Classical Punjabi Poetry: Shah Hussain

Malang I

Shah Hussain was born in Lahore in 1538 at a time when the Mughals were just starting to consolidate their hold over northern India. He was a weaver by trade.

As a poet, Shah Hussain composed kafi, a poetic form comprising a refrain (rahaao) with several rhymed lines set to a prescribed metre. His poems are  lyrical in tone, often marked by a pathos and passion of unfufilled love. The metaphors and imagery of spinning wheels, weaving, folk dances, the newly married bride leaving her parents for her in-laws can be found in his poems.

Shah Hussain’s love for a boy named Madho Lal is legendary. The two are often referred to together as “Madho Lal Hussein.” Shah Hussain died in Lahore in 1599 and is buried together with Madho Lal at a shrine in Baghanpura.

Charkha mera rangRa laal

Je vadd charkha te vadd munne

Hun kaha gayaa baaraaN punne

Saaeen kaaran loin runne

Je vadd charkha te vadd ghumain

Sabhe aaiaaN sees gundaain

Kaaee na aayee haal vandain

Hun kaaee na chaldee naal


My spinning wheel, coloured red

The wheel sturdy, as are its supports

The time for my love to come has past

So tears stream down my face

I am lost in weeping

The wheel  sturdy, as is its handle

All have flocked to braid one another’s hair

None come to share my grief

None come to lend an ear …

Mere sahibban! Main teri ho mukkee aaN

ManoN na vasaareN tooN mainooN mere sahibaaN!

Har galloN main chukkee aaN

Augunhaaree nooN ko gun naaheiN bakhsh kare taaN main chhuTee aaN

JiyoN bhaave tyoN raakh pyaarya daaman tere main lukee aaN

Kahein Hussein faqeer saaeeN da dar tere de kutti aaN

My darling, I end in thee!

Don’t forsake me, I’m free of concerns

I’m covered in sin, freed by thy blessing

Keep me as you wish, I lurk in thy cloak

Says Hussain, the faqir, I’m the dog at thy doorstep

Nee aseeN aao khiDaahaaN luDee

Nau taar Dor guDee dee, aseeN le kar haaN uDee

Saajan de hath Dor asaaDee main saajan dee guDee

Os vehle nooN pichotaaseN jaa paoseN vich khuDee

Kahein Hussain faqir saaeen da, duniya jaaNdee buDee


Come! Let us dance and play

Let’s fly the kite by the string

I’m my love’s kite, he holds the strings –

Don’t regret days wasted once the grave beckons

The world grows older, says Hussain

Poems of Shah Hussain:

– Shahmukhi:

– Gurmukhi:



1 Comment

Filed under Literature

One response to “Classical Punjabi Poetry: Shah Hussain

  1. Wonderful! Happy to have you!

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