Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Life Of Shah Bhitai Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit,

lovingly called 'Shah Bhitai,' is adored throughout the length and breadth of Sindh, irrespective of peoples religious beliefs and intellectual standing, not only as the greatest poet of Sindh but as a saint, a sufi and a spiritual guide. It is the spiritual significance of his poetry, expressed in most touching down-to-earth words, harmonised with a musical setting, that makes a direct appeal to the hearts and souls of the listeners, including the elite and the man in the street. The peasant ploughing his field, the herdsman and the shepherd tending to the herd of cattle or flock of sheep, the fisherman casting his fishing net in the water, the sailors going to sea, the village house-wife at her daily chores and the villager midst his companions at leisure time, sings, recites or hears this sublime poetry that uplifts his very soul, be he a Muslim or a Hindu. In the towns and cities of mother Sindh, the scholars, intellectuals and learned people, hold sessions of its recitation and its singing by renowned artists of the land. Every, young and old, whether literate or not, man or woman, know most of the verses by-heart, and often quote them in daily conversations at significant occasions. Mother Sindh has has been ravged and her children has suffered the pangs of distress and destruction. The poems, songs and verses of Bhitai, when heard, bring uncontrolled tears to every Sindhis eyes. Who is this man? What is his philosophy? Why his poetry elevates people to heights of ecstasy? Why is this noble son of Sindh, rightly refered as the soul of of Sindh. Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai - not much is known about the life of this thinker, saint, and sufi, from the written records. Much of the information has come down to us through oral traditions. Shah Jo Risalo, in essence, is untranslateable into any language. The beauty of Sindhi language, especially the Sindhi used by Bhitai, the lilting melody, the churning of the of the words, the music in every line of the verse, and sheer hypnotic effect on heart, mind and soul, can only be felt and appreciated in the original Sindhi language. Not just Sindhis, but foreigners, as well, has been enthralled by this ecstatic poetry. Dr Annemarie Schimmel, a German scholar and linguist, has learnt Sindhi, especially to be able to peruse for herself the poetry of Bhitai, which, according to her, "expresses the most refined mystical experiences and the most inexplicable movements of the soul." Yes, the poetry of this Soul of Sindh creates turbullences right to the vary core of one's soul. Even Ernest Trumpp, the renowned German scholar and missionary, and H.T. Sorley, the English scholar, both have been mesmerized by the magical spell of the 'vais', 'dohiras' and 'ka'afis' sung by the devotees of Bhitai. I have used much of the material, on Bhitai...clich, his poetry and philosophy, from Madam Amina Khamisani' English translation of the Risalo, "Risalo Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai : Translated in Verse", which she published in 1992. I have read some other translations of the Risalo in English, as well. These translations, I found, mostly in bits and pieces, in various Journals and Magazines. This is the first time I have in my possession a complete book which, rightly so, is "Shah Jo Risalo", in English. The work of Madam Khamisani, is most promising and outstanding. Her scholarship, her love for Shah and his poetry is evidenced from the pain and effort that she has taken in expressing the surs, using the most appropriate words, which, really went deep down the recesses of my soul, creating the ecstatic feeling, although not as deep and strong as the original words. Having served the educational and developmental cause of mother Sindh so well, by teaching generations of Sindhi children, the art and intricacies of English poetry and literature - and this includes my sister Suraiya Makhdoom as well - at the Univeristy of Sindh, her work of translation of Risalo in English will, certainly, go down in the annals of Sindhi history, as a remarkable and monumental service to Mother Sindh and her children. All children of Sindh, including my humble self, are grateful to her for this magnificent contribution. "Those who lost their path, searching the rocks,Learnt much from the lost path,Giving up both the worlds, beaten track they follow not.Dust on their bodies for the Beloved they gather,Some knowledge of Lahut seem to possess these wanderers.".................Bhitai [Sur Khahori] click