Bulleh Shah of Kasur in Central Punjab is another towering voice that provided a mystical message beyond caste, institutionalized religion and ideologies of power. Born in 1860 in a Syed family, he found a Murshid (spiritual master) in Shah Inayat who was an Arain (a lower caste). This enraged his family and they almost disowned him. However, intoxicated with the love for his master and driven by ideas of Unity of existence and equality of humans, he rejected such notions and stuck to his humanism.

Bulleh’s poetry reflected his rejection of orthodox hold of mullahs over Islam, the nexus between the clergy and the rulers and all the trappings of formal religion that created a gulf between man and his Creator. A common theme of his poetry is the pursuit of self-knowledge that is essential for the mystical union with the Beloved.

The yearning for anonymity and connecting with the Beloved requires that there are no distractions, no priorities and no illusions of attachment. Bulleh Shah’s verse and its translation say it so directly and passionately -(thanks again to Shahidain for sharing the translations by Muzaffar Ghafar):

Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay
Jithay Saaray Annay
Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay
Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay

O Bulleh Shah let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognizes our caste (or race, or family name)
And where no one believes in us

Ab to jaag Musaffir pyare
Raeen gayi latke taare
Kar le aj karni da weera
Mod na ho si aawen tera

Awake, dear traveller, you’ve got to move on.
Trailing its stars, the night is gone.
Do what you have to do, do it today.
You will never be back this way.

Your companions are calling.
Let us go.
Awake, dear traveller, you’ve got to move on.
Trailing its stars, the night is gone.

A pearl, a ruby, the touchstone and dice
With all that you thirst by the waterside.
Awake, dear traveller, you’ve got to move on.
Trailing its stars, the night is gone.

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Parh nafal namaaz guzaarey
Uchiyaan baangaa chaaagaa maarey
Mimbar te charh waz pukaarey
Keetaa teynoo hirs khawaar

translationEndless extra prayers you offer
Jarring prayer-calls are released from your coffer
Mounting pulpit, sermon you proffer
Wretched you became through greed ( Muzaffar Ghafar)

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BULHE NU SAMJHAWAN AAINAN BHAINAN TE BHARJAIAN
To counsel Bulleh, his sisters in law have come

MAN NE BULHYA SADA KAHNA CHAD DE PALLA RAIAAN
Pay heed to us and give up mixing with the low caste Araeen

AAL-E NABI AULAD-E NABI NUN TOON KION LEEKAN LAINAN
You are a scion of Ali,the Prophet, why must you shame our fair clime.

JEHRA SANOON SYED SADDE DOZAKH MILAN SAZAIAAN
Those who call me Syed, are destined to hell made for them

JO KOI SANOON RAEEN AAKHE BHISHTEEN PEENGAN PAIAAN
Those who call me Araeen, have the swings in heaven laid for them

RAEEN SAEEN SABHI THAEEN RAB DIAN BE PARWAAIAN
The low caste and the high caste, are created by God who cares not for family

SOHNIAN PARE HATAIAN NE TE KOJHIAN LE GAL LAAIAN
He regards the beautiful and cherishes the not so comely.

JE TU LOREEN BAAGH BAHAARAN CHAKAR HO JA RAEEAN
If you wish to enjoy the glory of the Garden, go and serve the Araeen

BULHE SHAH DI ZAAT KI PUCHNA-EN SHAKAR HO RAZAAIAN
Why bother about Bulleh’s caste? Obey the command that comes from Saeen

(Translation by K S Duggel)