Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Echoes of Sufi Chants: Kafi Shah Hussain - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Raga Jaunpuri

Shah Hussain (1538 - 1599) was a Punjabi poet and Sufi saint, who ranks with Baba Farid and Bulleh Shah as a Sufi poet. He was born in Lahore (present-day Pakistan). His tomb and shrine lies in Baghbanpura, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens. Well-read, highly creative, spiritually evolved and yet indulging in activities that besmeared his image in society.

His urs (annual death anniversary) is celebrated at his shrine every year. It is known as "Mela Chiraghan" ("Festival of Lights") and is the second largest festival in Lahore after Basant. 

Shah Hussain was a disciple of Shah Bahlol. He took to Malamatiya practices and shaved his head, moustaches and beard. He used to take bhang and roam in the bazars in intoxication. It is believed that he indulged in all this erratic and anti-social behavior to attract people’s ire which is one of the was of a mystic.

Shah Hussain wrote the songs of love, dejection, devotion and separation. Sense of separation is so deep-rooted that it moveds the hearts of readers. He transformed the entire spirit of Sufi poetry in the Punjabi literature and broadened its shere from mere philosophical sufism to encompass the whole gamut of a person’s feelings.

Shah Hussain was the pioneer of the kafi form of Punjabi poetry.


Mann atkeya beparwah de naal….

Vassdi har dam mann mere vich, Soorat yaar pyare di

Apne shoh nu aap rajhavaN, Hajat nahi pasare di

Kahe Hussain fakeer nimana, thewaN khak daware di

Mann atkeya beparwah de naal….

Us deen dunni de shah de naal….

Qazi mulla matto dainde

Khare siyane rah dasinde

Ishq ki lagge rah de naal

Mann atkeya beparwah de naal….

Us deen dunni de shah de naal….

NadioN paar ranjhan da thana

Keete qaul zaroori jana

MintaaN karaN malah de naal

Mann atkeya beparwah de naal….

Us deen dunni de shah de naal….

Sajjan bin raataN hoiyaN waddiyaN

Ranjha jogi main jogiani

Kamli kar kar saddiyaN

Sajjan bin raataN hoiyaN waddiyaN

Main haaN aayani neoh ki jana

BirhoN tanawaN gaddiyaN

Kahe Hussain fakeer sayin da

Dar te jholiaN aggiyaN

Mann atkeya beparwah de naal….

Us deen dunni de shah de naal….

Lyrics contribution: Sohail Abid

Shah Hussain fell for a Brahman boy, Madhoo, and that became his lifelong love. Their love was so strong that Shah Hussain's name was changed to Madhoo Lal Hussain forever. Madhoo became the leader after Shah Hussain's death and was buried next to his lover-Guru: Shah Hussain was buried in Shadhra on River Ravi but 13 years after his death-it claimed that Shah Hussain had forecasted it before dying-his grave was arranged in Mughalpura. Whichever way we interpret the relationship between Shah Hussain and Madhoo one thing is clear: they were openly in love and the society accepted it. However, from his verse 'Some people are bent upon fighting us and save my honor o Lord' it appears that it was not a smooth sailing for him as portrayed by some. 

Shah Hussain, the Imam of Malamti (self-deprecation) sect, is said to have more than a hundred thousand followers with 20 Khalifa. One historian of Sufism, Sarhandi, writes that if someone came to Shah Hussain to be initiated he would say, "muna ke aa apne aap noon te tothi pee" which meant "shave your head and drink an earthen cup of wine with me." If the person would fulfill these conditions he was taken into the fold, otherwise he was refused. Once a Mullah came for initiation and Shah Hussain refused him by saying, "My magic does not work for people like you, why do you want me dishonored?" Despite a mammoth following and thousands of devotees who used to remain in his attendance, Shah Hussain disliked the title of 'peer' (spiritual guide). That is why he says in a kafi: 

Shah Hussain is a faqir (God's man with no possessions) and do not call him a peer

He cannot withstand this lie. He only seeks the Lord's name.

