Life And Times Of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai
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]
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]