Friday, May 30, 2008


Waris Shah: Ishq Da Waris [Custodian Of Love]

Narinder S. Kapoor wrote, “Heer by Waris Shah is full of poetic intensity, authenticity, critical faculty, deep and wide observation, wisdom gained through a full and rich life, daring, romantic imagination, poetic vision, artistic excellence and natural grace of perfect execution. No poet can raise poetic grace of love at so passionate and soulful a pitch without a deep moving personal experience.”


This is an apt tribute to the genius of Syed Waris Shah, the mystic bard of Jandiyala Sher Khan known for his epic literary contribution to Punjabi language in form of Qisa Heer-Ranjha. Punjabi mystic poet was born in 1710 [some historians claim 1706 as his year of birth, and some 1722], in the most troublesome period after the death of Aurangzeb and Shah Alam and witnessed the chaos and suffering in Punjab. His parents died when he was quite young and he remained in a mosque for some time, and then left Jandiyala [in order to escape the impending danger of attack from Afghan invaders] to receive early education from Pir Makhdom of Qasur.



This exodus at young age left lasting impact on his psyche to which professor S. S. Hans refers as ‘geographical and spiritual vilayat [migration]’ in his remarkable essay “The Idea of Country in Hir”. After completeing education, Waris Shah moved to Malkahans, again migrating which he later elaborated in Heer-Ranjha as Ranjha wandering from one Des to another. Here he resided in an isolated room adjacent to a mosque and fell in love with Bhag Bhari, his real life beloved which provided inspiration for his monumental epic written in 1767. Professor Kapoor alludes to this as, “Bhag Bhari is cited as the passion inspiring Waris to sing his own unfulfilled love through the legend of Heer and Ranjha.” In Malkahans, Waris Shah began to work on "Heer".

Hukam maan k sajna piyara da
Qisa ajab bahar da joriya ee

[obeying the order of my dear ones
I have composed this tale of a marvelous spring]

Fiqra jorh k khub darust kita
Nawan phul gulab da toriya ee

[I have fashioned the phrases elegantly
Like the blossoming of a new rose]

Buhat ji de wich tadbir kar k
Farhad pahar non phoriya ee

[Labour within my soul was great
As when Farhad hewed through the mountains]

Sabh banh k zaib bana dita
Jeha atar gulab nachoriya ee

[ Blending it all, I have adorned it
Just as the rose emits its fragrance]




Bitten by bitter realities of life and an unending personal suffering, with cruelty and injustice of the mighty making life miserable and hopeless, the great bard sought solace in qisa Heer-Ranjha. He couldn’t ignore the hypocrisy of the age, particularly of clergy and elaborately flaunted them with jest and ridicule. Waris Shah presented Ranjha as embodiment of universal loneliness that resides in every soul. Najam Hussain Syed quotes, “In this world, Ranjha is a lonely figure, an outcast. He is utterly disinterested in any material motives so he is out of place in a world where relationships are only based on utility and expediency.” A distant spectator to the massacre in Dehli by Nadir Shah, our mystic poet found his sublime senses deeply cut and he focused more and more on moral and spiritual issues. “Victim of this world, Ranjha puts to test the people who come into contact with him”, writes Najam Hussain Syed, “the only person who survives this test is Heer.” Thus Waris Shah concluded his tale on the notion that love alone could save the world.

With completetion of ‘Heer’, Waris Shah began the modern period in Punjabi poetry and became a household name in the subcontinent for more than 200 years now. He is regarded equivalent to Chaucer and Milton in English poetry. In view of K. K. Khullar through the voice of Heer, Waris Shah became the sposkeman of the Punjabi people and touched every soul and his epic became immortal. Waris Shah died around 1790. He was buried in Jandiyala Sher Khan and since then his mausoleum became a sacred place of pilgrim where thousands offer homage to Waris Shah’s rich literary genius and mystic imagination. His Qisa Heer-Ranjha will live through the ferocity of time with its myriad mystic, historic, social, Freudian, astrological interpretations and for pure folk wisdom.
Qisa Heer-Ranjha became both history and verse and this is best elaborated in words of Urdu poet Sauda:

Suna jo raat who qisa Heer-Ranjha ka
To ahl e dard ko panjabiyon ne loot lia

[last night when I heard the tale of Heer-Ranjha
the Punjabis stole all hearts with sublime feelings]


Text & Photography by Umair Ghani


1 comment:

MysticSaint said...

excellent photography and writings brought together. thank you for this space.