Guru Arjan Singh had undertaken the compilation and editing of Guru Granth Sahib. It is said that Shah Husain along with other three Sufi-Bhagats, namely Peelu, Chajja and Kahna, went to see Guru Arjan Dev in Amritsar and presented their poetry for inclusion in the Granth but with no success. Baba Farid and Bhagat Kabir's poetry was included in the Granth. Some historians believe that the Gurus included the poetry of only those Sufis who had fulfilled the duties of family.


When Siri Guru Arjun Dev jee was compiling Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee, the glory and fame of this work spread far and wide. Popular baanis of Guru Sahibaan e.g. Siri Jap jee Sahib, Siri Asa kee Vaar, Siri Oankaar, Siri Anand Sahib etc. had already been spread far and wide. Countless Gursikhs had these baanis memorized. Now when people heard that all of baani of Guru Sahibaan and Bhagat Sahibaan like Bhagat Kabir jee, Bhagat Naamdev jee etc. was to be gathered and compiled into one Granth, they were very excited. Siri Guru jee spent days and nights to complete this monumental spiritual work.

In those days, there were 4 famous Bhagats residing in Lahore (a city close to Siri Amritsar Sahib) – Kahna, Chhajoo, Peelu and Shah Hussain. These Bhagats through the recitation and chanting of Kirtam Naams (Qualitative Name) had become spiritually accomplished.


When the aforementioned 4 Lahori Bhagats heard of the compilation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee, they discussed it as follows:

ਇਕ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰੋਂ ਮਿਲੇ ਪਰਸਪਰ, ਇਸ ਬਿਰਤਾਂਤ ਹਿਤ ਕਰਤ ਉਚਾਰ।
ਬਨਯੋ ਗ੍ਰਿੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਪਰਮਾਰਥ, ਗਿਨੇ ਗਏ ਜੇ ਭਗਤ ਉਦਾਰ।
ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤ ਮਹਿ ਇਹ ਬਿਸਤੀਰਹਿ, ਜਿਮ ਸਿਖੀ ਜਹਿ ਕਹਿ ਬਿਸਥਾਰ।
ਹਮਰੋ ਨਾਮ ਲਿਖਯੋ ਨਹਿ ਜੇ ਤਹਿ, ਬਿਦਤਹਿ ਨਹਿ ਪਾਛੈ ਸੰਸਾਰ।10।

(One day the 4 Lahori Bhagats had a meeting and they discussed this issue. They expressed their thoughts – this spiritual Granth that is being compiled includes the baani of accomplished Bhagats. The Sikhs are spread throughout the world and through them, the fame of the Bhagats whose Baani is included in this Granth, will spread far and wide. If our name is not included in it, no one will remember us after we leave this world)

The 4 Lahori Bhagats called upon Bhai Ladha jee, a prominent Sikh and a resident of Lahore, to get more information on this great spiritual project. Bhai Ladha jee told them that the project of compiling of Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee was almost complete. The 4 Lahori Bhagats expressed their desire to know more about this project and also if their Baani could be included in it. Bhai Ladha jee advised them to speak to Guru Sahib in person about this.


Hearing this, the 4 Lahori Bhagats led by Bhagat Kahna, left for Siri Amritsar Sahib, on a chariot. They reached the Darbar of Siri Guru jee. These Lahori Bhagats had much accomplished spiritual assets but some of them, especially Kahna had developed a lot of ego as well. These Bhagats had many spiritual and extra-sensory powers (Ridhi Sidhi) and for this reason, people worshipped them. This made them even more egoistic. On the other hand, Siri Guru Arjun Dev jee was an embodiment of humility and love. The meeting that they had is an interesting meeting that teaches us about the lofty spiritual principles of Gurmat.

Siri Guru jee was seated in Siri Harmandir Sahib. It is written in our history that out of respect for these Bhagats and out of humility, Siri Guru jee stood up and with loving words welcomed them. Siri Guru jee had them seated respectfully and asked them the reason for their arrival.

