Bulleh Shah’s Vision: The Peaceful Shrines, Fairs, Women and Music
During the times of terror and blood-stained global world, the annual fair of the most beloved Punjabi mystic poet feels like a morning daisy flower. Sadly, we are, as a nation, going through the toughest bad patch of our blood-tainted history. The one decade old wave of terrorism has washed away the very culture and lifestyle of our country. Festivals like shrine fairs, basant and other Punjabi and Islamic festivals are badly affected by the terrorism. Such festivals demonstrated love, association, music, joy and a higher status of women.
Regrettably we have produced a generation who has not tasted or witnessed the essence of the words like peace, joy, happiness, and relaxation. A friend believes if a person is relaxed in the present conditions of the country must be a mentally disturbed. He must be talking about the sensitive not the common folk. Now we have generation who values money and wealth. It might be a realistic approach in corrupt society. A country where almost all the people are not willing to do anything. As a nation we have become a hollow nation, in Thomas Sterns Eliot’s words.
Bulleh Shah was very concerned about the welfare of the people around him. The way Baba Guru Nanak and other Sikh gurus did. He was in favor of building Daira and the shrine culture. Shrine or Gurudawara holds an important role in the Punjab. Gurudawara is the holy Sikh place where shelter and food are free. Same is the case with a shrine in Punjab. In Pakistani Punjab shrine is place where shelter, food and peace available. According to history, Guru Nanak garlanded Punjab with this blessing. The successor Sikh gurus organized and shaped it.
Historical pre-partitioned buildings are under the guillotine. Where there is no Sikh population, the gurudawaras in the Pakistani Punjab are in tatters. Centuries old Gurudawaras are demolished. They are completely exterminated from the face of earth.
There is a real story…
We had a Gurudawara in the village near Pattoki. The gurdawara is no more. It was deserted yet it was shelter for the people and animals. Many Hindu and Sikh temples were dug out. The sole cause of digging was wealth. The hidden gold in the temple premises. It is believed that the neighbors of the Gurudawara had a belief that there was gold under the building. They dug out everything. Nothing was found. They were obviously disappointed. They realized that the bricks of the temple were of an excellent quality. They made their new home with those bricks. People and animals have moved to other places.
Fairs are held in all the shrines across Punjab. A huge video data of the Punjabi fairs is available on the YouTube. The wave of terror has put an end to Pakistani Punjab fairs. The Indian Punjab still enjoy these blessings. Artists like Gurdas Maan and Kanwar Grewal perform live in such shrine festivals. State provides security to these festivals. Men, women and children enthusiastically participate in such fairs. After coming across with friends and acquaintances one feels freshened spiritually.
Opposite is the case in Pakistan. Shrine festivals were banned for a last decade or so.
The majority of the Pakistani Punjabis belongs to the Sunni sect of Islam. They are the followers of the Ahmad Raza Brelavi. This version of Islam is perhaps the most non-violent, the Brelavi sect. They have poets, authors, writers, artists in their sect. They are very humble and sometimes a little too submissive to everything. They respect other sects and religions. They own and respect people like Kabir, Farid, Bulleh Shah, and Guru Nanak. They dance with the songs of Noor Jehan, and Gurdas Maan. They are too humble, they respect and other Hindu and Sikh saints even which bothers other known sects of Islam. They are more concerned with festivity and music. The Hindu saint fair is a reality. There is an eye-witness example to quote here
In our village, Lakhodeher Chak 48, there is an annual fair held. This fair has a distinctive feature of kabaddi, the traditional Punjabi wrestling. Wrestlers from all over the Punjab come and participate here. The homes are decorated on this eve. They get angry if you don’t accept their invitation of the annual fair. From all the corners of the globe gather at the village, the way is happens in the fabulous English-Punjabi flick “Monsoon Wedding”.
The saint who inaugurated this fair was a Hindu Brahmin. He was a very wise man. He loved the village people. He respected them, served food to them and helped the needy. He had great respect for the women as well. He was never willing to tell Hindu name. He said that he was nothing when he was a Hindu, now he is everything. He was called Baba Siddiq by the village people. Siddiq is a Punjabi word for truth. He said truth has nothing to do with religion.
They are familiar with the noble Pakistani women like Madam Noor Jehan, Benazir Bhutto and their services for their country. But the present generation is the worst when it comes to forbearance and self-respect.
