Life And Times Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

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  1. Heer

    Heer Inactive Member

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    Life And Times Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

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    Life And Times Of Shah Bhitai
    "Beloved! you are aware of my illness,
    Beloved's enduring love is that chronic illness.
    My physician! for you to this ailment am I confined,
    Give me health's good tidings, remove distress of my mind.

    For you I weep, for you my cries are destined;
    Idle and wicked am I, free me from this evil design,
    May you come, who are my expert physician.
    Disappointed consulting other physicians, you alone are my medicine,
    You, who are so near, clasp me to your bosom."
    .........Bhitai [Sur Sasui]


    The Opening
    Perhaps the only original poet whose poetry has passed unadulterated into the Sindhi language and has become a part of the rich literature of Sindh is Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. He is not only considered a celebrated poet, but a celebrated saint (Oulia). This makes him even more prominent among the worthies of this great land, the Sindh. "The poet", says a great writer, "is a heroic figure belonging to all ages. Let nature send a Hero-soul; in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a poet." This compliment is not for hom who takes up his pen and ink, and puts down stanzas on paper. That is but a poor thing, indeed, come out with his flimsy but pleasant tit-bits to amuse himself and his friends for a while. It is for that strange individual who, on different occasions, is seen among the villagers toiling in fields for their scanty earnings, among the gypsies loitering through the hills and valleys, among the soldiers fighting for their fatherland, among the learned doctors preaching sermons to religious congregations, among the merry band of love-stricken dizzy-brained sensualists, - in fact, among all classes of people, - observing, deeply observing different phases of natur and mind, chanting, as he shifts from place to place, those sweet strains that rend the hearts of the hearers.
    Shams-ul-UlemaMirza Kalich Baig, in his book "Life Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai," emphasises that, "this individual, this original, world-observing, myriad-minded individual is the true poet. He thinks musically; he speaks musically, he acts musically. His very silence is musical".


    Poet And Prophet
    The ancients were not much wrong when they made no difference between poet and Prophet, Perhaps in the case of no other poet can these remarks be more applicable, then in the case of the great poet of Sindh, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. If this poet cannot be identified with Prophet, he may, in every way, be identified with Saint. He is invested with an intense transcedentalism and a sacred glory. If he is not deified, he is certainly caumised. A spiritual guide, while living, - a poetical saint, while dead, - he still reigns over the hearts of millions, by his grave, musical,mystical, mysterious strains.


    The Early Life
    Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is known throughout the length and breadth of Sindh, as well as, in places all over the world where Sindhis live. He was not just adored for his poetry alone. People from far and near respected and loved this man as a saint, a sufi and a spiritual guide. Not much is known about the early life of this noble son of Sindh from written records. Most of the information that has come down to us has been collected from oral traditions. A renowned Sindhi scholar, educationist, and a foremost writer of plays, dramas and stories, Mirza Kalich Beg, has rendered a yeoman service to Sindhi literature by collecting details about the early life of Shah Bhitai, from the dialogues that he has constantly held with some of the old folks, still living at that time, who knew these facts from their fathers and grandfathers for they had seen Shah Latif in person and had even spoken to him.
    "The next day I sat down, and listened to the
    Story of the 'Vairagis.'
    Their salmon-coloured clothes were covered with dust.
    Their hair-bands were worn out.
    They had let their hair grow quite long.
    The lonely ones never talk to anyone about their being.
    These 'Nanga' are content and happy.
    They move about unmarked amongst the common folk."
    ........Shah Latif Bhitai
    He was born sometime around 1689 A.D. (1102 A.H.) at a small village called Bhainpur near Khatian. More properly, his birthplace was Hala Haveli (a cluster of houses to the Southeast of Bhainpur, not very far from it), of Taluka Hala in Hyderabad district of Sindh. He died, at the age of sixty three, on 14th Safar 1165 Hijra, that is, 1752 A.D. To commemorate his memory, every year, on 14th Safar of the Hijri Calendar, an Urs - a fete, a fair - is held at Bhitshah, where he lived the last years of his life and where his elaborate and elegant mausoleum stands.

    "Beloved's seperation kills me friends,
    At His door, many like me, their knees bend.
    From far and near is heard His beauty's praise,
    My Beloved's beauty is perfection itself."
    .....Bhitai [Sur Yaman Kalyan]
     


    The Urs (Mela)
    The Urs is a grand affair, perhaps, the only fete or fare (mela) in Sindh, where people from almost every village and town of Sindh - rich and poor, young and old, scholars and peasants - make a determined effort to attend. The Urs lasts for three days. Along with other features, like food fairs, open-air markets selling traditional Sindhi ware, and entertaining and competitive sports, a literary gathering is also held where papers concerning the research work done on the life, poetry, and message of Bhitai, are read, by scholars and renowned literary figures. His disciples and ascetics, singers and artists, gather around and sing passages from his Risalo. Scholarly debates and exhibitions of his work and traditional Sindhi artefacts are also organised.

