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Baja or Vaja - Instrument


Baja or Vaja

Baja or Vaja

Photo © [S Khalsa]

Baja, or Vaja, depending on regional accent are interchangeable words which can mean any kind of musical instrument, and may also mean to make music, or to produce sound.

In Sikhism, both baja, and vaja, may indicate any type of musical instrument, but are most commonly used in reference to the harmonium, a kind of hand operated pump organ. The vaja, or harmonium, is a popular instrument which is played while singing sacred hymns during Sikh worship services. Traditional string instruments, though making a comeback are rare, as the vaja, or harmonium, is the most common instrument used during services, and no gurdwara is without one. Ragis, a group of musicians formally trained according the Indian classical music system, often perform Gurbani Kirtan with two vajas, accompanied by tabla.

In the holy scripture of Guru Granth Sahib, the words baja and vaja may reference ankle bells, bugle, conch shell, drum, harmonium, horn, instrument, musical instrument, organ, tambourine, trumpet, as well as a musical band, making music, producing sound, hearing unstruck sound, a kind of mystical melody, or instrumental sound which resonates from within. The mystic authors of Sikhism scripture make several references to various instrumental sounds that may be heard during mediation which have no outside source, but originate from within the innermost being.

Pronunciation: Baa - jaa, or vaa - jaa. J is not silent, but sounds like the J in Jack.
Alternate Spellings: Baja, baajaa, bajja, vaja, vaajaa, vajjaa, wajja.
Common Misspellings: bhaja

The words baja, vaja and their various derivatives which appear in Sikhism scripture, may be interpreted and translated from Gurmukhi into English differently by various scholars. Gurmukhi words have to studied closely in context with the entire verse of scripture in order to best decipher the most accurate meaning. Phonetic examples from scripture may vary in spelling:

Examples of Baja, or its derivatives in Gurbani:

  • "Chaet achaet moorr man merae baajae anhad baajaa ||
    Remember Him, O my foolish unthinking mind, then shall the unstruck melodious bliss resound." SGGS||856
  • "Baajaa maan taan taj taanaa paa-o na beegaa ghaalai||
    He plays the notes relinquishing pride and power, stepping not on the crooked pathway his feet keep the beat." SGGS||885
  • "Baajae anhad baajaa ||
    The unstruck sound spontaneously resounds." SGGS||892

Examples of Vaja, or its derivatives, in Gurbani:

  • "Vaajaa naejaa pat sio pargatt karam teraa meree jaat ||3||
    To be distinguished with honor is my drum, banner and lance and your favor is my lineage." ||3||
  • "Har antar vaajaa pounn hai merae govindaa har aap vajaa-ae tio vaajai jeeo ||
    O Lord, deep within is the musical wind, O my Lord of the world, as the Lord Himself plays the tune, so does it resound." SGGS||174
  • "Vaajaa mat pakhaavaj bhaao ||
    Make intellect your hand organ, and love be the tambourine.
    Hoe anand sadaa man chaaou||
    Then shall the bliss of everlasting pleasure be produced by the mind.... "
    "Sat santokh vajeh du-e taal ||
    Play truth and contentment upon your pair of cymbals.
    Pairee vaajaa sadaa nihaal ||
    Let your ankle bells be the an everlasting vision of the Lord." SGGS||350
  • "Kar bin vaajaa pag bin taalaa ||
    Playing upon the instruments without his hands, he dances without using his feet." SGGS||412
  • "Chaliaa pat sio janam savaar vaajaa vaa-i-see ||
    He departs with honor and is redeemed whose life is embellished, and trumpets resound in his glory." SGGS||730
  • "Har jeeo guphaa andar rakh kai vaajaa pavan vajaa-i-aa ||
    The Lord placed the soul into the body's cavern and blew into it the music of breath animating the instrument of life." SGGS||922
  • "Param jot jaagaa-e vaajaa vaavasee ||14||
    The supreme light shines forth, and the celestial refrain resounds." ||14|| SGGS||1410

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