LIVING TOGETHER: 17TH Century Maratha Empire, an Attempt at Harmonious Coexistence

While we Indians pride ourselves over the rich diversity of communities, race and religion that our country has, it also means dealing with differences and contradictions in the way we live, eat and pray. However there has always been a sense of, not just tolerance, but respect for these differences. This appears to be an intrinsic factor of Indian cultural ethos. Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘we must respect other religions, as we respect our own. Mere tolerance is not enough’. There have been times when this sentiment could not hold up against hatered and violence however there were other times too when this sentiment flowered against heavy odds.  Seventeenth century Maratha society was one such period in the history of this great nation.

It is a myth to presume that a society at confrontation with itself cannot find ways to co-exist peacefully. The Medieval period in the Maratha Empire saw three apparently conflicting forces at work, especially during the seventeenth century: there was religious as well as political conflicts among the Bahamani kingdom, the Mughals and the Marathas.  With the consolidation of Maratha power in this century, the Hindu and Muslim communities of the Maratha society found innovative ways of co-existing with mutual respect and peaceful tolerance. There were instances of hate and intolerance, no doubt, but these were offset by numerous examples to the contrary.  The people and the rulers, in their wisdom knew that the only way for a peaceful society was respecting and giving space to the ‘other religion’. Marathi writers and historian have cited numerous instances of this as depicted in the daily lives of administrators and rulers. Examples from which our present day society could learn a lesson or two.

800px-Bahamani-sultanate-map.svg
Bahmani Sultanate 1347-1527 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Saraswati Gangadhar, author of Gurucharitra, a poetic work of the fourteenth century, mentions that Alauddin II (1435-57), of the Bahamani dynasty which ruled over much of Deccan India, including parts of present day Maharashtra between the 13th and 16th century, held great respect for Narsimha Saraswati, the hero of Gurucharitra.  

Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1490-1510) another Bahmani ruler, tried to create cultural harmony among Shias, Sunnis and Hindus through the medium of Art. According to Chitnis (p48) he was a worshipper of Allah and a Hindu goddess. Both the Mandir and the Masjid were sacred to him. His official documents would begin with the words Az-puja-i Shri Saraswati. He built a temple at Bijapur dedicated to Lord Narsimha. He bestowed liberal grants to temples and safeguarded the rights of pujaris. Little wonder that he came to be known as Jagadguru.

The Mahanbhav Matha of Otur (Pune) received land grants from the Nizam Shahi rulers who ruled over large parts of Deccan (1490-1633) with their capital at Ahmednagar in present day Maharashtra. Chand bibi, the regent of Ahmednagar (1596-99) and sister of Hussain Nizam Shah I, sent a note to her officers to respect all such grants to Hindus and Brahmans. The priest of Pedgaon (Ahmednagar) too received land grant from Malik Amber (1549-1626) who was a very popular Siddi Prime Minister in the Ahmednagar Sultanate (Kulkarni p. 113).

Maratha_empiremap
Maratha Empire 1674-1818 (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Among the rulers of the Maratha Empire (1674-1818), Shivaji’s grandfather, Maloji Bhonsale was a disciple of the legendary Muslim saint-poet, Shaikh Muhammad, and when Maloji shifted to Nizamshahi (in Ahmednagar district) he brought Shaikh Muhammad along with him (Kulkarni p.110). Maloji also gave 12 bigha land to Shaikh Muhammad and built a math (hermitage) for him at Shrigonde (Dhere, p60). Ramdas, the great saint poet of 17th century, was a strong critic of the Muslim rule but a great admirer of Shaikh Muhammad (Chitnis, p110). Sant Ramdas was Shivaji’s guru.

Maloji Bhaonsale’s wife and Shivaji’s grandmother, Umabai, took a vow to Shah Sharif of Ahmednagar for a child and when she gave birth to two sons, they were named after this Pir : Shahaji and Sharifji, in gratitude for his blessings (Dhere, p.60). The dargah of Shah Sharif enjoyed two villages, Eklare and Konosi under the Marathas (Bendre). Mir Sayyid Sadi of Nasik and Mulla Hussaini Mosque of Rannebennur (Dharwad) received inam lands from Shahaji (Kulkarni p. 112). Shivaji held great respect for Baba Yakut of Utambar village near Kelashi (Ratnagiri) and Sambhaji undertook the construction of his dargah which eventually remained incomplete. Numerous Muslim holy men received allowances for maintenance and illumination of mosques from Shivaji, including the Pir of Sayyid Sadat Hazrat (Pune region). The Kazi of Indapur and the khidmatgar of the Bhambavade mosque received land and allowances from Shivaji. Many believe that Shivaji’s son, Sambhaji was victorious against the Portuguese due to the blessings of Pir Abdullah Khan and in return the Prime Minsiter, Kavi Kailash granted the Pir certain allowances. Shivaji’s grandson, Shahuji gave an entire village in grant to the Muslim saint Sayyid Ata-ullah of Shakarkoti of Loni in Pune. The Peshwas too were equally generous and benevolent towards Muslim holy men: Pirs Sayyid Sada and Shaikh Salah received grants from Peshwas for construction purposes. Even the dispute among them regarding who would lead the Muharram procession was settled by the Peshwas.  Dargah of Shaikh Salah and Takiya of Angad Shah received one sher of rice and one paisa for Frankincense every day from the royal palace.

The village councils were called gotsabhas and enjoyed supreme positon in the society and state and it decided cases that effected the whole society. The Kazi and the Maulana had a seat in the gotsabha and in every village Got, the proportion of Muslim members was usually proportional to the Muslim population in that village. Both the Hindus and Muslims sat together in the temple village and settled disputes irrespective of caste or religion. Mulansara, a kind of tax originally introduced by the Muslim rulers for the maintenance of the village Maulana continued under the Marathas. Muslim Patils were not unheard of under the Marathas (Kulkarni p.115).

Both the Bhakti and Sufi movements were at their peak during this period, both sought to bring about socio-religious reforms in their communities. With their message of universal love and brotherhood, they placed the service of fellow humans above religious rituals.  Muslims learnt Sanskrit and also studied the sacred poetry of Bhakti saints. The study of the ‘other’ religion promoted a better understanding of each other and helped in eradication of religious prejudices. The well-known Marathi saint poet of this period, Sant Eknath wrote his famous gatha – Hindu Turk Samvad which consisted of a dialogue between a Hindu and a Muslim (Turk) who, at the end of a lengthy dialogue, end up respecting each other as creations of Khuda. Sufis at this time made valuable contributions to devotional literature in Marathi. Shaikh Muhammad, the Muslim saint poet wrote Yoga Sangram (1645), Nishkalanka Prabodh, Pavan Vijaya and 300 abhangas (devotional poetry sung in the praise of the Lord Vitthal) in Marathi. Another Muslim saint of this period, Husain Ambakhan, who was a devotee of Lord Ganesh, wrote a Marathi commentary on the Bhagvatgita. Shah Muntoji Bhahmani, a Muslim saint of the seventeenth century, who hailed from the royal family of Bidar (Bahmani Rulers) was initiated into the Bhakti cult by a Hindu saint – Sahajanand Swami of Kalyan (Bijapur). Shah Muntoji wrote Panchikaran in Dakhani Hindi, outlining the common fundamental concepts in Hindu and Muslim scriptures. His contemporary, Shah Muni, a Muslim saint, lamented that the enmity between Hindus and Muslims was due to the absence of proper understanding of their respective faiths (Kulkarni p.111).

Time and again the people, the mystics and the leaders have proved that the essence of this land is peace and harmony in spite of differences and diversity. Let us sow the seeds of love again in the consciousness of this sub-continent.

