Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for the ‘Bulleh Shah’ Category

Kabir & Bulleh Shah- the need of our dark ages.


Depressed and dejected with the ever rising religious extremism, intolerance and hatred in the world at large, helplessness over powers oneself. The only ray of hope left are the few shining stars in this dark sky that shone on our lands several centuries ago. Their golden words still need to be heard and heeded by one and all.

Kabir from India and Bulleh Shah from what is now Pakistan are two voices that spoke of peace and love beyond beliefs and borders. They were shunned in their own times, but if they were reborn now, they would not find much has changed from those days.

Reminscing their poetry, I dare to use them on painting a silk scarf.

The scarf background is black, which represents the dark ages of extremism, intolerance and bigotry that we currently are going through.

The golden messages of the verses are scribbled in golden ink, The verses chosen  relate to the abundance of  knowlege, in this era of information revolution, but the information that still fails to convey the message of peace and tolerance that it should accompany.

The languages have been reversed,
Kabir written in Urdu and Bulleh Shah in Hindi so that both sides are able to read them.

Silk1 001

Bulleh Shah here says:

Parh parh aalim faazil hoya, kadi nafs apne nu parheya ai nayi,
Ja ja werda mandi maseetey, kadi man apne nu wareya ai nayi.

( You read bookes, became learned, but never read (compassion in )your own conscience,
You visited temples and mosques, but never visited (the love)in your own heart.)
KabirBullehShahSilk 003

Kabir says:

Pothi parh parh jag muwa pandit bhaya na koi,
Dhaayi akher prem ka parhe to pandit hoye.

{The whole world read books after books, but no one became learned,
Read two and a half words of love ( peace and compassion), to be a learned}

KabirBullehShahSilk1 001

The peace symbols in the middle of the silk scarf are crisscrossed by chaos and confusion prevalent in our times.
KabirBullehShahSilk 013

KabirBullehShahSilk 014

The edges below the verses represent the hearts interlinked through love and peace, if only we heeded the verses in spirit.

KabirBullehShahSilk 009

It was heartening to see Kabir’s message of love and peace ( coincidentally the same verses that I was scribbling), being presented in another art form, called Dastangoi. I dedicate this piece and the blog to this wonderful  Kabir presentation. 🙂

 

Advertisements

Whatever IS will be WAS.


The above heading is a Buddhist saying by Monk Ñanamoli. The  in depth meaning of its essence could not be more powerfully conveyed than by an ancient  Buddhist ritual called dul-tson-kyil-khor ( Mandala of colored powders).

Sometime ago in search for an idea for silk painting I accidentally bumped into a beautiful  handmade creation, which in first hand looked like an intricate colorful geometrical design, called Sand Mandala.

As the name implies, it is a creation made from colored sand. Mandala means a palace. There is much more to it than the eyes can see.

From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is not just a creation of a beautiful sand castle, but a spiritual journey, for which requires a great practice and meditation before embarking on it. Even during the creation , which usually requires 4 monks (bhikkus) who keep chanting hymns and focus all their minds and actions into its creation.

The sand mandala for them is a three dimensional Palace of Imagination in which they enter, and each dot, line, shape and color that they create in it stands for a specific aspect of Buddhist Philosophy. There are many types of Mandalas, and each stand for a unique symbol.

The creation has to be accurate, and the work  between the 4 creators, working on each quadrant,  has to be well coordinated.

Billions of grains of colored sand powder are carefully and accurately placed in its specific location, using two copper conical pipes called chapku, which are gently tapped over the other, to release controlled amount of sand.

The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark. In the ancient times they used colored dust from the lapiz lazulli, emerald, ruby, and corals and other precious stones to get colored dust powder.

It takes from few days to few weeks to create a mandala.

However, the most mind boggling part arrives when the whole intricately built sand mandala is undone ( yes, you read it correct) from outside-in in a rotas wheel movement, never to exist again, by the very monks who created it. This metaphorically implies the impermanence of things.

The dust collected is immersed in a flowing water ( river nearby) symbolizing the transference of the energy of goodwill ( imparted to it during its creation)  and compassion, to the rest of the world. {The whole idea gave me shivers and goose bumps}

Hence, when even  at first look it appears to be an end of a creation, but in the real sense, nothing is ever destroyed forever, just that it is returned to the nature, to rejoin elements.

And this does happen to all animate and inanimate objects on earth, be they complicated  humans,  simple plants, soft clouds or  even lofty mountains.

When Buddha passed away, one of his disciples remarked:

Aniccaa vata sa”nkhaaraa — uppaada vaya dhammino
Uppajjitvaa nirujjhanti — tesa.m vuupasamo sukho.

Impermanent are all component things,
They arise and cease, that is their nature:
They come into being and pass away,
Release from them is bliss supreme.

It compels me to be reminded of Kabir’s doha:

Mati kahe kumar se tu kya rondey mohe,
Ik din aisa ayega main rondoonga tohe.
(The clay says to the Potter: What will you maul me, a day shall come, when I shall maul you).