    "Sleeping on the river's bank, I heard of Mehar's glory,
    Bells aroused my consciousness, longing took its place,
    By God! fragrance of Mehar's love to me came,
    Let me go and see Mehar face to face."
    .....Bhitai [Sur Suhni]
     

  2. Heer

    Heer Inactive Member

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    Life And Times Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

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    Bhitai's Ancestry

    Shah Abdul Latif's lineage has been traced back directly to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, through Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, son of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet. His ancestors had come fro Herat in Central Asia, and settled at Matiari. Sah Abdul Karim (1600 A.D.), whose mausoleum stands at Bulri, about 40 miles from Hyderabad, a mystic (Sufi) poet of considerable repute, was his great, great grand father. His verses are extant and his anniversary is still held at Bulri, in the form of an Urs (fete or fare).
    Shah Latif's father, Syed Habib Shah, lived in Hala Haveli, a small village (now in ruins -this is how Sindhi's care for their heritage!), at a distance of about fourty miles from Matiari and not far from the village of Bhitshah. Later he left this place and moved to Kotri, where Shah Latif spent some part of his adolscent life.

     
    Bhitai's Education
    Early education of our beloved poet idi not exceed what the village school curriculum could provide. His first teacher was Noor Muhammad Bhatti Waiwal. Mostly, Shah Latif was self-educated. Although he has received scanty formal education, the Risalo gives us an ample proof of the fact that he was well-versed in Arabic and Persian. The Holy Qur'an, the Hadith, the Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Roomi, along with the collection of Shah Karim's poems, were his constant companions, copious references of which have been made in Shah Jo Risalo.


    Bhitai's Appearance and Characteristics
    In appearnce, Bhitai was a handsome man, of average height - like every othe son of mother Sindh. He was strongly built, had black eyes and an intelligent face, with a broad and high forehead. He grew a beard of the size of the Holy Prophet's beard. He had a serious and thoughful look about himself and spent much time in contemplation and meditation, since he was concerned about his moral and spiritual evolution with the sole purpose of seeking proximity of the Divine. He would often seek solitude and contemplate on the burning questions running through his mind concerning man's spiritual life:
    Why was man created?
    What is his purpose on this earth? What is his relationship with his Creator?
    What is his ultimate destiny?
    Although he was born in favoured conditions, being the son of a well-known and very much respected Sayed family, he never used his position in an unworthy manner, nor did he show any liking for the comforts of life. He was kind, compassionate, generous and gentle in his manner of speech and behaviour which won him the veneration of all those who came across him. He had great respect for woman, which, unfortunately, the present day Sayed's and Vaderas (the landlords) do not have, and he exercised immense reserve in dealing with them, in an age when these qualities were rare. He hated cruelty and could never cause physical pain to any man or even to an animal He live a very simple life of self-restraint. His food was simple and frugal, so was his dress which was often deep yellow, the colour of the dress of sufis, jogis, and ascetics, wtitched with black thread. Till this day, his relics are preserved at Bhitsah (where his mausoleum stands), some of which include a "T"-shaped walking stick, two bowls, one made of sandal-wood and another of transparent stone, which he used for eating and drinking. His long cap and his black turban are also preserved.
    Children of Sindh, all over the world, go and see for yourself your great heritage. Organise tours to the Holy Land of mother Sindh - afterall, as a Muslim you go for Pilgrimage to Mecca, and as a Hindu, you go for yatra to Temples, Mandirs and Gurdwaras in India. How sad, how pity, how unfortunate, how shameful that the mother, which has given you your life, you have abandoned and neglected. Yes, your pilgrimage or yatra should, be first to the Holy Mother Sindh, and then go ahead and fulfil your religious obligations.
    Perhaps, it would be appropriate to mention here, that the Sayed's, who are called Sayed's because it is believed that they are the descendants of the Prophet, are held in great reverance, respect and awe by the common Sindhis, who would do anything at a Sayed's bidding. Most of the Sayed families in Sindh have given birth to scholars, educationists, professional - and they have served Sindh well. However, there are many unscrupulous Sayed's, who has ruthlessly and obscenely used and abused thier name and power to subjugate and oppress the poor, simple and naive common Sindhi people for their own selfish, lascivious and greedy - political and economical - gains. It is these Sayeds and the Vadera's (the landlords) of Sind, who has taken away the dignity of the simple people and turned them into serfs, slaves, and subervient and servile subjects of their vast empire-like serfdom. So, you see, it is not just the Arabs, the Arghuns, the Targhuns, the Mughals, and the Mohajirs, alone to be blamed for the rape of mother Sindh. Sindhis should blame themselves first. The devil lies within us. It is we, especially, the Sayeds, the religious fanatics and bigots, the Mirs, the Vaderas, the Merchants, the Vanias, of the beuatiful land of Sindh, who have methodically and surreptitiously clawed and mauled away the august and venerable body of their mother, Sindh. Shame! What a shame!