 

References and Extra Reading:

 

  • Bendre, V S. Ed. Maharashtr etihasachi Sadhane, vols.1-3: part II vol II: 314,315
  • Chitnis, Krishnaji Nageshrao.2003. Medieval Indian History. Atlantic Publishers and Distributes. New Delhi
  • Dhere, R C. 1967. Musalman Marathi Sant Kavi. Padyagandha Prakashan. Pune.
  • Kularni A R. 1999. Social Relations in Medieval Maharashtra: Experiments in Living Together. In: We Lived Together. Eds. S Settar and P K V Kaimal. 1999. Pragati Publications. Delhi
  • Parasnis, D B (ed.). 1917. Peshwe Daftaratil Sanadpatratil Mahiti, Bombay
  • Potdar, D V. (Introduction) Aitihasik Samkeerna Sahitya, BISM Publication, Pune vol. 8 (ASS Vol.)
  • Rajwade, V K (ed.). 1908. Marathyanchya Itihasachi Sadhane. Vol.15. Kolhapur.
  • Shivacharitra Sahitya, 1930.vol.II. 94. Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal, Dutto Waman Potdar, Pune

The Warkari Movement II: EKNATH- A Brahmin Saint and a Sufi’s Disciple who Embraced Dalits

Artist's version of Sant Eknath. Picture credit: Shri Eknath Maharaja Mission
Artist’s version of Sant Eknath. Picture credit: Shri Eknath Maharaja Mission

For all those who equate organised religion to dharma and who, due to their narrow mind set, are compelled to box pluralistic saints like Kabir and Shirdi Sai baba into Hindu/Muslim categories, for them, Sant Eknath is an enigma, an embarrassment. His Guru – Swami Janardan, is claimed, by some scholars, to be a Sufi. Many of his bharuds (devotional songs) are in Hindustani and can often be mistaken to be written by a Sufi. He spoke of finding parallels in Hinduism and Islam, his followers belonged to different castes and creeds and according to one legend he even led Muslim armies on one occasion.  Little wonder then that recent Marathi writers, have tried to recast him as a savior of Hinduism from Islam although available literature proves something altogether different!!

The story of sant Eknath is a story of a scholarly Brahmin whose compassion and wisdom allowed him to rise above caste distinction and even engage Muslims in his spiritual dialogues.

Sant Eknath (1533-99 C.E.) was born to a Brahmin family in the holy city of Paithan, known as the Benaras of Maharashtra, which stood on the banks of Godavari. He was the grandson of Sant Bhanudas- a devout Warkari sant who is credited with returning the idol of Vithobha from Hampi to Pandharpur, its original home. It had been taken from Pandharpur by Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar in 1951. Spiritually inclined from a very early age, Sant Eknath was allowed by his guru, Swami Janardhan to lead a life of a house holder. Sant Eknath carried forward the tradition of social reform of Sant Gyaneshwar and Sant Namdev by rejecting all distinctions of caste and creed and the relevance of ritual and rites. For this he won many opponents among the high caste Hindus.

He composed numerous religious songs in Marathi called abhangs, owees and bharuds.  He wrote a commentary in Marathi on the Bhagvad Purana known as Eknath Bhagwat and also began writing Rukimini Swayamvara which, after his death, was later completed by one of his disciples. His works brought the highest of religious truths and moral guidance to the common people. He was a renowned kirtankaar giving birth to a unique style of Marathi kirtan singing called Eknath kirtan. He collected all the versions of Gyaneshwar’s Gyaneshwari and produced a critical edition of it.

Sant Eknath’s abhang recited by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi:

However his unusual contribution to Marathi Bhakti literature is his empathy with the dalits. Out of the three hundred bharuds (drama poems) that he has written, about fifty are from the perspective of a Dalit. In forty seven of which the protagonist is a Mahar and in one a Mang is the central character. Both these castes are considered among the ‘lowest’ in Maharshtra and elsewhere in India. These characters in Eknath’s drama poems, preach morality, the righteous path, the importance of a Guru and how the Bhakti marg liberates us from the cycle of death and rebirth. He mocks at the so-called learned Brahmins and fake gurus in the following Bharud:

“They say ‘we have become saints’

They put on garlands and sandal paste.

Taking a lamp in their hands

They cry udo,udo….. !

They do kirtan for the sake of their stomachs

They teach the ‘meaning of all’ to the people.

They cheat their ignorant devotees.

They do not know the meaning of kirtan…….

Do the one kind of Bhakti.

Don’t wait for anything else.

Good and bad come in their own way.

They are the proof of past deeds…..”

Like his predecessors of the Warkari Bhakti movement, Eknath, in his following Bharud preaches that all humans can experience nearness to God irrespective of caste and creed:

God baked pots with Gora

drove cattle with Chokha

cut grass with Savata Mali

wove garments with Kabir

dyed hide with Ramdas

sold meat with butcher Sajana

melted gold with Narhari

carried cow dung with Jana Bai

and even became the Mahar messenger of Damaji

There are numerous stories of Eknath being ostracised and punished by the Brahmins for his proximity and social interactions with the so called ‘untouchables’.

Eknath is also credited with contributing to the religio-cultural pluralism of the Deccan in the sixteenth century. He lived during the rule of Ahmednagar Sultanate. Apart from being an ancient capital, the sixteenth century Paithan was a major trading center and Eknath had the opportunity to interact with people of all castes as well as Indian Muslims and Arabs.

 His guru, Janardhan Swami, was a saint as well as in charge of the Daulatabad fort. Janardahan Swami was the disciple of Chand Bodale, also known as Chandrabhat, who was a Vaishnav and yet a follower of the Kadri or Qadarriya Sufi path and dressed like a faqir. At one time, it is believed, Eknath took his guru’s place to lead the Muslim army when the fort was attacked, as his guru was in deep meditation at this time!! According to Rigopoulos (p.160) Eknath disguised himself as his guru and in the process acquired all his strength and defeated the attacking army. This phenomenon of the disciple (murid) completely absorbing himself into the personality of his master (shaykh) is known as fana-fi-sh’shaykh among Sufis.

The Sufi influence on Eknath is further indicated by the number of Persian and Arabic words found in his Bharuds. While recently many right wing ideologist have tried to cast Sant Eknath as a saviour of Hinduism from the ‘hated’ Muslim tide, numerous scholars, both Hindu and Muslim, concur that medieval India was an era of tolerance, participation of Hindu subjects in the Islamic government and cultural interaction and influence among the two communities. Eknath’s bharud titled, Hindu-Turk Samvad sums up the situation aptly:

Eknath: The goal is one, the ways of worship are different.

Listen to the dialogue between these two!

The Turk calls the Hindu ‘Kafir’!

The Hindu answers: ‘I will be polluted, get away!’

A quarrel broke out between the two,

A great controversy began.

Muslim: O Brahman! Listen to what I have to say:

Your scripture is a mystery to everyone,

God has hands and feet, you say.

This is really impossible!

Hindu: Listen you great fool of a Turk!

See God in all living things.

You haven’t grasped this point

And so you have become a nihilist…….

At that moment that saluted each other.

With great respect, they embraced.

Both became content, happy.

Quiet, calm.

‘You and I quarrelled to open up the knowledge of high truth,

In order to enlighten the very ignorant.

In place of karma-awakening!!’

(Note: References for any information cited in the article may be obtained on request from the writer of this blog.)

The Warkari Movement I : Sant Dnyaneshwar-Beyond Brahmanical Tryranny

A warkari on his way from Alandi to Pandharpur. Photo credit: Wikipedia
A warkari on his way from Alandi to Pandharpur. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Since the 13th century, Pandharpur in Maharashtra became a birthplace of a religious movement which was born locally but had a universal appeal, going beyond caste and religious identity. This movement was given life to by a saint called Pundalik. According to Bahirat (4 p.6), Pundalik lived before the eighth century A.D. It is believed that in his younger days, soon after his marriage Pundalik began to neglect his parents. However one day,  an encounter with the divine, reformed him and he became a devoted son. As the story goes, Lord Krishna and his consort, Rukmini chanced upon Pundalik’s hut in the forest on a rainy day. Pundalik was busy attending to his parents and did not rise immediately to pay his respects to the deity but hurled a brick in His direction for Him to stand on without getting His feet wet. Pleased with Pundalik’s devotion to his parents, Lord Krishna asked Pundalik to worship Him as Vithoba i.e. the one who stood on a brick. At this scene, a form of Krishna arose standing on a brick, around which the temple of Pandharpur was later built.

Interestingly the name ‘Pandharpur’ is derived from Pandurang – one of the many names of Lord Shiva, moreover the temple of Pandharpur, dedicated to Lord Krishan, an incarnation of Vishnu, is surrounded by Shaivite temples. Perhaps an indication that the universal Truth exists beyond all different forms and cults of worship.

