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Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay – Let’s go where everyone is blind

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.
Below a modern rendition of these verses by the inimitable Meekal Hasan Band. They have been instrumental in reintroducing Sufi poetry among the youth of our country. […]
February 7th, 2010|Poetry, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Literature|7 Comments

Bulleh Shah’s admission

Bulleh-a aashiq hoyiyon Rabb da, Hoai Malamat Lakh Tenon Kafir Kafir aakhdey, toon aaho aaho aakh (Bulleh Shah) Bulleh lover of G-d, a million blames occur Your title is apostate, answer yes, yes, so it is. (translation by JH)

January 6th, 2010|Arts & Culture|2 Comments

Sultana Begum, the great grand daughter-in law of last Mughal emperor

Jahane Rumi is grateful to Shivnath Jha for this contribution..

Stiching words together to restore glory to the lives lost in oblivion may not be an easy task.
But eminent journalist Shivnath Jha and wife Neena have successfully launched the ‘Andolan Ek Pustak Se’ movement in 2007 to help those who did the country proud in the past. […]

May 11th, 2009|History, India, India-Pakistan History|41 Comments

On Krishna and Ranjha – the syncretic Punjab

I am posting an article by Manzur Ejaz that was published by The Friday Times. This is a great piece:

Fascination with the naughty butter-thief Krishna in the Punjab remained the undercurrent of the cultural milieu for so long that Waris Shah’s Ranjha appears to be a reincarnation of Krishna in many aspects. Khawaja Ghulam Farid, the great Sufi poet, also considered Krishna a sacred prophet of the Hindus like all other prophets. But the question is how did the dark skinned Lord come to dominate the land of the fair Aryans who believed that a dark man ‘seen seated in the market-place [is] like a heap of black beans.’ […]

April 10th, 2009|Personal|8 Comments

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

Imagined homeland

It irks me when I hear simplistic platitudes on Pakistani society, state or people. The heterogeneity of Pakistan is by itself an anthropologist’s dream, a planners’ headache and a sociologist’s challenge. Despite the sixty-one years of drumming the uniform nationalism mantra, Pakistan’s regions and their peoples refuse to toe the line sponsored by the official textbook masters. This is why one minute there is a delightful speech on being a Pakistani and the other minute caste, tribe or ethnicity raise their discrete heads and the linear formulae dissolve into thin air.

Recently I was in Karachi and discovered that the drawing room chattering there was vastly different from that of Lahore’s. The immediate urban crises of the Sindhi capital overshadow discussions that the Punjabi heartland loves to indulge in. The war mongering that has been a recent pastime on TV channels and in influential quarters of Lahore, is looked at with suspicion and, dare I say, contempt by many Karachi wallahs. It was refreshing to be reminded that, much in line with South Asian history, Pakistan is a diverse, multifarious place. That this country cannot be boxed easily and therefore appointed labels dissipate easily. […]

February 5th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Published in The Friday Times, Sindh, Sufism|2 Comments

Four poems by Bulleh Shah (new translations)

Who I am

I know not who I am,
I am neither a believer going to the mosque
Nor given to non-believing ways.
Neither clean nor unclean,
Neither Moses nor Pharaoh.
I know not who I am.

I am neither among sinners nor among saints,
Neither happy nor unhappy,
I belong neither to water nor to earth.
I am neither fire nor air,
I know not who I am.

Neither do I know the secret of religion,
Nor am I born of Adam and Eve.
I have given myself no name,
I belong neither to those who squat and pray,
Nor to those who have gone astray.
I know not who I am.

I was in the beginning; I’d be there in the end.
I know not any one other than the One.
Who could be wiser than Bulleh Shah
Whose Master is ever there to tend?
I know not who I am.

Come my Love, take care of me

Come my Love, take care of me,
I am in great agony.
Ever separated, my dreams are dreary,
Looking for you, my eyes are weary.
All alone I am robbed in a desert,
Waylaid by a bunch of waywards.

The Mulla and Qazi show me the way,
Their maze of dharma that is in sway.
They are the confirmed thieves of time.
They spread their net of saintly crime.

Their time-worn norms are seldom right,
With these they chain my feet so tight!
My love cares not for caste or creed.
To the ritual faith I pay no head.

My Master lives on yonder bank
While I am caught in the gale of greed.
With his boat at anchor, He stands in wait,
I must hasten I can’t be late.

Bulleh Shah must find his love,
He needn’t have the least fright.
His Love is around, yet he looks for him
Misled in the broad daylight.

Come my love take care of me,
I am in great agony.


Strange are the times!

Crows swoop on hawks
Sparrows do eagles stalk
Strange are the times!

The Iraqis are despised
While the donkeys are prized
Strange are the times!

Those with coarse blankets are kings;
The erstwhile kings watch them from the ring.
Strange are the times!

Its not without reason or rhyme,
Strange are the times

Says Bulleh, kill your ego
And throw away your pride.
You need to forget yourself
To find Him by your side.

It’s all in One contained

Understand the One and forget the rest.
Shake off your ways of an apostate pest.
Leading to the grave to hell and torture,
Rid your mind of dreams of disaster.
This is how is the argument maintained,
It’s all in One contained.

What use is it bowing one’s head?
To what avail has prostrating led?
Reading Kalma you make them laugh,
Absorbing not a word while the Quran you quaff.
The truth must be here and there sustained,
It’s all in One contained.

Some retire to the jungles in vain.
Others restrict their meals to a grain.
Misled they waste away unfed
And come back home half alive, half dead.
Emaciated in the ascetic postures feigned,
it’s all in One contained,

Seek your master, say your prayers and surrender to God,

It will lead you to mystic abandon
And help you to get attuned to the Lord.
It’s all the truth that Bulleh has gained.
It’s all in One contained.

Bulleh Shah, a renowned Muslim spiritual leader of the sub continent of Indo-Pakistan, was a Punjabi Sufi poet. His spiritual master was Shah Inayat Qadiri of Lahore and because of this Bulleh was referred to as a saint or spiritual leader. Bulleh’s real name was Abdullah Shah, but he was known as Bulleh to his family and that was the name he chose to use as a poet. […]