The works of Miyun Shah Inat (c. 1623-1712), not to be confused with Shah Inayat of Jhok, can be seen as a bridge between the pioneers of Sufi poetry in Sindhi, like Qadi Qazan or Shah Abd al-Karim, and the classical poetry of Shah Abd al-Latif. He used folktale heroines to symbolize the quest of the soul for God. He also addressed the issue of jogis as models of renunciation. His kalam was published by N. B. Baloch in 1963 but his verses were first translated into English by Ghulam Ali Allana (d. 1984).
Behold the flushes of fire,
Aroused by the Yogis and their ire,
They, in the darkness of the night,
Betook themselves to flight.
How can I of their love speak publicly,
Which to me they entrusted secretly?
Throughout the night I weep,
And in my heart their remembrance keep.
Insatiable is their greed,
Which in their hearts they feed.
They beg from country to country,
These Yogis with blankets heavy.
Where others feel uneasy,
There the Yogis rest easy.
Ram, the Lord, they entreat,
As begs the lotus sweet.
“I trust in God,” say and repeat,
These words repeat, these words sweet.
Listen the Sayed say “O Sanyasi,
Learn to master that mystery.
O yogis, from your heart efface
Scepticism that within yourself you face,
Learn to practice what you preach,
Then from love learn to beseech.”
Inat says the rains have arrived,
And the river’s tributaries are flooded.
The grass has sprouted in abundance,
Of every kind, hue and refulgence.
O Lord, end my days of imprisonment,
You are the Mighty, the Omnipotent.
O Lord, let those days arrive,
I see my family members and thrive.
Source: G. Allana, 1983, Four classical poets of Sindh, Jamshoro, Insittue of Sindhology, University of Sindh, pp. 12-15.
Very little is known about the origin of the Diwân-e qalandar attributed to Sufi Saint La’l Shahbâz Qalandar who died in 1274 in Sehwan Sharif, in Sindh. The edition we used was compiled by Illahi Bakhsh and published at Sukkur in 1998. Unfortunately, the editor does not say a word on how this poetry came to him. He mentions that he was helped by scholars and mystics in translating Persian poetry into Sindhi language. He was mainly supported by the “gâdî nashîn of Sehwan of Sehwan Sharif”, Sayed Sadiq Ali Shah Sabzwari1.
The book appears to be a collection of poems stemming from popular oral tradition. It informs us on some features of the faith that prevailed in the context where it was collected. We chose to study an excerpt in order to identify some of these features.
The first poem of Diwân-e Qalandar is comprised of 26 pages (pp. 2-28) in the tarji’band style. Tarji’band is a poetic style in which all the sections of a poem are related to each other by the same couplet which appears systematically at the end of each section. This couplet – called tarji’ (in Arabic) or bargardân (in Persian) – is:
“Heydariyam, qalandaram, mastam / bandeh-ye Mortezâ ‘Ali hastam”: “I am a Heydari, I am a Qalandar, I am intoxicated/ I am submissive to Mortezâ ‘Ali” (passim).
Heydari means “relating to Heydar”, “a follower of Heydar”. Heydar (“lion” in Arabic) is one of the nicknames of Ali. Mortezâ (“adequate”, “desirable”) in the second distich is another of his nicknames. Broadly speaking, Heydari refers to those who venerate Ali; but in its specific sense it is a reference to the Heydari order of dervishes2. This couplet is recited in sama’ gatherings (prayer assemblies accompanied with music, song and dance).
From a literary point of view the poem presents a myriad of spelling errors and inconsistencies in the poetry rhythm. As to its structure, it contains 40 sections. Each section is composed of four distiches and ends with the tarji’ couplet as mentioned before. In the first section the author says that since he has felt Ali’s love he has become a Qalandar and a Heydari (kamar andar qalandari bastam / az del-e pâk Heydari hastam). In the second section Ali is recognized as a vali (a friend of God and His representative)3 and in the third section as a theophany, mazhar allâh – the manifestation of God in the human body.
“Asad allâh ham yad allâh ast / Vali allâh, mazhar allah ast / Hojjat allâh qodrat allâh ast / Bi nazir ou zât-e allâh ast”: “He is the God’s lion, God’s hand / God’s friend and representative, God’s manifestation / He is the proof of God and God’s power / There is nothing similar to him, he is God’s essence” (p. 2).
