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Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919 – October 31, 2005) was an Indian writer. She is considered the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist. When the former British India was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan, she migrated to India in 1947.

Formative Years:

Amrita Pritam was born in 1919 in Gujranwala, Punjab, now in Pakistan, the only child of a school teacher and a

poet. Her father was a pracharak -- a preacher of the Sikh faith. Amrita's mother died when she was eleven. Soon after, she and her father moved to Lahore. Confronting adult responsibilities, she began to write at an early age. Her first collection was published when she was only sixteen years old, the year she married Pritam Singh, an editor to whom she was engaged in early childhood.

Partition: Some one million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs died from communal violence that followed the partition of India in 1947. Amrita Pritam moved to New Delhi, where she began to write in Hindi instead of Punjabi, her mother tongue. Her anguish was expressed in her poem, "Aaj Aakhaan Waris Shah Noo", addressed to the Sufi poet Waris Shah, author of the tragic saga of Heer and Ranjah, the Punjabi national epic:



Utth dard-mandaan dey dardiyaa tak apna Punjab
Beyley laashaan vichhiyaan
Teh lahoo da bharya Chenab

(Sharer of stricken hearts,
Look at your Punjab,
Corpses are strewn in the field
Blood flows in the Chenab.)

Amrita Pritam worked until 1961 for All India Radio. After her divorce in 1960, her work became more clearly feminist. Many of her stories and poems drew on the unhappy experience of her marriage. A number of her works have been translated into English, French, Japanese and other languages from Punjabi and Urdu, including her autobiographical works Black Roseand Revenue Stamp (Raseedi Tikkat in Punjabi).

The first of Amrita Pritam's books to be filmed was Daaku (Dacoit, 1976), directed by Basu Bhattacharya. Her novel Pinjar(The Skeleton, 1970) was made into an award winning Hindi movie by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, because of its humanism: "Amritaji has portrayed the suffering of people of both the countries." Pinjar was shot in a border region of Rajasthan and in Punjab.


The first woman recipient of the Sahitya Akademi ward in 1956 for Sunehe (Messages), Amrita Pritam received the Bhartiya Jnanpith, India's highest literary award, in 1982 for Kagaj te Canvas (Paper and Canvas). She received the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, as well. She received D Litt degrees, honoris causa, from Delhi, Jabalpur and Vishva Bharti Universities.

Amrita Pritam lived the last forty years of her life with the renowned artist, Imroz. She died on 31st October 2005 at the age of 86, after a long illness, survived by her daughter, Kundala; her son, Navraj; and her grandson, Aman.

Her story cannot be completed without the name of Sahir.




· o Sahitya Akademi Award (1956)

o Padmashri (1969)

o Delhi University confers its D. Litt. (1973)

o Jabalpur Uniersity confers its D. Litt. (1973)

o International Vaptsarove Award by the Republic of Bulgaria (1979)

o Bharatiya Jnanpith (1981)

o Vishwa Bharati, Shantiniketan, confers its D. Litt.(1987)

o Degree of Officer dens/order des arts et des letters by the French Government (1987)






· o Pinjar

o Doctor Dev

o Kore Kagaz, Unchas Din

o Sagar aur Seepian

o Rang ka Patta

o Dilli ki Galiyan

o Terahwan Suraj

o Yaatri


· o Rasidi Ticket

o Shadows of Words

S    Short stories

· Shadows of Words

Short stories

o Kahaniyan jo Kahaniyan Nahi

o Kahaniyon ke Angan mein


· Literary Journal

· Nagmani






Avtar Singh Sandhu(Pash)

Pash was the pen name of Avtar Singh Sandhu (September 9, 1950 - March 23, 1988), an Indian poet. His strongly left-wing views were reflected in his poetry.


He was born in Talwandi Salem, Jalandhar, Punjab, growing up in the struggle between the Naxalite movement and working class, poverty-stricken Punjabs, during the so-called Jujharu (rebellious era). He published his first book of revolutionary poems, Loh-Katha (Iron Tale) in 1970; his militant and provocative tone raised the ire of the establishment and a murder charge was hastily brought against him. He spent nearly two years in jail, before being finally acquitted.

On acquittal, he became involved in Punjab's maoist front, editing a literary magazine, Siarh (The Plow Line). He became a popular political figure on the left during this period, and was awarded a fellowship at the Punjabi Academy of Letters in 1985. He toured the United Kingdom and the United States the following year; while in the U.S., he became involved with the Anti-47 Front, opposing Sikh nationalist violence; in retribution, he was murdered at the hands by a Sikh group in 1988.

Literary works:

· Loh-katha (Iron-Tale) (1970),

· Uddian Bazan Magar (Behind Flying Hawks) (1973),

· Saadey Samiyaan Vich (In Our Times) (1978), and

· Khilre Hoey Varkey (Unorganized Papers (1989))

Khilre Hoey Varkey was posthumously published in 1989 after his death, followed by his journals and letters. A selection of his poems in Punjabi, Inkar, was published in Lahore in 1997. His poems have been translated in many languages including other Indian languages, Nepali and English.

Quotes about Pash

"The best known name in the Left and progressive movements in modern Punjabi literature, Pash followed an old Punjabi tradition of fighting against oppression and it was almost as if he was a reincarnation of one of the renowned Punjabi freedom fighters.""He took the banner of the Naxalite movement to actively participate in radical politics that landed him in jail for a couple of years on a trumped up murder charge, and finally got him brutally murdered in broad daylight at the age of 38."

"The intensity of his passion gave some of the best revolutionary poetry to modern Punjabi literature and an alternative to the romantic poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, whom he had admired as a teenager and then challenged by confronting him personally and in writing, creating a fascinating legend of the clash of two major schools of thoughts of Punjabi poetry.""Paash, a famous revolutionary cultural poet combated communal terrorism through the anti-47 Front. Paash fought till the last breadth against the terrorists, till he fell to their bullets in Jalandhar in 1988."

Samartha Vashishtha says in his essay "Politics in Poetry"--"I'd perhaps have accepted the logic put forward by the veteran writer without doubt, had I not spotted earlier a glaring paradox right in his camp. I translate below part of the prefatory note that Paash (1950-1989), one of the leading poets of the Jujharu (rebel) era of Punjabi poetry; and arguably one of the finest poets (pro-people, should I say?) of the 20th Century, wrote for his third book of poems Saade Samiyaan Vich (In Our Times), 1978: "Of those whose poetry has influenced me the most, Kamala Das is still alive. Kalidas left for heaven long back. As for now, I would like to thank Kamala Das. Neruda and Nazim belong to our own camp. So no need to thank them at all."

"Because when they strike it can be that quick that if they're within range, you're dead, you're dead in your tracks. And his head weighs more than my body so it's WHACK!" - Steve Irwin.


