Bairag and Viraag: Devotional Austerity in Sikhism

Aesthetic Renunciate Nihang Warrior

Jasleen Kaur

Bairag and Viraag are both phonetically spelled words used interchangeably which mean devotional austerity.

In Sikhism, Bairag or Viraag describes a forsaken feeling of separation which may manifest as penance, or renunciation, as in freeing the self from attachment, abandoning, or forsaking, worldly passions and pleasures. Bairaag or Viraag may also refer to the emotions of a devotee who is stricken with a kind of love lorn yearning for the divine beloved Lord.

Bairagi or Viragi generally refers to an aesthetic, detached devotee, renunciate, or one who practices devotional austerity, who has forsaken worldly ways and is free of worldly attachment. Bairagi or Viragi may also be descriptive of that yearning one who is suffering the lovelorn pangs of separation from the divine beloved.

In Sikhism, renunciation of the world usually is expressed through devotional acts of worship rather than an aesthetic lifestyle. Most Sikhs are householders with families who work for a living. The rare exception is found within the Nihang warrior sect, many of whom renounce married life to spend their days in devotional service to the collective Sikh society Panth.

Spelling and Pronunciation

Romanized transliteration of Gurmukhi may result in a variety of phonetic English alphabet spellings. Though pronounced differently, Gurmukhi consonants B and V are often used interchangeably depending on the regional accent of the speaker. Either spelling is correct.

Alternate spellings: Various phonetic spellings include simple renditions:

  • Bairag and bairaag, birag and biraag, vairag and vairaag or virag and viraag
  • Bairagi and bairaagee, biragi and biraagee, vairagi and vairaagee or viragi and viraagee


  • The Gurmukhi vowel of the first syllable may be either pronounced with an ai which has a short sounds like the a in bag, or with short i which has the sound of i in big.
  • The second vowel sound in the second syllable is a long aa sound as in aaah, or awe.
  • The third syllable i has the long sound of ee as in feel.


It is advised that before performing certain shabads of Gurbani that convey Bairaag, that the performer ought to have first personally experienced a sense of longing for the divine. For only then can one be able to truly express and communicate the emotions and feeling of Bairaag to listeners when singing hymns. Various grammatical forms of original Gurbani and English translations appear in Sikhism scriptures.

  • "So saadhoo bairaagee so-ee hiradai naam vasaa-ae ||
    That one is a saint and that one is a renouncer of the world, in whose heart God's name abides." SGGS||29
  • "Man bairaag bha-i-aa darasan daekhanai kaa chaao ||
    My detached mind has abandoned worldly desires in its ambition to behold sight of the Lord." SGGS||50
  • "Ban ban khojath phirath bairaagee ||
    Out into the woods and wilderness the renunciate goes searching for Him." SGGS||203
  • "Ma-ee dheer sahee pree bahut biraagio ||
    O Mother my serenity has gone, I am in love and long immensely for my [divine] spouse." SGGS||1203
  • "Man biraagaigee || Kojatee darasaar||1|| rahao||
    My mind is detached. I seek only a vision of the Beloved." SGGS ||1230
  • "Prabh milabae ko preet man laagee ||The desire to meet the Beloved has arisen in my soul.
    Paa-e lago mo-eh karo baentee ko-oo sant milai baddbhaagee ||1|| rehaao ||
    Touching His Feet I make this plea, allow the Saint to meet with me by great good fortune. ||1||Pause||
    Man arpo dhan raakho aagai man kee mat mo-eh sagal tiaagee ||
    My heart I surrender and before Him place my wealth, my wayward mind I renounce.
    Jo prabh kee har kathhaa sunaavai andin phiro tis pichhai viraagee ||1||
    The godly one who preaches to me telling of my Lord, I pursue that one, day and night, forsaking all else.
    Poorab karam ankur jab pragattae bhaettiou purakh rasik bairaagee ||
    The seed of past deeds sprouted when I met the Lord who is both Enjoyer and Renunciate.
    Mittiou andhaer milat har naanak janam janam kee soee jaagee ||2||2||119||
    My darkness is dispelled upon meeting the Lord O Nanak, I awaken and live after being asleep for countless incarnations." ||2||2||119|| SGGS||204
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Your Citation
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Bairag and Viraag: Devotional Austerity in Sikhism." Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2020, August 26). Bairag and Viraag: Devotional Austerity in Sikhism. Retrieved from Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Bairag and Viraag: Devotional Austerity in Sikhism." Learn Religions. (accessed March 27, 2023).