About the Book
The most significant contribution of the Sufi poets of the Punjab is their rising above the narrow and parochial concepts of religion and laying emphasis on the love of God alone. They believe that the love of God can be attained through the love of man. Sain Bulleh Shah is the most important voice among them. The rational and socialistic content of his verse, more importantly his sympathy with the have-nots and the down-trodden speaks volumes for his forward-looking vision. His romantic defiance of both Hindu and Muslim bigotry and ritualism is particularly telling. Bulleh Shah Fostered communal amity and understanding which is the primary need of our times ridden with blind fundamentalism and petty political considerations.
It is a pity that no authentic version of Sain Bulleh Shah's work is obtaining. All that has traveled to us is from mouth to mouth. It, therefore, varies from Persian script to Gurmukhi script, from Pakistan to India. This may, at times, be evident from the text covered in these pages. The English translation is based on Gurmukhi script prevalent in India while the text in Persian script is that available in Pakistan.
About the Author
Kartar Singh Duggal (born 1917) is one of the leading Indian writers. Decorated with Padam Bhushan by the President of India and soviet Land Nehru Award for totality of his contribution to the Indian literature, he is author of more than 500 short stories available in 22 collections, 10 novels, 2 collections of poetry, 7 plays, over 50 short plays, an autobiography in two volumes and several works of literary criticism in Punjabi. Equally proficient in Urdu, Hindi and English, he translates his works into these languages as and when called for. Some of the other honours conferred on him are: National Academy of Letters' Award for Punjabi Short Story, Ghalib Award for Urdu Drama and Bharatya Bhasha Parishad Award for Fiction. Mr. Duggal was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) by the Punjabi University and the distinction of Sarva Sreshta Sahityakar by the Punjabi Sahitya Academy in 1994. having served as Director, all India Radio, Director, National Book trust, India and Adviser (Information), Planning Commission, he is currently devoted to literary activity exclusively.
The Sufi cult is akin to mysticism. It is believed
in some quarters that it was born out of interaction
between Semitic Islam and Aryan Vedantism on the
soil of India. This is not the whole truth. Sufism took
birth in Arabia in the ninth century. However, the
Aryan perceptions in Iran and then in India influenced
it a great deal, more particularly in accentuating the
emotional content as against the dry-as-dust self-
denial of the Arabs. The Arabs laid stress on
asceticism and disciplining of the body, while the later
Sufis in Iran and India, under the influence of Greek
philosophy, Platonic ideology, Christian faith,
Vedantist thinking, Buddhist lore, etcetera believed
in leading an emotionally rich life. They drank and
danced and advocated that physical love could
sublimate itself into spiritual love. They had faith in
God; they loved the Prophet but they maintained that
the Murshid or Guru could also lead to realization of
the Divine Reality.
Literally speaking, a Sufi is one who is pure or
one who goes about with a woollen blanket. In Greek,
he is a Sufi who is enlightened. The cardinal features
of the Sufi cult are:
(a) God exists in all and all exist in God.
(b) Religion is only a way of life; it does not
necessarily lead to Nirvana.
(c) All happenings take place as per the will of
God; nothing happens if He does not ordain
(d) The soul is distinct from the physical body
and will merge into Divine Reality according
to a person's deeds.
(e) It is the Guru whose grace shows the way
and leads to union with God.
The Sufis believe that there are four stages in
one's journey to realization:
(a) Leading a disciplined life as prescribed in
(b) Following the path delineated by the Murshid
or Guru (Tariqat).
(c) Gaining enlightenment (Haqiqat).
(d) On realization of truth, getting merged into
Divine Reality (Marfat).
The practitioners of the Sufi cult came 1'0 India
following the Muslim conquerors, more with a view
to propagating Islam. There came to be established
several centres at Lahore, Pakpattan, Kasur, Multan
and Uch in the Punjab. However, the most popular
sects among them were those which combined in
them the best of every faith and promoted it amongst
the people. Bulleh Shah, the noted Sufi poet, belongs
to this group.