Hence from 13th century onwards Pandharpur became place of pilgrimage for the Warkari Bhakti movement. Most Marathi sant poets who worshipped Vithoba (Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu) and all those who followed their teachings form a part of this movement. The Warkaris identify with a succession of over fifty poet saints who lived over a period of five hundred years. Among whom the major four are,  the outcast Brahmin- Dnyaneshwar or Jnandev (1275-1296); the tailor Namdeva- (1270-1350), Eknath (1533-1599) who was a householder Brahmin and the editor of Dnyaneshwari; the shudra poet saint- Tukaram (1608-1659); and Ramdas (1608-1681) who is considered as a political saint and teacher of Shivaji.

Sant Dnyaneshwar, image credits: Wikipedia
Sant Dnyaneshwar, image credits: Wikipedia

The Warkaris believe Sant Dnyaneshwar, also known as Jnandeva (1275-1296) to be their founder. However according to Bahirat (4 p.6), Pundalika and his God had been enjoying a wide reputation nearly four of five centuries before Dnyaneshwar. Dnyaneshwar’s father and grandfather were regular visitors to Pandharpur.He was one of the greatest poet saints of medieval India . In a short life span, he produced a stupendous amount of spiritual works which included a major philosophical treatise (the Amritanubhava), a large number of religious poems (called abhangas), and an extensive poetic commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (titled, after his name, Dnyaneshwari).  

His works  also include Changadeva-Pasashthi (containing sixty-five verses addressed to a Hathayogi called Changadeva), Haripatha(containing a collection of twenty eight Abhangas) and Namana (a hymn containing hundred and eight stanzas in praise to the Lord of the universe ).  

Dnyaneshwar was an advocate of Bhakti marga. But bhakti, for him, meant more than sentimental affection, it meant the turning around of the whole being towards the Godhead. Dnyaneshwar’s philosophy and poetry, are rooted in concrete life experience of an ordinary human not given to exotic flights of imagination.

Dnyaneshwar, at a very tender age, became an ‘outcaste Brahmin’ because of his father’s actions. His father was a Brahmin named Vithalpant from Alandi in Maharashtra. Vithalpant left his wife and children to become a sanyasin (ascetic). However after being chided by his guru, Ramanand for abandoning his true ‘dharma’ of looking after his family as a householder, Vithalpant returned to his family. Once back in Alandi, he and his wife were excommunicated by the ruling Brahmin elite who denounced him for mixing up “life stages” and for contaminating sannyasa with worldly family concerns. But the fact was that Vithalpant was no sinner, in fact he had shown the courage and selflessness to return to his family to perform his  duties and sacrificed his desire for renunciation. However he became a victim of Brahamanical tyranny. Ultimately Vithalpant and his wife Rukmini committed suicide. At this time Dnyaneshwar was merely eight years old.

Vithalpant’s story proved that the path to God leads through the world, universal love and service of humanity.   This path is available to all and is not the exclusive right of Pundits and Brahmans. The priests and Brahmans, in their arrogance, claim to “possess” God by virtue of their Vedic knowledge (jnana) and rituals. In their ignorance they do not know that the divine can never be possessed but can only be pursued through a life of service.

Dnyaneshwar is believed to have befriended the poet-saint Namadeva who was by some five years his senior, when the two first met in Pandharpur . Dnyaneshwar’s meeting with this great Sant was of great significance in shaping his philosophy which was later to become the foundation of the bhakti cult in Maharashtra. While in Pandharpur, Jnanadeva became a devotee of the god Vithoba (an avatar of Shri Krishna) . The two saints went on a pilgrimage together, visiting most of the holy places in northern India, including Benaras and Delhi. Following this journey, they returned to Pandharpur (in 1296) where a great festival was held in their honour. This festival was attended by many contemporary saints like Goroba the potter, Sanvata the gardener, Chokhoba the untouchable, Parisa Bhagavat the Brahmin. At the end of this festival Dnyaneshwar expressed the wish to return to Alandi and to enter sanjivan samadhi. 

Dnyaneshwar’s writings are  not in Sanskrit but in popular Marathi. They are based on his own life experiences, a life reflectively lived. He was a thinker and a poet as is evident in  both his Jnaneshvari and his Amritanubhava – works well known  for their searching insights and poetic style. He composed the Amritanubhava, a philosophical poem at the behest of his elder brother and guru, Nivrittinath, at a time when Jnanadeva was probably in his late teens. According to some scholars while the Dnyaneshwari appeals to the masses, the Amritanubhava appeals mainly to the learned. It is more argumentative.

As its title indicates,  Amritanubhava is nectar of wisdom derived from direct experience and it gives a glimpse into the nature of ultimate experience. It  is meant to serve as a guide to the understanding of “Brahman” or “being” According to Dnyaneshwar, being is not an object of thought, but what allows thought to happen in the first place. 

He argues that sense (or sensory) experience only ‘”makes sense” in light of another, deeper understanding; similarly, reason is “rational” only  by exceeding itself. For him the truth of experience is not validated or authenticated by scriptures; but scriptures gain their authoritative standing through their agreement with experiential truth. He says that the absolute does not prove or disprove itself with the help of any norms or methods of knowledge….These methods are “like a lamp lit at midday which neither spread light nor dispel darkness.”

He further argues that words to describe the state of Being are not self-contained, each points beyond itself like the symbols of Jung, which stand for something more than their obvious meaning. In Amritanubhava he says,  “Being by itself, the absolute, is beyond the ordinary conceptions of existence and non-existence.”…..” Looked at from this angle, the scriptural words appear as “the residues of our thought”; in the light of being itself, “they vanish like the clouds that shower rain, or like the streams that flow into the sea or the paths that reach their goal.” He further adds that “if the situation is such that nothing at all exists, who then knows [and can say] that there is nothing? Hence, the theory of emptiness (as nothing) appears as an “unjust imputation” to being: For, “if the extinguisher of a light is extinguished along with the light, who knows that there is no light?”

Dnyaneshwari was completed in 1290 A.D. It was written in Old Marathi and was initially  called Bhavartha-deepika. He wrote it on the instructions of his older brother and  Guru Nivruttinath who wanted to bring to the common man the Vedanta philosophy of Upanishads, which till then was available only to the Sanskrit-knowing pundits. Since then Dnyaneshwari, with its anti-Brahmanical overtones, has been a timeless spiritual guide providing knowledge and inspiration to all. It is still the most respected religious text in Maharashtra and has been the foundation of bhakti tradition there: a tradition so old that its exact origin cannot be pin pointed. It is continuous and free flowing like a river and yet without an organised structure.

The Warkari movement or sampraday, is an inner religion of the heart which advocates ethical human behavior and classless values and therefore has a wider appeal than the caste-based organised Hindu religion which has rigid orthodox rules of behavior, is ritual based and requires the mediatory role of Brahmins. While in its earlier form this movement was open to all, both Hindus and non-Hindus, over the years it appears to have lost its pluralistic nature. 

Following are a few lines from the English translation of Dnyaneshwari by Dr. Ravin Thatte, it talks about  people mired in rituals :

“They quote the scriptures for these acts 

Expect the heavens for these acts 

Little realizing what are the facts

Pleasure is their only aim

Reward their only game

Rigid rituals again and again

This is religion only in name”

References:

  1. Sadarangani, N M. 2004. Bhakti Poetry in Medieval India: Its Inception, Cultural Encounter and Impact. Sarup & Sons. New Delhi
  1. Jnanadeva and the Warkari Movement by Prof. Fred Dallmayr, Ph.D.

(http://www.here-now4u.de/eng/jnanadeva_and_the_warkari_move.htm)

  1. Thatte, R. 2012. A Miraculous Rendering on the Bhagwat Geeta by Sant Dnyaneshwa. Shree Book Center, Mumbai, India
  1. Bahirat, B.P. 1956. The Philosophy of Jnandeva. Pandharpur Research Society, Pandharpur, Maharashtra, India.
  2. Schomer, Karine. W H McLeod. 1987. The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Motilal Banarasidas. Delhi.

A Pir and his Possessions

qu
Persian translation of Mahabharat

A midst the crowded by-lanes of Old Ahmadabad city, in an obscure corner, lies the Pir Mohammad Shah Dargah Trust. You may almost miss its entrance – an ancient stone and mortar arched doorway, partly hidden by the motley shops sprawled around it. Inside the gate lie the dargah, masjid and qutubkhana (library) complex.

