The Influence of Sufi Thought and Poetry on Panjabi Literature

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A good number of Panjabi Sufi poets made attempts to create friendly feelings between the different communities by harmonizing the opposing systems. For this reason their poetry became clear to all sections of the Panjabi people. Besides, from the literary point of view also it deserved and was allotted a very high place. It retains the favor of both Hindus and Mussulmans and circulates among the masses in the form of songs, proverbs, and hymns even to this day.1 In short, without this strain, Panjabi literature would be poor and devoid of a good deal of its beauty and literary charm.

Here we shall give explanations of those few words that are used in their original forms in our discussion of the Sufi poets.

Gaddi-nishin :2 one who occupies the spiritual seat of a saint; a spiritual successor.
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Murid: a disciple.
Murshid: a preceptor or a teacher.
Pir: murshid.
Khalifa: chosen successor of a teacher; a successor.
‘Urs: nuptial festivals held at Sufi shrines. Urs. or nuptials signifies the union of the Sufi with God.
Rahau: chorus; refrain or the first verse of a song indicating the musical tune to which the remainder is to be sung.
Antara: a poem or song excepting the refrain.

It has been mentioned above that the Panjabi Sufis in their compositions employed, except for a few technical terms and words concerning tasawwuf borrowed from Arabic and Persian, the vocabulary and terms of local trades and cottage industries, in the Panjab as elsewhere the villages and towns were self-supporting units.3 All the necessities of life in those times were produced by the people themselves. The Sufi poetry which was nursed in the towns and villages therefore bore strong impressions of its surroundings. The most important industry of the Panjab, which flourished more or less in every village and city, was the cotton industry.4 This cotton
comprised three processes:
1. Cleaning and carding of cotton and making small rolls ready for spinning. This was done by both men and women.
2. Spinning, turning cotton into yarn, done entirely by women.
3. Weaving, done by men, though often feminine aid was procured.

The Sufis made ample use of the vocabulary of this industry and took similes from it. We give below the vocabulary relative to cotton manufacture, which may be of help to those who are interested in Panjabi Sufi poetry.
The first process, cleaning of cotton:
Tumbna: to open the cocoons by hand. This operation was generally performed by the women folk.
Velna: the instrument used for separating the seeds.
Velavi: one who works on the velna.
Jhambhna or Pinjna: to card cotton.
Penjah or pinjah: cotton carder.
Punni: a small roll of carded cotton prepared for spinning.

The second process, spinning: To the Panjabi Sufi the world was a spinning-wheel and his own self or soul the young girl who was supposed to spin and prepare her dowry. His good actions were like spinning, and the yarn thus spun washis dowry which, like tile young girl, he would take to the husband (God). As a husband loved and lived happily with the wife who brought him a dowry and was qualified in spinning,5 so did God love the Sufi who died with good account (karma or actions) and possessed qualities that would befit a soul striving for good. But like that obstinate and short-sighted girl who, ignoring the future consequences, spent her time in games and replied to her mother’s remonstrance by stating that one part or the other of the spinning-wheel was out of order, the ignorant Sufi made excuses for his indulgence in worldly pleasures. In the end, like the idle young girl, he was ignored by the Beloved and union was denied him. Thereupon he bewailed his sorrow and described the pangs of Divine separation. Here is the vocabulary:

Charkha: a spinning-wheel.
Charkkhari: the wheel of the spinning-wheel on which the thread turns.
Bair: the network of cord which bridges the two sides of the charkkhari and on which the thread turns.
Mahl or Mehal: thread that connects the charkkhari with the spindle.
Hatthi or Hattha: the handle that turns the wheel.
Manka: circular beads used as pivots for the spindle.
Chamari: a small object made either of leather or of dry grass, which fits in the two pillars of the spinning-wheel and through which the spindle passes.
Munna: a pillar of the spinning-wheel which hold the spindle.
Takkla or trakla: spindle of the spinning-wheel.
Tand : thread spun on the spinning-wheel.
Challi or Mudda: a hank of spun yarn.
Trinan or Trinjhan: a party of young girls or women for spinning in competition; a spinning-bee.
Kattna: to spin.
Bharota or Chikku: a small basket to hold the hanks.

The third process, weaving:

Nara: a Weaver’s shuttle.
Nali: the quill or bobbin of a weaver’s shuttle.
Khaddi: a loom.
Tana or Tani: warp.
Peta: woof.
Mand or Pan: paste of wheat flour used to stiffen the cotton thread for weaving.
Kanghi: a heavy comb by which the threads of the woof are pressed home.
Gandh or Ghundi: a knot to unite the two ends of a broken thread.
Atti: a skein of spun cotton.
Atterna: coiling of spun thread on a small frame to make skeins.
Atteran: the frame used for coiling cotton thread.
Julaha: a weaver.
Unna or Bunna: to weave.
Rangna: to dye.
Daj: dowry chiefly consisting of dresses, the major part of which was prepared by the bride herself; a trousseau.

Besides the vocabulary of the cotton industry the Sufis also employed the names of things in everyday use in the areas, as:

Goil:6 a small hut of mud and grass, built on pasture land for the cowherd, or made in fields for the person who keeps watch.

