Man atkeya beparwah de nal
Us deen duni de shah de nal
My soul is entangled with the indifferent one
Lord of all things visible and invisible
We hear the above songs playing with a popular ‘Bollywood tune’ or at some small gatherings but do we know they are the lines of one of the greatest pioneering poet of Panjab: Shah Hussain.
And I say this to the general Panjabi who has been born in East Panjab ( India) or of Indian parents abroad: You have no idea what we all have missed and still miss knowing about – even belonging to families who came from across the border after partition while I knew about Bulley Shah and Waris Shah ( My Bibiji would quote them in our house) but I discovered Shah Hussain during the last lockdown. That clearly showed me the result of the ‘cultural partition’ of Panjab.
I had no idea that Shah Hussain was such a brilliant poet in the 16th century – I had no idea that he had 100,000 followers in Lahore who swore by his mystic prowess and wore red. Imagine, he had more followers than Guru Nanak at that time. This amazing rebel-mystic-poet defied all tradition and brilliantly wrote verse which is amazingly contemporary in idiom and meaning.
Every year there is a large gathering ( a mela ) in his memory and his Hindu Brahmin companion Madho Lal. The secular culture which they both promoted : first as Insaans (Human) then Panjabis – lastly they might have labeled them from a religious perspective.
I encourage all to read and hear the amazing poetry of this true genius of our cultural heritage.