Sufis of the Punjab Doabs: Creaters of Folk Mysticism
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
‘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.’
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 .