Or yet in another doha he reminds:

Kaya nahin teri nahin teri,
Mat ker meri meri.
(This existence isn’t yours, don’t call it “It’s mine, it’s mine.”)

And of Bulleh Shah’s kaafi:

Na Kar Bandeya  
Meri Meri
Na Teri Na Meri
Char Dinan Da Mela
Duniya Fair Mitti Di Dheri.
(O people, why  be obsessed with me, mine. Its neither yours nor mine. Its for a while, then we all shall be but a pile of dust).

Indeed, “from dust we were born, and to dust we shall return.”.

Abida Parveen, the therapeutic


If music is a mountain range, its Mt Everest is Abida Parveen. A summit of Sufi music, which no soul can surmount.

The Queen not only drowns herself in the music she sings, but she sweeps along her listeners too, in the tides of the overpowering words that flow out her throat. After the plunge, to rise up to the surface banal  isn’t easy.

She is mesmerising, she is addicting, she is tranquillising.

A true flag bearer of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb, she immortalizes the words of  Bulleh Shah, Kabir and Amir Khusrau with just the same devotion.

Beyond music, pearls of abundant wisdom  she spilled, in this interview (which was taken before she enthralled the Delhi audience by the performance on March 5, 2012) reflected nothing but her rock solid conviction on which her life and music stand – of peace and love. Though thoroughly therapeutic, her words shook me.

In an interview esewhere she said:  “In Sufism there are no barriers, mine or yours, old and new. It belongs to all and connects hearts and souls. It’s power unites the singer and listener in a divine communion with the creator.”

From its very inception till this year’s Jahan e Khusrau Festival, she has been present in each of the ten held so far. “The festival is unique because it has no nationality or religion and is sacred to all of us.”

Overwhelmed, and still shaken by the genuine grief that Ali Zafar expressed over the hatred sweeping across the globe, but more so in our subcontinent, I could not hold back my own tears listening to her firm belief  that there are indeed “no internal barriers”.

The interview itself is a journey to the sublime, I would wish to take again and again. Hence, I have captured it in my blog, to preserve it as a shrine to which I shall keep returning to, in times of deep internal turmoil.

In these times of despair when we keep embracing hopelessness off and on, she lives with her heart, mind and soul steadfast on every word and verse of truth and love  she sings. 

Kudos to Barkha Dutt for immortalising these priceless pearls of wisdom.

(Click to the number below for the must watch interview)

225251 or http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/the-buck-stops-here/singer-abida-parveen-talks-about-the-power-of-sufi-music/225251

Continuation of a joint heritage


Published in Aman Ki Asha , in TheNews on December 14, 2011. http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=584

Ilmana Fasih recounts some examples of the ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ and centuries’ old, peaceful coexistence beyond religious divides

An otherwise sane looking person I met at a party recently started to spew venom laced with conspiracy theories about “Hindu Muslim animosity”. To top it all, he tried to use my own life to justify his views, insisting that my going

to live in Pakistan after marrying a Pakistani was proof of the natural divide. He refused to accept my views that a peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths is possible or that my going to Pakistan from India was not based on religious reasons.

His hate-filled thoughts kept me sleepless for hours that night. But talking over the phone to my mother in Delhi later, I was cheered up by her mention of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb. Our conversation triggered off thoughts about this beautiful, fluid culture that refuses to be boxed up and compartmentalised.

The name Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb is as beautiful as its spirit. It refers to the centuries’ old, peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent. Not only did the two faiths borrow cultural practices from each other, but they also exchanged each other’s vocabularies. So much so that now one is hardly able to find any difference between spoken Urdu and spoken Hindi.

The Nawabs of Awadh in north India in the 1700s are considered the pioneers of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb. At least, the term was coined in their times. But on ground it existed well before that era.

The starkest example of this syncretic culture is the Purana Hanuman Mandir in Lucknow, which is crowned by an Islamic symbol, a crescent. According to legend, the temple was built by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan to honour the wish of his mother, who had dreamt of building a temple. The tradition of honouring the Nawab’s gesture still continues when the Muslims in the area put up stalls of water during the Bada Mangal festival at the temple, and Hindus manage sabeels (stalls) of sherbet and water during Muharram in reverence for Imam Hussain.

Not far from Lucknow, the rulers of the Hindu holy city of Kashi (also known as Benaras or Varanasi) observed the Azadari (the mourning) during Muharram, wearing black on Ashura. Ustad Bismillah Khan, the renowned Shehnai maestro, began his career as a shehnai player in Vishwanath temple, Kashi. In fact, many of the musicians, Hindu and Muslim, who play in the temples, fast during Ramazan and also observe Vrat during the Hindu Navratras.

Even today, Muslim artisans in Kashi/Varanasi who make Taziyas for Muharram also make effigies of Ravan for Dussehra, a friend tells me. Hindus too participate in Muharram processions and make Taziyas in many cities, notably Lucknow.

Similarly a Sindhi friend talks of the centuries-old peace and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims of Sindh. Adherents of both faiths revere and pray together at the shrine of Jhuley Lal, she says. The shrine walls are inscribed

with Arabic verses as well as Hindu names of Gods. An age-old common greeting of Sindhi Hindus and Muslims is “Jhulelal Bera-Hee-Paar”.