Considering Ali as the essence of God is an affirmation which transforms this poem to a highly antinomian text; as, for all Muslims God’s, essence is unique and imperceptible, nothing could be compared to it.
However, as shown in sections 4 and 5, those who scan this poem are indeed Muslims: in section 4 there are multiple references to the verses of the Koran and in section 5 a reference to the prophet of Islam who according to the author, approves of what is said in this poem about the status of Ali.
Section 6 refers to Noseyr (or Nosayr), a figure well-known to all “extremist” Shi’i orders. As we know, Noseyri is the name of a Shi’i order which is established in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, also known as Alawis. But the reference made to Noseyr and his followers (Noseyri) is not necessarily understood in relation to this order. According to a myth widespread in certain Shi’i communities, Noseyr was a slave of Ali and recognized the latter as God. As, according to Islamic belief, regarding a human being as God is heresy, Ali killed him. Then he remembered the promise he had made to Noseyr’s old mother who had asked him to protect his son and bring him back to her alive, so Ali restored Noseyr back to life. Once Noseyr was raised from his death, he told Ali: “if I had any doubt about your divinity, now that you brought me back to life I am more than sure that you are God”. Ali killed him again and this scenario repeated seven times. Then God ordered Ali to let Noseyr be: “I am the creator of the universe and I am God for all the creation, but I give permission to Noseyr and his followers to recognize you as God”4. In this poem we read “man Ali dânam, Ali gooyam / chon Noseyri keh bandeh-ye ouyam”: “I know Ali, I call Ali / like a Noseyri I am Ali’s slave” (p.6). Moreover in section 34 the name Noseyri is given to the faith described in the poem. “Chon Noseyri keh nâm dâram man / Ali valiallâh âshkâram man”: “As my name is Noseyri / the fact that Ali is a vali of God is obvious to me (or: As a Noseyri that I am / I claim obviously that Ali is the vali of God)” (p. 24).
Sections 7 and 8 are dedicated to Ali. In section 9 we read “Sarvar-e harkeh Mortezâ bâshad / Peyrov-e din-e Mostafâ bâshad”: “whoever takes Ali for his lord / Is a follower of the religion of the Prophet” (p. 6); and in the section 12 it is said that whoever is not a follower of Heydar (Heydari) is a non-believer, “Gheyr-e Heydari ham agar dâni / kâfari o yahûdi o nasrâni”: “If you believe in anything else but Heydar / You are a non-believer, a Jew, a Christian” (p. 8). We see here that in the author’s view any belief other than in Ali is considered useless.
Pages 10 to 20 (sections 13-28) are a praise to the ‘Fourteen Immaculate’ -Mohammad, Ali, Fâtemeh and their descendants the Shi’i imams. This part testifies the Duodeciman Shi’i feature of the author’s faith. In section 21, relating to Imam Kâzem, the seventh imam for duociman Shi’ies, there is a sudden aggressiveness. The author insults the enemies of this imam. It might be intended for the Shi’ites who do not recognize Kâzem as the seventh imam, e.g. the ismailians. “Doshman-e oust kâfar-e motlaq / beshno khâreji sag o ahmaq”: “His [Kâzem’s] enemy is an absolute non-believer / Listen you outsider!, you dog, you imbecile” (p. 14).
Some military features and a warrior spirit are observed in sections 30, 31 (pp. 20-21). “[…] Tabar-e Heydarist dar datam / Qâtel-e ân jami’ man hastam […]”: “I am bearing a Heydari axe / I am the killer of them all [all the enemies]”. The aggressiveness toward enemies mentioned in section 21 recurs in section 33, where the outsiders are addressed as dogs, idiots and imbeciles. Section 35 (p. 24) curses ibn Moljam (The assassin of Ali), ibn Ziyâd (the Governor of Kufa and one of the leaders of the army of Yazid during the battle of Karbala where Hosayn the third imam was martyred), ibn Khattâb (‘Omar, the second Caliph), Shemr (The assassin of Hoseyn).
Some parts of the poem are expressed enigmatically, using numbers instead of names. For example, in section 36 we read: “Yek sad o si o yek monâfeq dân / Si sad o dah ou movâfeq dân / shesh sad o shast o yek motâbeq dân / Yek sad o bist o haft fâseq dân”: “Consider the 131 as a hypocrite / Recognize 310 as an allies / 631 is adopted / 127 should be considered sinful” (p. 24). These numbers might be the names converted by the abjad5 system.