Mainu Chahiday Han Kujh Bol

Two and Two Three

The Most Dangerous


No, I Am Not Losing My Sleep

The Most Dangerous Thing

Everyone Doesn't Have The Propensity To Dream

After emergency was imposed

In a meeting of mourning







Early Gursikhs: Bhai Gurdas Ji

As we cannot think of Rama without Hanuman, of Krishna without Arjan, of Buddha without Ananda, of Jesus Christ without St. Paul so we cannot separate Guru Arjan from Bhai Gurdas. One was the spring, the other was the stream to carry spring waters. Bhai Gurdas. remained in close association with third, fourth, fifth and sixth Gurus from 1579 to 1637 for 58 years.

Bhai Gurdas is one of the most eminent personalities in the history of Sikh religion. He was a brilliant scholar and poet and rendered im perishable service to Sikhism. He was so much devoted to his cause-that he never married. His humility was so great that though he-wrote the Adi Granth at the dictation of Guru Arjan, and included therein sayings of many Hindu and Muslim saints, and was the Guru's maternal uncle, yet he declined to include in it his own compositions-which were of a high order, for the simple reason that he did not like to raise himself to the position of bhaktas. Guru Amar Das's father was Tej Bhan. Tej Bhan's brother was Chandra Bhan. His son was Ishwar Das. Bhai Gurdas was his son. His mother was Jiwani. Thus Gurdas was a nephew of Guru Amar Das.

He was born in 1551 AD, twelve years after Guru Nanak's death. He was thus the first cousin of Bibi Bhani, daughter of Guru Amar Das, wife of Guru Ram Das and mother of Guru Arjan. His parents belonged to village Basarke, but they migrated to Goindwal, the head quarters of Guru Amar Das. It was here that Gurdas took birth. His parents had embraced Sikh religion. As a child Gurdas attended sangats or congregations. He possessed a sweet and melodious voice,-and enthusiastically participated in singing hymns. He developed great love and affection for the Gurus' teachings. He picked up Gurmukhi and learnt by heart Gurbani or the Gurus' hymns, prayers, and chants. He seldom missed any divine service.

In 1567 Guru Amar Das got a baoli or a well with stairs dug up at Goindwal. On the Baisakhi day a great fair was held there which was attended by all the Sikhs. Gurdas as a lad of sixteen served in this festival and entertained the congregations with his songs and recitations. Guru Amar Das had established twenty-two manjis or dioceses each under a sangatia. The most important and distant diocese at Agra, then capital of the Mughal Empire in India, was assigned to him. At this time Akbar was the Emperor. Hindi and Sanskrit were flourishing. Goswami Tulsidas had just composed his immortal Ramayana called Ramcharitmanas. The most celebrated musician Tansen was living at Akbar's court. Gurdas made the most of his opportunity. He learnt Brajbhasha, Sanskrit and many ragas or musical metres after the style of Tansen and composed poetry.

In 1605 Emperor Akbar on a visit to Lahore stayed at Batala.

Prithi Mal with the help of local Mughal officials complained to the Emperor against Guru Arjan saying that he had abused Hinduism and Islam therein. The Emperor called for the Granth. It was sent under custody of Bhai Budha and Bhai Gurdas. Akbar asked Bhai Gurdas to read at a certain place. At the first place it said:

Khak nur karand alam duniyai
[God reduces worldly pedagogues to dust]

The Emperor pointed to a hymn on another page. It stated:
Allah agam Khudai bande
[God is eternal and men are his creation]

Akbar now asked his clerk, Munshi Sarb Dayal, who knew Gurmukhi, to read the Granth from another place. It said:
Koi bole Ram Ram koi Khuda
[Some call Him Ram, others Khuda.]

The Emperor was pleased. He made an offering of 51 gold mohars to the Granth, and awarded robes of honour to its two bearers with another khilat for the Guru.

Bhai Gurdas composed thirtynine Vars and 556 Kabits. In Vars I and XI he gives a short account of Guru Nanak. In Kabit no.345 he tells us that Guru Nanak obtained divine light about his mission in life on Kartik full moon day:

Kartik masi rut sarad puranmashi
ath jam sath ghari aj ten ban hai.
[It is the month of Kartik, weather is cool, full moon day of eight jams (24 hours), sixty gharis (24 hours) (is over); it is your turn today (to obtain divine knowledge).

About mixing people of all castes and creeds in sangats and pangats on the basis of social equality Bhai Gurdas has given a fine example. A green betel leaf with a coating of white lime and brown katha, when chewed produces a bright red colour giving fragrance to breath and beauty to lips. Similarly the Guru's teachings dissolved all caste differ ences and produced a homogeneous society of the Sikhs.

Bhai Gurdas further says:
Do good even to bad people like the tree that gives fruit even to those who throw stones at it. Gurdas praises such persons as sacri fice for others and who are happy by serving others.

Bhai Gurdas, who never married, died on Bhadon suds 5,1693 13k/25 August 1636 in Goindwal at the age of 86. He mentions Mardana, Daulat Khan Lodi and others, but there is no reference to Bhai Bala. The house of Bhai Gurdas containing a well and his smadhi were situated behind the residence of Guru Hargobind at Amritsar.

Bhai Gurdas as a Sikh Historian:
Bhai Gurdas has documented the Sikh history in his writings and has solved some of the historical riddles about Guru Nanak Dev’s visit to Mecca, Medina, and other parts of the world:

Fir Baba gaya Baghdad no bahar jae kiya asthana |
Ek Baba Akal roop, dooja rababi Mardana |

Then Baba (Guru Nanak Dev Ji) went to Baghdad and camped outside the city. In addition to Baba Nanak, who was a Divine personality, Mardana, the musician also went along.

Bhai Gurdas’s Account of Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev:
Guru Arjan Dev was martyred as per orders of emperor Jahangir on May 30, 1606. Jahangir wrote in his Tuzak-i-Jahangiri only 20 days after the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev that he ordered his execution.

Bhai Gurdas had documented the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev as follows:

Rehnde Gur dariayo vich, meen kuleen het nirbani |
Darsan dekh patang jio(n) joti andar jot samani |
Sabad surat(i) liv mirg jio, bhirh payee chit avar na jani |
Gur Arjan vith(u) kurbani | (Bhai Gurdas, Var 24)

To achieve martyrdom, Guru Arjan Dev ji immersed in the God-like ocean like a fish. The Guru merged into the heavenly light like the moth that immolates itself after seeing the light. I sacrifice my life to Guru Arjan.






Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha: (1861 - 1938)

Bhai Kahn Singh was a celebrated scholar and encyclopaedist, born on August 30 1861 in a Dhillon Jatt family at the village of Sabaz Banera, in what then used to be the territory of the princely ruler of patiala. His father was Narain Singh and mother Har Kaur. Narain Singh was a man of saintly character and he succeeded to the charge of Gurdwara Dera Baba Ajapal Singh, at Nabha, after the death of his grandfather Sarup Singh in 1861. Kahn Singh was the eldest of three brothers and one sister.He did not go to any school or college, but was well-versed in various Indian languages, including Hindi, Braj Bhasha, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, English and of course, Punjabi. He was seeped in the Sikh lore and wrote the first definitive encyclopaedia in Punjabi, the Gurshabad Ratnakar Mahankosh, one of the earliest works of its kind.

Bhai KahnBhai Kahn Singh of Nabha was, indeed, one of the towering intellects of the 19th century, whose writings and actions left a deep impact on the region and the religion he belonged to. His imprint is to be seen in the literature he produced, as well as the actions of his student, Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha, who lead the reform movement among the Sikhs, sponsored the Anand Marriage Act and steered the legislation for the management of the Sikh Gurdwaras, which eventually lead to the formation of the SGPC.

Baba Narayan Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh’s father, was a landowner and a deeply religious man. Bhai Kahn Singh studied at home and then went to Delhi and to Lahore in 1883. Upon his return to Nabha, he served the Nabha State and in 1887 was appointed tutor to Tikka Ripudaman Singh, the heir apparent. Bhai Kahn Singh was given several administrative and judicial positions, such as the Maharaja's private secretary and a judge of the High Court. He also, served briefly in Patiala. He travelled to England thrice (in 1907, 1908 and 1909) to supervise legal matters for the Nabha State. Eventually, he resigned and devoted most of his time to writing.

A typical day in his life started very early, when, after prayers, he went for a long walk. After breakfast he would work till noon. A short siesta, and he worked again until late afternoon, then attending to visitors from various walks of life.

He spent 14 long years writing the Mahan Kosh which is a clear, succinct and wonderful exposition of the history, religion, culture and literature of the Punjab and the Sikhs. This reference book was published through the patronage of the Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala and is a standard reference text, still in print. It is considered an authentic interpretation of Sikh ethos.

An important facet of Bhai Kahn Singh’s life is his association with Max Arthur Macauliffe, who he met by fortuitous chance in 1885 in Rawalpindi. Bhai Kahn Singh explained the Guru Granth Sahib to the Englishman and also helped him with the research of his work, The Sikh Religion, which was published in six volumes by the prestigious Clarendon Press, an imprint of Oxford Press, in UK in 1907. Bhai Kahn Singh contributed to the book in various ways, and even accompanied Macauliffe to England. The author later transferred the copyright of his book to Bhai Kahn Singh.

Overall, the social situation in Punjab at that time was one in which excesses of the ruling classes had lead to decay in moral values. He and other reformers sought to reaffirm the uniqueness of the Sikh thought and it was in this spirit that Ham Hindu Nahin, a short booklet, was written in 1898. The title was provocative and it brought about quite a reaction, so much so that Bhai Kahn Singh eventually submitted a translation of the book in English to the British officials to clear the air.

Bhai Kahn Singh practiced what he preached. He advocated inter-caste marriages and his son’s marriage was such. His niece, a widow, was remarried, in accordance with his wishes. Overall, he lived the life of an erudite country squire. He lived in Nabha, where his great-grandson, Major A P Singh, resides now. He would retire to the hills of Solan and Simla in summers, and was also known as a good tennis player. He contributed financially and otherwise to the Khalsa College, Amritsar, and presided over the Sikh Educational Conference in 1931, a singular honour. In 1932, the British government gave him the title of Sardar Bahadur. In 1933, he was presented a sword by King Nadir Shah of Afghanistan, where he had gone for research.

Bhai Kahn Singh passed away on November 23, 1938, leving behind a rich legacy. Many generations have passed, but this extraordinary scholar still lives through his works.

Significant works:

Raj Dharam (1884)
Nanak Bhavarth Dipika 1888)
Ham Hindu Nahin (1898)
Gurmat Prabhakar (1898)
Gurmat Sudhakar (1899)
Guru Chand Divakar (1924)
Gur Sabad Alankar (1925)
Gur Gira Kasauti (1899)
Sharab Nikhedh (1907)
Gurushabad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh (1930)

Tikas or exegeses:

Jaimant Assamedh (1896)
Visnu Purana (1903)
Sadu and Chandi di Var (1935)

Posthumously published:

Gurmat Martand
(2 volumes) (1962)
Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha de Aprakshit Safarname (1984)




Bhai Vir Singh

Bhai Vir Singh (December 5, 1872, Amritsar, - June 10, 1957, Amritsar) was a poet, scholar and theologian and a major figure in the movement for the revival and renewal of Punjabi literary tradition. His contributions were so immense and significant that he came to be canonized as Bhai, the Brother of the Sikh Order, very early in his career. For his pioneering work in its several different genres, he is acknowledged as the creator of modern Punjabi literature.

Early life:

vir singhBorn in 1872, in Amritsar, Bhai Vir Singh was the eldest of Dr. Charan Singh's three sons. The family traced its ancestry to Diwan Kaura Mal, who rose to the position of vice-governor of Multan, under Nawab Mir Mu'ln ul-Mulk, with the title of Maharaja Bahadur. Hi grandfather, Baba Kahn Singh (1788-1878), spent his entire youth in monasteries at Haridwar and Amritsar, acquiring training in traditional Sikh learning. At the age of forty, he got married. Adept in Sanskrit and Braj as well as in the oriental systems of medicine (such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Yunani), Baba Kahn Singh passed on his interests to his only son, Dr. Charan Singh. Apart from being a Braj poet, Punjabi prose-writer, musicologist and lexicographer, Dr. Charan Singh took an active interest in the affairs of the Sikh community, then experiencing a new urge for restoration as well as for change.

In addition to this, Bhai Vir Singh's maternal grandfather, Giani Hazara Singh was a scion of a scholarly tradition that went back to the time of Guru Gobind Singh. He compiled a lexicon of the Guru Granth Sahib, and wrote a commentary on the Vars of Bhai Gurdas.

The Punjab at the time of Bhai Vir Singh's birth:

Bhai Vir Singh was the child of an age in ferment. The extinction of Sikh sovereignty in the Punjab, the decline in the fortunes of Sikh aristocracy, the gradual emergence of urban middle classes, the dissipation of the "national intellectual life" of the Punjab owing to the neglect and decay of indigenous education of the local people from their political destiny aroused among the Sikhs, a concern for survival and for redefining the boundaries of their faith. Further challenges arose in the shape of modernization, of Christian, Muslim and Hindu movements of proselytization and agnostic cults such as the Brahmo Samaj. Parallel to the foreboding about gradual absorption of Sikhism by the Hindu social order, emerged a powerful trend towards Braj classicism in the Sikh literary and scholarly tradition. Mythologization of the persons of the Sikh Gurus, mixing of fiction with historical fact and interweaving of Vedantic and Vaishnavite motifs into the essential Sikh teaching were its typical features. The response arose in Sikhism in the form of several movements: Nirankari(puritanism),Namdhari(militant Protestantism), Singh Sabha (revivalism and renaissance) and Panch Khalsa Diwan(aggressive fundamentalism).

