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‘Shah Hussain’

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‘I belong to Ranjha’ – the syncreticism of Lahore’s Shah Hussain

Lahore, the ancient city of Loh, the age-old halt for invaders, is also the home to eclectic Sufis. Men and women who shed conventions and discovered newer planes of spirituality found a home in this city. The merging of centuries’ old Indus valley bastion – the Punjab and its primordial language – with core strands of Islamic Sufism was a unique moment in South Asia’s cultural evolution. And, no one can better represent the composite soul of Lahore than its poet and Sufi master Shah Hussain, whose identity has forever fused with his Hindu disciple Madhu Lal. Those who seek Lahore’s Mela Chiraghaan or Festival of Lights still frequent the 16th century shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain.

Shah Hussain’s father, Shaykh Usman, was a loom weaver, and his grandfather Kaljas Rai (Kalsarai) was a convert to Islam who gained the confidence of the state during the reign of Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Shah Hussain Lahori was born in 1538 AD near Taxali Gate, Lahore. His early religious education was followed by induction into the Qadiriya order by Hazrat Bahlul Daryavi at a very young age. As a devout Muslim in his early years, he gained a formal outward knowledge and imbibed the spiritual moorings of Lahore, including the blessings of Hazrat Usman Ali Hajvery, aka Data Saheb, whose shrine has guided scores of saints, fakirs and yogis for nearly a millennium.

Hussain’s grandfather Kaljas Rai (Kalsarai) was a convert to Islam who gained the confidence of the state during the reign of Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq

Mythological accounts suggest that at the age of thirty-six, while studying a commentary on the Quran, Shah Hussain was struck by a line which equated the ‘life of this world’ to ‘game and sport.’ He asked his instructor to explain the concept but his teacher’s response did not satisfy him. He is said to have interpreted this verse as a means to undertake sport and dance. It is said that Shah Hussain pursued dancing, sport and frolicking but his mentor Hazrat Bahlul Shah Daryavi was not alarmed as he thought his student was spiritually intact. […]

Shah Hussain, Madhu Lal and the festival of lights

Lahore is celebrating Mela Chiraghan – the death anniversary of the elusive saint Shah Hussain who is also known as Madhu Lal Shah for his life long association with a Hindu disciple called Madhu Lal. Each year in spring the festival of lights is attended by thousands of people.

Lighting of lamps is a metaphor for killing the inner darkness that we live with. By invoking spiritual light through love and self-knowledge, we can overcome ourselves and attain the mystical state of union with the beloved.

Madhu Lal’s syncretic shrine represents the long-gone era of spirituality rising above religious identities and rituals. Here is a kaafi poem with translation on this blog. A few lines :

They alone know what is love and longing,
Who have it in their lives.
Like digging a well in dry land,
With no cart to carry away the sand. […]

March 29th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Lahore, Sufi poetry, Sufism|5 Comments

Put thy eyes into mine…..Shah Hussain

My wrist in the beloved’s grip,
I cannot ask Him to leave hold.
Dark is the night, the cloud is dripping,
I suffer it for lack of a messenger,
The tyrant has sent a call.
They alone know what is love and longing,
Who have it in their lives.
Like digging a well in dry land,
With no cart to carry away the […]

March 1st, 2008|Sufi poetry, Sufism|6 Comments