The identity of the author is acknowledged in the sections 38 and 40. “[…] manam Shahbâz bandeh-ye dargâhash […]”: “I am Shahbâz the slave of his threshold” (section 38, p. 26); “[…] manam ‘Othmân Marvandi bandeh-ye dargâhash […]”: “I am Othmân Marvandi², the slave of his threshold” (section 40, p. 28). However, comparing the literary quality of this text to some other poems attributed to Othman Marvandi6, one can conclude whether this text is his or not, and whether it has been distorted by oral transmission.
The study of this kind of dervish popular literature is nevertheless interesting because it informs us about a form of dervish piety and perhaps also be the manner in which Marvandi’s ideas were understood among popular layers of society.
Dîwân-e qalandar, ed. by Illahi Bakhsh, Sukkur, p. VI. [↩]
This is more than a supposition, as we will see further (section 30, p. 20), the author affirms bearing a “Heydari axe” (tabar-e Heydari). Axe is an element of dervishes panoply. On Heydari order, see among others Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, Abdülbaki Gölpinarli and Ahmet Yashar Ocak. [↩]
For more details on the meaning and the impact of this codified status in shi’ism see Amir-Moezzi, “Notes à propos de la Walâya Imamite (Aspects de l’Imâmologie Duodécimaine, X).” Journal of American Oriental Society, 2002, 122(4), 722-741. [↩]
For the full version of this story see Hâjj Ne’matollâh Jeyhûnâbâdi, Shâhnâmeh-ye Haqiqat, Tehran, 1984. [↩]
The Abjad numerals are a decimal numeral system in which the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are assigned numerical values. The Abjad numbers are used to assign numerical values to Arabic words for purposes of numerology. For example the word “Allâh” ا has a numeric value of 66 (1+30+30+5). [↩]
Sheykh Othmân Marvandi (d. 1274) known as “La’l Shahbâz Qalandar” is a Muslim mystic of the Indian subcontinent. His other nicknames are “Seyf al-lesân”, “Shams al-din”, “Makhdoom”, “Mahdi” and more but he generally used “Othmân” or “Shahbâz” as his pen name. According to some sources he was a Qâderi dervish. Other sources designate him as the founder of the Qalandari Shahbâzi order (See for example: ‘Affân Saljouq, Bâ la’l Shahbâz beraqsim, Heydarâbâd: Khâneh-ye Farhang-e Iran). [↩]
We wish to introduce new Sindhi poetry through excerpts of the risâlo of Shâh `Abd al-Karîm (1536-1624). He was the grand-father of Shâh `Abd al-Lâtif (1689-1752), the famous author of Shâh jo risâlo. Shâh `Abd al-Karîm lived in the village of Bulri, not far from Thatta. The risâlo is made of 92 baits which are one of the oldest samples of Sufi poetry in Sindhi. It was published and translated into English by Motilal Jotwani in 1979, in a booklet entitled Shah Abdul Karim – a mystic of Sind (New Delhi, Rajesh Publications) and reprinted by Sindhi Kitab Ghar and Indus Publications in 1986. The baits deal here with the Sufi concept of wahdat-e wujûd:
The Beloved has a way
unheard of and unknown,
is the lover’s fate.
He Himself is the king,
And Himself the envoy sent,
He Himself receives the envoy
and accredits Himself.
Those for whom we yearn
are none but we ourselves;
Now, O Doubt! be gone,
We recognise the Beloved.
You were created
out of nothing;
What does your saying “I” mean,
When you are nothing still?
You live in “Nought but God”;
be not away one moment from Him;
Man is God’s manifestation,
why break this whole in parts?
He guides us to the Fount of Light,
So to our source we all return,
Hold fast to this root of the matter.
Shâh `Abd al-Lâtif Bithai was born in Hala. During his lifetime, he saw the decline of the Mughal empire, and the invasions of Nâdir Shâh and Ahmad Shâh Durrânî. According to tradition, he always kept three books with him: the Quran, the risâlo of Shâh Karîm, and the Mathnawî of Rûmî. It is said he visited many sanctuaries, including Hindu ones in the company of wandering ascetics (jogis) probably from Nathpanthi persuasion. Following Shâh Karîm’s steps, but writing in a more common language though hardly understandable for Sindhis today, Shâh Lâtif uses the folktales of Sindh for depicting the quest of the human soul toward God.