Education and marriage:

Bhai Vir Singh had the benefit of both the traditional indigenous learning as well as of modern English education. He learnt Sikh scripture as well as Persian, Urdu and Sanskrit. He then joined the Church Mission School, Amritsar and took his matriculation examination in 1891. At school, the conversion of some of the students proved a crucial experience which strengthened his own religious conviction. From the Christian missionaries' emphasis on literary resources, he learnt how efficacious the written word could be as a means of informing and influencing a person's innermost being. Through his English courses, he acquired familiarity with modern literary forms, especially short lyric. While still at school, Bhai Vir Singh was married at the age of seventeen to Chatar Kaur, the daughter of Narain Singh of Amritsar.

Literary career:


Unlike the educated young men of his time, Bhai Vir Singh was not tempted by prospects of a career in government service. He chose the profession of a writer. A year after his passing the matriculation examination, he set up a lithograph press in collaboration with Bhai Wazir Singh, a friend of his father. As his first essays in the literary field, Bhai Vir Singh composed somc Geography textbooks for schools.


He was honored with the Sahitya Academy Award in 1955 and the Padam Bhushan Award in 1956.

Language as a means for preserving cultural identity
Bhai Vir Singh stressed that:

· The unique nature of Sikhism could be nourished and sustained by creating an awakening amongst the Sikhs of the awareness of their distinct theological and cultural identity.

· He aimed at reorienting the Sikhs' understanding of their faith in such a manner as to help them assimilate the different modernizing influences to their historical memory and cultural heritage.


Bhai Vir Singh began taking an active interest in the affairs of the Singh Sabha Movement. To promote its aims and objects, he launched the [[Khalsa Tract Society]] in 1894. The tracts produced by the Khalsa Tract Society introduced a down-to-earth literary Punjabi, remarkable for lightness of touch as well as for freshness of expression.

The Khalsa Tract Society periodically made available under the title Nirguniara, lowcost publications on Sikh theology, history and philosophy and on social and religious reform. Through this journal, Bhai Vir Singh established contact with an ever-expanding circle of readers. He used the Nirguniara as a vehicle for his own self expression. Some of his major creative works such as Sri Guru Nanak Chamatkar and Sri Guru Kalgidhar Chamatkar, were originally serialized in its columns.

In literature, Bhai Vir Singh started as a writer of romances which proved to be the forerunners of the Punjabi novel. His writings in this genre - Sundari (1898), Bijay Singh (1899), Satwant Kaur (published in two parts, I in 1900 and II in 1927), were aimed at recreating the heroic period (eighteenth century) of Sikh history. Through these novels he made available to his readers, models of courage, fortitude and human dignity.

The novel Subhagji da Sudhar Hathin Baba Naudh Singh, popularly known as Baba Naudh Singh (serialized in Nirguniara from 1907 onwards and published in book form in 1921) shares with the epic Rana Surat Singh (which he had started serializing in 1905), Bhai Vir Singh's fascination with the theme of a widow's desperate urge for a reunion with her dead husband.

Soon after the publication of Rana Surat Singh in book form in 1919, he turned to shorter poems and Lyrics. These includedDil Tarang(1920), Earel Tupke( 1921), Lahiran de Har (1921), Matak Hulare(1922), Bijlian de Har (1927) and Mere Salan Jio(1953). Through these works, he paved the way for the emergence of the Punjabi poem.

Even the first play written in Punjabi, Raja Lakhdata Singh (1910) came from the pen of Bhai Vir Singh.

In November 1899, he started a Punjabi weekly, the Khalsa Samachar. He revised and enlarged Giani Hazara Singh's dictionary, Sri Guru Granth Kosh, originally published in 1898. The revised version was published in 1927. He published critical editions of some of the old Sikh texts such as Sikhan di Bhagat Mala(1912), Prachin Panth Prakash(1914), Puratan Janam Sakhi(1926) and Sakhi Pothi(1950).

Monumental in size and scholarship was his annotation of Bhai Santokh Singh's magnum opus, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, published from 1927 to 1935 in fourteen volumes covering 6668 pages.


After Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, Bhai Vir Singh began work on what would prove to be his last project. This was a detailed commentary on the Guru Granth Sahib. He devoted himself unsparingly to the commentary, but it remained unfinished. A lifetime of unrelieved hard work and the weight of advancing years began to tell at last . In early 1957, signs of fatigue and weakness appeared. He was taken ill with a fever and died at his home in Amritsar on June 10, 1957. The portion of the commentary - nearly one half of the Holy Book - he had completed was published posthumously in seven large volumes.





Bulleh Shah (1680 - 1757)

Bulle ShahBulleh Shah (1680 – 1757), whose real name was Abdullah Shah, was a Punjabi Sufi poet and humanist. He is believed to have been born in the small village of Uch, Bahawalpur in 1680 in modern day Pakistan. His ancestors had migrated from Bukhara in modern Uzbekistan . At the age of six months, his parents relocated to Malakwal. There his father, Shah Muhammad Darwaish, was a preacher in the village mosque and a teacher. His father later got a job in Pandoke, about 50 miles southeast of Kasur. Bulleh Shah received his early schooling in Pandoke, and later moved to Kasur for higher education, to become a student of the prominent professor, Ghulam Murtaza. Baba Bulleh Shah was a direct descendant of Muhammad peace be upon him, through the progeny of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gillani of Baghdad.

A large amount of what is known about Bulleh Shah comes through legends, and is subjective; to the point that there isn’t even agreement among historians concerning his precise date and place of birth. Some "facts" about his life have been pieced together from his own writings. Other "facts" seem to have been passed down through oral traditions.

Bulleh Shah practiced the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry established by poets like Shah Hussain (1538 – 1599), Sultan Bahu (1629 – 1691), and Shah Sharaf (1640 – 1724).

Bulleh Shah lived in the same period as the famous Sindhi Sufi poet, Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai (1689 – 1752). His lifespan also overlapped with the legendary Punjabi poet Waris Shah (1722 – 1798), of Heer Ranjha fame, and the famous Sindhi Sufi poet Abdul Wahad (1739 – 1829), better known by his pen-name, Sachal Sarmast (“truth seeking leader of the intoxicated ones”). Amongst Urdu poets, Bulleh Shah lived a mere 400 miles from Mir Taqi Mir (1723 – 1810) of Agra.

