Chaur Sahib Defined: Whisk Waving High Over Head

Sikh Boy Performing Chaur Whisk Seva
Sikh Boy Performing Chaur Whisk Seva Photo. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Chaur is a Punjabi word which refers to the tuft at the end a lion's tail when raised to wave high over its head, or a yak's tail waved as a fly whisk. The word chaur is related as much to the action of brushing, fanning, whisking, or waving high over head as to the object being whisked, waved, fanned, or brushed. 

In Sikhism, Chaur Sahib refers to a ceremonial whisk waved high over the Guru Granth Sahib, to reverently fan the scripture, by whomever is serving as an attendant.

Chaur Sahib is a required article to be kept in the vicinity of where ever Guru Granth Sahib is installed. The chaur may be any size and is usually make of a yak's hair, or tail, that is fixed to a simple or decorative wooden, or metallic, handle. In the gurdwara worship place, any Sikh man, women, or child, may perform Chaur Sahib seva at any time while the scripture is open in prakash.

The History of the Chaur Sahib

In historic times, a chaur whisk would customarily have been used to fan royalty. A yak tail could also designate rank among members of the Mughal dynasty. Historically the Chaur Sahib would have been used by a sevadar attendant as a fan to cool the air and keep flies or other insects away from any of the ten gurus. The same tradition of respect and seva is shown to the Guru Granth Sahib by Sikhs eager to express devotion.

In Gurbani scripture, words denoting the action of waving or fanning have similar phonetic sounds, but have a variety Gurmukhi spellings.

Spelling and Pronunciation

The term Chaur is phoneticaand may be transliterated in various ways using Roman characters, or English letters.

Pronunciation: Chaur sounds similar to chore with the au vowel having the sound of aura.

Alternate Spellings: Chour

Also Known As: Chanwar, and in Gurbani, Chauri, Chavar, Chawar, Chamar, and Chour.

Examples From Gurbani Scripture

According to scripture there is a long tradition of waving the fly whisk. In the ancient scriptures of Gurbani, there appear a variety of words with similar spellings meaning to brush, fan, wave, or whisk. Translations and transliterations are my own.

  • "Jaa kaa chavar sabh oopar jhoolai ||
    His fly whisk waves over all." SGGS||393
  • "Taero keeaa tujheh kiaa arpo naam theraa tuhee chavar dtolaarae ||3||
    Why should I offer to Thee, that which Thou Thyself has created? Thy Name is the fly whisk fan, which I wave over Thee." ||3|| SGGS 694
  • "Anik leelaa raaj ras roopan chhathr chamar takhat aasanan ||
    There are assorted enjoyments of pleasures, powers, beauty, canopies, and fly whisk fans waving over head, and thrones to sit upon." SGGS||707
  • "Kaesaa kaa kar beejanaa sant chour dtulaavo ||
    With my hair I make whisk to fan the saint." SGGS 745
  • "Kaesaa kaa kar chavar dtulaavaa charan dhhoorr mukh laaee ||1|| rehaao ||
    With my hair I make a fly whisk and wave it over them, the dust of their feet to my face I apply." ||1||Pause|| SGGS||749
  • "Sir saahaa paatisaahu nihchal chour chhath ||
    You are the Emperor and the head of kings, permanent is Your fly-brush and canopy."SGGS||964
  • "Es hee meh jis kee pat raakhai tis saadhoo chour dtaaleeai ||6||
     Whose honor in the midst of illusive Maya is protected, over the head of that saint the fly whisk I fan." ||6|| SGGS||1019
  • "Ajai chavar sir dtulai naam anmrit mukh leeao ||
    Unconquerable is the fly whisk that over His head waves, and the holy name's nectar with His mouth He drinks" SGGS||1409