The ascetics, handsome and enlightning, the
world over roam;
None of them has any place his home.
Those of them that kindle Love’s fire,
Without their company, I can not live.
The horns the ascetics blow produce ecstatic
They are more precious then treasures in
Pure gold are their horns, their possessions all;
Do not them devoid of wealth call.
You must feel yourself as reassured,
Perchance, this company may have this place
« Let us go », they may have pronounced.
Without their company, I can not live.
The ascetics their « Ego » gather,
And set it to fire altogether.
The ascetics their « Ego » squeeze,
And devour it as they please.
Those that across the ocean to safety lead,
Without their company, I can not live.
As their dwellings I am beholding,
There arises within my heart a longing.
Not yet over is this morning,
So, the ascetics are not yet their music playing.
Those, who follow the Path of submission to
Without their company, I can not live.
Source: G. Allana, Selections from the Risalo, Education Department, Government of Sind, Karachi, no date.
Uderolâl, also known as Jhulelal, is God to some Sindhi-Hindu believers. Legend has it that Uderolâl was born as saviour of the people of Thatta in Sindh. The people here felt helpless when faced with the atrocities of the Muslim ruler Mirkshah who forced them to follow Islam. They offered prayers at the banks of river Sindhu (Indus). Uderolâl was an answer to their prayers. For the Sindhi-Hindus in India, He has become an important mark of identity; especially because they were forced to leave Sindh due to the Partition of India. Sindh is now in Pakistan. Jhulelal offers a distinct mark of identity to the community in India.
The panjrâs of Jhulelal are prayers sung to the glory of Jhulelal. It is the panjrâs that add to the liveliness of the bairanas, a festive occasion to offer prayers and thanksgiving to Jhulelal. The crowd gathered for the occasion, colourfully dressed, sing loudly the panjrâs to the beat of musical instruments. Of these the dhol, a kind of drum, is the most important. Another important instrument is the earthen pot, which is turned upside down and tapped rhythmically. Devotees accompany the music with their claps. As the force of the music and singing catches on devotees also start dancing.
About the translator
Charu P. Gidwani holds a PhD from Pune University, May 2004, Depiction of Childhood in the Works of Rabindranath Tagore. She is the daughter of a Sindhi linguist and lexicographer, Dr Parso J. Gidwani. She has inherited her love for Sindh and Sindhi from him. She teaches English Literature at RKT College, affiliated to the Mumbai University.
1. O my Jhulelal Sain
Mounted on a blue* horse, my Lal Sain Riding a pallo* fish, my Lal Sain Makes every Sindhi prosper, my Lal Sain Makes us carry offerings* every year, my Lal Sain Makes us keep bairanas*, fulfils all our wishes, my Lal Sain He is the true glory of Sindhunagar*, my Lal Sain Ferries* everyone across, my Lal Sain Fulfils hopes of devotees, my Lal Sain At your feet, all bow their heads, My Lal Sain, O my Lal Sain
Source: Anonymous panjra, Jhulelal Ji Mahima, second edition, April 2008, edited by Kavi Bharat (Bhagat) Bhatya, p. 14.
blue: blue colour is the colour of gods, it represents divinity in the Hindu religion.
pallo: a kind of a fish that belongs to the clupa ilisha genre. Legend has it that Jhulelal, referred here as ‘Lal Sain’, had this fish for his vehicle. A special feature of this fish is that it swims against the current.
offerings: offerings to Jhulelal are made in pots, these are then immersed in a river or flowing water, after the bairana is over.
bairana: it is an occasion to worship, offer prays, offer thanks to Jhulelal. One of the most important times of bairana is conducted is on Cheti Chand, the time, in March, marking the birth of Jhulelal. This is also the Sindhi New Year.
Sindhunagar: This is the proposed name for Ulhasnagar, a place of British horse-stables converted to a camp for Sindhi refugees. Literally, ‘Sindhunagar’ means ‘settlement of Sindhis’.
ferries everyone across: in Hinduism very often life is compared to an ocean. Faith in God, and God alone, can carry a human being safely across this ocean of life. To put it simply, faith in God makes life smooth.