Poetry Style:

The verse form Bulleh Shah primarily employed is called the Kafi (Refrain), a traditional style of Punjabi poetry used by Punjabi Sufis and Sikh gurus (such as Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh). In Bulleh's time, Sufi poets often did not adopt the classical languages of Persian and Urdu, instead choosing to write their verses in Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi – languages of the commonfolk amongst whom they lived. Although the number is disputed, Bulleh Shah is credited with authoring anywhere from 50 to 150 Kafi, 1 Athwara, 1 Baramah, 3 Siharfi, 49 Oeodh and 40 Gandhan. This appears to be a large body of work; however, this oeuvre is small enough that one could read it all in a few weeks.

What is most striking about Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy is his audacious critique of the religious orthodoxy of his day, particularly the Islamic religious orthodoxy. His poetry is filled with direct attacks on those worldly, fake religeous leaders who claim control over religion, to the point of comparing mullahs to barking dogs and crowing roosters.

Spiritual Purification:

Sufis typically spend their lives trying to penetrate the meaning of life while searching for God. Those among them who were poets articulated this exploration through their poetry. ‘Who is the Creator?’ ‘What is the truth?’ ‘What is the meaning of life?’ ‘How can one find God?’ ‘Who am I?’ These are some of the questions Sufis have tried to answer, by dissociating themselves from worldly activity, and moving onto a saintly field where they are no longer bound by conventionally interpreted holy or material boundaries.

Bulleh Shah studied Arabic, Persian and the Quran under his traditional teachers. After that, in an attempt to move to the next level (of mystic realization), he searched for a spiritual guide. Ultimately he found his murshid, in the form of Inayat Shah Qadri. Inayat Shah Qadri (or Shah Inayat, as he is referred to in Bulleh Shah’s poetry) was a Sufi of the Qadri order, who authored many Persian books on mysticism. He was from the Arain cast and grew vegetables to earn a living. Paradoxically, Bulleh Shah was of the much higher Syed caste. Yet, in defiance of tradition, Bulleh Shah accepted Shah Inayat as his spiritual master, and subordinated his life to his lower-caste murshid. Much of Bulleh Shah’s verses about love are addressed directly to his spiritual guide, Shah Inayat.


Despite being very critical of religion, Bulleh Shah does not denounce religion as a whole. Nor does he appear to be pushing any other structure of thought to supplant religious notions. His ideas, therefore, cannot be placed into the category of secularism or atheism.As he says...I take myself to be the beginning and the end....I do not recognize aught except the One. In reality, Bulleh Shah seems somewhat critical of all persons in authority - including intellectuals, academicians and jurists - who create obstacles and needless complexities for common people in discovering love, and through love, discovering God. Bulleh Shah preaches an uncomplicated conception of humanity, as the common connection through which persons of all faiths, creeds and opinions can attain a superior and more pure existence, eventually coming closer to God.


Bulleh Shah’s writings represent him as a humanist, someone providing solutions to the sociological problems of the world around him as he lives through it, describing the turbulence his motherland of Punjab is passing through, while concurrently searching for God. His poetry highlights his mystical spiritual voyage through the four stages of Sufism: Shariat (Islamic Law), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth-Essence) and Marfat (Union or God knowledge). The simplicity with which Bulleh Shah has been able to address the complex fundamental issues of life and humanity is a large part of his appeal. Thus, many people have put his kafis to music, from humble street-singers to renowned Sufi singers like the Waddali Brothers and Abida Parveen, from the synthesized techno qawwali remixes of UK-based Asian artists to the rock band Junoon.

Bulleh Shah’s popularity stretches uniformly across Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, to the point that much of the written material about this Muslim thinker is from Hindu and Sikh authors.

A Beacon of Peace:

Baba Bulleh Shah's time was marked with communal strife between Muslims and Sikhs. But in that age Baba Bulleh Shah was a beacon of hope and peace for the citizens of Punjab. While Bulleh Shah was in Pandoke, Muslims killed a young Sikh man who was riding through their village in retaliation for murder of some Muslims by Sikhs. Baba Bulleh Shah denounced the murder of an innocent Sikh and was censured by the mullas and muftis of Pandoke. Bulleh Shah maintained that violence was not the answer to violence.

Bulleh Shah also hailed Guru Tegh Bahadur as a ghazi (Islamic term for a religious warrior) and incurred the wrath of the mullas. In one of his poems, he also writes "I don't talk of here and there, I will say the truth only; Had there not been Guru Gobind Singh all the Hinds would have got circumcision" in reference to not what the Sikhs did for the Hindus, but against oppresion and tyranny.

Banda Singh Bairagi was a contemporary of Bulleh Shah. In retaliation for the murder of Guru Gobind Singh's two sons by Aurangzeb, he sought revenge by killing common Muslims. Baba Bulleh Shah tried to convince Banda Singh Bairagi to renounce his campaign of revenge. Bulleh Shah told him that the same sword which fell upon Guru Gobind Singh's sons and innocent Sikhs also fell upon innocent Muslims. Hence killing innocent Muslim was not the answer to Aurangzeb's reign of oppression.





Dhani Ram Chatrik

Dhani Ram Chatrik (October 4, 1876–December 18, 1954) is considered the founder of modern Punjabi poetry.

He worked all his life to lift the status of the Punjabi language. He was the founding president of Punjabi Sabha (a Punjabi Literary Society). He worked relentlessly to get Punjabi its due status amongst people as well as government.

He was the first person to standardize the type set for Gurmukhi script, publish Guru Granth Sahib and Bhai Kahn Singh’s Mahan Kosh, the first Punjabi dictionary by using modern technique at his Sudarshan Printing Press.

Dhani Ram ChatrikHe was a highly creative writer. He used his composing skills to experiment with different genres of Punjabi. He used simple and fresh vocabulary. His use of metaphor, tone, and style were easy to understand by the masses. It was more a descriptive or Qissa style. This refreshing style is evident from the following lines depicting peasantry written in narrative style:

Toorhi tand saamb haarhi vech watt ke
Lambrhaan ‘te shaahaan da hisaab katt ke
Kachhe maar vanjhli anand chhaa gya
Maarda damaame jatt mele aa gya

His creations Himala, Ganga, Rat are well known. Another one of his poems, Kora Qadir, where we hear his passionate cry against the divisions of humanity through diversity of creed is as follows:

Let us bury caste and creed,
Let us erase this sorrow indeed,
You a Sayyid, I a Brahmin,
Let us finish this foolish din.
We have to bear each other, say
We are not here for eternal stay,
Let there be laughter in our meeting,
Let our hearts be one this evening

He has been called "Punjab’s greatest lyricist and poet". In 1988, Surinder Singh Narula published a book in his honour called "Dhani Ram Chatrik, Publisher: Sahitya-Akademi". Punjabi University Patyala honoured Chatrik by dedicating their annual diary to him.

