Digging into the 'kaar' of Ek Onkaar

Exploring the Essence of "Kaar" in Ekonkaar

In Sikh philosophy, the term "Ekonkaar" holds profound significance, encapsulating the idea of the divine unity and oneness. The suffix "kaar" in "Ekonkaar" encompasses a multifaceted understanding of unity, action, and identity. Due to this, there are layers of meaning of this kaar. It embodies the spirit of creation, completeness, and integration, underscoring the inseparable relationship between the doer and the deed. Through its diverse interpretations, "kaar" enriches the profound concept of oneness encapsulated in the sacred chant of "Ekonkaar," inviting individuals to explore the depths of unity within themselves and the cosmos.

Let me expand on this:

1. One who Does:

The suffix "kaar" often denotes the agent or the doer of an action. For instance, "Kala-kaar" signifies an artist, one who engages in the creation of art. Similarly, "Nrit-kaar" refers to a dancer, the individual who performs the act of dancing. In this sense, "kaar" embodies the spirit of activity and creation, emphasizing the role of the practitioner in manifesting the associated attribute or action.

2. Full of Essence:

Another interpretation of "kaar" is the state or quality of being imbued with a particular attribute. For example, "Satkaar" represents goodness or truthness, signifying a state replete with truth or goodness. Similarly, "Dhundhkaar" denotes an environment filled with fog, evoking the imagery of dense mist enveloping its surroundings. Here, "kaar" conveys a sense of completeness or abundance, suggesting an overwhelming presence of the associated characteristic.

3. Possession or Identity:

Furthermore, "kaar" can imply possession or identification with a particular quality or state. "Ahankaar," for instance, denotes ego or self-identity, suggesting possession by one's sense of self-importance. Likewise, "Omkaar" signifies the essence of the divine sound "Om," suggesting a profound identification with the cosmic vibration. In this interpretation, "kaar" highlights the intimate connection or ownership of the associated attribute.

4. Unity and Oneness:

Moreover, the suffix "kaar" underscores the idea of unity and integration. It suggests that the doer and the deed, the practitioner and the practice, are inseparable. Just as the artist becomes one with the art and the dancer merges with the dance, "kaar" implies a state of oneness where distinctions dissolve, and the practitioner embodies the essence of their action completely. In the context of "Ekonkaar," this interpretation resonates deeply, emphasizing the indivisible unity of the divine.

5. Work or Function:

In Urdu and related languages, "kaar" signifies work or function. For instance, "Sarkaar" refers to the government, symbolizing the collective entity responsible for governance and administration. Here, "kaar" conveys the notion of organized activity or purposeful functioning, reflecting the dynamic nature of societal structures and systems.

Research on the 'kaar' of Ek Onkaar

- March 2017 (First published March 2021)

Here are some thoughts on what 'kaar' in Guru Nanak's 'Ek Onkaar' or Ekonkar means. I likely means "full of one sound". Kaar might also refer to an echo or a reverberation which makes the sound "full."  Kaar essentially makes a meditation out of Ek Om! It refers to the resounding sound of oneness in everything. 

Other words were the suffix 'kaar' is used

Dhundh - Fog
Dhundh-kaar - Fogness, full of fog

Sat - Truth/Good
Satkaar - Truthness/Goodness, full of good, truth

Jai - Winning
Jai-kaar - Winningness, Full of winning
as in ...

kImiq so pwvY Awip jwxwvY Awip ABulu n Buley [ 
jY jYkwru krih quDu Bwvih gur kY sbid Amuley [9[2[5[ (sUhI m: 1)

Jhan or Jhanat - Sound
Jhankaar or Jhanatkaar - Full of sound, or reverberation of sound
as in ...

dyiK rUpu Aiq AnUpu moh mhw mg BeI [ 
ikMknI sbd Jnqkwr Kylu pwih jIau [1[6[ (sveIey mhly cauQy ky)

Aham - Me
Aham-kaar - "Me-ness", full of me, full of Ego
as in ...

nMnwkwru n koie kryeI [
rwKY Awip vifAweI dyeI [2[2[ 

Nana - No
Nana-kaar - "No-ness", denial, full of no
as in ...

nMnwkwru n koie kryeI [

rwKY Awip vifAweI dyeI [2[2[ 

Ik Om - One Om
Ik Omkaar - One "Omness", full of om

Another meaning of "kaar" suffix - "one who does"

Kala - Art
Kala-kaar - Artist (one who does art)

Chitra - painting
Chitra-kaar - painter (one who paints)

Nrit - Dance
Nrit-kaar - Dancer
as in 
myG smY mor inriqkwr [ 
cMdu dyiK ibgsih kaulwr [4[2[ (bsMq m: 5)

Om - "Beginning to end"
Om-kaar - one who does beginning to end

My initial thought is that if it were to be the second meaning of "kaar" (one who does) then there would be add "kartaapurakh" to the mul mantra. So its probably not that.   

My second thought is that the two meanings might actually be the same.  For someone who really does art, truly is immersed in the art - no difference remains between the art and the artist. There is no difference between the true dancer and their dance.  They become one.  Aha! One!  Similarly there is no difference between the doer of Om and Om.  They are one.  We hear that in Gurbani -

Tohi Mohi, Mohi Tohi Antar Kaisa?
Kanak Katak Jal Tarang Jaisa

If there is a difference then it is like gold and the bangle, waves and the ocean.  The waves are smaller than the ocean, bangles are only made of gold - not the the other way around.  The bigger entity is the complete one.  Complete. Poora.  Purakh. 

The other way to look at this is that the artist makes art from something within him. The dancer dances based on something within the dancer.  The dance is within the dancer and the dancer does dance.  The Om is within Omkaar and Omkaar does Om. 

"kaar" can also mean "possessed."  So Dhundhkaar would be possessed by fog, Andhkaar would be possessed by darkness, and Ahankaar would be possessed by ego. So this is an interesting thought. 

Another interesting perspective.  Omkaar could be thought of as the opposite of Ahamkaar. Ahamkaar is me-ness. And Omkaar is you-ness with "O" meaning "you" or "that-ness" where "O" means "that".  

Here is what it is not. It is not "Aakaar" which some people suggest. That one doesn't make any sense to me. Niraakaar - without shape. Opposite of Niraakaar is not Omkaar. It would have to be Omaakaar.  The shape of sound.  The opposite of Niraakaar is Saakaar. Or "Sa" plus "aakaar" - with shape.  Sapna saakaar means making a dream come true.  Giving the dream a shape.  

Maybe I created a new meaning of the word One. Oneness. But maybe I should have created oneful.  Full of oneness.  

Tat tvam asi - you are that. But you are also you. So the better way to understand oneness is being oneful.  

Kaar in urdu means work.  Or one who does. Kaar-o-baar - work (where "baar" really has no meaning just the way gharbaar means ghar). Kaarkhaanaa - place where work is done (khaanaa being place, toshakhaana = place of treasure). Kaarnaamah - heroic deed. Sarkaar - literally "head" "work" - the head of working - or government. 

Research from March 2017.  Published March 2021. 

Ek Onkaar, Ik Onkaar, Ek Onkar, Ik Onkar, Ek Omkar, Ik Omkar,