Born in 1689 in the Bijapur city of Karnataka, Pir Mohammad Shah was a Hussaini Sayyed and a well-respected Sufi who lived in Ahmadabad during the rule of Aurangzeb. His parents emigrated from the holy city of Medina and settled in Bijapur where he was born. His father died before his birth and his uncle, Abd ur-Rehman – a Sufi belonging to the lineage of Shaikh Abd ul-Qadri Jilani of Baghdad, trained the young Mohammad Shah in religious scholarship and practical Sufism. The Pir memorized the Quran at the young age of seven and became an accomplished qari, performed Haj at the age of twelve and thereafter stayed in Medina for several years pursuing higher learning. He spent his adolescent years visiting great centers of learning in the Islamic world and paying homage at the dargah of saints. He later returned to his home at Bijapur and from there moved to Ahmadabad At that time, the Kalupur and Rajpur localities of Ahmedabad were well known for the prosperous trading communities of Sunni Bohras, who became his murids. In Ahmadabad the Pir took up residence at the historical Jame Masjid. The Pir would regularly visit the dargah of Hazrat Shah Wajiuddin to pay his homage and obtain guidance from Hazrat Shah’s descendent, Hazrat Abdullah Gujarati. On his daily sojourns from the Jame Masjid to Hazrat Wajiuddin’s dargah, the Pir would rest a while on the way at an old widow’s front yard. After his passing away in the year 1750, as per his request, Pir Mohammad Shah was buried near the house of this widow. His dargah stands there today.

Human-sized candle
Human-size candle

The Pir was a great lover of learning and possessed an extraordinary memory powers. During his lifetime, the Pir and his murids had amassed a huge collection of manuscripts and books of great academic and spiritual value. These are housed in the qutubkhana. This library has over 2000 original manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sindhi and Turkish, which are 700 to 800 years old. Many of them contain hand written explanatory notes along the margins by the Pir himself. Among the prized manuscripts is the Mahabharat in Persian written by a Wadanagar Nagar Brahmin who worked in the courts of the Mughals, a copy of the holy Quran hand written by Aurangzeb, Al-Buruni’s ‘Gurt-ul Ziyaat’, and Radha Krishna Geet translated into Persian. The library has a treasure trove of over 10,000 books in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English covering diverse subjects. The trustees have prepared microfilms and photocopies of some rare books. Pir Mohammad Shah was a bi-lingual poet himself and wrote profusely in Persian and Dakhani. Among his many works, the best known is Nur ush-Shuyukh in Persian which is versified history in the Mutaqarib meter.

The qutubkhana has small museum show casing various belonging of the Pir, some of the ancient manuscripts and a human-size candle brought here from Mecca. The PMS library is considered on of its kind in western part of India – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered by lovers of Islamic science, literature and art. Rulers and wise men who came to this land are no more, but the knowledge they left behind still prevails.

In the words of the Pir himself:

Agar gaiti saraasar baad gard

                                                   Chirag-e-maqbula hargez namirad…..

Even if the world were to come to dust

The lamp (spirit) of the faithful will not die….

Bhakti poets – Premanand, the Manbhatt of Gujarat – II

Premananda

The Bhakti movement has its inception  in the  8th century  Tamil Nadu. By the 10th century it had spread to Karnataka and Maharashtra and finally by the  16th century,  it had established itself in North , West and East of India . This era saw the rebel-mystic-poets who in their spiritual poetry spoke against the orthodox Brahmins, the caste system and the irrelevance of mindless rituals. For them Divinity dwelt within the heart of Man and could be experienced with Love and surrender. They insisted on the personal experience of God.

In its initial stages it was nurtured by Shaiva and Vaishnava Bhakti cults in Tamil Nadu and by Lingayats of Karnataka in 11th and 12th century followed by the Warkari panth of Maharashtra in the 13th century. In the 14th century Central and North India saw the initiation of Nirguna Bhakti by Ramananda’s school and the Chaitanya school of Saguna Vaishnava Bhakti and Bengal and Orissa. There was a parallel stream of Saguna Bhakti running in Gujarat (Sadarangani: Bhakti Poetry in Medieval India, 2004).

The Vaishnava Bhakti school was born at the time when Buddhism and Jainism were on the decline. This movement found acceptability among the so called lower castes who had been sidelined by mainstream Hinduism.

Premanand Bhatt was a 17th century bhakti poet (1649-1714), who mastered the art of akhyan: a form of story telling popular during the middle ages. The first clear notion of Gujarati language developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in the work of Premanand. The stories were usually taken from the Puranas. The episodes were modified depending on the theme; for entertainment or edification. The narration was split into units called kadavans. The narration was dramatized giving a detailed description of the characters, their emotional states, the seasons and scenes etc. The narrator who presented the tale before an audience was called a bhatt, who produced beats  on a copper pot hitting it with metal rings on his fingers. The pot was  called mann, .

Premananda was the supreme akhynkara. His akhyans were based on Puranic themes, the life of Narsinha and lilas of Shri Krishna. He was a master of language and melodious verse. Akhyans were offshoots of Bhakti poems  and their stories celebrate the infinite lila of the Divine.

To listen to an Akhyan please check the following link :

http://www.yourepeat.com/watch/?v=Hg_Yw-y0Vjw

The Upanishad Diaries – I

An artists impression of Ved Vyas

‘Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone.’

Isha Upanishad

Some time around 2000 BC, or perhaps even earlier, when much of Europe was still perfecting the art of survival, sages and seers of India were contemplating on the very nature of Reality. 

Meditating along river banks, on slopes of the mighty Himalayas and in remote forests, these wise men had realised  that  human existence was a mere veil of something mightier and more profound than life itself.  They had discovered that there was a more ‘real’ existence than the mental existence and a ‘greater’ Life than the physical life. For the awakened men the forms and enjoyments that ordinary men worship and pursue were not anymore the object of desire. 

Thus rose the cry of the Upanishads – Rise and aspire beyond, free yourself from this illusory world of phenomenon and death and become your true immortal Self !!

The Upanishads also known as the Vedanta or the culmination of the Vedas, are actually the essence of all Vedas and from the Upanishads was born the Bhagavad Gita, the song celestial – which contains a philosophy so practical and yet so profound that no other philosophy of this world or the next has been able to surpass it.

The European powers were astounded when they were told by a German Indologist, Max Muller and later by another German philosopher, Schopenhauer that the earliest inhabitants of this  primitive and savage land that they had set out to civilize and conquer had discovered the highest metaphysical truths when much of European civilization was still in its  infancy. 

Ironically it was the Persian translation of the Upanishad written by a Muslim prince – Dara Shikoh which was instrumental in taking the primeval Hindu wisdom to the West. 

to be continued…….

SUFI POETRY AND MUSIC IN POPULAR CULTURE

The Wadali Brothers

In recent times Sufi music and poetry have moved from the shrine to the stage. Some consider this trend to be undesirable. They believe that in the attempt to make it more appealing it is being diluted and corrupted for public consumption. However the fact remains that the increasing popularity of Sufi music and poetry, in whatever form, has in no small measure contributed in revealing the compassionate, tolerant and creative aspect of Islam to the non-Muslim audience.

Like its philosophy and beliefs, the Sufi poetry performances have, over the ages, adapted to the indigenous styles of the continent as well as added some of their own. Among the most popular are Sufiana Kalaams (sacred words or compositions), Kafis (folk music from the Punjab region), K’waali (a form of devotional singing normally performed at Sufi dargahs), and Na’at (poetry recitation in the praise of Prophet Mohammad).