When Kahna heard loving words of Siri Guru jee and when he witnessed the respect Siri Guru jee had given to him and other 3 Bhagats, he got even more proud. He addressed Siri Guru jee as follows, “We have heard that you are compiling a great Granth in which baani of 5 Gurus and some Bhagats is included. These Bhagats are no longer alive now and you are including their baani in this Granth. On the other hand, we are alive and our hearts are filled with true Divine Anand (bliss). Rich and poor people in the world today accept our order as if it is the order of Vedas or Quran but you have written baani of Bhagats who are no longer alive and ignored to include in this Granth the baani of Bhagats who are alive in flesh and blood.”

Whoever heard these proud statements of Bhagat Kahna was stunned. Bhagat Kahna continued as follows, “If you don’t include the baani of living Bhagats like us, then how will your Granth become authentic and acceptable to the world. You are the Guru of the world (Jagat Guru). You should realize these facts and seriously consider including our baani in the Granth.”

Siri Guru jee replied, “We have undertaken this spiritual task to bring all Gurbani in one place and Bhagat Baani that has been included in this Granth is only such that is one with Gurbani in appearance and content. Now that you have taken the effort to come to Gurughar, go ahead and recite a sample of your Baani”.


Hearing this Bhagat Kahna got very proud. He thought, “Am I some ordinary Bhagat that Guru Sahib would not listen to me.”

He narrated one of his Shabad as follows:

ਓਹੀ ਰੇ ਮੈ ਓਹੀ ਰੇ।
ਜਾਕਉ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਸਭ ਗਾਵਹਿ, ਖੋਜਤਿ ਖੋਜ ਨ ਕੋਈ ਰੇ।
ਜਾਕੋ ਨਾਰਦ ਸਾਰਦ ਸੇਵਹਿ, ਸੇਵਹਿ ਦੇਵੀ ਦੇਵਾ ਰੇ।
ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਬਿਸਨ ਮਹੇਸ ਅਰਾਧਹਿ, ਸਭਿ ਕਰਦੇ ਜਾਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਰੇ।
ਕਹਿ ਕਾਨ੍ਹਾ, ਅਸ ਮਮ ਸਰੂਪ ਹੈ, ਅਪਰੰਪਰ ਅਲਖ ਅਭੇਵਾ ਰੇ।

(I am that, I am that. To whom Vedas, Puranas are singing but no one has been able to find. I am the one whom Narad, Sarad, gods and goddesses are serving. I am the one whom all including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are worshipping. Says Kahna, that the formless and unreachable one is my form.)

The sangat was stunned hearing such proud words. Siri Guru jee minced no words in saying that this baani was not in agreement with the principles of Gurmat. Siri Guru jee said that he wants his Sikhs to be humble and polite but if they read this baani they will become egoist. Let aside getting emancipated, they will end up in hell. Siri Guru jee said that since his baani did not match the principles of Gurmat, it could not be included in Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee.

Bhagat Kahna was taken aback and his ego was badly bruised. He got upset and said some unsavoury words to Guru Sahib. He threatened to complain to the king about Guru Sahib. Siri Guru jee remained the embodiment of humility. The unseen and all-powerful force of Vaheguru came into action. Kahna on his way back to Lahore fell off from his chariot and his head was crushed by the wheel of his own chariot. Another version is that one his way back to Lahore, he sat under a tree and tried to take his breath up in the Dasam Duaar as the Yogis do. This way they increase their age. The swaas (breath) went up with such force that his skull blasted and he died on the spot.


After Kahna had left, Siri Guru jee humbly asked Bhagat Peeloo to narrate a sample of his baani. Peelo sang his baani as follows:

ਪੀਲੋ ਅਸਾਂ ਨਾਲੋਂ ਸੇ ਭਲੇ ਜੰਮਦਿਆਂ ਜੁ ਮੂਏ।
ਓਨਾਂ ਚਿਕੜਿ ਪਾਂਵ ਨਾ ਬੋੜਿਆ, ਨਾ ਆਲੂਦ ਭਏ।

(O Peelo, they are better than us who died right after birth. At least they did not submerge their feet in muddy waters of Maya and get dirty.)

