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The literal meanings of ‘rahau’ are to stay, remain steady, or rest. The word ‘rahau’ is used in Gurbani at many places with similar meanings. For example:

bhāī re gurmati sāci rahāu. -Guru Granth Sahib 30 (rahāu = one can stay/remain steady).
mai dhar terī pārbraham terai tāṇi rahāu. -Guru Granth Sahib 46 (rahāu = I am living/staying).
mai gurbāṇī ādhāru hai gurbāṇī lāgi rahāu. -Guru Granth Sahib 759 (lāgi rahāu = I may stay connected).

In medieval Bhakti literature, ‘rahau’ is also an important technical term, originally based on the foundation of aforementioned meanings.

According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha the word ‘rahau’ means refrain, chorus, or a phrase which is repeated after every ‘antra’ (stanza of a Sabad). According to traditional scholars, the principle and central idea of a Sabad is also in the line of ‘rahau.’

Consequently, in the Guru Granth Sahib, ‘rahau’ has been used as a marker for those lines which contain the central idea of a Sabad or Bani (composition). That is why, while singing, the ‘rahau’ line is meant to be sung as a chorus, whereas the rest of the lines are to be sung as the ‘antra.’ In cases where there is more than one ‘rahau’ in a Sabad, any ‘rahau’ line or stanza can be chosen as a chorus.

‘Rahau’ is closely related to rag (musical measure) because, without ‘rahau,’ the form of rag does not become clear. But “the surprising thing is that ragi singhs [devotional hymn singers] are completely ignoring this fact. Instead of using the Guru’s unique gift [rahau - chorus] as the basis of Sabad-Kirtan [devotional singing of Sabad] to convey the Guru’s message to the Sangat, they tend to please the people with their own intellect by choosing any line from the Sabad, which appeals to them, and make it the ‘rahau’ [chorus], which is inappropriate.” But if there is no ‘rahau’ in a Sabad, then any line or stanza containing the central idea can be used.

In the Guru Granth Sahib, with the exception of Rag Tukhari, almost all of the Sabads revealed in the other rags have used ‘rahau.’ ‘Rahau’ appears even in various Banis including Bavan Akhari, Sukhmani, Thiti, Patti, Sidh Gosti, and Oankar, serving to express the central idea of the whole Bani. But among vars, ‘rahau’ is used only in Asa Ki Var Mahala 1 and Ramkali Ki Var Mahala 3, while among chants, it is used only in one chant (Kedara Mahala 5, number 4.1.).

In Gurbani, even though ‘rahau’ is generally found to be used after the first stanza, in the fifty-nine Sabads revealed by Guru Teghbahadar Sahib, it is used in the beginning. Shah Hussain, a renowned

Sufi poet of the medieval period, has also used the ‘rahau’ lines in the beginning. Similarly, in the works of medieval saint-poets such as Surdas, Mira Bai, and Tulsi Das, the first line is used as a refrain or chorus.

The ‘rahau’ lines are always counted separate from the other stanzas of a Sabad. In Gurbani, ‘rahau’ is preceded by the number ‘1,’ which separates the ‘rahau’ lines from the others. Just like the numbers indicating the stanzas in the Sabads, this number appearing with the ‘rahau’ line is also not pronounced. In a few Sabads, ‘rahau second’ is also used, which appears after the last stanza of the Sabad. Generally, the stanza of ‘rahau second’ answers the question formulated in the first ‘rahau,’ but in some Sabads it seems to explain the meaning of the first ‘rahau.’

In Sabads where ‘rahau’ appears more than twice, it seems to highlight the subject of the corresponding stanza of that Sabad. The examples of Sabads with two or more ‘rahau’ are as follows:

achal chalāī nah chalai...nānak bāh luḍāīai.4.33. -Guru Granth Sahib 26 (two times)
ammrit kāiā rahai...māri āpe jīvāle.6.1.13. -Guru Granth Sahib 155 (three times)
sabhi ras miṭhe...mahi chalahi vikār.1.rahāu.4.7. -Guru Granth Sahib 17 (four times)
merā manu locai...nānak dās tumāre jīu.rahāu.1.8. -Guru Granth Sahib 97 (four times)
jīu ḍaratu hai...cukh cukh hoi.1.rahāu.4.1. -Guru Granth Sahib 660 (four times)
hari hari utamu...nāmu jinā rahrāsi.1.rahāu.1. -Guru Granth Sahib 82 (six times)

Though there can be more than one ‘rahau’ in a Sabad, they only present the central idea of the whole Sabad or its various stanzas. In this regard, Giani Haribans Singh’s view seems apt that, “if we reflect on or listen to the Sabad with a focused mind, then [we will find that] the central idea of the whole Sabad is contained in the ‘rahau’ lines. Well-trained interpreters of Sabad sequence their explanation keeping the ‘rahau’ lines in focus, as the order of explanation works better this way. Sometimes, by starting the interpretation of the Sabad with the opening line, the arrangement or flow of the explanation does not work.

According to Dr. Charan Singh and Bhai Vir Singh, while interpreting, “the sequence of interpretation of the Sabad seems to fit when it is started from the rahau line.” Dr. Mahinder Kaur Gill is also of the opinion that “the interpretation that is started from rahau clarifies the meaning better.” That is why Prof. Sahib Singh has maintained this practice while doing Gurbani interpretation.

In light of the above opinions of the scholars, in the ‘Interpretive Transcreation’ of this project, the interpretation has been started from the ‘rahau’ line, while the rest of the stanzas are interpreted later.