Amir Khusrau’s Compositions in Bollywood Films

The Gifted Writer Gulzar. Courtsey: Wikipedia

Hindi movies were among the first to introduce compostions by Sufis to the larger public. The most popular among movie makers were the lok geets and love songs of Amir Khusro. His compositions in Hindavi (a synthesis of Brijbhasha and Urdu)  were among the first to find place in Hindi movies. Some of his mystical compositions in which Hindvi and Persian couplets were seamlessly woven appeared in the later period.The movie ‘Suhag Raat,’ under the direction of Kedar Nath Sharma, produced in 1948, had a bidai geet (song sung when the bride is finally sent away with her in-laws) penned by Amir Khusro and sung by Mukesh. The music director was Snehal Bhatkar. This composition was also sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the film Heer Ranjha (1948) with some modifications, and again in the 1954 film ‘Suhagan’, under the music direction of C.Ramchandra and Vasant Desai. In this song, the young bride is appealing to her father not to marry her and send her away to foreign shores:

KAHEKO BYAAHE BIDES

kaahe ko byaahe bides, are lakhiyan baabul mohe 

kaahe ko byaahe bides …

 

ham to baabul tore khunthe ki gayaa

jahan  kaho tyon bandhehi jaye

are lakhiyan baabul mohe …

kaahe ko byaahe bides …

 

 

 

ham to baabul tore bele ki kaliyan 

are ghar-ghar maange hain jaaye

are lakhiyan baabul mohe …

kaahe ko byaahe bides …

 

Hum To Baabul Tore,
Pinjarae Ki Chidiya
Are Kuhuk-Kuhuk RaatI Jaaye

mahalan tale se dola jo nikala 

are beeran mein chhaaye pachhaad

are lakhiyan baabul mohe

kaahe ko byaahe bides …

 

bhaiya ko diyo baabul mahalan do mahalan 

are ham ko diyo pardesh

are lakhiyan baabul mohe

 

kaahe ko byaahe bides

are lakhiyan baabul mohe

However the best rendition of this song was by Jagjit Kaur, under the music direction of Khayyam in the  1981 film  ‘Umrao Jaan’ produced and directed  by Muzaffar Ali.

Amir Khusro q’waali style was introduced to the moive audience in the film ‘Barsat ki raat’ (1960), directed by P.L.Soni. The q’waali,  ‘Ye Ishk Ishk Hai’  under the music direction of Roshan became an instant hit This movie was among the first bollywood movies to popularise the q’waali form of music, in which the legendary poet Sahir Ludhianvi took some liberties with the following composition of Amir Khusro:

Bahut Kathin hai dagar panghat ki,
Kaisay main bhar laaun madhva say matki?
Paniya bharan ko main jo gayi thi,
Daud jhapat mori matki patki.
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.
Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye
Laaj rakho moray ghoonghat pat ki.
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.

 

Later in 1962, Shevan Rizvi introduced Hindi film audience to another of Khusro’s compositions in the film ‘Ek Musafir Ek Hasina’ under the music direction of O.P.Nayyar. The film was directed by Sashadhar Mukherjee. The following lines were beautifully sung by Asha Bhonsle:

Zabaan-e yaar-e mun Turkie, wa mun Turkie nami daanum,
Che khush boodi agar boodi zabaanash dar dahanay mun.

My beloved speaks Turkish, but I do not know Turkish;
How I wish that I could speak her/his language.

The first scene of Hindi film Junoon (1978), produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Shayam Benegal, opens with  a beautiful composition by Amir Khusro, ‘ Chchap teelak sab chcheeni re’  combined with ‘Aaj rang hai’ set to music by Vanraj Bhatia and sung by Jamil Ahmed:

ख़ुसरौ रैन सुहाग की, जो मैं जागी पी के संग,
टन मोरा मान पिया का, जो दोनो एक ही रंग.

ख़ुसरौ दरिया प्रेम का, जो उल्टी वाह की धार,
जो उभरा, सो डूब गया, जो डूबा सो पार.

अपनी छाब बनाई के, जो मैं पी के पास गयी,
छाब देखी जब पिया की, मोहे अपनी भूल गयी.

छाप तिलक सब छीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

बल बल जाउन मैं, तोरे रंग रेजावा,
ऐसी रंग दो के रंग नाहीं छूटे, धोबिया धोए चाहे सारी उमारिया

बल बल जौन मैं, तोरे रंग रेजावा,
अपनी सी रंग दीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

प्रेम भाटी का माधवा पीलायके

मटवारी कर दीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

गोरी गोरी गोरी बैयाँ, हरी हरी चूड़ियाँ,
बहियाँ पकड़ हर लीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

ख़ुसरौ निज़ाम के बाल बाल जैय्हैन …

मोहे सुहागन कीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके

Khusrau rain suhaag ki, jo main jaagi pi ke sang,
Tan mora man piya ka, jo dono ek hi rang.
Khusrau dariya prem ka, jo ulti waah ki dhaar,
Jo ubhra, so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar.
Apni chab banaai ke, jo main pi ke paas gayi,
Chab dekhi jab piya ki, mohey apni bhool gayi.
Chaap Tilak sab cheeni re, moh se naina milayke.

Baat agham keh deeni re moh se naina milayke.
Bal bal jaaun main, tore rang rejava,

Aisi rang do ke rang naahin chhutey,
Dhobiya dhoye chaahe saari umariya
Bal bal jaaun main, tore rang rejava,
Apni si rang deeni re, moh se naina milayke.
Prem bhati ka madhva pilayke
Matwari kar deeni re, moh se naina milayke.
Gori gori gori baiyaan, hari hari chudiyaan,
Bahiyaan pakad har leeni re, moh se naina milayke

Khusro Nizam ke bal bal janiya

Mohe suhagan ki nee re moh se naina milayke.

Aaj Rang Hai

Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri
Moray mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri
Sajan milaavra, sajan milaavra,
Sajan milaavra moray aangan ko
Aaj rung hai……..
Mohay pir paayo Nijamudin aulia
Nijamudin aulia mohay pir payoo
Des bades mein dhoondh phiree hoon
Toraa rung man bhayo Nizamuddin.,
Jag ujiyaaro, jagat ujiyaaro,
Main to aiso rang aur nahin dekhi sakhi
Main to jab dekhun moray sung hai ri,

Mohay Apne He Rung Mein Rung Lay Khuwaja Ji

Mohay Rung Basanti Rung Day Khuwaja Ji
Jo Tu Maangay Rung Ki Rangai
Mora Joban Girwi Rakhlay Khuwaja Ji
Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri.

(There is radiance everywhere mother.

The house of my Beloved is filled with radiance
At last I have found my Beloved in my own courtyard

I have found my pir Nizamuddin Aulia.
I have roamed far and wide in the world,
and I found You to my liking;

And lo behold my entire world is filled with radiance.

I have never seen such Devine radiance before
He is forever with me now,
Oh beloved, please colour  me in your radiance;

There is radiance everywhere, Divine Radiance)

– English translation by Rupa Abdi

Note: Khusro sang these lines in ecstasy when he came back to his mother after meeting Nizamuddin Aulia for the first time, after a long search for an ideal Sufi master. Hence the above lines are addressed to his mother

Gulzar Sahab has been instrumental in popularising sufiana kalaam in Hindi film music. In 1980, the film ‘Ghulami’ directed by J.P.Dutta, had a song written by Gulzar under the music direction of Lakshmi Kant Pyarelal. This song was inspired by Amir Khusro’s composition ‘Zeehal- e Mishkeen’, which has alternate lines in Farsi and Hindavi:

Zehal-e miskin makun taghaful, duraye naina banaye batiyan;
ki taab-e hijran nadaram ay jaan, na leho kaahe lagaye chhatiyan.
Shaban-e hijran daraz chun zulf wa roz-e waslat cho umr kotah;
Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun to kaise kaatun andheri ratiyan.
Yakayak az dil do chashm-e jadoo basad farebam baburd taskin;
Kise pari hai jo jaa sunaave piyare pi ko hamaari batiyan.
Cho sham’a sozan cho zarra hairan hamesha giryan be ishq aan meh;
Na neend naina na ang chaina na aap aaven na bhejen patiyan.
Bahaqq-e roz-e wisal-e dilbar ki daad mara ghareeb Khusrau;
Sapet man ke waraaye raakhun jo jaaye paaon piya ke khatiyan.

Following is myinterpretation which may not be a literal translation:

Do not ignore my grief with your seductive eyes,
and sweet talk ; Your separation is past endurance, why don’t you embrace me..

Like long dark lustrous curls is the night of separation,
and our union brief like the short -lived life ;

 How will I endure the dark night without my Beloved?
With sudden charm your enchanting eyes have robbed my mind of peace

No one bothers to convey my agony to my Beloved
Tossed about in bewilderment, like a flickering candle,
I writhe in the fire of love;

I lie without the Beloved, sleepless and restless,
but the Beloved neither comes nor sends any message.