Siri Guru jee rejected this baani as well since it was too dejecting and depressing. Then Siri Guru jee asked Chhajoo to utter his baani. Chhajoo uttered the following baani there:

ਕਾਗਦ ਸੰਦੀ ਪੂਤਲੀ, ਤਊ ਨਾ ਤ੍ਰਿਯਾ ਨਿਹਾਰ।
ਯੌਂ ਹੀ ਮਾਰ ਲਿਜਾਵਹੀਂ, ਜਥਾ ਬਲੋਚਨਿ ਧਾਰ।

(The woman is like a statue of paper, don’t even look at her. She will get you killed in such way as the Baluchi Robbers are said to kill one, i.e., they kill when you are asleep.)

Chhajoo’s baani showed too much hatred for women. Siri Guru jee said that the Panth started by Siri Guru jee includes householders and women are equal partners and equal candidates for spirituality. Such teaching that teaches to hate women would cause too many problems for Sikhs who would read such sexist baani. So Siri Guru jee rejected this baani as well.


Lastly, Siri Guru jee lovingly looked towards Shah Hussain. Shah Hussain was a very accomplished Bhagat of Guru Sahib’s times. His baani has extreme love for God and his description of sorrow of separation from Vaheguru is just amazing. Shah Hussain started uttering his baani as follows:

ਚੁਪ ਵੇ ਅੜਿਆ ਚੁਪ ਵੇ ਅੜਿਆ।
ਬੋਲਣ ਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਜਾਇ ਵੇ ਅੜਿਆ।
ਸਜਣਾ ਬੋਲਣ ਦੀ ਜਾਇ ਨਾਹੀਂ।ਰਹਾਉ।
ਅੰਦਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹਿਕਾ ਸਾਂਈਂ, ਕਿਸਨੂੰ ਆਖਿ ਸੁਣਾਈਂ।
ਇਕੋ ਦਿਲਬਰ ਸਭ ਘਟ ਰਵਿਆ, ਦੂਜੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਦਾਈਂ।
ਕਹੈ ਹੁਸੈਨ ਫਕੀਰ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ, ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਥੌਂ ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਈਂ

Stay quiet O friend, stay quiet. This is not your place to speak. O Sajana, O friend, this is not your place to speak. Inside and outside, there is only one Lord, whom should I go and tell anything. One Lord the enchanter of the hearts is in every being, no one else is there. The humble Faqir Hussain says, I am sacrifice to Satguru (the true Guru) again and again.

As a side note, when you read the last line of this Kalaam, it sends shivers down your spine. Out of all Sufi Saints of Punjab namely Bulle Shah, Sultan Bahoo, Shah Hussain, Waris Shah etc., no one comes even close to what Shah Hussain has written. There is so much Tasavuf (Spirituality, mysticism) Just amazing! 

When Siri Guru jee heard the kalaam (baani) of Shah Hussain, Siri Guru jee was extremely pleased and showered many blessings but did not include his baani. The reason was that though it was of lofty principles, it was not from Sachkhand. Siri Guru jee’s reaction after listening to his baani has been captured beautifully by Mahakavi Santokh Singh jee as follows:

ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਰਜੁਨ ਮੁਸਕਾਵਤ ਬੋਲੇ, ਕਰੁਨਾ ਭਰੇ ਰਸੀਲੇ ਨੈਨ।
ਭਲਾ ਕਹਯੋ ਚੁਪ ਕਰਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਰਖਿ, ਰਹਹੁ ਅਬੋਲੇ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਹੁਸੈਨ।

Siri Guru jee smiled; his were eyes filled with compassion, love and Amrit and he said you have said Khoob (wonderful); now keep it within yourself and go quiet. O Shah Hussain, don’t utter anything, stay Abol (unspeaking).

Kulbir Singh

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