here for...Shah Jo Risalo : The Message Of Love The compiled verses of Shah Bhitai are called "Risalo" which means "Message". They are the recorded comprehensive collection of verses known as Ganj, which is preserved at the mausoleum of the beloved poet of Sindh, at Bhitshah. The history books tell us, that just before his passing away, he threw the manuscripts of his work into the Karar Lake, adjacent to his abode at the Bhit (the Rock). He did this, fearing that people may not be able to understand the main theme and purpose of his message in the verses. They may misunderstand him. His disciples were disappointed and extremely grieved. With deep love for his people and being kind of heart, considerate and benevolent, he could not see his disciples in sorrow. Therefore, he allowed them to assemble another manuscrip from the few manuscripts that were in possession of some of his disciples. The main contributor to this collection was a lady by the name of Mai Niamat, a devoted disciple of his, who had memorised most of his verses. As she sang the verses, in different surs, his disciples recorded them into manuscripts. Thus, we are fortunate, to have this "Message" of that soul of Mother Sindh, with us, today. "You are the Beloved, you are the physician,You alone are pain's medicine,Within me are aches of innumerable kinds,Lord! heal Thou my afflicted mind.".............Bhitai [Sur Yaman Kalyan] click here for...Bhitai's Quest For The Truth Who is man? What is his origin? Where did he come from? Where is he bound? Who has Created him? What is the relationship between the Creator and the created? These are some of the burning questions that perpetually, systemetically and methodically troubled, haunted and fascinated Bhitai. He wanted answers to these questions. The more he probed the more he unravelled the mysteries of man's existence and his relationship with his Creator. In the relentless search of truth, Bhitai was seized by an intense longing for a direct approach to his Creator. His soul was constantly thirsting for the Divine and all things Divine. This lead him to the path traversed by mystics. His quest for eternal truth became his primary concern. He found God in everything - believing that "All that is, is God," rest is all illusion and deception. Bhitai was a saint and a mystic - a sufi. Guided by deep feeling and contemplation, through a process which has been termed as the "flight of the alone to the Alone", sufis have been able to arrive at certain truths of the spiritual life. We shall make an attempt to discuss the vary nature of that creative insight of sufism within Bhitai, which resulted in intense feelings and deep contemplation that provided him with momentary glimpses to fathom the Divine essence and the reality of things. "Sufi is not limited by religious bounds,He discloses not the war he wages in his mind,Helps and assists those who with him fight."..........Bhitai [Sur Yaman Kalyan] Shah's poetry also has touching descriptions of how all the birds and animals in the desert were saddened by Sassui's predicament, when she is betrayed by a shephard in the desert. Shah was also known for his compassion. One story relates how he adopted two puppy dogs who were abandoned, they were named 'moti' (pearl) and 'khenoo' (the ball, the round one). They followed him in his wide travels around Sindh with jogis and alone. "Chela'a kehaN De na choriya'a,BhadRa'a piyan-i na kheer-a!"....Bhitai (sur Ma'arvi) Lambs you did not liberate,The shackled ones do not nurse! "Dil-i jo dilbar-u haykRo,GhaRNaa ka'an-a kajan-i:Dil Bi Ddijay hikRay khe,TorRay savv-a ghuran-i;Say chilvila chaijan-i,jay dar dar lahini dostee." "The heart has but one beloved,Many you should not seek:Just give heart to one,Even hundreds may seek;Weasles they are called,Who get betrothed at every door." "Vahdahoo la shareeka lahoo,Ee rihajee ree,KhaTeeN jay ha'ara'aeeN,Ta handh-u tuhinjo hee-u; Pa'aRNha'aee chavanduee pee-u,Bharay jaamu janat maoN." Unity with no equal,Ponder on this reality,Win or lose,This shall be your abode;Surely He will say `drink',The intoxicant of heavens! "Jay tooN baet-a bhaaeeN-i, say aayatooN aaheeN-i,NeNyo man-u laeeN-i, piriyaaN sande paar-a Dey!" That which you regard as couplets,Are verses revealed divine,They guide our soul,Towards the essence of the Beloved! "Halo halo koriyeN,Nazuk-u jin jo neehuN,GanDhini saaro DeehuN,ChhinaRNu mooru ma sikhyaa." Behold the weavers,Delicate is their love,They join every day,And learnt not to part! click here for...Surs - The Melodies Of Harmonized Music means a mode of singing. There are 30 surs in Shah Jo Risalo. Each sur is systemetically