When the subtler truth that has not been personally experienced, one cannot grasp it directly. However, with the help of allegories, metaphors and similes, the real nature of the Supreme Reality and this material world (Maya) becomes relatively easier to grasp, provided their definite purpose and intention are kept in the mind.
They have been used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) with a definite purpose and intention. Hence such mystical or figurative presentations, allegories, metaphors and similes should neither be taken literally, nor their significance stretched beyond the Gurbani’s intention and purpose. They are meant for most of us who can only appreciate the relative knowledge.
For example, consider the following Shabad:
- ਜਿਹ ਪੈਡੈ ਲੂਟੀ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥ …: Jih Paidai Lootee PANIHAAREE… (sggs 393).
A brief Panihaaree storyline
In a draught, arid, dry, or desert like environment (e.g., Rajasthan in India), water is scarce, thus, pretty precious commodity. Panihaaree (also spelt Panihari ) plays very important role in communities of such region. Panihaaree women are generally considered by the society of the so called lower caste or Jaat (mind you here: the Gurbani does not believe in this madness of Jaat-Paat!). To fetch water for the family and cattle, the water woman (Panihaaree-ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ) walks long distance through the desolated area (sometime several miles) everyday (specially early morning). In Addition to being considered of lower caste or Jaat, the society considers water women as subordinate to men, therefore often subject to oppression, abuse, molestations, plundering, overwork, unappreciated etc. Connected with ‘Panihaaree‘ is also the rich folk dance and music culture.
Exoteric or literal meaning
In spiritual thought, we will always find an exoteric (literal, ਅਖਰੀ ਅਰਥ) and an esoteric (inner, ਅਖਰਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਪਰੇ ਦੇ ਅਰਥ) meaning of scriptures. Almost all scriptures of the world talk about various themes. The question is: what do they really mean? Do we understand their esoteric meaning and mystic suggestions, or are we merely satisfied with their exoteric (literal or superficial) meaning?
Generally, meanings of this verse seen or heard are based on exoteric or literal meaning of the term ‘Panihaaree‘ = A water woman, a water-carrier, a woman who fetches water (ਪਾਣੀ ਭਰਨ ਵਾਲੀ) etc.
Esoteric or inner meaning
Panihaaree = Budhi (ਬੁੱਧੀ-intellect) or Jeeva (individual beings) trapped in Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride), false ego-sense (Haumai) or self-will etc. — Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree lifestyle or thinking (Soch-ਸੋਚ).
- ਜਿਹ ਪੈਡੈ ਲੂਟੀ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਸੋ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਸੰਤਨ ਦੂਰਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੈ ਸਾਚੁ ਕਹਿਆ ॥ ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਮੁਕਤੇ ਬੀਥੀ ਜਮ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਦੂਰਿ ਰਹਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Jih Paidai Lootee Panihaaree…: The path on which PANIHAAREE, (Jeeva) is plundered (of his or her spiritual capital) — Jeeva trapped in Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride), false ego-sense (Haumai) or self-will etc. gets plundered of his/her spiritual capital on the path of life. (However) the seekers of Truth (i.e., Gurmukh, Daas, Bhagat, Jan…) remain away from that way of life. ||1|| The perfect Satigur teaches this Universal Truth. The human being, to whom the Satigur has preached the divine Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), the path of Bikaar remains far away from that human being. He finds an open path in life’s journey with the blessing of the divine Naam. (sggs 393).
The term ‘Panihaaree-ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ’ (as well as other related terms such as ‘Panihaari-ਪਨਿਹਾਰਿ’, ‘Paaneehaarae-ਪਾਨੀਹਾਰੇ’, ‘Panihaaro-ਪਨਿਹਾਰੋ’, ‘Panihaaraa-ਪਨਿਹਾਰਾ’ etc.) also symbolizes humility, humbleness, kindness, etc.
Those who have become the Gurmukh (Bhagat, Daas, Jan…) are genuinely humble, modest and kind to others.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸਨਿ ਦਾਸੁ ਕਹਤੁ ਹੈ ਹਮ ਦਾਸਨ ਕੇ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੇ ॥੮॥੧॥: Says Nanak! I am the slave of (Your) slaves, keep me the ‘Panihaarae: water-carrier’ of (Your) slaves. ||8||1|| (sggs 981).
