Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sachal Sarmast: Ranjha Shah Hazare Da


Sachal Sarmast (1739 – 1829, Sindhi: سچلُ سرمستُ), born Abdul Wahab Farooqi, was a Sufi poet from Sindh.  Sachal Sarmast literally means 'truthful ecstatic', or, more ornately, "The Ecstatic Saint of Truth". Sachal Sarmast composed poetry in many local dialects, chiefly Saraiki and Sindhi.

Saraiki (Shahmukhi: سرائیکی) is the dialect of Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh. It is spoken by 20 million people across the Southern Punjab, southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, border regions of North Sindh, Eastern Balochistan, some 20,000 migrants and their descendants in India, Hindus in Afghanistan and so on. One view is that Saraiki originates from the word sarai (inn) - i.e. just as Urdu is the patois of the Mongol ordu camp, Saraiki is the language of the tavern. It is more likely that the word originates from Sauvira, a kingdom in ancient India - the language of this kingdom is Sauvīrakī. The historical bag of names for the various sub-dialects of Saraiki reflect overlapping or conflicting ethnic, local, regional designations. Hindki or Hindko – "of India" – refer to various dialects in the farther north, due to the fact they were applied by people arriving from Afghanistan or Persia. Jaṭki -"of the Jaṭs" - is the sub-dialect of Saraiki spoken where the Jats live in the Punjab; and so on.

Sachal Sarmast composed songs in Saraiki on contemporary themes, one of which was the folk epic Heer Ranjha.  The plot summary (adapted from Wikipedia) is:

Heer is an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang, Punjab. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jat of the Ranjha clan, is the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village 'Takht Hazara' by the river Chandrabhaga (Moon-crescent, referring to its oxbows) or Chenab. Being his father's favorite son, unlike his brothers who have to toil in the lands, Ranjha leads a life of ease playing the flute (Wanjhli or Bansuri). After a quarrel with his brothers over land, his brothers' wives refuse to give him food, and Ranjha leaves home.

Eventually Ranjha arrives in Heer's village and falls in love with her. Heer offers Ranjha a job as a caretaker of her father's cattle. Visiting becomes mesmerized by Ranjha's flute and falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer's jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Subsequently Heer is forced by her family and the local priest to marry another man, Sadashiv Khera.

Ranjha is heartbroken. He wanders the countryside alone, until he eventually meets a jogi or hermit. After meeting Baba Gorakhnath, the founder of the Kanphata (pierced ear) sect of jogis at Tilla Jogian, the Hill of Hermits (50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha, Punjab), Ranjha becomes a jogi himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world.

Reciting the name of the Lord Alakh Niranjan, Ranjha wanders all over Punjab; eventually finding the village where Heer now lives.

The two return to Heer's village, where Heer's parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Kaido poisons her food so that the wedding will not take place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha partakes the rest of  poisoned laddu that Heer has eaten, and dies by her side.

Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer's hometown, Jhang. Lovers pay visits to their mausoleum. The year on the mausoleum inscription is 1471 AD.

Many Sufi poets have shaped the Heer Ranjha canon.  It is argued by Pir Waris Shah in the beginning of his version, that the story of Heer and Ranjha has a deeper connotation - the relentless quest of humans for God. The sociological significance is also that it is a Jat epic, and represents an obdurate Jat/Ahir narrative clinging to their rural/steppe values of cattle, flute, love - in the face of repeated conquest from urbanized Arab and Indo-Persian centers; and also the need of Sufi poets to co-opt that narrative for increased resonance.

Abida Parveen sings Sachal Sarmast:

Part 1:



Part 2:





भला हो
Be well

राँझा तख़्त हज़ारे कूँ
जहंदा इश्क़ दे आँख दे छुपियां

Ranjha of village Takht Hazara
Where Love hid from the eyes

कर मंजूर गज़ई तूने
जा ताज तख़्त कूँ रखियाँ

If you want your wishes fulfilled
Go place a crown on Takht village

कारण हीर दे बन के जोगी
अत बीण बजावण सिख्हियां

Because of Heer he became a hermit
Learnt to play the flute

मस्ताना इश्क़ दे शाही कूँ
मोय आशिक़ मंग दे बिकियाँ

Ecstatic in Love, that King
O sell me to that Lover

जहंदा इश्क़ लगानी में वारियाँ
सो राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा
मालिक हज़ारी दा
तख़्त हज़ारी दा
साईं  भला राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा

O you who join the queue of lovers
O to follow Ranjha - that King of Hazara
That Lord of Hazara
Of the village Takht Hazara
The good saint of Hazara - the King of Hazara


अनना अहमद बिल्ला मी मी
तुस्सा चाक दा हुसन में खोईआं
सो राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा
मालिक हज़ारी दा
तख़्त हज़ारी दा
साईं  भला राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा

You who see the One and Ahmad (Muhammad) as in you
Lose yourself in the beauty of the cattle herder
O to follow Ranjha - that King of Hazara
That Lord of Hazara
Of the village Takht Hazara
The good saint of Hazara - the King of Hazara

कर सिंगार सोहणी दे अंगियां
तुस्सा स्याहियां मुश्किल मलों
सो राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा
मालिक हज़ारी दा
तख़्त हज़ारी दा
साईं  भला राँझा - शाह हज़ारी दा

I decorated and made beautiful my body
You only ever poured ink and trouble on me
O to follow Ranjha - that King of Hazara
That Lord of Hazara
Of the village Takht Hazara
The good saint of Hazara - the King of Hazara


मैं थी वार क़ुर्बान ताहीं तो
सर सचल दा सब होने तो
तख़्त हज़ारी दा (etc.)

I want to go sacrifice myself there
Make my head (Sar) truthful (Sachal) there
At the village of Takht Hazara (etc.)

Here is a geotagging tour diary to Takht Hazara and the graves of Heer Ranjha. It is also interesting to recount the traditional invocation that happens at the beginning of a rendering of the epic:

Awwal-akhir naam Allah da lena, duja dos Muhammad Miran
Tija naun mat pita da lena, unha da chunga dudh sariran
Chautha naun an pani da lena, jis khave man banhe dhiran
Panjman naun Dharti Mata da lena, jis par kadam takiman
Chhewan naun Khwaja Pir da lena, jhul pilave thande niran
Satwan naun Guru Gorakhnath de lena, patal puje bhojan
Athwan naun lalanwale da lena, bande bande de tabaq zanjiran

First and last, I take the name of Allah; second, of Muhammad, the prophet
Third, I take the name of mother and father, on whose milk my body thrived
Fourth, I take the name of bread and water, by eating which my mind is calmed
Fifth, I take the name of Mother Earth, on whom I place my feet.
Sixth, I take the name of Khwaja (my teacher or Lord in the Sufi tradition), who gives me cold water to drink
Seventh, I take the name of Guru Gorakh Nath (a reflection both on the seer who initiated Ranjha, and the Naga or Snake cults of Dravidian India) who is worshiped with a platter of milk and rice
Eighth, I take the name of Lalanwala  (i.e. Lord Jhulelal of the Sindhis, of Damadam Mast Qalandar fame) who breaks the bonds and the chains of captives.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ghalib: Bekhudi Besabab Naheen

Ghalib makes for an unlikely Sufi. Interrogated after the Mutiny, he informs his British interlocutor he is only half-Mussulman (Drink, yes; eat pig, no.) He is very much a man of this world, the here and now. On Paradise, he writes to a friend:

In Paradise it is true that I shall drink at dawn the pure wine mentioned in the Qu'ran, but where in Paradise are the long walks with intoxicated friends in the night, or the drunken crowds shouting merrily? Where shall I find there the intoxication of monsoon clouds? Where there is no autumn, how can spring exist? If the beautiful houris are always there, where will be the sadness of separation and the joy of union? Where shall we find there a girl who flees away when we would kiss her?"

Yet he believes "the search for God within liberates the seeker from the narrowly orthodox, encouraging the devotee to look beyond the letter of the law, to its essence."

The object of my worship lies beyond perception's reach;
For men who see, the Ka'aba is a compass, nothing more.

Below, Abida Parveen renders Ghalib.




बेखुदी बेसबब नहीं ग़ालिब।
कुछ तो है जिसकी पर्दागारी है।

This out-of-yourself-ness, not without its purpose is, O Ghalib
There's surely something here -- that lies behind veils.

दिल ओ मिज़्श्गाँ का जो मुकदमा था।
आज फ़िर उसकी रू बकारी है।

Heart and eyelash (tears) have long been litigants (against Beloved)
Today for both, another summons to appear.

फ़िर उसी बेवफा पे मरते हैं।
फ़िर वही जिंदगी हमारी है।

Dying for that Betrayer again,
It's my same old life, all over again.

फ़िर दिया पारा-ऐ-जिग़र ने सवाल।
एक फरियाद आहोजारी है।

Issues mercury (i.e. thermometer) of liver a question
The response - a sigh of the same complaint.

(Jigar - the liver - was thought to be seat of emotion and friendship in Islamic medicine.)

फ़िर हुए हैं गवाह इश्क तलब।
अश्क बारी का हूक्म जारी है।

Again in witness is summoned: Love
An order is passed to bring forth: tears.

फ़िर कुछ इस दिल तो बेक़रारी है |
सीना ज़ोया-ए-ज़ख्म-ए-कारी है |

There's restlessness in this heart again,
This bosom seeks wounds afresh.

The extended metaphor of litigation comes easily to Ghalib, who shuttled around the courts of authorities (even all the way to Kolkata) imploring them for a bigger pension.  Note how Abida starts in a ghazal and moves into qawwali around minute 6. Somewhere in there is a guitar playing a chord from Air Supply: Making Love, Out of nothing at all. Out of nothing at all.