Partial bibliography:

· Chatrik authored Fullan Di Tokri (1904)

· Bharthri Hari Bikramajit (1905)

· Nal Dmaayanti (1906)

· Chandan Varhi

· Dharmvir (1912)

· Chandanwari (1931)

· Kesar Kiari ( 1940)

· Nawan Jahan (1942)

· Noor Jahan Badshahbe (1944)

· Sufikhana (1950)




Jaswant Neki

Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki (born in village of Murid, District of Jhelum (now in present-day Pakistan), on 27th August, 1925) is a leading Sikh Scholar, poet and former Director of PGI, Chandigarh.

His father was S. Hari Gulab Singh and his mother was Smt. Sita Wanti. When he was still an infant, his parents moved to Quetta in (Baluchistan) in present-day [Pakistan].


It was in Quetta that he joined Khalsa High School whence he matriculated in 1941 secring the highest marks in entire Baluchistan and setting up a new record. He joined Forman Christian College, Lahore, for his premedical studies.

There he enjoyed two merit scholarships - one granted by the University and the other by the college. In his FSc (Medical) exam, he stood second in the university.

Medical Education and Service:

Jaswant Neki

For his graduate course in medicine and surgery, he joined King Edward Medical College, Lahore. There too he received a merit scholarship granted by the Govt. of Baluchistan.

In 1947 when the country was partitioned, he left Lahore and joined Medical College, Amritsar, where he completed his medical studies to graduate in 1949.He worked first as a House Physician , then as Asstt. Registrar, and then as a Demonstrator in Medical College, Amritsar , with a short stint, in between, as Demonstrator in Christian Medical College, Ludhiana. While teaching there, he passed his MA (Psychology) exam as a teacher candidate from Aligarh Muslim University, securing First Division and first position in the University. He passed his DPM exam from All-India Institute of Mental Health, Bangalore, and Mysore University, in 1958 with double distinction and setting up a new record. Thus he qualified as a psychiatrist.

Marriage and children:

In 1955, he married Kanwerjit, the eldest daughter of his own Professor, Lt. Col. Dr. Gurbuxsh Singh.

Professional Career:

As a psychiatrist, rising through the ranks, he became Prof. & Head of Psychiatry Department at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and occupied that chair for about a decade (1968-1978). Then he was appointed Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh where he spent three years (1978-1981). From there, he was picked up by the World Health Organization, Geneva, as a consultant for a project in Africa where he served for over four years (1981-1985). He came back home in 1985, and since then has been engaged in private practice. In between, he had a short engagement with the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse (South-East Asia).

Currently, he is Chairman of the Board of Consultants constituted by the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee for setting up of an Institute of Medical Sciences. In 1989, he received Kohli Memorial Award for being the Best Professional of the Year.

Literary Activities:

He is a well-recognized metaphysical poet in Punjabi who has contributed ten volumes of original verse. His opus magnum is his autobiography in verse. He also writes powerful, inspiring prose as evidenced by his books Achetan di Leela, Meri Sahitak Swaijeevani and Ardas. He has won several prestigious awards in literature. These include: Sahitya Akademy Award, Asan Memorial Award, Shiromani Sahitkar Award (Languages Deptt.), Sarvotam Sahitkar Award (Punjabi Akademy, Delhi), Bhai Vir Singh Award, KS Dhaliwal Award, Puran Singh Memorial Award. Guru Nanak Dev University conferred on him PhD honorous causa for his contribution to literature. He has been a member of the jury (Punjabi) for Sahitya Akademy Awards and member of the Advisory Committee (Punjabi) for Jnan Peeth Award. He is one of the past Chairmen of Punjabi Akademy, Chandigarh.

Currently, he is the Honorary General Secretary of Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi.





Asle te Ohle

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Punjabi Poetry


Eh Mere Sanse Eh Mere Geet

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Punjabi Poetry


Simrati de Kiran Ton Pehlan

Navyug Publishers, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Karuna Di Chuh Ton Magron

Navyug Publishers, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Pratibimban De Sarovar'chon

Punjabi Writers Coopoerative, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Na Eh Geet Na Birharha

Navyug Publishers, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Birkhe Heth Sabh Jant

Navyug Publishers, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Ardas: Darshan Roop Te Abhiaas

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Sikh Religion


Paani Wich Patase

Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi

Punjabi Poetry (Rhymes for Children)


Geet Mera Sohila Tera

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Punjabi Poetry


Meri Sahitik Sve Jivanee

Punjabi University, Patiala

Literary Autobiography


Vishav Ardas

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Punjabi Poetry (World Prayers)


Achetan Di Leela

Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar



Koi Naon Na Jaane Mera

Singh Brothers, Amritsar

Punjabi Poetry (Autobiography)


Spiritual Heritage of Punjab

Guru Nank Dev University, Amritsar



Pilgrimage to Hemkunt


Spiritual Travelogue


Sungad Abnoos Di

ARSEE Publishers, Delhi

Punjabi Poetry


Prophet of Devotion

SATVIC Media Pvt. Ltd., Amritsar

Life & Teachingsof Sri Guru Angad Dev


My Ardas & My Gurus' Bani

SNP Panpac Pte Ltd, Singapore

Ardas, Japji Sahib, Rahiras and Sohila for Children


Divine Intimations - Nitnem

Hemkunt Publishers, New Delhi

Banis Japji Sahib, Jap Sahib, Sawayyas, Rehras Sahib, Sohila Sahib and Ardas


Guru Granth Sahib and Its Context

Bhai Vir Singh Sahitay Sadan

Essays on different aspects of Guru Granth Sahib






Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Shiv Kumar: (born July 23, 1936 in Bara Pind Lohtian (Shakargarh tehsil), Punjab [now Pakistan], died May 7, 1973 in Kir Mangyal (Pathankot), Punjab in India) was a Punjabi poet.


Early Childhood:

Shiv Batalvi

Shiv's father was a Patwari (a collector) by the name of Pandit Krishan Gopal. After the partitionof India, his family moved to Batala from Pakistan. As a child Shiv is said to have been fascinated by birds and rugged, thorny plants on the Punjabi landscape. Shiv was exposed to the 'ramlila' (a dramatised version of Hindu mythological epic) at an early age, and it is to be expected that he received what was later to become his instinctive understanding of drama from these early performances. Shiv belonged to a middle-class family. By all accounts, Shiv had a happy and carefree childhood. He was known for his peculiar habit of wandering around in the village and its surroundings alone. Many times his father would have to search for him, finding him lying down under the trees at the banks of Bassantar nala, local irrigation canal or near a mandir (temple) on the south side of the village. At other times he would be found watching with fascination the tricks of snake charmers or absorbed in listening to the singings of raas-daharis (a folk verse-play based on religious songs). Even today, the old folks in the village remember that ‘patwari's son’ was known as a sheedai (obsessed) and a malang (wanderer).



