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the-south-asian.com                               April  2001

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Page  5  of  5


Sufis - Wisdom against Violence


Salman Saeed



Bulleh Shah [1680-1758]

The ancestral village of Bulleh Shah was Uch Gilaniyan in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.

From there his family first shifted to Malakwal (District Multan, Pakistan) and then to Pandoke, which is about 14 miles southeast of Qasur (Pakistan). Bulleh's earlier name was Abdullah Shah, later on it changed to Bulleh. His family background was religious, his father being a highly religious person. Bulleh Shah was the disciple of a Qadiri Sufi.

Bulleh composed a lot of poetry in Saraiki, the local spoken language. His style of poetry is called Qafi, which was already an established style with Sufis who preceded him. The tomb of Bulleh Shah is in Qasur (Pakistan) and he is held in reverence by all Sufis of Sindh and Punjab.

The poem below is typical of Bulleh’s view of the world. He sees the common underlying reality that lies beneath the mundane, and rejoices in its all pervasiveness. This concept is similar to the monotheistic, omnipresent concept of God that we come across in Sikhism and the Upanishads.


"Maati kudam karendee yaar,
Vaah vaah maati de gulzaar;
Maati ghora maati jora, maati daa aswaar,
Maati maati nu (n) dorave, maati daa chankaar.

Maati maati nu(n) maaran lag-gee, maati de hathiyaar.
Jis maati par bahutee maati, so maati hankaar;
Maati baagh bagheechaa maati, maati dee gulzaar.
Maati maati nu (n) vekhan aayee, maati dee a bahar;

Hus khed phir maati hove, paindee pau pasaar.
Bullah ja(n) eh bujhaarat buj-jhe,
Taa(n) lah bhau siro(n) maar."


"The soil is in ferment, O friend
Behold the diversity.
The soil is the horse, so is the rider
The soil chases the soil, and we hear the clanging of soil
The soil kills the soil, with weapons of the soil.
That soil with more on it, is arrogance
The soil is the garden so is its beauty
The soil admires the soil in all its wondrous forms
After the circle of life is done it returns to the soil
Answer the riddle O Bulleh, and take this burden off my head."

[Translation reference: book by J. R. Puri and T. R. Shangari of the Radha Swamis, titled Bulleh Shah].

According to the authors this kafi of Bulleh Shah reflects a tumultuous time in the history of Punjab. The poet perceives radical changes taking place in society around him. This was the middle of 18th century when the Sikh power was in the ascendancy and the Mughal power was waning. It was a time of chaos as there was no law and order. Bulleh Shah sees rampant corruption and societal decay. The general tone of the poem is pessimistic, as is obvious.

"Ulte hor zamane aaye,
Hun asaan bhed sajjan de paaye.
kaa(n) laggad nun maaran lagge,
chiriyan jurre khaaye
iraqiyan nun chabuk paunde,
gade khood khavaye
aapneyan vich ulfat naahee,
ke-he chaachche taaye
piyo puttran ittfaak naa kaahee,
dheeyan naal naa maaye
sachcheyan nun hun milde dhakke,
jhoothe kol bahaaye
agle jaaye bankaale baithe,
pichliyan farash vichaye
Bullah jina hukam hazooron andaa,
tina nun kaun hataaye."

"Perverse times have come,
I know the mystery of the beloved
crows have begun to hunt hawks,
and sparrows feed on falcons
horses bear the whipping,
while donkeys graze on lush green
no love is lost between relatives,
be they younger or elder uncles
There is no accord between fathers and sons,
Nor any between mothers and daughters
The truthful ones are being pushed about,
the tricksters are seated close by
The front liners have become wretched,
the back benchers sit on carpets
Those in tatters have turned into kings,
the kings have taken to begging
O Bulleh, that which is His command
who can alter His decree."


Dohra - Bulleh Shah

" Pi sharaab tey kha kabab, heth baal haddaan di ag,

Bulleha bhan ghar rab da, ais thuggan de thug noo thug."

Drench yourself in wine and feast on roasted flesh, roasting in the fires flaming out of the bones. O Bulleha, break into the house of God and swindle the cheat of cheats.


Note the commonalties found between Bulleh Shah and Shah Lateef who were contemporaries. They had almost the same experiences of the turbulent period in which they lived. Shah Lateef (1690-1752) and Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) had witnessed the death of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals who was responsible for the murder of his brother Dara Shikoh and Sarmad, the Sufi poet.

Part II follows in May issue


Wisdom against Violence

Arrival of Sufis

Baba Farid

Madho Lal Shah Hussain

Bulleh Shah



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