ESSENCE OF SINDH
“A poet is a splendour of the firmament of time which may be eclipsed but which cannot be extinguished”- Keats.
Inextinguishable, indeed are the trinity of versatile versifiers of Sindh, Shah, Sachal & Sami, who’s spiritual verses have gained reverence and their illustriousness has now been heralded to eternity. Each was a lover of music, and when music was wedded to the glory of their words, we had poetry and song, and the madness that enslaves and enthralls both the singer and the listener.
Sindhi poetry before the emergence of modern attitudes of life leaned heavily on other-worldliness, upholding self-abnegation and resignation to the will of God as the highest entity. It depicted mundane pursuit and the effort as the work of lesser men. In those days of olden glory, most Sindhi poets, it is known used to sing Sindhi Kaafi in the durbars of Sheikh Farid and Nizamuddin Aulia.
Over the past 300 years, Sindh has been blessed with many poet-saints, both Hindu and Muslims, subscribing to Sufi faith. Of the innumerable poets who have sung the glory of God, of the immanence of the ecstasy and agony of love, which is the truest pathway to Being, three are supreme, each unique in his many-splendoured poems – Shah, Sachal and Sami. The first amongst the three, Shah Latif was a great narrative artist, who put across to the reader his philosophy of life, love and God through characters that are alive and are yet symbolic and almost legendary as well. Then came Sachal, direct and forthright in his utterances, clear and lucid, as are the great Greek poets. Whatever Shah said in symbols, Sachal said in plain language. The third of the greatest poets of all times, Sami charmed millions with his directness and freshness in language and clarity of thought, which seemed to be emanating from the heart. Each was a mystic, with the mystic’s gift for self-oblivion and the madness of ecstasy. Despite the trios varying style of writing, they were commonly recognized as the souls of Sindhi civilization . . . . . and their verses personified the essence of Sindh!
SHAH ABDUL LATIF BHITAI
Whether hot or cold, march on,
There is not time to rest;
Lest darkness falls,
You fail to find Beloved’s tracks – Shah Abdul Latif
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689-1752) considered to be the national poet and spiritual guide of Sindh, was also a great humanist and at a pinch he could be a humorist, too.
It was universally believed that without Shah Abdul Latif, Sindh would be like a wandering gypsy, perpetually searching for the light, seeking guidance and enlightenment, and conjuring a relentless quest for the truth in pursuit of her restless soul. Shah Abdul Latif, commonly known as ‘Shah’ or ‘Latif’ was a very strong yet subtle proponent of the Sindhi Sufi tradition.
It is the spiritual significance of his poetry, most modestly and musically expressed that makes a direct appeal to the hearts of the listeners, the elite and the pauper alike. The peasant ploughing his field, the fisherman casting his net in the water, the village house-wife at her daily chores and the villager amidst his companions at leisure time, sings, recites of hears this sublime poetry that uplifts every soul, be it a Muslim or a Hindu. In the towns and cities of Sindh, the scholars, intellectuals and learned people, hold sessions of its recitation and its singing by renowned artists of the land. Every Sindhi, young and old, whether literate or not, man or woman, knows most of the verse by-heart, and often quotes them in daily conversations and at occasions.
Shah’s greatness lies in the fact that he is the voice of the inarticulate. His poems take in the whole fabric of life, and though symbolic and cast in a mystic mould, are nevertheless verses in which the peasant and the villager, the King and the Minstrel, find themselves faithfully portrayed. Their hopes and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, from integral part of Shah’s poetry.
This great poet left for heavenly above in 1752, but he survives in his work and in the hearts of those who love him. The recorded comprehensive collection of verses by Shah Bhitai, called “Risalo” which means, “Message” is preserved at the mausoleum of the beloved poet of Sindh, at Bhitshah. His mausoleum is visited by millions of Sindhis throughout the year and many others who have been enthralled by his ecstatic poetry.
Religion has confused people;
Leadership in fact has led many astray;
This is so because Man and his
Mind know not the glory and the
Greatness of the Heart!
