Classical Punjabi Poetry: Shah Muhammad

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Translated by Randeep Singh

Shah Muhammad (1780-1862) was a Punjabi poet best known for his Jangnama Singhaan te Farangian (‘The War Chronicle of the Sikhs and English’), a heroic narrative of the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846) and the decline of the Sikh empire (‘Sarkar Khalsa’) after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839.

The poem, written around 1846, comprises two parts. The first part contains 50 octaves narrating the War of Succession, including the introductory octaves translated here. The second part comprises 55 octaves describing the battles fought between the Sikhs and the English.

1

Praise first be to God, sir
The one who inspired nature’s play
Painting the picture of the heavens
He sows gardens colourful and gay
The keeper of pages of days past
Saving soul after soul from the fire
Fear him ever more says Shah Muhammad
Who makes beg and plead even emperors

Awwal hamd janāb Allah dī nūñ
Jehṛa qudratī khel banāvdā ae
Chaudāñ tabkāñ dā naqsh o nigār karke
Rang rang de bāgh lagāvndā ae
Safā pichlīāñ sab lapeṭ laindā
Aggo haur hī haur vachauvndā ae
Shāh Muhammad us to sadā ḍarīñ
Bādshāhāñ to bhīk magāvanda ae

3

One morn as I sat in Vadaala
I came to hear word of the English
So spoke Heer and Noor Khan
Whom I chanced upon earlier
Muslims and Hindus live happily
A disaster has befallen both
In the Punjab says Shah Muhammad
Never before was there a third race

Ik roz vaḍāle de vich baiṭhe
Chalī āhn angrez dī bāt āī
Sānooñ ākhiya heere te noor khāñ ne
Jinnāñ nāl sāḍī mulāqāt āī
Rāzī bahut rahinde musulmān hindu
SirāN dohāñ de utte āfad āī
Shāh Muhammad, vich punjāb de jī
Kade nahīñ sī tīsrī jāt āī

5

His Majesty Ranjit Singh was born
And his might shook the land
Conquering Multan, Kashmir, Peshawar,
Chamba, Jammu, Kangra, Kota
And countries to Ladakh and China
Coins in his name minted and flowed
For fifty long years says Shah Muhammad
A fine rule passed grandly

Mahāñbalī raṇjīt singh hōyā paidā,
Nāl zōr dē mulk hilāi gayā.
Multān, kashmīr, pishaur, chamba,
Jamū kāṅgaṛā kōṭa nivāi gayā.
Hōr dēsh ladāḵẖ tē chīn toṛī,
Sikkā āpne nām calāi gayā.
Shāh muhammad, jān pachās barsāñ,
Achā rajj ke rāj kamāi gayā

6

When the King breathed his last
Sikhs gathered in the assembly, sire
Chet Singh was slain by Sahib Kaur
Swords unsheathed in the court, sire
His Majesty Kharak Singh wailed loudly
Since days ancient death was man’s friend, sire
I too wish to die with him says Shah Muhammad
This had been our pledge and promise, sire

Jadoñ hoye sarkār dē savās pūre,
Jamhāñ hōye nī sabha sardār miyāñ
Chet singh nū māriā kaur sāhib,
Shurū hoī darbār talvār miyāñ.
Khaṛak singh mahārāj nē ḍhāh mārī,
Mōiā muḍh kadīm dā yār miyāñ.
Shāh muhammad, asāñ bhī nāl marnā,
Sāḍā ehō sī kaul karār miyāñ.

8

Maharaja Kharak Singh too began to fade
From the advent of his rule one year passed
When death came not waiting a moment
Chet Singh too died from woe
Sahib Kaur hearing so from the prince
Wept feeling not a spot of grief
By slaying others says Shah Muhammad
Sahib Kaur held sway over the assembly

Khaṛak singh mahārāj hoyā bahut māndā,
Baras ik pichōñ vasa kāla hōyā.
Āī maut nā aṭkiā ik ghaṛī,
Chēt singh dē gham de nāl mōiā.
Kaur sāhib shāhzādē dī gala sun kē,
Zarā dard dē nāla nā mūl rōiā.
Shāh muhamad, kaīāñ dē mārne nū,
Vich kaunsale kaur nū hukam hōyā.

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