Karachi’s 150-year old cremation ground for Hindus has a Muslim caretaker, although there are many Hindus in the city. This caretaker is responsible for cleaning the statues and lighting the lamps in the temple, and takes care of the urns that contain the ashes of the dead after cremation, until their loved ones immerse the ashes in water.

Cultural practices in Sindh are a fusion of the two cultures. If the Hindus, fervently use Allah as the reference to God, the Muslims touch the feet of their elderly as traditions borrowed from each other’s cultures.

The contribution of Sufi poetry towards this peaceful coexistence, from Kabirdas and Amir Khusro, to Bulleh Shah on the other side, is well known.

Beyond faith, at the cultural level, the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb has seen some beautiful creations like the Ghazal style of singing and the classical dance form Kathak.

Kathak’s journey from ancient times to its present form merits a walk-through. The word “katha” comes from “katha” or story telling. It has its roots in ancient times, when storytellers narrated epics or mythological stories like Shakuntala, and the Mahabharata through dance forms in temples. However with the arrival of Mughals, the dance, enticed to come to the courts, developed into a more Persianised form. The Kathak dancers adopted the whirling

from the dervishes to the ‘chakkars’. The rhythm of the footsteps found harmony with the beat of the tabla recently discovered by Amir Khusro. The female Kathakaars (storytellers) abandoned the sari of ancient times for the angarkha and churidar pyjama. The language of narration also transformed from Sanskrit to Brij Bhasha and then Urdu.

There may be more examples of such coexistence and development in other regions of the subcontinent too.

Those who propagate conspiracy theories and narrate stories of hate and disharmony need to know that even with the physical separation between India and Pakistan, the spirit of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb lives on. The lack of communication between the two countries, particularly after the 1965 and 1971 wars, has not managed to dampen the natural instincts of sharing these cultures.

Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammed, the renowned Qawwals from Pakistan continue to sing Bhajans which their gharana has been singing for the last 300 years. On the other side are Wadali brothers who sing Bulleh Shah Kaafis and Naats with the same devotion. Despite all odds, Sheema Kermani and her students in Pakistan have continued to keep the dance forms, not only of Kathak, but also Bharatnatyam and Odissi, alive and known in Pakistan.

The recent collaboration between Zeb and Haniya from Pakistan and Shantanu and Siwanand Kirkire of India yielded the soft melody “Kaho kya khayal hai” in a beautiful blend of Dari and Hindi. I could not help relate it to the Zehaal-e-Miskeen composition by Amir Khusro which was a beautiful fusion of Persian and Brij Bhasha.

And now another peacenik in the form of Shahvar Ali Khan makes a music video titled ‘No Saazish No Jang’ (No Conspiracy, No War). It is heartening to see the visuals, and hear the voices of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Bapu Mahatama Gandhi together in the backdrop.

It is not possible to list all collaborations between the two countries and across religious divides, particularly in fields of films, music, health (the most significant being the Heart to Heart initiative by Rotary and Aman ki Asha). But all these initiatives testify to the desire for peace, not hate.

As for me, convinced that each of these efforts towards peaceful coexistence is based on foundations going back centuries, I slide into my bed, comforted by the faith that peace, not hate, will ultimately prevail.
It’s just a matter of time.

Dr Ilmana Fasih is an Indian gynaecologist and health activist married to a Pakistani. Her blog is Blind to Bounds https://thinkloud65.wordpress.com/

The soil is in ferment, O friend~ Bulleh Shah


While looking for more of Bulleh Shah’s poetry in an attempt to make a comparative list of Verses between Bulleh Shah and Kabir, I came across a new fascinating piece of his poetry.

In this Kaafi he presents the truth of life on Earth, beyond the temporal day to day life.  In the last verse he challenges the riddle of life,  to be solved.

In Seraiki (a dialect of Punjabi):

“Maati kudam karendee yaar,
Vaah vaah maati de gulzaar;
Maati ghora maati jora, maati daa aswaar,
Maati maati nu (n) dorave, maati daa chankaar.

Maati maati nu(n) maaran lag-gee, maati de hathiyaar.
Jis maati par bahutee maati, so maati hankaar;
Maati baagh bagheechaa maati, maati dee gulzaar.
Maati maati nu (n) vekhan aayee, maati dee a bahar;

Hus khed phir maati hove, paindee pau pasaar.
Bullah ja(n) eh bujhaarat buj-jhe,
Taa(n) lah bhau siro(n) maar.”

English Translation:

The soil is in ferment, O friend
Behold the diversity.
The soil is the horse, so is the rider
The soil chases the soil, and we hear the clanging of soil
The soil kills the soil, with weapons of the soil.
That soil with more on it, is arrogance
The soil is the garden so is its beauty
The soil admires the soil in all its wondrous forms
After the circle of life is done it returns to the soil
Answer the riddle O Bulleh, and take this burden off my head.”

Translation by : JR Puri