God may be built, and grace obtained.

In a nutshell, Divine favour (nadar) prompting the self to prayer and devotion may possibly be won through humble supplication and through cultivation of virtue and right action.

  • This article based on a paper by G. S. Talib


  • 1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1969
  • 2. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
  • 3. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
  • 4. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
  • 5. Wazir Singh, Philosophy of Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1981
  • 6. Harned, David Baily, Grace and Common Life. Patiala, 1970
  • 7. G. S. Talib, Dr. J. S. Mann, M.D., Dr. S. S. Sodhi, Ph.D. and others, Concepts in Sikhism