Chajj: a tray of thin reeds, used for winnowing agricultural products.
Chajjli:7a tray larger than a chajj and used to winnow the threshing floor.
Jharu 8or bauhkar: a broom used for sweeping the floor or to collect together grain spread in the sun.
Angithi:9 a small object made of iron or earth to hold fire.
Bhambar:10 a flame or a big fire.
Ghund:11 that part of a woman’s veil which she throws over her face to conceal it from men.
The Influence of Sufi Thought and Poetry on Panjabi Literature
The influence of mystic thought and verse on Panjabi literature was tremendous. There was hardly any poet of renown who remained free from this influence. The writers of romance like Vare Shah or Waris Shah absorbed so much of Sufi ideas that people often wrongly thought them to be mystics.
Here, for example, Vare Shah speaks like a Sufi:
Parh parh ilam kaza paye karn mufti
Bajh ishk de rahn majhul mia
Parhia ilam na rabb di tum hundi
Ikko ishk da haraf makul mia12

Reading and studying knowledge, the muftis give judgment, but without love they have remained ignorant, Sir; by studying knowledge the secret of God is not known, only word of love is efficient, Sir.13

The Sufi idea that love was supreme and beyond all religious and social barriers has also passed on into the entire Panjabi literature. An example here will not be out of place:

Kahinda ishk di zat safat nahi
Nahi ashka da mazhab din rani
Ishk zat kuzat na puchchdai
Es ishk di bat acarj rani.
Ishk pak palit na samjh dai
Nahi jan da kufr islam rani
Amam bakhsh na khauf hai ashka nu
Khah maut hoai khah jindgani.14

(He) says for love exist no race and qualities, nor have lovers religion and creed, Queen. Love asks not high or low caste, the tale of this love is wonderful, Queen. The Lover understands not pure and impure, nor recognizes heathenism and Islam, Queen. Amam Bakhsh, the lovers have no fear whether death occurs or life remains.

The mystic belief in the instability of creation and the deception played by the illusion of this world also took deep root in Panjabi literature. It blossomed out in one form or another. Here is an example:

Ethe aya nu duniya moh laidi daghe bazi da dhar ke bhes miya,
Sada nahi javani te aish mape sada nahi je bal vares miya,
Sada nahi je daulta fil ghore sada nahi je rajia des miya,
Shah Muhammada sada na rup duniya sada rahn na kalare kes miya 15

Here come, human beings are deluded bythe world, wearing the guise of a deceiver, Sir. For ever are not youth, pleasure and parents, nor for ever stays childhood, Sir. For ever are not treasures, elephants and horses; nor for ever kings kingdoms possessed, Sir. Shah Muhammad, for ever in the world is not beauty, nor for ever stays the hair black, Sir.

These few examples, we hope, will be enough to show the extent of Sufi influence on Panjabi literature in general.

1. Nanak is the only non-Sufi whose verse is esteemed in a like manner by the Panjabi people.
2. The office of gaddi-nishin, which formerly was bestowed on one of the disciples, later on became hereditary in the families of the saints. Almost all gaddi-nashins now inherit the seats as their birthright.
3. We mean the period when machine-made things were not imported from abroad, and during which the Sufi poetry was composed.
4. Mr. Baden Powell, writing as late as the end of the nineteenth century, said that it is impossible to exclude any city or town from the list of cotton manufacturing localities in the Panjab, Quoted by C. M. Birdwood in The Industrial Arts of India, p.244.
5. In those days spinning was the greatest accomplishment of young girl. Anyone not qualified in the art was looked down upon by her husband and members of his household.
6. The World to the Sufi was like a goil for temporary stay.
7. A Sufi in all humility calls himself a sweeper, and he calls the beliefs of different people the threshing floor, which he winnows to separate the right from the wrong.
8. Sufi jharuis wisdom.
9. The Panjab is extremely cold in winter and so people use angithis to warm themselves. The Sufi’s heart is an eternal angithi full of fire, i.e. separation’s pangs.
10. In Sufi language it is also love’s flame which consumes the body.
11. Ignorance is a Sufi’s qhund.
12. Hir, Vare Shah, p. 1.
13. How closely the above resembles the following of Bullhe Shah (Qanun-i’Ishq, kafi 76):
Ishk di navio navi bahar,
Ved Kuran parh parh thakke, sijjade kardia ghas gaye math,
Na rabb tirath na rabb makke. jis paia tis, nur jamal.
Love ever has a new season (glory). Reading and studying the Vedas and Qur’an (they) are tired. By bowing in obeisance the forehead is worn out. God is neither at a sanctuary nor in Mecca. One who has found (love), his light is powerful.

Bahu has said the same:
Pe parh parh ilam hazar kataba alam hoye sare hu,
Hikko haraf ishk da na parh jann bhule phirn vicare hu.
(Majmua Sultan Bahu, p. 6). Pe: reading and studying a thousand books all have become knower; one word of love they do not know to read,(hence) lost the poor ones walk astray.
14. Candar Badan. p.7.
15. Qissa Larai Singhag. p. 1.

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