The Sufis loved God as one would love one' s
sweetheart. God for a Sufi is the husband and
humankind his wife. Man must serve, love. undergo
asceticism, gain enlightenment and then get merged
in God. The Indian Sufis laid stress on repeating the
Name (Japu), concentration (Dhyan) and meditation
(Habs-i-dam). A Sufi must eschew sin, repent, live a
simple and contented life and should look for the
grace of the Murshid or Guru. The Sufis maintain
that the soul has been separated from the Divine
Reality and the supreme mission of human life is to
achieve union with God.
Like the Iranian Sufis who sang the praises of
Yusaf Zulaikha, Laila Majnun and Shirin Farhad, the
Sufis in the Punjab idealised the romances of Heer
Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal and Sassi Punnun.
Preoccupied with the metaphysical, they restored the
use of symbols drawn from everyday life around them
like the spinning-wheel, boat, dowry, etc. As poets,
they employed kafi, baramah, athwara, siharfi, doha,
baint and deodh as their favourite poetic forms. Their
language is simple and conversational, light and
lyrical. There is no denying that they made an
indelible impression on the life and thought of the
people of the Punjab. More important among the Sufi
poets who wrote in Punjabi were Shah Husain (1538-
1599), Sultan Bahu (1629-1691), and Shah Sharaf
(1640-1724). They were preceded by Farid in the
12th century and followed by Bulleh Shah (1680-
1757), Ali Hyder (1690-1785), Hashim Shah (1735-
1843) and others in the 17th and 18th centuries.
More important among the Sufi saints who
influenced life in the Punjab were: Data Ganj Baksh.
Sheikh Farid Shakarganj, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki.
Moinuddin Chishti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Mian Meer
Though he is said to have been born in 1680
A.D., not much is known about Bulleh Shahs
personal life. The little that has been culled from the
works attributed to him and the contemporary
records testify that he was born in a village called
Uch Gilania in Bahawalpur. Later his father Sain
Mohammad Darvesh moved first to a village known
as Malakwal and then to Pandoke near Kausur, not
far from Lahore. Bulleh Shah was only six years old
at that time. Here he was put under the tutelage of
Ghulam Murtza who was the Imam of one of the
mosques in Kasur. There being no regular schools,
the practice obtaining in the town was that the
mosque served as an elementary school and the
Imam of the mosque was entrusted with the task of
teaching children. Ghulam Murtza was a sort of poet
who, it is said, had translated Gulistan from the
Persian. When Bulleh came of age, he became a
Murid of Inayat Shah Qadri of Lahore. This was
greatly resented by his people who were Syeds, while
Bulleh Shah's Murshid was a low-caste Araeen, Syeds
draw their lineage from Prophet Mohammad. There
is evidence of this unpleasantness in Bulleh's verse.
The ardent devotee in him says:
Those who call me Syed
Are destined to hell made for them.
Those who call me Araeen
Have the swings of heaven laid for them.
Nevertheless, according to A.N. Walker, Bulleh
Shah's sister had to pay the price for it; she remained
unmarried. In 1729 when Shah Inayat died, Bulleh
Shah succeeded him as' the master of ceremonies in
the monastery at Lahore. According to the epitaph
on his tomb, Bulleh Shah died in 1757. He never
A semi-literate Punjabi peasant, Bulleh Shah's
search for truth led him on to the spiritual path. And
it is when he started enjoying the beauty of truth that
his emotional exuberance drove him to Sufism:
singing, dancing and finding expression in verse.
However, neither did he care to prepare a Divan nor
did he or anyone else ever record the story of his
life. His poetry has travelled to us from mouth to
mouth mainly through Qawwals. Similarly, his life has
come to us in the form of anecdotes, some of which
are reflected in his verse. Maybe it was due to the
fact that the Punjab was greatly disturbed between
1710-1750. If there were any MSS, they must have
been lost. It was only in 1882 that' one Malik Hira
collected his compositions and brought them out from
Lahore for the first time.
His first meeting with his Murshid Inayat Shah is
said to have been meaningfully dramatic. It is said
that when Bulleh approached his spiritual master,
Inayat Shah was engaged in transplanting onion
seedlings in his orchard. Finding that Bulleh Shah
wished to be initiated into the fold of divine seekers,
Inayat Shah remarked, 'It's not difficult; it is like
uprooting here and planting it there.'
This clinched the issue. Bulleh Shah became a
disciple of Inayat Shah.
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