related to its subject matter. Methodically, a sur is sung according to the theory and practice of Indian Classic music with its rags and ragnis, sung at different times of the day and night and on different occasions. Surs are named, accordingly, to their music and also according to the subject matter. The underlying theme of all surs, however, is to find out that how is man going to cultivate those godly attributes in himself which will assist him in his endeavours towards a higher evolution. Hence, Bhitai's poetry reflects the process involved by which man's inner life is developed. The perusal of Risalo takes us to a wonderful journey, where the parables, the incidents, the legends, the episodes, are not related as mere stories. It is only their significance that is expressed in poems, that deal with the higher evolution of man. These stories and episodes - Sassui, Marvi, and Suhni, etc. - are but the 'pegs on which Bhitai hangs his Divine themes,' according to Allama I.I. Kazi, the late Vice Chancellor of the University of Sindh. The surs of Bhitai are the 'musical themes,' and Bhitai's art is 'impressionistic par excellence,' In his surs, in addition to the profound mystic and moral themes, Bhitai, refers frequently to the plight of the poor and the lowly, the peasants, the fishermen, the weavers, the helpless and the needy women, the suffering and the suppression. Bhitais, sincere concern for this class of children of mother Sindh and his intense love for mother Sindh, has, indeed, prompted him to select the episodes and stories for his Risalo from the local folklore, the stories of which were a common knowledge amongst Sindhis, and which had been passed down from generation to generation of Sindhis. How, then, can a be defined? How is the Risalo compiled with surs, Vais and Dohiros? Shah Latif's fame had spread far and wide in his lifetime. If his travels led him across some city in Rajasthan or Gujrat, he would be recognized. When he was not travelling, Shah Latif returned time and again to a small mound, or Bhit, where a small hamlet consisting of his circle of fakiirs grew. Latif's original music compositions (Raag or Sur) made him famous amongst musicians of his time in much of India. Two of the grandest Indian musicians of the time, Attal and Chanchal, were attracted to his circle and so was Gulaana, a women singer of repute who was much blessed by the poet saint. Towards the end of his life, the poet yearned for a pilgrimage to Karbala (the site of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammed who refused to submit to the tyranny and injustice of the Arab ruler). He proceeded to Wang Willaser a port in Kutch to board a boat for the journey. A little ways from the port, a pious man greeted him and submitted: "O, Revered One! You have always been telling people that the Bhit will be your burial place!" Latif immediately understood the import of the query and returned to Bhit. There he donned black garments and went into seclusion for 20 days. During this time he occassionaly ate a few morsels or sips of water. He began to sing what would be his final composition (Sur Kedaro) - a sombre ballad commemorating the martydom which serves as a reminder that tyranny must be resisted and that the life of the spirit is beyond the life of the flesh (it was traditional for others to record Latif's compositions). On the twenty-first day, he came out and took a bath. It is said that the vaii [type of Sindhi poem] "kahirre manjhi hisaaba.." ("On what count am I here..) from Sur Suhinii was on his lips. Latif asked the fakirs at Bhit to play music and sing songs, and he threw a sheet over himself as he sat in contemplation. "For three consecutive days, his Faqirs engaged themselves in song and music. When they stopped they discovered that Shah's soul had, without anyone's knowledge, flown to the Abode of Eternal Bliss. He left the earthly planet on [22 Dec. 1751 AD]" - Kalyan Advani. A splendid tomb, with a huge dome, was built by the most famous architect and artist of the time Idan and completed within 3 years. It is intricately decorated with Sindhi craftsmanship. Since the time, millions of people of all walks of life, creeds and castes, have made a pilgrimage to pay homage each year to the poet-saint who represents the soul of Sindh. A small museum nearby contains all the worldly material possessions Latif left behind: a patched, tattered tunic, a quilt, a begging bowl. "Sun sets, Sasui weeps tears of blood,No messenger, no traveller from whom to ask of that place,Confused she remains, but does not think of going back."

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