Q104. What is the literary value of the poetry of the Gurus?
Apart from its mysticism and spiritual depth, the poetry of the Gurus throws light on their contemporary situation. It lays bare the corruption and degradation of the society of their time and stresses the need of social reform and economic uplift. Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh both recommended a just and humane administration, to the then rulers of India.
The hymns of the first five Gurus, the ninth and tenth Gurus, show an admirable use of the current figures of speech, apart from their metrical richness and sweetness. Imagery is used to simplify subtle thoughts and profound concepts. The images were taken from everyday life and common occurrence. The Gurus were keen lovers of nature and as such, have written glowing descriptions of panoramic beauty and the changes of season. Guru Nanak in Barah Mah (The Twelve Months), compares the monthly moods of nature to the inner conditions of man. The Arti is full of wonders of the skyscape:
“In the salver of the sky,
The Sun and Moon are lamps.
The luminous stars are the pearls.” (A.G. p.663)
Spiritual truths are conveyed through homely similes.
“Just as there is fragrance in the flower, and
Reflection in a mirror, so
Similarly God lives within us
Search for Him in your heart! ” (A.G. p. 684)
“The sun is the same, the seasons are many, as
Many are the garbs of the Creator”, sayth Nanak (A.G. p.12)
The Gurus used current proverbs and popular sayings to illustrate their fundamental ideas of spirituality:
“As is the dream of night, so is this world.”
“As is the staff in the hand of a blind person,
So is, to us, the Name of God.”
There is, however, no delibrate attempt to refine or embellish the language. Sublimity and idealism have been presented with such simplicity that even unlettered people can understand their import. The hymns satisfy a longing for perfection and spiritual attainment. The poetry of the Gurus is valuable for both its sublime content and literary excellence.