Religion has confused people;
Leadership in fact has led many astray; - Sachal Sarmast
Sachal Sarmast was a Sufi great, a seeker of truth. The real name of Saeen Sachal was Abdul Wahab (1739-1829). This immortal poet of Sindh commonly known as Sachal ‘Sarmast’, the True Intoxicated One, was born in Darazan, near Khairpur, and spent all his life there. He adopted the name Sachal which means one living in truth. He is popularly known as Sachal Sarmast because his ‘Kalam’ or spiritual poetry is filled with abandon and joy. Sarmast means a leader of the intoxicated ones. He was a great Persian-Arabic scholar, who wrote much in Persian and then became an intoxicated Sufi thinker-poet.
Sachal enjoys the scene anywhere and is king at all poets. At times he would be seen reading Hindu scriptures while at other times, the Quran. He can create a bewilderment for His own self, for His own Lila. That was Sachal – Sachu, the True one. To this day he is sung in congregations wherever there is a sizable Sindhi population, Hindu or Muslim.
He never traveled out from his village Darazan. Simple in his dressing and eating habits, he led a very modest life. He became vegetarian living mostly on pulses and curds. Daal (lentil soup) and dahi (yoghurt) were his favourites. He slept on a bare wooden sandal or divan. He was a humble man with long soft flowing hair, deep-set eyes and a glum expression.
Sachal Sarmast has planted the seed of Divine love and suffering into the hearts of not only the learned, but also the simplest and humblest of villagers of Sindh. Sachal Saeen’s poetry, after that of Shah Latif Bhittai, was most remembered by the people. These were the two people’s poets, close to everyone’s heart, and these were the two poets also revered by the ‘live hearted’ (zindah dil) Sindhis.
Sachal was a revolutionary. He had a restless seeking mind, for it is only through spiritual unrest, through a desire to know, that one can reach the ultimate reality. He wanted others to be equally restless so that they might be his comrades, in his search for the Great Ideal. His beautiful mystic poetry transcends all boundaries of this mortal world. It goes beyond the space and matter – goes where soul dwells in the abode of love and immortality.
Why gather gold?
Nothing shall abide
Save HIS name all else is mire
All vain desires cast thou aside
Murmur his name; awake and aspire – Sami
This brings us to the third of the trimurti, Chainrai ‘Sami’, the master. And a great master he truly was, for he edified the eternal verities of life, elucidated to all, that the world is a shadow and that the only reality lies within the deep feeling heart of man. Shah was an ocean of love and pinning; Sachal was an ocean of wonderment; Sami was an ocean of pure bliss.
Sami was born in 1743 and left this mortal form in 1850. Sami was a cloth merchant of Shikarpur who spent much time in Amritsar. He wrote out his verses on bits of paper and put them in a ‘matka’. Long after his death, these bits of pieces were edited and published. His entire poetry is religious. Sami’s poetry is primarily the poetry of the exploration of the dark corners of the soul. It asserts that God is present within each one of us, that we may, if we so desire, tune ourselves in with the infinite and transform the finite into the infinite.
Sami speaks directly from heart to heart in a language which surprises with its directness and freshness. This is one of the chief charms of his poetry, for it finds an answering echo in the minds of the high and the low alike. He himself used to say he had merely vernacularised vedantic lore. He had rendered the Vedic thought in simple Sindhi (“Vedan jaa vichar, se Sindhi mein sunayam”). He was right in a way, for the fundamental principles of Vedanta and Sufism are identical. The difference between the two is the difference in terminology, a difference that is often spelt out by changes in approach to the Infinite.
Sami explores and interprets the inner mind and like a true teacher, transforms man’s material environment – the finite – into things of beauty and eternal variety. Goodness for him is godliness. Finally, he gives us his readings of the human heart and the human spirit, illumines our minds, generates an awareness of the God without and the God within and opens for us, the pathway to the Infinite. From the cloudless realms of his soul, he has given us glimpses of the realm of light and he has brought us to an understanding of the Great writers, harmonizing it with the spirit that moves the universe and sustains it from below and from above.