Shiv passed his matriculate exams in 1953, from Punjab University. He went on to enrol in the F.Sc. programme at Baring Union Christian College in Batala. Before completing his degree he moved to S.N. College, Qadian into their Arts program. It is here that he began to sing ghazals and songs for his classmates. Shiv never undertook the final exams he needed to pass to receive his degree.


Personal life:

He met a girl named Meena at a fair in Baijnath, near the town of Jammu in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. When he went to look for her in her hometown, he heard the news of her death and wrote his eulogy Meena. This episode was to prefigure numerous other partings that would serve as material to distill into poems. Perhaps the most celebrated episode is his fascination for Gurbaksh Singh's daughter who left for the US and married someone else. When he heard of the birth of her first child, Shiv wrote 'Main ek Shikra Yaar Banaya' (I have befriended a wild fowl), perhaps his most famous love poem. It's said that when she had her second child, someone asked Shiv whether he would write another poem. Shiv replied 'Have I become responsible for her? Am I to write a poem on her every time she gives birth to a child?' Sounds much better in Punjabi (Main ohdaa theka leya hoyaa? Oho bacche banayi jave tey main ohdey tey kavita banayi javan?).

Shiv's wife Aruna was a Brahmin from Kir Mangyal in district Gurdaspur of Punjab. By all accounts they had a happy marriage: they had two children, son Meharbaan (b. Apr. 12, 1968) and daughter Puja (b. Sep. 23, 1969) whom Shiv loved immensely.

By 1968 he had moved to Chandigarh, but both Batala and Chandigarh became soul-less in his opinion. Chandigarh brought him fame, but scathing criticism as well. Shiv replied with an article titled 'My Hostile Critics'. Meanwhile his epilepsy worsened and he had a serious attack while at a store in Chandigarh's sector 22....

Both children are in Patiala these days living a happy married life.


Shiv Kumar In Bombay:

In the early 1970s Shiv came to Bombay for a literary conference. In keeping with Shiv's outrageous behaviour there is a story about his trip to Bombay. Part of the conference involved readings at Shanmukhananda hall. After a few people had read their work (one of whom was Meena Kumari), Shiv got on the stage and began "Almost everyone today has begun to consider themselves a poet, each and every person off the streets is writing ghazals". By the time he had finished with his diatribe, there was not a sound in the hall. This is when he began to read Ek kuri jeeda naam mohabbat. gum hai, gum hai....(This song has been sung recently by Rabbi Shergill in his Album Bulla Ki Jana.) There wasn't a sound when he finished either.

Encouraged by his friends, Shiv went to Bombay and try out in film-industry. He was not born for that, he found that out real fast. He could not write poetry to suit the scenes in the movies, he was born to write from his heart, from his inner voices, and he returned to Punjab.


Shiv Kumar-A Mystical Master Of Words:

Shiv's phenomenal approach towards the meaning of solitude makes him stand at the top of all those poets who have ever described loneliness. Shiv as the traditional poetical phenomenon was born out of the literary conjugation (kalmi sanjog) of Amrita Pritam and Professor Mohan Singh, to whom he appropriately dedicated his most important creation, Birha Toon Sultan(which means Separation thou art The King). Both Amrita Pritam and Professor Mohan had personally suffered in their respective love lives on account of circumstances beyond their control. In their romanticism therefore, a personal tinge of desperation was inevitable. Punjabi character is far more emotional, both in happiness as well as sadness, than all other peoples of the Indian subcontinent. To succeed as a poet, therefore, one must succeed in making people cry as well as bursting into hilarious laughter with the flow of the lines. In contradiction to Amrita Pritam and Mohan Singh, Shiv therefore, developed the most superb art of recitation. He will be long remembered, like Waris Shah, for this emotional rendering of whatever he wrote. I was deeply impressed by his exposition of this vivid magic in the very first poem that he gave at our house - -"Kee Puchhdey 'O Haal Fakeeraan Da" (What art thou inquiring of a sage?). This rendering had the touch of Sehgal's voice.


Poetic Journey of A Bohemian:

Shiv Kumar was a born poet who migrated from the poetic region of Sialkot to Batala at the most miserable moment of human history. "It was the Independence of the sub-continent in 1947 - the dreadful, painful, horrible, miserable, devastating, slaughtering and marauding phenomenon, which bisected the trouble stricken North India." The pangs of separation are recurrent themes of this great lyricist of the land. He has been hailed as one of the greatest poets of all times.

Shiv Batalavi was a poet and a singer. He presented his poetry by reciting it himself. As a singer, he was discovered by and then introduced to the poetic stage by Dalip Singh, Deputy Director, Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala, at one of the Kavi Darbars the department would organize in different parts of Punjab, in early 1960s while Shiv was a student in F.Sc. He would accompany Dalip Singh, whom he addressed as "Bhaji" (Brother), to these Kavi Darbars and earned popularity in short span of time. His book "Dard Mandaan Dian Aanhin" published in 1964 by Darbar Publishing House, Amritsar is dedicated to the friendship of Dalip Singh, and has a collection of 27 poems. During eulogy at his funeral, Shiv was compared with 'Waris Shah' by Dalip Singh and Bishan Singh Samundari, then Vice Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Shiv was not just a poet of a few dozen popular poems nor was his poetry limited to a couple of topics. He was a very versatile poet of many different styles and a wide range of subjects. Throughout his brief poetic career, his poetry shows a continuous progression from the early pangs of birha (pain of separation from one's lover) to increasingly complex emotions and different reactions to his inner sufferings and towards society at large. His sense of his own identity also went through many changes. He travelled a great distance from his first collection of poems Peeran Da Paraga [A Handful of Pains], published 1960, to his last major work Maein Tey Maein [Me and Myself], published 1970.

Following is a brief survey of his published poetry:Peeran Da Paraga (A Handful of Pains) (1960). Shiv’s first published collection of poetry, consisting of 25 poems. It includes poems that he had written between 1957 and 1960 expressing pain and sorrow of separation and his desire for death. It includes some of his early popular poems.

1. Lajwanti (1961). Within a single year after the publication of his first collection of poetry, Shiv appeared to have arrived at a level of maturity that was not as prominent in his earlier poetry. This collection has some remarkable poems on many different subjects. In all of his poetry, there are certain subjects that he has touched upon once, writing a memorable poem on it, and then never coming back to the same subject. In this collection, Sheesho, an exceptionally beautiful and comparatively long poem, falls in that category. Shiv’s description of the exploitation of a poor village girl by the rich landowner is remarkable both for its poetic qualities and for Shiv’s heart-rending pity and compassion about the poor girl’s plight.