Dr Muhammad Iqbal, the marvelous national poet of Pakistan and the beloved poet at all the shrines and mystics across Pakistan. He would have been in the terrible condition as an organism. It reminds the famous essay in the Intermediate level of Punjab Book Text Board curriculum. The fabulous, “The Man Who Was a Hospital” should have been dramatized in every theatre and seminar where Iqbal should be the protagonist of this essay. It should be broadcasted everywhere. To have such hope from the Iqbal Academy is hopeless case. But Iqbal being a sensitive intellectual poet will certainly think of suicide perhaps in the Hamlet way. He might have written something like Hamlet but life would have been a living hell for him. They don’t respect their mothers. Mothers are not always up to their expectations.
Karl Marx was factual in his ideas related to wealth, after 9/11 Pakistan, especially after the renaissance of democracy, ties and relations are determined by the wealth. Love, hate, all other emotions are for sale. People are ranked by money and social status. The travelers almost kill each other in the public transport of Pakistan. The bus travelling presents a clear picture of the society. It almost turned out to be a joke.
During the bus journey on the Multan Road, an incident occurred.
A few college students were making all the hell loose with their noise. Nobody dared to silence them. At last an old man spoke, “for you Dr Iqbal said.” All the passengers started listening.
Nayi Tehzeeb Ke Anday Hain Gandday
New civilization’s children are like rotten eggs
One of the student, after counting the years on his fingers, reached on a statistical conclusion of the age of Iqbal and old man. He said, “He was talking of you. When he wrote this YOU were a child.”
Our national common consciousness is in chaos. The condition is, we are neither Eastern nor Western. The very fiber of our national thinking is disturbed. There is also an Indian factor as well, the Bollywood impact on the Pakistani society. A friend says that we are Hindus by heart but Arabs by deeds. We like the beautiful heroine of an Indian flick to be with the protagonist. We love stories like Heer, the popular poetic legend by Waris Shah. The death of the villain makes us pleased. But if our sister or daughter does this, we like her to be murdered. We are hypocrites, we have double-standards, in the Pakistani English.
Music is in the terrible state for a last decade or so in Pakistan. Music is meant to solace the mind. Classical music is dying rapidly. Osho says the person who does not understand the Classical music is a deaf. Music plays its part to comfort Indian a sensitive heart. Population explosion and terrorism has snatched away this art and fruits.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan brought a revolution in the music world. He was respected in the shrine as well. He did not receive any gift of any form from the shrines. Rather he gifted there. People say he was enlightened through the music. The way he sung Rag Sarasvati in the west stands apart. Most of his songs can be used in meditations like Osho Dynamic Meditation.
Coke Studio is a fresh breath of melody for some years now. Pakistani Coke Studio has an edge over Indian version of the Coke studio. Surprisingly, Pakistan shows better talent in the music at present. Being a terror-hit country it stuns when it has artists like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam and Shafqat Amanat. They are equally popular across the LoC and Indian border. But they are deprived of cost-free live theatrical and music shows at the fairs. The Indian State of Punjab is in a better state, atists like Gurdas Maan and Kanwar Grewal perform live in shrine fairs. There are no more artist like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to perform. Terrorism has confined our artist to the Indian films and the Coke Studio. Dubai is the new financial capital of Pakistan. From business tycoons to sex workers, everything is made in Pakistan.
Bulleh NaaloN Chullha Changga
Jis Te Taam Pakaee Da
A stove is better than Bulleh
It cooks food for all
(Chullha: stove or grate, Taam: food, meal)
Bulleh is a poet and mystic combined like Rumi. For not being a mystic, Kahlil Gibran lags behind artists like Rumi and Bulleh Shah. They are very careful in their word usage. Their diction is concise and pithy. Every word of Bulleh Shah needs special care. Bulleh Shah is an egoless man. He says stove is superior to man. It cooks food for us. It’s hard to imagine a Punjabi cuisine without fire or stove. The vanishing of the earthen stove is huge loss to the Punjabi culture. It not only cooked food, it also was a symbol of family unity. It combined many acts together. Family discussions, cooking and eating of dinner were held at one place, the stove at home. People used to sit around the stove and discuss their family affairs with dinner at the same place. Now we have electric and methane gas stoves but unity is missing.