I shall wait for the day I meet my Beloved
who has seduced me for so long, O Khusro;
For I have saved my heart and my love for the Beloved….

The living legend A.R.Rahman. Courtsey: Wikipedia

In more recent times, the song ‘chhayya chhaya’ from ‘Dil Se’ (1998) under the music direction of the living legend A.R.Rahman, became an instant hit and heralded an entirely new genre of quasi-religious sufi poetry and music in Bollywood films. This song is originally based on Tere ishq nachaya kar ke thaiyya thaiyyaa Punjabi sufi Kalaam by Bulle Shah. It was rewritten by Gulzar. The film ‘Maqbool’ (2004) by Vishal Bhardwaj, who directed the music, Gulzar composed the song ‘Jhin mini jhini’ opening with the lines by Khusro – ‘Khusro rain suhag ki’. Of late Gulzar sahab has been using the Sufi style of repeating  two-syllable Farsi words to give it a mystical dimension. The song Tere Bina (Dum Dara Mast Mast), in the film Guru (2007), under the music direction of A.R.Rahman, is one such instance:

dum dara dum dara mast mast dara – 2
dum dara dum dar chashma chashma nam…..

Here the word dum could mean many things: breath/ life/ prana; dara again could mean in/ inside/ door/ door to the soul or Being; mast means trance/ecstasy; chashma means eyes, could also mean vision; and nam means moist. The repetition of ‘dam dar’ could imply to the breath control that Sufis indulge in to get vision or to enter into a higher state of mind or ecstasy.

Filmi versions of Sufi songs are now a norm in Bollywood films and are a big hit with the audience.

Bullhe Shah in Popular Imagination

In 2004, Rabbi Shergill converted the abstract metaphysical compositon of Bullhe Shah, ‘Bullah ki Jaana’ into a popular song, which became a  huge sucess in India and Pakistan. Bullhe Shah’s composition again appeared in the song ‘Bandeya Ho’ in the 2007 Pakistani movie ‘Khuda ke liye’. The 2008 Indian movie ‘A Wednesday’, written and directed by Neeraj Pandey, had a song, “Bulle Shah, O yaar mere” in its soundtrack. Bullhe Shah’s composition was rewritten in this film by Irshad Kamil  The music director was Sanjoy Choudhury. In the movie Raavan (2010) Gulzar used Bullhe Shah’s ‘Ranjha Ranjha’ in one of the songs. In 2009, Episode One of Pakistan’s Coke Studio Season 2 featured collaboration between Sain Zahoor and Noori, and as a result, Bullhe Shah’s ‘Aik Alif’ became immensely popular.

(Note: All translations into English are by Rupa Abdi)

 

SUFI POETRY BY POPULAR SINGERS AND BANDS

Abida Parveen

While folk singers, qawwali singers, maniar singers and popular singers like Runa Laila have been singing Sufi compostions for the general public, Sufi music has only recently captured popular imagination. We now have solo singers as well as self-styled bands from the Indian subcontinent captivating audiences from all over the world with their various adaptations of age old Sufi compositions. A cursory scan of U-tube will display numerous forms of Sufi compositions including the ‘rock’ and the ‘pop’ versions. However the Pakistani band ‘Junoon’ deserves credit forbeing instrumental in  popularsing Sufi poetry with their hit song ‘ Sayyoni’, then came the living legend Abida Parveen who took the Sufi music world by storm with a voice that was both ethereal  and filled with divine passion. At present there is no dirth of popular singers on both sides of the border who are playing a significant role in popularising Sufi compostions. Kailash Kher and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan are among the most popular.

The Sufi Rock Band, Junoon. Courtsey: Wikipedia

Amir Khusrau

 

Amir Khusrau: The Sufi with a difference

 

 

Amir Khusrau teaching his disciples; miniature from a manuscript of Majlis Al-Usshak by Husyn Bayqarah. Courtsey: Wikipedia

Remembered more as a musician and a poet than a Sufi, this versatile genius, who is also considered to be among the first Muslim musicologist of India, was born in 1234, in Patiali near Etah district of north India. His original name was Yamin- ud-Din Muhammad Hasan but he is commonly known as Amir Khusrau (d.1325). He was of Turkish origin and a murid of the great Nizamuddin Awliya and his world vieiw, like his master’s, was humane, tolerant and intrinsically simple. He was not just a ‘Jack of all arts’ but master of all. A scholar, poet, musician, Sufi and and a skilled courtier who served the Slav, Khilji and Tuglaq kings of Delhi Sultanate. Music and poetry were his twin passions and he learnt Arabic, Persian and Indian music. According to him ‘Indian music is the fire that burns the heart and the soul and is superior to the music of any country’. He invented his own genre of music by adding Persian and Arabic elements to Indian music. He is also credited with the modification and improvement of the veena. He is also believed to have invented the tabla.

 Khusrau not only helped in developing the ğazal, until then little used in India, but also in the historical epic as a new genre of poetry. He created new ragas such as Sarfarda and Zilaph. He also invented the Qawwali form of devotional singing and is the originator of the Taraana sytle of vocal music. In this style of singing, apparently meaningless syllables are used to create mystical ecstasy. The syllables when pieced together form Persian words that possess mystical symbolism.

After being initiated into Sufism by his master Nizammudin Awliya, Amir Khusrau is believed to have retired from worldly life. Hoevere he continued to write poetry and is known to have written over four lakh couplets. Of these over 300 consist of riddles, some using bilingual pun of Hindvi and Persian, word play and litrary tricks .

He lived up to the age of ninety and during his long life attained legendary fame. The historians of his time appear to have credited him with much more than he had actually done. However, his literary genius is without doubt unmatched in its ability to seamlessly weave two diverse cultures and faiths together. His compositions have now become of part of folk culture of north India, especially Uttar Pradesh. His geets and ghazals have inspired and continue to inspire generations of Hindi movie songs. It is noteworthy that Khusrau’s compostions have proved to be a gold mine for Bollywood music directore and lyric writers .

‘Khusrau darya prem ka, ulti wa ki dhaar,
Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar’

(The river of love flows upsteam

Those who enter to swim will drown

Only those who enter to drown will cross it)

 

 Note: For more compositions by Amir Khusrau see the post on ‘Sufi Poetry and Music in Popular Culture”.

SUFIS OF THE INDUS REGION – III

BULLHE SHAH: The Rumi of Punjab

 

 

Artist's impression of Bulleh Shah. Courtsey: Wikipedia

An artist’s impression of Bullhe Shah. Courtsey Wikipedia

 

बेक़ैद

मैं  बेक़ैद, मैं बेक़ैद;
ना रोगी, ना वैद|

ना मैं मोमन, ना मैं फाक़र,
ना सैयद, ना सैद|

चौधीं तबक़ीं सैर असाडा,
किते ना हुंदा क़ैद|

ख़राबात है जात असाडी,
ना सोमा, ना ऐब|

बुल्ल्हेशाह दी ज़ात की पुच्छनै,
ना पैदा ना पैद|

Beqaid

Main beqaid main beqaid

Na rogi na waid
Na main momin na main kafir
Na saidi na said
Chothin  tabqeen sair asada
Kitte na hopnda qaid
Kharabat hai jaat asadi
Na soma na aib

Bullah shah di zaat keh puchna ain
Na paida na paid

(I am not caged

Not caged am I

Neither the sick nor the healer

Neither believer nor non-believer

I wander in the seven skies and lands

but none can grasp me in their hands

I am an intoxicated wanderer

beyond vice and virtue

Do not ask Bulle’s identity,

for he was never born, nor ever existed)

This Sufi from Punjab, whom the maulawis did not allow to be buried in the community graveyard because of his unorthodox beliefs, is today known globally as the greatest Sufi poet of Punjab; the rich and the influential, the very class which had rejected him once, today compete with each other to be buried near his grave at Qasur (near Lahore).

He was born in a Sayed family which had a long association with Sufis. His father, a noble soul with spiritual leanings and well respected was given the title of ‘Darvesh’ by the local people. But Bullhe Shah chose to follow the spiritual path shown by a humble ‘low caste’ Arai.

