‘Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har, Har’
The other morning Bhagat Kabir, one of the most brilliant spiritual poets ever, told me to say the two letters. There was a note underneath the text explaining that this means that we should say Rám.
Why Rám and not Har, and anyway both words have three letters, don’t they ?
I do not know why Manmohan Singh, the man who did the SGPC translation of the Guru Granth Sahib, thinks that Kabir wanted us to repeat Rám rather than Har. Both words mean God, both words are often used in the Guru Granth Sahib and both words seem to have three letters but in reality have only two.
Old ‘alphabets’ often only provide us with consonants and either have no vowel symbols or have symbols for vowels that are not recognised as letters. The Gurmukhí ‘alphabet’ (from alpha and beta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet) begins with three vowels, but even the sounds that these vowels represent are often indicated by symbols that do not count as letters, like lines underneath or above consonants.
The Gurmukhí spelling of Har is ‘haha, sihari, rara’ or hir, whereby the sihari is pronounced after the consonant that it precedes. But if the consonant that the sihari precedes is the last letter of the word, the sihari is not pronounced at all, unless (there always is one) the last consonant is a haha or h. The sihari represents the sound found in words like ‘in’ or ‘is’.
There are deluded souls who pronounce Har as Harí. They have it wrong on two counts. The sihari should not be pronounced, and when the sihari is pronounced it is not an í or ‘ee’. Panjabi has much in common with Hindi, but is not the same.
Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám, Rám’
The case of Rám is much simpler. The ‘a’ in the middle is not the Panjabi letter èra but a small vertical line ‘hanging’ in between the ‘rara’ and the ‘mama’. This little line also does not count as a letter, so Rám, just like Har qualifies as a word of two letters that should be repeated. Har is a generic word for God, Rám stands for God’s All-Pervading aspect.
‘Jah is my Keeper’
Jews are not supposed to write the name of God in full. I do not know whether the original Hebrew alphabet had vowel sounds, but all we have for the old-testament name of God are the consonants. Jehovah, Yahweh and the Jah of the Rastafarians are based on those consonants. ‘Jah is my keeper’ is a Rasta song based on a biblical text by the late Peter Tosh, that I love listening to.