    "Cloud was commanded to prepare for rain,
    Rain pattered and poured, lightening flared.
    Grain horders, hoping for high prices, wring their hands,
    Five would become fifteen in their pages they had planned.
    From the land may perish all the profiteers,
    Herdsmen once again talk of abundant showers,
    Latif says have hope in God's blessed grace."
    ......Bhitai [Sur Sarang]

    Bhitai's Quest For Religious Truths
    In quest of religious truths, Shah Bhitai travelled to many parts of Sindh and also went to the bordering lands. He kept himself aloof from the political scene of favouritism and intrigues which was going on at the height of the power and rule of Kalhoras in Sindh. Instead of visiting towns and cities, in political canvassing, to serve the purpose of the rulers and elite of the land, though he was much respected by the members of the dynasty and could have benefited from it, he went to hills, valleys, the banks of river, and the fields, where he met the ordinary simple people, the sufis (mystics), the jogis (ascetics) - all dressed in the same saffron-coloured (gayr-oo) clothes as himself, stitched in black thread. Most of these jogis and sanyasis were Hindus. He wandered far and near, disguised as a jogi, in the company of these sanyasis. He went to the Ganjo Hills in the south of Hyderabad for contemplation, and then to mountains in Las Bela in the south of Sindh and Baluchistan. For three years, he travelled with these jogis and sanyasis, in search of the truth, peace, and harmony, to Hinglay, Lakhpat, Nani at the foot of the Himalays and to Sappar Sakhi. At several places in the Risalo, mention has been made of these jogis and of his visits to these wonderful, holy and peaceful places. The two Surs, Ramkali and Khahori, describe them under various endearing names and a detailed account of the jogis' lifestyle is given. He also travelled to such far away places as Junagardh. Jesalmere and parts of the Thar desert.

    "In deserts, wastes and Jessalmir it has rained,
    Clouds and lightening have come to Thar's plains;
    Lone, needy women are now free from care,
    Fragrant are the paths, happy herdsmen's wives all this share."
    ..........Bhitai [Sur Sarang]

    My brother, Khalid Makhdoom, visited the Thar recently, along with his friends - like Bhitai visiting Jesalmere with the jogis and sanyasis. He was shocked to see this cradle of mother Sindh in such a sorry, pathetic and pitiable state - no water, no electricity, not much food to eat, thatched mud and straw houses, and no formal facilities for the education of Thari youngsters. And, yet, the people were so beautiful, loveable, affectionate, hospitable, jovial, cultured, and magnanimous - like, what every child of mother Sindh ought to be. Isn't this what our mother Sindh expects us to be? Isn't this the way our mother Sindh has brought us up to be? Isn't this the teaching of our saints, sufis, jogis, adn sanyasis. Isn't this what is required from Sindhis of us through the guidance, preaching and implorations of the Shah, Sachal, Sa'ami, and countless other sages of Sindh? What has come of us! I wonder, I wonder! And, yet, with no formal education to their credit, the Tharis, these genuine and illustrious children of mother Sindh, could recite the entire Shah Jo Risalo (the Message of Shah) by-heart. Every evening they gather around the logs of fire, especially in winter, and sing the songs, in various surs - theKa'afis, the vais, the dohiros of Shahi Bhitai.

