Classical Punjabi Poetry: Waris Shah

heer

Waris Shah (1722-1798) was a Punjabi poet best known for his rendition of the folk tale “Heer Ranjha.” Waris Shah was born in Jandiala Sher Khan (Sheikhpur district), West Punjab and died near Pakpattan, West Punjab.

Waris Shah’s “Heer” is a narrative poem comprised of 637  stanzas of varying lengths  with the underlying theme of the love of creation (ishq majazi) as a metaphor for one’s love of God (ishq haqiqi). The poem is a classic in the Punjabi literary tradition, a part of Punjabi folk culture and a musical composition rendered by artists like Iqbal Bahu, Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Surinder Kaur, Noor Jehan and Gurdas Mann.

I.

First, in God’s praise we begin
Who loved so the world came to be
First it was Thee who loved Lord
The Prophet Thine beloved Thee made
Love became the end of the saints
Love lent man grace from grief
Like gardens their hearts blossom
Who embrace the message of Love

Awwal hamd khuda da vird kije, ishq keetaa so jag da mool miyaaN
Pehle aap hee rabb ne ishq keetaa, mashooq hai nabee rasool miyaaN
Ishq peer faqeer da martaba hai, mard ishq da bhala ranjool miyaaN
Khile tinhaaN baagh qaloob andar, jinhaaN keetaa hai ishq qabool miyaaN

 

VII.

On my dear friends’ say so
A tale of rare beauty I compiled
Each verse perfected – a new rose plucked from the flowers
After thinking much, Farhad* has pierced the mountain
The assembly’s pressings a beauty made
As perfume extracted from the rose

* Farhad, hero of the Persian romance Shirin Farhad, was asked by Shirin’s father to dig a canal through a mountain to prove worthy of Shirin.

Hukam mann ke sajjanaaN pyaareyaaN, da qissa ajab bahaar de jorheya ae
Fiqra jorh ke khoob darust keeta, nawa phool gulaab da toRheya ae
Bahut jeeo de vich tadbeer karke, farhaad pahaaR nooN phoRheya ae
Sabha vinh ke zeb banaa dittaa, jehaa itar gulab da nichoRheya ae

 

VIII.

Let’s talk of Takht Hazara where the Ranjhas make merry
A place of dashing youths, sporty, carefree and comely
Lordly in their splendour, earrings on nose and ears
Of this paradise, a thousand more praises we could say

Ik taKht hazaaroN gal kije, jitthe raanjhiyaaN rang machaaya hai
Chel gabroo mast arbelRe neN sundraak theeN ik sawaayaa hai
Vaale kokle mundare majh lungee nawaaN Thaath te Thaath chaRhaaya ae
Kahee sift hazaare dee aakh sakaaN goyaa bahisht zameen te aayaa ae

 

XXVII

Like a body soul-bereft did Ranjha leave his home behind
Swearing to go forth to the town of Jhangal Sayal
With little food and low spirits he kept to the path ahead
Playing his flute he departed from his home land

Rooh chaD qalboot jeeoN vida’ hunda taveN ih darvesh sadhaaryaaee
In paanee hazaare da qasm kar ke qasad jhang syaalaaN da dhaaryaaee
Keetaa rizaq te aab audaas ranjha chalo chal hee jeeo pukaaryaaee
Kuch vanjhli maar ke rawaaN hoyaa vaaris shah vatan te des vasaaryaaee

 

LVI

How can the poet describe Heer’s beauty?
Her brow shimmering like the moonlight
Her hair adorned by clips like stars to the moon
Her rosy complexion like wine
Her eyes the narcissus, darting like a deer’s
Her cheeks blooming rose-like
Her kohl-shadowed eyes sharpened
To strike Hind like the armies of the Punjab
Her face carved beautifully
Like calligraphy adorning a page
Let’s go Waris to witness this Lailat al-Qadr *
It’s a sacred pilgrimage, a noble deed

** The “night of power” (Arabic) is believed by Muslims to be the first
night the Prophet Muhammad received divine revelation

Kahee heer dee kare ta’reef shaa’ir matthe chamakda husn mehtaab da jee
Khoonee chunDiyaaN raat jeoN chan dawaale surKh rang jeoN rang shahaab da jee
Nain nargisee marg mamolRe de gulhaaN TehakyaaN phool gulaab da jee
BhavaaN vaang kamaan lahore dasan koi husn na ant hisaab da jee
Surmaa nainaaN dee dhaar vich phab rahiyaa chaRhiyaa hind te kaTak punjaab da jee
Khilee taranjanaaN de vich laTkdee hai haathee mast jeoN phare nawaab da jee
Chahre sohne te Khaal Khat ban de Khush Khat jeoN harf kitaab da jee
JehRe vekhne de rebh vaan aahe vaDa va’da tinhaaN de baab da jee
Chalo laailat al qadar dee karo ziyaarat vaaris shah ih kam sawaab da jee

 

LXVI (abridged)

Shrieking in a rage
The fairy-one turned terrible indeed
Ranjha rose saying “bravo, friend!”
Heer smiling, turned kind
With rings in his ears and flute in hand
Ranjha’s locks scattered across his face
His kohl-lined eyes fell fell into combat
Seeing that rugged youth
Heer woke to life to be vanquished
Varis Shah, how to describe such a passionate sight
As when they fell into an amorous battle?

Kooke maar hee te pakaR chamak paree aadmee te qaharvaan hoee
Ranjha uTh ke aakhiyaaN sajan heer has ke te maharbaan hoee
Kacche vanjlee kanaaN de vich vaale zulf mukhRe te pareshaan hoee
BhaneN vaal choTee bhawaaN chan raanjha nain kajle dee ghamsaan hoee
Roop jatt da vekh ke jaag ladhee heer ghol ghatee qurbaan hoee
Varis shah na thaaoN dam maar ne dee chaar chashmaaN de jadoN ghamsaan hoee

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1 Comment

Filed under Culture, History, Poetry

One response to “Classical Punjabi Poetry: Waris Shah

  1. My neighbour’s name is Farhad. I’d never seen the name before now.

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