2. O Lal keep my honour safe Jhulelan
This anonymous panjrâ is a favourite of Sufi singers in and around Sindh. Famous Sufi singers in Sindh, Punjab and even Bangladesh have sung it.
Lal keep my honour safe* Jhulelalan*, O thou of Sindhdi*, of Sewan*, of Sakhar*, Hail Mast Qalandar*, we’ve Dulhe* in our hearts Four lamps always burn at your shrine, The fifth one I have come to light O Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… You bless mothers with children, You safeguard fortunes of young girls*, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… All who have lit the flame of Dulhe, You fill their coffers Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… O Peer* of Peers come to the centre of the ocean, In the name of the Lord ferry my boat across Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…
Sources: Jai Jhulelal Beda I Paar (Collection of stories, songs, prayers of Jhulelal), Ahemadabad; Ke Saahitun Sajanan Saan: Sain Dr Rochaldas Sahibun Ji Satsangi Rihaan (Some Conversations with Dr Rochaldas), by Shri H.M. Damodar, 1991.
‘Keep my honour safe’: is reference to the fact that the devotee has surrendered to God. Here the devotee pleads with God to keep his name, respect, dignity in society intact. That is all what the devotee seeks of God in humility.
Jhulelalan: the ‘an’ ending is the suffix used to show endearment.
Sindhdi: the ‘di’ suffix is one showing endearment. Literally, Sindhdi, means Sindh. Sewan, Sakhar: places in Sindh. Mast Qalandar: refers to Qalandar Lal Shahbaaz, a peer. History gives different versions of him. According to Dr Rochaldas, a well-known saint from Sindh, Shahbaaz Qalandar even met Jhulelal. Shahbaaz Qalandar, fond of excursions, breathed his last at Sehwan, where a shrine is built in his name. Because his name as well as Jhulelal’s name has ‘Lal’, today, many consider both names referring to one person. This song is a fine example of how the Sindhi mind is not rigidly fanatic about one religion. Here Jhulelal -a Hindu God- is seen as one with Mast Qalandar -a Muslim Peer.
Dulhe: another name of Jhulelal.
You safeguard fortunes of young girls: this is a subtle way of praying to Jhulelal that he bless young girls with good husbands. A girl’s getting married to a worthy boy was seen as all that was needed for her well-being. This concept of a girl’s good life has not changed much even today.
Peer: a peer is believed to be close to the Almighty. Peers are known to have shown miracles to save their followers from trouble. There have been many peers in Sindh. It is not unusual to hear of Sindhi Hindu families in India also knowing and believing a peer. Even today festivities are held related to one peer or the other which are attended in huge numbers by both Hindus and Muslims. Singing of folk devotional songs throughout the night are a special feature of these fairs. These fairs are held in Sindh (Pakistan) and also in Kutch (India) even today.
3. Panjrâ by Ram Panjwani
Ram Panjwani was a Sindhi writer (1911-1987). He has written many plays, novels, essays mainly on social issues. His most important contribution to the Sindhi community lies in the fact that he reintroduced Uderolâl to Sindhi-Hindus in India, especially in Ulhasnagar, after the Partition.
Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal Lal Sain Uderolal We, humble, full of vices, Dulaah*, at your door sell ourselves* Our state is not hidden from you Please keep us well Satguru* Sain* you fulfil our hopes Babal* Sain you ferry us across the ocean of life I am naked*, O pall-giver* Saviour of the helpless Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal Sain
Source: Bharatiya Sindhu Sabha, Mumbai, Volume VI, Oct-Nov 2000, “Sindhi of the Millenium: Bhagat Kanwar Ram”, Editor and Publisher: Mohan Motwani, 5, Sai Parsad, Shivaji Park, Mumbai 400028.
Dulaah: a term for Jhulelal.
sell-ourselves: the idea here is that the devotee is worth nothing at the doorstep of God.
Satguru: ‘guru’ refers to teacher. ‘Sat’ refers to truth or the ultimate reality. Satguru here refers to Jhulelal.
Babal: endearing form of Baba. Baba is a term of reverence used to address any old man. Grandchildren usually address their grandfather as Baba.
Sain: term of address showing respect.
‘I am naked’: this line suggests complete surrender of the devotee to God. The devotee has nothing to hide from God. Pall-giver: God as giving the protective cover of the pall, covering the devotee’s nakedness to protect his honour.