  3. Heer

    Heer Inactive Member

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    Bhitai - His Piety, His Ascetism
    By the time he was a young man of twenty one years, he began to be known for his piety, his ascetic habits and his absorption in prayers. Observation and contemplation were chief traits of his character. A number of people flocked round him adding to the already large number of his disciples. This aroused jealousy of some powerful, ruthless, tyrranical persons - landlords, Pirs, Mirs, and Rulers - who became his enemiesfor some time. Later, seeing his personal worth, and the peaceful and ascetic nature of his fame, abandoned their rivalry. At this time he was living with his father at Kotri, five miles away from the present site of Bhitshah. It was here that his marriage was solemnised in 1713 A.D. with Bibi Sayedah Begum, daughter of Mirza Mughul Beg. She was a very virtuous and pious lady, who was a proper companion for him. The disciples had great respect for her. They had no children.
    In the true ascetic spirit, Shah Latif was now in search of a place where in solitude, he could devote all his time in prayers and meditation. Such a place he found near lake Karar, a mere sand hill, but an exotic place of scenic beauty, four miles away from New Hala. This place was covered by thorny bushes surrounded by many pools of water. It was simply and aptly called 'Bhit' (the Sand Hill). On the heaps of its sandstones he decide to settle down and build a village. As it was sandy, he along with his disciples dug out the hard earth from a distance and covered the sand with it to make the ground firm. After months of hard labour, carrying the earth on their heads and shoulders, the place was now fit enough for the construction of an underground room and two other rooms over it, alongwith a room for his old parents. A mosque was also built and the houses of his disciples properly marked out. In 1742, whilst he was still busy setting up a new village, Bhit, he got the sad news of the death of his dear father.. Soon after this Shah Latif shifted all his family members from Kotri to Bhitsah, as the village now began to be called. His father was burried there, in accordance to his will, where his mausoleum stands only eight paces away, from that of Shah Abdul Latif, towards its north.


    Bhitai - The Final Years
    For the last eight years of his remarkable life, Shah Latif lived at Bhitshah. A few days before his death, he retired to his underground room and spent all his time in prayers and fasting, eating very little.

    "Laggi Laggi wa'a-u wiarra angrra latji,
    Pa-i kharren pasah-a pasand-a karrend-i pirin-a jay." ......Bhitai



    "Wind blew! The sand enveloped the body,
    Whatever little life left, is to see the beloved."
    "These Naangas" [1] go to Hinglaj [2]
    To see Mother Kali,
    They have been to Dwarka,
    These worshippers of Shiva.
    There is nothing like them
    On the Frontier
    Or in Sindh
    Or in Hindustan!
    They have woven their souls in Rama:
    Inside of them, there is only Rama:
    Where Shiva oversees, that is where they settle.
    I am conversant with the Yogis
    Who always seek the sun.
    All the hours of the day, their eyes are on mother Kali."
    ....Bhitai [translated by Professor D.H. Butani in "The Melody and Philosophy of Shah Latif"]
    [1] type of Yogi, [2] Devi's (Shiva's consort) temple - a place of pilgrimage in Sindh
    After 21 days in there, he came out and having bathed himself with a large quantity of water, covered himself with a white sheet and asked his disciples to sing and start the mystic music. This went on for three days continuously, when the musicians, concerned about the motionless poet, found that his soul had already left for its heavenly abode to be in the proximity of the Beloved for whome he had longed for, all his life, and only the body was there. He suffered from no sickness or pain of any kind. The date was 14th Safar 1165 (Hijra) corresponding to 1752. A.D. He was burried at the place where his mausoleum now stands, which was built by the ruler of Sindh, Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. His name literally means, 'the servant of the Shah'. He, along with his mother, had adored and revered Shah Latif and were his devoted disciples. The work of the construction of the mausoleum was entrusted to the well-known mason, Idan from Sukkur. The mausoleum, as well as the mosque adjoining it, were later repaired and renovated by another ruler of Sindh, Mir Nasir Khan Talpur. A pair of kettle drums, that are beaten every morning and evening even till today by the fakirs, jogis and sanyasis, who frequent the mausolem, were presented by the Raja of Jesalmeer.
    "Korren kan-i salam-u achio a'atand-a unn-a jay."
    "Countless pay homage and sing peace at his abode."

     
    "Tell me the stories, oh thorn-brush,
    Of the mighty merchants of the Indus,
    Of the nights and the days of the prosperous times,
    Are you in pain now, oh thorn-brush?
    Because they have departed:
    In protest, cease to flower.
    Oh thorn-brush, how old were you
    When the river was in full flood?
    Have you seen any way-farers
    Who could be a match of the Banjaras?
    True, the river has gone dry,
    And worthless plants have begun to flourish on the brink,
    The elite merchants are on decline,
    And the tax collectors have disappeared,
    The river is littered with mud
    And the banks grow only straws
    The river has lost its old strength,
    You big fish, you did not return
    When the water had its flow
    Now it's too late,
    You will soon be caught
    For fishermen have blocked up all the ways.
    The white flake on the water:
    Its days are on the wane."
    ......Bhitai [translated by Prof. D. H. Butani (1913-1989) in "The Melody and Philosophy of Shah Latif", Promilla and Co., New Delhi 1991 (ISBN 81-85002-14-2)
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