Rall FakeeraaN Majlis Kitti
Porra Porra Khai Da
When fakirs or dervishes get together
Of morsels they make a feast
(Rall: together, Fakeeraan: Dervish, saint Porra: morsel Khai: to eat)
Unity makes people have their catharsis. Unity is the key for a master. To sit together, peacefully. Punjabi is vast Indo-European language when it comes to lexicon. Punjab had many ways of sitting together before the dawn of the Facebook. There were many recreational spots. They sat with leisure, the Punjabis. There is a “Daira” system in Punjab. Daira is having a vast meaning in the Punjabi language its shade of meaning is far sophisticated than shrine.
Daira is place where people are served with the traditional Punjabi cuisine with freedom of expression. People lurk, enjoy, eat, drink, and smoke without any care. Osho Meditation Resort is the prime and a modern example of a Punjabi Daira. Food, shelter, love, care, freedom everything available for the progress of a creative mind. An American or a European can better understand the true sense of a Daira than a modern Pakistani. A Pakistani is having many wishes to be fulfilled along with fighting terrorism and load-shedding. While the peaceful research environment of the Western education system and life style makes them curious. The frightful Pakistani condition of affairs makes its nation physically, sexually and psychologically retarded.
Daira is place where dervish sit together. Dervish is pious man by character. Irrespective of their age and attire he gives God-like decorum to all the people. When people of such caliber will sit together they are happy over the union despite the quantity of the food. “Porra” means a little quantity available. The dervish are content with the quantity of the food. They remain thankful to their personal dignified god. In the second line Bullah talks in a teacher’s style. He says when the people are more and the food is less one should be content to what is available.
The last lines are very tricky. Bulleh Shah’s poetry book published by Oxford University Press Pakistan has many translational mistakes, translated by Taufiq Rafat. A pure Punjabi language understanding needs before translating a sophisticated language like Punjabi. It goes
Bulleh Shah Nu Oui Paaway
Jehra Bakra Banay Kassai Da
Bulleh Shah loves the one who
Is ready to slaughter himself
(Paaway: beloved of Bullah Jehra: who Bakra: goat Kassai: slaughterer)
Bulleh Shah had the enormous understanding of the Punjabi language, he was also scholarly equipped like Rumi. He uses a few words in his diction but also there is an abundant usage of the metaphorical expressions. The first line an introduction to upcoming thought. He says that his darling is such a person. In the second line he says that that person is endued with the power of killing his ego. Only an egoless person can enjoy the bliss of life. He perfectly suits to be honored at a Daira. Whatever his need is, will be fulfilled. He is a perfect human being, a dervish, in Bulleh Shah’s point of view.
The working, cooking and serving foods are different meditation techniques according to the Indian spiritual masters. If a person, even today, who is working, playing and cooking food will be in a better form both physically, sexually and psychologically.
“Bakra” or goat is a fascinating hilal animal in the Punjabi fertile land. It’s very unruly. It goes to the other people fields and creates a havoc for everyone. It eats the buds and destroys the crops. We all know that mutton is the favorite meat of the Pakistani Punjabis. Mutton is used in hundreds of Pakistani recipes, a darling flesh, although sometimes donkeys do the job. An incident from our village
A man bought a pack of the goats for his sustenance. This was his first experience. Next morning they smashed several fields of the villagers. With the passage of the day people started coming to his home with the protests. He got frustrated and sold all the goats at the afternoon. He had a huge loss but he was content and relieved now. His friend said, “You should have been respectful to a holy animal like this, isn’t it ugly?” He answered, “Those holy shits fucked the shit out me!”
The true Punjabi expression cannot be translated. They have a rich slang vocabulary. Yo Yo Honey Singh demonstrated the richness of the Punjabi lexicon on several times his often censored songs and lyrics.
Bulleh Shah says that a true Daira of the dervish is an enlightened place. But food is the primary needs of the living organisms. Daira is a Daira if it contains food.
Kabir is a fantastic mystic poet of India. He says there should be enough money for the sustenance. There should be enough food. At least he and his guests should be properly served. He says:
Sai Itna Deejiye, Ja Mein Kutumb Samaye
Main Bhi Bhookha Na Rahun, Sadhu Na Bhookha Jaye.
Meaning: O GOD!! Give me so much that neither I nor a visitor goes unfed.
About the author
Michael-Jane is the pen name of Zain Ul Aabideen. He is teaching English Language and Literature after completing MPhil in Applied Linguistics. He has sound knowledge, understanding and rich taste in music, culture and philosophy. He is a regular contributor for Dunya Today as a feature and article writer.