2. Aatte Deeyan Chiriaan (1962). This collection is quite different from the previous two collections, both in matter as well as in its various themes. Shiv experimented with different themes under a dominant mood of sensuous feelings. He also returned to the topic of birha in Shikra (A wild fowl) and couple of other poems. Once again, there are poems in this collection that display his wide versatility of subjects, including various themes that are limited to single poems, i.e., Hijra (Eunuch) and Zakham (A Wound). Shiv also further experimented in some poems by writing them in the prevalent style of expressing post-modern consciousness. Shiv was awarded the first prize from the Language Department of Punjab University for this collection.

3. Mainu Vidaa Karo (1963). This is another collection of songs full of symbols of death and pain of separation that he expressed in different forms, including the bemoanings of a love-lorn girl addressed to her father in Dharmee Babula. Once again demonstrating his exceptional talent of interweaving Punjab’s culture in this poems.

4. Dard Mandaan Dian Hanian (1964). This is a small book of 27 poems and songs Shiv compiled and dedicated to his close friend, whom he considered his elder brother, Dalip Singh. It was published by Darbar Publishing House, Amritsar.

5. Birhaa Toon Sultan (1964). Shiv compiled most of his work into a book with 111 of his best known poems and dedicated this book to Amrita Pritam and Professor Mohan Singh. It was published by Lok Sahit Parkashan, Amritsar.

6. Loonaa (1965). Shiv was awarded the Sahitya Academy award for this book in 1967, and this epic-like verse-play is considered by many of Shiv’s critics as his most significant literary achievement. Loonaa not only added a new dimension to the versatility of Shiv’s poetry; it also recast, to some degree, Shiv’s entire corpus in a new light. In particular, the profound and perceptive empathy of women’s emotions and feelings as victims of social inequity and injustice that Shiv portrayed in Loonaa, allows a deeper understanding of Shiv’s concept of love and gender-relations in his poetry than the stereotype of women as the poet’s self-centred object of desire. Similarly, the masterful use of imagery that set the tone and atmosphere of each of the eight acts of the verse-play, helps to highlight Shiv’s superb poetic techniques and equally expert use of imagery in his other poems. In Loonaa, Shiv reworked the theme of Puran Bhagat, a mythical folklore of Punjab about the implications of marrying a young girl with an old man. In the traditional story the young wife is depicted as an evil villain in her relationship with the grown-up son of her king husband from his first marriage. Shiv wrote his poem from the perspective of injustice to the young wife. He altogether changed Loonaa's character: rather than repeating the traditional portrayal of a wicked, lustful and cruel woman, he challenged the male-dominated society to reconsider their norms and moral values by making Loonaa a sympathetic character. Shiv presented a remarkably incisive and insightful appreciation of womens' sufferings in a patriarchy and exposed its moral values as the tools that force women to sacrifice their individuality to fit in various roles assigned to them. Reading the deliberate politics of the monarchical discourse in the legend, Shiv presented it from a woman’s point of view. More importantly, Shiv rejected the glorification of patriarchal assignment of women’s roles and instead forcefully brought out Loonaa's individuality. "Shiv Kumar … views her sexual subjugation and deprivation as a basic injustice to her and cause of her suffering. He vindicates the veracity of her Being by asserting her right to choose and by condemning her deprivation in marriage - through her own voice. In Loonaa, body is not merely a site of sexual desire but her humanity asserted through valuing and articulating the needs of her body and condemning their deprivation in marriage. The play is a strong assertion of a woman’s sexuality which has been ignored, abused, repressed or mythologized (as passive) in patriarchy." [source?] Shiv used strong sensual imagery to highlight Loonaa’s individual feelings. She repeatedly refers to herself as “fire,” “fire maiden” or "women-fire".

7. Maein Tey Maein(1970). The last major work of Shiv - is a long poem of seventy-five pages with a unique style of conception as well as execution, in modern Punjabi poetry. Psychological background is the operative here, as Shiv himself mentions "The legend in this poem is not mine, nor is its truth my truth...whatever is mine in the truth of this legend is the truth of my being not of my person. Its psychological background is only a phenomenon of the intellectual and moral scepticism of the present generation. The truth of the hero of this poem is a protest against the false and hollow moral values of today. It is the revolt of modern man's disintegrated personality against the death of his true being". The poet describes his birth as the result of his mother's sexual hunger even when she is an unmarried woman. This hunger is sunk deep in the being of every woman. The poet questions the very fine nuances of morality as understood in very gross terms by a common man of today. Maein tey Maein makes one realize as why this is the last major work of Shiv - he has given his blood to its words and didn't care to save even one drop for his own physical life.


Waris Shah (1722-1798)


Waris Shah

Syed Waris Shah was a Punjabi poet, best-known for his seminal work Heer Ranjha, based on the traditional folk tale of Heer and her lover Ranjha. Heer is considered one of the quintessential works of classical Punjabi literature. The story of Heer was also put to paper by several other writers, including Damodar Daas, Mukbal, and Ahmed Gujjar, but Waris Shah's version is by far the most popular today.

Syed Waris Shah was born into a reputed Syed family in the village of Jandiala Sher Khan, district of Sheikhupura, Punjab in or around 1706 A.D. His father's name was Gulshar Shah. Waris Shah acknowledged himself as a disciple of Pir Makhdum of Kasur. Waris Shah's parents are said to have died when he was in his early years and he probably received his education at the shrine of his preceptor. After completing his education in Kasur, he shifted his residence to Malkahans. Here, he resided in a small room, adjacent to a historic mosque. Waris Shah died in or around 1798 A.D. when he was around 92 years of age. His mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage today, especially for those in love.


He was a consummate artiste, deeply learned in Islamic and domestic cultural lore. His verse is a treasure-trove of Punjabi phrases, idioms and sayings. His minute and realistic depiction of each detail of Punjabi life and the political situation in the 1700s, remains unique. Waris Shah also sublimated his own unrequited love for a girl (Bhag Bhari) in writing romance. The amazing poetic mould that he worked within has not been bettered by any of his successors till date.


Excerpt from Heer Waris Shah:


The following is the opening line from Waris Shah's rendering of Heer :

Awal hamad khuda da vird karye
Ishq kita su jag da mool mian
Pehlan aap hi rabb ne ishq kita
Te mashooq he nabi rasool mian

Translation: "First of all let us acknowledge God (who is self-evident), who has made love the worth of the world Sir,
It was God Himself that first loved, and the prophet (Muhammad (SW)) is His beloved Sir."