Classical Punjabi Poetry: Bulleh Shah

peach blossom spring

Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) was born in Uch (near Bahawalpur), Punjab and died in Kasur, Punjab. A festival is held at his burial place every year.

Bulleh Shah wrote mostly in the kaafi style of verse, but he also wrote dohra (couplets), siharfi (acrostic) and a baramah (ode to the seasons).  His poems are irreverant towards religion and caste and speak to a greater truth and humanity all in a simple, accessible language.

Note: in the following poem, “Arain” refers to the (lower) caste of Bulleh’s master, Shah Inayat. “Sayyid” refers to Bulleh’s lineage (ancestors of the prophet), the highest order in Punjabi Muslim society.

Bulleh’s Sisters…

Bulleh’s sisters and in-laws come to make him understand
Do as we say Bulleh! Stop chasing this Arain!

Why do you draw lines between the scions of the Prophet and the rest?
Whoever considers me a Sayyid will be greeted with hellfire!
Whoever considers me an Arain will grace the swings of Paradise!

God’s creation is not concerned with Arain or Sayyid
He pushes away the beautiful and draws the unsightly near
If you want the gardens of Paradise, go become an Arain!
Why bother with Bulleh’s caste? Go be content and grateful!

Spring

The meadows glow with spring as if adorned with blossoms
Each bower bedecked with a necklace of flowers

As my friends play Holi
Tears flow from my eyes
The days pass by uneasily
The arrows of love strike me

The spring festival carries on
No one can erase what the pen
Has written from the days past
My sorrows become my refuge

Let someone go tell this, Bulleh Shah
To the one whom I yearn for

Wake now dear traveller

Wake now dear traveller
The night has passed, the stars fading

Do what you have to today
You’ll never come this way again
Your companions are calling to you
So rise now – the night is gone, the stars fading

Pearls, rubies, dice and a philosopher’s stone
You still thirst with an ocean beside you
Open your eyes and rise, restless one

Wake now dear traveller
The night has passed, the stars fading

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Filed under Culture, Literature, Poetry, Uncategorized

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