His original name was Abdullah Shah but the masses gave him the name Sain Bullhe Shah, Bullhe Shah or just Bulla out of affection. He is believed to have been born 1680 in the village of Uch Gilaniyan, in Bahawalpur region (in present day Pakistan). When Bulla was six months old, his father had to migrate to another village- Pando kee Bhattiyyan in Qasur district. He lived here for the rest of his life and died in 1758. His ancestors are believed to have come from Bukhara (in present day Uzbekistan) and were associated with the Sufi Hazarat Sheikh Ghaus Bahauddin Zakariyya of Multan. The tomb of Bullhe Shah’s father still stands at Pando kee Bhattiyyan where every year an urs is performed where the Kafis of Bulle Shah are sung by the locals. Bullhe Shah was well versed in Islamic theology, Arabic and Persian, however his most popular kafis are in the local language of his region: Punjabi. The simplicity of his mystical compositions made them very popular among the common people in the form of folk songs which continue to ring today in the fields and river valleys of Punjab on either side of the border.

The search for the mystical path drew Bullhe to Hazrat Inayat Shah of Lahore who belonged to the Qadiri-Shattari sisila. Hazrat Inayat Shah belonged to the Arai community who were traditionally farmers and gardeners. On being chided and persuaded by his sisters and sister- in- laws to leave the company of an Arai, Bullhe replied:

बुल्हे नूं समझावण आइयां

बुल्हे नूं समझावण आइयां,
भैणा ते भरजाइयां|

“मन्न लै बुल्ल्हिआ साडा कहणा,
छड दे पल्ला राइयां,
आल नबी औलादि अली नूं,
तूं क्यों लीकां लाइयां?”

“जेह्ड़ा सानूं, सैयद आखे,
दोज़ख मिले सज़ाइयां,
जो कोई सानूं राईं आखे,
भिश्तीं पींघां पाइयां|”

राईं साईं समनीं थाईं,
रब दियां बेपरवाहियां,
सोह्णियां परे हटाइयां,
ते कोझियां लै गल लाइयां|

जे तूं लोड़े बाग़ बहारां,
चाकर हो जा राइयां,
बुल्ल्हे शाह दी ज़ात की पुछणैं,
शाकिर हो रज़ाइयां|

Bullay Nu Samjhawan Aaian Bheynaan Tay Bharjaiyaan,
Man Lay Bulleya Sada Kena, Chad Day Palla Raaiyan

Aal Nabi Ullad Ali,
Nu Tu Kyun Lee-kaan Laiyaan.

Jeyra Saanoun Syed Saday Dozakh Milay Sazaiyaan.
Jo Koi Saanu Raie Aakhe, Bhisti Peenghaan Paian.

Jay To Lorain Baagh Baharaan ,Chaakar Ho Ja raiyaan.
Bulley Shah Dee Zaat Kee Puchni, Shaakar Ho Razayaan.

Interpretation: Bulle’s sisters and sister in-laws came to convince him of the folly of associating with a ‘low caste’ Arai since Bulle belonged to a superior ancestoly of Ali and the Prophet.

Bulle replies that those who associate him with high caste will go to hell and those who can perceive him humbelness will rejoice in heaven

If you desire nearness to God become a servant of the Arai

Don’t ask about my identity for my only identity is that I am a servant of my murshid, and have surrendered to God’s will.

Among the Sufis the divine bondage between the murshid and murid is legendary and can be equated to the Divine love between the devotee and God. Once when Bullhe Shah was separated from his murshid -Hazrat Inayat Shah, Bullhe spent days and nights in grief, his soul lost in darkness. When he was finally united with his master he said:

Ranjha Ranjha

Ranjha ranjha kardi hun main aape Ranjha hoyi
Saddo mainoon Dheedo Ranjha, Heer naa akho koyi
Ranjha main wich, main Ranjhe wich, ghair khayyal na koyi
Main naheen au aap hai, apni aap kare diljoyi
Jo kuch saade andar wasse, zaat assadi soyi
Jis de naal main neoonh lagaya oho jaisi hoyi
Chitti chaadar laa sut kuriye, pehan faqeeran loyi
Chitti chaadar daag lagesi, loyii daag na koyi
Taqt hazaare lai chal Bulleah, siyaaleen mile na dhoyi
Ranjha ranjha kardi hun main aape Ranjha hoyi

 

In my yearning for Ranjha (Beloved) I have become Him

Do not call me Heer anymore, call me Ranjha,

 For, I have become the One that I seek

I have merged with Ranjha and Heer no longer exists

The individual soul has merged with the Universal and rejoices in this union

We are identified with what dwells inside us

Take off these clean clothes and don a Fakir’s garb

The clean dress can get soiled but a Fakir’s humble garb can never become impure

Take me to Takht Hajeera (Ranjha’s village)

For there is nothing left for me in Syali (Heer’s village)

In seeking Ranjha I have become Him

 

In his Kafis Bullhe called his master by many names: Shah, Sajan, Yaar, Sain, Aarif, Ranjha etc. He would sometimes see God in the form of his master and sometimes his master in the form of God. The spinning wheel was his favourite metaphor and the grieving Heer for her beloved Ranjha were his favourite characters.He had little faith in bulky books and theology of the ‘learned’ maulawis and pundits and he would say:

इक अलफ़ पढ़ो छुटकारा ए

इक अलफ़ पढ़ो छुटकारा ए|

इक अलफ़ों दो तीन चार होए,
फिर लख करोड़ हज़ार होए,
फिर ओथों बाझ शुमार होए,
हिक अलफ़ दा नुक़ता न्यारा ए|

क्यों पढ़ना एं गड्ड किताबां दी,
सिर चाना एं पंड अज़ाबां दी,
हुण होइउ शकल जलादां दी,
अग्गे पैंडा मुश्कल मारा ए|

बण हाफ़िज़ हिफ़ज़ क़ुरान करें,
पढ़-पढ़ के साफ़ ज़बान करें,
फिर निअमत वल्ल ध्यान करें,
मन फिरदा ज्यों हलकारा ए|

बुल्लाह बी बोहड़ या बोया सी,
ओह बिरछा वड्डा जां होया सी,
जद बिरछ ओह फ़ानी होया सी,
फिर रह गया बीज अकाश ए|

इक अलफ़ पढ़ो छुटकारा ए|

Ik Alif Padho Chhutkara Ai

Ik alifon do tan char hoye
Phir lakh karor hazar hoye
Phir othon bajh shumaar hoye
Hik alif da nukta niara he

Ik alif parho chutkara he

Kiun parhnain gadd kitabaan di
Sir chana en pind azabaan di
Kiun hoyian shakal jladaan di
Agge pinda mushkal bhara he

Ik alif parho chutkara he

Hun hafiz hifz quran karain
Parh parh ke saaf zubaan karain
Per nemat wich dhian karain
Mann phirda jion halkara he

Ik alif parho chutkara he

Bullah bhi borh da hoya si
Oh birach wada ja hoya si
Jad birach oh fani hoya si
Phir reh gaya beej akash e

Read the first alphabet and be free

From the One emerged two and four and then lakhs and crores

And the world was filled with infinite forms

this unique nukta(a single point) encompasses eternity within itself

Read the first alphabet and be free

 

Why do you carry this burden of books on your head

They spell nothing but despair

All that knowledge makes you look like a tyrant

The way ahead is long and difficult

Read the first alphabet and be free

You memorise the Quran

And purifiy only your tongue with it

 Then you get lost in worldly matters

Your mind runs amok in all dirctions

Read the first alphabet and be free

This world was sown like a Banyan seed

It has grown with time and will die in time

All that is left will be the seed

 Alone and One in the cosmos

Read the first alphabet and be free

In this compostion Bulle Shah by cautioning the disciple not to get lost in the maze of Maya appears to be referring to mystical beliefs that are similar to the Advaita and Nirguna concepts of Hindu philosophy,

 

Bulle Shah believed in Universal religion and considered himself neither a Hindu nor a Muslim:

बुल्ल्हिआ, की जाणां मैं कौन?

बुल्ल्हिआ, की जाणां मैं कौन?

