Volume - 2 : Issue - 4

Published : Oct - Dec 2003

Group : Culture


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Sindhi Cultural Heritage

The Trinity of Sindhi Poets - Soul of Sindhi Culture

By Hari Dilgir

The publication of Salman Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verses” created such an uproar in the Islamic world, on account of the stormy hue and cry raised by the Mullahs (Muslim clerics) who decried it a serious act of blasphemy, that it resulted in the banning of the book even in a secular country like India, inspite of the fact that many scholars opposed the move. The father of the Iranian revolution AyutUlhah Khomeini was so much outraged that he issued a religious decree condemning Rushdie as a Kafir (infidel) forfeiting his right to life. And further decreed that the one who puts an end to his ignoble life, would be considered a “Gazi” a great saviour of faith and would be highly rewarded. And the world knows that poor Rushdie had to live under the shadow of death for many many years, trying to evade the bullet or knife of a killer. Mercifully he survived the dark forces of hate and intolerance.

The wave of fanatical and aggressive Fundamentalism of Islam, that followed the so called Iranian revolution, has spread all round our region and dark forces of bigotry and intolerance have taken over the good sense and reason of certain sections of Muslims, who blinded by ignorance and mental insanity are butchering innocents from amongst their own community.

Mercifully the land of Sindh has been blessed by the sages from times immemorial. The soil of Sindhu and waters of the sacred Sindhu river have endowed spiritual qualities on its people and imbued noble values of humanism and brotherhood in their heart. Even during the rule of the Kalhoras (a fanatical Muslim tribe of Sindh) great sages were born to preach and propagate human love, brotherhood and universal peace and harmony which are the hallmark of Sindhi spirit, which got full expression through the poetry of our classical trinity of poets – Shah Abdul Latif, Sachal Sarmast, and Sami. All three identified themselves with the universal spirit. While the first two were submerged in the Sufi thought and mystics of a high order, the third one Sami was dyed in the wool of Vedantic thought and claimed to have come to vernacularise the Vedas into the Sindhi language.

Shah Latif is supreme in his indictment of all hypocrisy and bigotry. He knew the greedy and crafty Mullah, feigning innocence was a doublefaced cheat. His exposure is forthright. Shah indicts him thus:
Inside you are full of deceit, an infidel,
You have put a Muslim mask to hide your real self.
Sachal Sarmast in the same vein lashes at the so-called pious ones:
Religions have misguided the simple ones
the Sheikh, the Peer the Priest have added
confusion in the minds.

The trio of Sindhi Classical Poets lived in most turbulent times in the history of Sindh (1689–1850).

They defied orthodoxy and conservatism and openly revolted against the dead soul of traditionalism and priestism, which they considered parasitic, a disease eating into the vitality of the liberal Sindhi Society.

A hard hitting couplet from Sachal :
The mullah recites the scripture so well,
To get the good food to the brim of his belly.
Leaving no space inside vacant.

Since centuries, conflict between the dark forces of fundamentalism has continued unabatedly – struggle between the truth and the untruth – but Sindh, the land of the holy Sufis has always through the course of history of thousands of years offered – universal love, peace at heart, brotherhood of mankind. The above trio has contributed in good measure to this spirit of humanism and harmony.

The greatest heritage, the threesome have left for us is their poetry and the example of their own lives. Sachal was as already said more radical and outspoken. He declared in no uncertain terms:
I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim,
I am what, I am!’’

I am also reminded of the great Sufi poet of Iran, Moulana Rummi, who has said,
In the beginning I was a mountain then I turned into a tree and then an animal and then I was transformed in a human being. After this I will become an angel and ultimately, I would become the “God” my self.”

This is identical to Vedic Philosophy, which is summarised in the “Mantra” – “Aham Braham Asmi” which means I am God  I am the ultimate truth. The essence of such a mantra pervades the poetry of our great trilogy of poets  Shah, Sachal and Sami. Our great Sachal proclaimed the truth in his ‘Naira’ “AnalHuq” (I am the supreme truth). When such a mantra resounds all over, all walls of spurious religion will crumble and then great Shah Latif will be vindicated in the following verse:
It is He, and that is also He, All round is His myriad Manifestation”.

Sami was different from the other two. His message was sublime and sweet like the enchanting “SUR” of the flute of Krishin. He was a poet who remained in seclusion, drunk deep in the philosophy of Vedas and who found his solace in transforming this philosophy into a creative form of Sindhi poetry. He composed ‘slokas’ sitting alone in the corner of a Muth, and kept them hidden in an earthen jar, a fact that came to light only after he passed to the other world. These were in hundreds, which were for the first time manifested by a great scholar of Sindh - Kouromal Chandanmal. His poetry is totally submerged in spirituality. Though he picks up symbols from the mundane world, he imparts them with spiritual meaning. He talks about the illusory world, transitoriness of every existing thing, the importance of a real “Guru” (the Guide), purity of mind, the pitfalls of ego, the importance of company of men of wisdom and piety, spiritual abode of man  the kingdom of heaven etc. “The same spirit fills Vedas, Upanishads and the Quran” says Sami. He condemned the greed of the world:
O! Pilgrim on the Path, why riches amass,
None hath taken a grain of his Jewels,
Woe unto them whose accounts alas! In six figures.”
“Be not false to any one even by a grain
Do not Sami! this word of faith forget’’.
“The man of wisdom is one in million
Who behold within himself wondrous Heaven.”

This classical poetry of universal love, symbolically wrapped in worldly terms is three hundred years old, and still shines like 24 carats pure gold. According to the Sufi doctrine a constant war has to be waged against the evil, against the ego to free the soul from the shackles of passion, temptation, allurement of the outside unreal world.

On the other hand Shah Latif was a poet of the masses. He loved his people immensely and identified much of his poetry with their real life. He shared their joys and sorrows, their enjoyments and hardships equally, that is why much of his poetry has been woven round the most popular folk tales of love. He has made the Sindhi lore and music immortal. His poetry was neither written nor composed as it is understood generally to day. It was sung in the congregation by Shah and his disciples (Fakirs) collectively in an ecstasy when it reached the climax. It was a lyrical spontaneous outpouring of the heart.

Latif has sung about nature with great deal of emotional sincerity. He has talked of yogis, with whom he traveled. Hindu Holy Places in the Himalayas, mainly the Hinglaj, the pilgrim place of the Sanyasis. He has showered his praise on the yogis with whom he had built his spiritual ties. He spoke about the common folk, of fishermen, the pungent smell of the fisherwomen’s storing pots. He has talked about the seafarers and their pining women folk, who wait for their male folks, offering lighted earthen pots to the sea for their safe arrival. The farmer, the cobbler, the shepherd, the goat and buffalo grazer, even the ironsmith. He gave meaningful construction to their work and sense of duty.

Shah was a poet of universal vision and comprehension. He loved his soil Sindh so endearingly that, he identified its prosperity with the entire world and humanity. His supreme and noblest sentiments are wrapped up in the following immortal verse:
O God! May ever You on Sindh,
bestow abundance rare,
Beloved! all the world share,
Thy grace and fruitful be.”

Alas, inspite of the great secularity and wisdom of the great seers, to day Bharat is caught in the whirlwind of controversy over the Mandir and the Masjid. Let us hope the teachings of the divine trinity stir not only the Sindhi but the universal Soul.