- ਦਾਸ ਦਾਸਨ ਕੇ ਪਾਨੀਹਾਰੇ ॥: May I be the ‘Paaneehae: water-carrier’ (i.e., humble attendant…) of your Daas’ Daas (may I find joy in their service). (sggs 254).
- ਸਗਲ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕੇ ਪੰਚ ਸਿਕਦਾਰ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਭਗਤ ਕੇ ਪਾਨੀਹਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: The five demons (lust, anger, greed etc.) are the rulers of the whole world. But they remain ‘Paaneehaar: water-carriers’ (i.e., humble attendants…) of the Raam’s Bhagat. (sggs 865).
Panihaaree gets robbed on the path…
- ਕੂਅਟਾ ਏਕੁ ਪੰਚ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਟੂਟੀ ਲਾਜੁ ਭਰੈ ਮਤਿ ਹਾਰੀ ॥੩॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਇਕ ਬੁਧਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥ ਨਾ ਓਹੁ ਕੂਅਟਾ ਨਾ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥੪॥੧੨॥ : The body is (like) a well, the five senses of cognition are (like) five water-carriers (Panihaaree: which in their own way pull and deplete Wisdom, Virtues etc.) out of this well of the body. The rope is broken (i.e., Durmat, broken intellect, lack of Wisdom…). Even with broken rope the silly water-carriers (senses) continue drawing water (i.e., constantly working on this body-well for sense-gratification but its all in vain just as one’s efforts to draw water from a well with a broken rope). O Kabir! Say- (when) the Intellect Awakens through Beechaar, since then there is neither well (of menacing body-consciousness) nor the water-carriers (i.e., the senses along with their sensuous demands that attract toward Bikaar). ||4||12|| (sggs 325).
Ridden with doubts or Dubidha (Duality – Doojaa-Bhaav), Jeeva’s ‘Durmat‘ (corrupt or evil intellect, false thinking, wrong understanding, folly etc.) creates separation or distance between the mind and its True Nature (Mool or Jot Saroop) within. And thus gets plundered. Consequently Jeeva confounds his/her Mool (ਮੂਲ: Source, Origin, Jot Saroop…) with the Body-frame.
However, those who have become the Gurmukh stay away from that path of plunder. Or, that path stays away from the Gurmukh!!
In short, a Gurmukh (Bhagat, Daas, Jan…) is a Wise person, brave person, good person, virtuous person, fearless, blissful (Anand), pious person, Joyful, always positive, etc. (ਵਿਦਵਾਨ, ਬਹਾਦੁਰ, ਭਲਾ, ਨੇਕ, ਗੁਣੀ, ਖੁਸ਼, ਹਮੇਸ਼ਾ ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ ਵਿਚ…).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਬੁਧਿ ਹੋਇ ॥: The Gurmukh is blessed with spiritual wisdom and discerning intellect (sggs 317).
- ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਵਸੀਅਲੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣਿ ਰਹੈ ॥: By becoming the Gurmukh, when one Realizes his Mool, then his mind (that has become stable-ਅਡੋਲ) abides in the Heart within (sggs 945).
Gurbani says become a Gurmukh-Panihaaree
A GURMUKH-PANIHAREE draws Amrit from within and drinks it. Nobody can plunder a GURMUKH-PANIHAREE!!
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਖੂਹਟਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਭਰਿਆ ਸਬਦੇ ਕਾਢਿ ਪੀਐ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥: Deep Within this body is the well overflowing with the Amrit; the water-carrier (one engaged in Naam-Jap or understanding the Gur-Shabad) draws and drinks it through the Shabad (sggs 570).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪੀਵਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥੧॥: O Nanak! (However, those who have) become the Gurmukh drink the Amrit by reflecting on the Shabad (sggs 646).
- ਵਾਹੁ ਵਾਹੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਕੋਇ ॥: Wow Wow! Naam is the Amrit, which is obtained only by becoming a Gurmukh. (sggs 515).
- ਊਪਰਿ ਕੂਪੁ ਗਗਨ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪੀਵਣਹਾਰਾ ॥: The source of Naam Amrit is high (in brain, mind…); only a high-minded being can drink Naam Amrit (sggs 1331).
In nutshell, the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is that people without the Wisdom are plundered.