ना मैं मोमिन विच्च मसीतां,
ना मैं विच्च कुफ़र दियां रीतां,
ना मैं पाक आं विच पलीतां,
ना मैं मूसा ना फिरऔन|  

ना मैं विच्च पलीती पाकी,
ना विच शादी, ना ग़मना की,
ना मैं आबी ना मैं ख़ाकी,
ना मैं आतिश ना मैं पौन|

ना मैं भेत मज़ब दा पाया,
ना मैं आदम-हव्वा जाया,
ना कुछ अपणा नाम धराया,
ना विच बैठण ना विच भौण|

अव्वल आख़र आप नूं जाणां,
ना कोई दूजा आप सिआणा,
बुल्ल्हिआ औह खड़ा है कोन?

Bulla Ki Jadan Main Kawn

Bullhe! ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen momin vich maseet aan
Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Na maen moosa na pharaun.

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun

Na maen arabi na lahori
Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Na hindu na turak peshawri
Na maen rehnda vich nadaun

Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

(I know not who I am

I am neither a pious Muslim at the mosque

Nor a performer of blashphemous rites

Neither am I impure among the pure

Neither Moses nor Pharoh

Neither pure among the impure

Neither sad nor gay

I am neither water nor clay

I am neither fiery nor watery

Neither an Arab, nor Lahori

Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri

I am neither a Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari

Nor do I live in Nadaun

I am not identified by any faith

Nor am I from Adam and Eve’s lineage

I am not known by any name

I am neither changing nor same

In short I know no-one but myself

I know no one apart from myself

In my selflessness I am unique

Then who is this man who calls himself Bullhe?)

(Note: All translations into English are by Rupa Abdi)

Bullhe Shah was beyond all bondage and did not consider his compositions as his own. He did not write down any of his compositions but  left them in the form of oral traditions to float in the common current of folk culture: to be modified, changed and adapted by the masses and to be claimed by them as their own.

All is in the Beloved and the Beloved is in All

The rest is irrelevant…..unnecessary burden

Says Bulla……..

 

SUFIS OF THE INDUS REGION – II

Sufis of the Punjab Doabs: Creaters of Folk Mysticism

 

The Punjab Doabs

 The Doab regions of Punjab, Courtsey: Wikipedia

The Punjab Doabs (tracts of land lying between the confluent rivers of the Punjab region of Indo-Pakistan) have produced one of the greatest Sufi saints of this subcontinent. Most of their mystical compositions are now a part of folk culture and folk songs of this region. Sometime in 905 the great mystic like Hallaj, probably sat on the very banks of one of these doabs to discuss theological problems with the sages of this land. The people of this region were travellers and traders, farmers and shepherds. Punjabi is a strong expressive language, ideal for expressing mystical feelings. Like Kabir, the Sufi poets of the doab regions used the symbol of weaving cotton, the threads are our thoughts, words and deeds with which we weave a net around ourselves….. The Punjabi Sufis wove motifs from everyday life of ordinary people to portray the various shades and subtleties of passion of a lover separated from her Beloved – the individual soul, which is always depicted as a woman in Punjabi Sufi poetry, yearning for annihilation and unity with the Eternal: blending cultural traditions with Islamic mysticism, creating a completely a new genre of Folk mysticism.  In a continent where people lived and died within the barriers of caste, community and religion, these Sufis rose above all barriers and   opened  their hearts and souls to all humanity, defying the orthodox pandits and narrow minded maulawis.

Hazrat Bābā Faridüddin Masud Gunj-i Shakar: The Lone Ascetic

(d. 1265)

‘Not every heart is capable of finding the secret of God’s love.

 

There are not pearls in every sea; there is not gold in every mine.’

 

Dargah of Baba Farid at Pakpattan, Pakistan

 

Shrine of Baba Farid at Pakpattan, Dera Pindi, Punjab (Pakistan) Courtsey: Wikimapia

On the far banks of the Sutlej, stands the lone figure of a Sufi who stands above and apart from those who were to follow his path but not till several hundred years had elapsed. His mystical penances were legendary and his verse excelled in simplicity and brevity. No other Sufi poet, before and after him, could convey so much in such simple a verse:

” Farid Kaaley maindey kaprey, kaala mainda wais,

Gunahan Bharehan main pheraan, Lok kahain dervish “

(Laden with sins I go around covering them with a black garb

People see me and mistake me for a Darvesh ) (Ashodara)

Baba Farid, also known as Farīduddīn Mas’ūd Ganjshakar was the first Sufi saint to compose mystical poetry in Punjabi, more precisely a local dialect Multani Punjabi (Lehendi) and thereby laid the foundation for the development of vernacular Punjabi literature. Guru Nanak Sahib is believed to have been inspired by Farids’s verses and the fifth Sikh Guru Shri Arjan Dev included some of Farid’s compositions in the Guru Granth Sahib. These came to be known as Farid bani and commentaries on Farid bani were later added by various Sikh Gurus. Baba Farid is revered by the Sikhs as one of the fifteen Sikh bhagats.

Bābā Farīd is believed to have been born in Kothewal village in Multan on the first day of Ramzan in 1173. The first spiritual influence on Farid was that of his mother who initiated him into a spiritual life. It is believed that in order to motivate him to perform the namaaz regularly; she would put some sugar crystals under his prayer mat. Once she forgot to do it, yet miraculously, after performing namaaz, Farid found some sugar under his prayer mat. That is one of the legends behind his title – Ganj-i shakar (sugar treasure). Baba Farid, completed his education by the age of sixteen, and went to Sistan and  Kandhahar and later to Mecca for Hajj.

He received his early education at Multan, where he met his murshid (master) Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (d.1235), a Sufi saint from Farghana (in present day Uzbekistan) who came to India along with his murshid, Khwaja Mu’inuddin Chishti (d.1236). Kaki was passing through Multan, from Baghdad on his way to Delhi.

Baba Farid later shifted to Delhi, to join his master there and to learn his doctrine. When Kaki died, Farid assumed the role of his spiritual successor. However due to political unrest in Delhi he soon moved to Ajodhan (present day Pakistan). On his way to Ajodhan and passing through Faridkot, he met the 20-year-old Nizamuddin Auliya, who later became his disciple, and successor.

The city of Faridkot is named after Baba Farid.  It is believed that, Farīd stopped by the city, then named Mokhalpūr, and sat in seclusion for forty days near the fort of King Mokhal. The king was so impressed by his presence that he named the city after Bābā Farīd, which is today known as Tilla Bābā Farīd. The festival Bābā Sheikh Farid Āgman Purb Melā’ (the coming of Baba Farid), is celebrated in September each year, marking his arrival in the city.  Baba Farid spent the rest of his life at Ajodhan which had come to be known as ‘Pāk Pattan’ (the ferry of the pure); Here, at Dera Pindi, in the month of Mohorram his mortal remains were laid to rest.

Farid’s poetical compositions are mainly composed of ‘Dohras’: a rhymed couplet, in which each of the lines generally has a caesura (a pause or break in a line of poetry), whose significance varies according to the meaning. A Dohra is a complete self-sufficient couplet, unless when it is followed by a complimentary couplet. On most occasions the last lines of the Dohra bears the name of Farid. Farid’s Dohras are distinguished by their austerity of tone and rhythm:

“Galian chikkar door ghar, naal payarey neouney,

challaan tey bhijjay kambli, rahan ta jaaey neouney.”

(Literal translation: The lanes are filled with mud but I have to keep my promise of meeting with the Beloved

If I walk on, I soil my clothes and if I stay back, I break my promise)

Interpretation: The path to the Beloved is difficult, yet I must overcome the worldly hurdles to keep my word to unite with the Beloved.

“Bhijoy sujhoy kambli Allah wirsay meen

Jai millaan tahaan sajnaa tate nahin neounay”

(Let my clothes be soiled and the Almighty make the rain pour

Go I will to meet the Beloved and keep my promise.)

Interpretation: I have no care or regard for worldly shame or name, may God (circumstances) make the path as difficult as He wants but I will overcome and meet the Beloved, reach my ultimate destination.

 

” Kook Farid Kook, Tu jivain Rakha Jawar

Jab lag tanda na, Giray tab lag Kook pukar.”

(Shout, Farid, shout like the mindful watchman in the corn-field; shout till the crop is mature and falls with ripeness)

Interpretation: Stay awake and watchful; let not heedlessness creep in until you have attained spiritual ripeness .