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Bahadur Shah Zafar's Punjabi Connection


May 11, 2010
Ancient Greece
Punjabi poetry traces its origin from the hymns of Naath-Jogis, the wandering renunciates and the likes of Baba Farid, whose poetry gave a new dimension to this great language. Not only in the Punjab, but elsewhere in the subcontinent too, Punjabi has always been seen with a sense of respect.

In Sindh, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689 – 1752), Sachal Sarmast (1739–1829) and many other Sufis wrote in Punjabi in addition to their native Sindhi. In the Urdu literature of Gujarat-Kathiawad and the Deccani Urdu, the hues of Punjabi can be clearly seen. The poets belonging to the Delhi and Lucknow schools of Urdu too considered it an honour to versify Sheyrs in Punjabi. Those prominent among them are Saadat Yaar Khan Rangeen, Mirza Muhammad Rafi 'Sauda' (1713–1781), and even more interestingly, the last Indian Mughal King, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Bahadur Shah got poetry in his heritage. He possessed a great amount of knowledge about Punjabi language and the Punjabi literary tradition. So much so, he was even aware of the famous Punjabi folk-songs and folk-stories, and sometimes used to pen his poems in pure Punjabi himself. In his Urdu poems too, he frequently mentions the Punjabi qissa of Heer-Ranjha as an example of unparalleled love.

De nishaani ab to chhala apne seedhe haath ka,
Kahaane-gul Ranjha bhi ta ae Heer seedhe haath ka.
ਅੱਖਾਂ ਅਸਾਡੀਆਂ ਢੂੰਢਣ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ,
ਹਾਏ ਉਹ ਕਿੱਥੇ ਲੋਕ ਗਏ,
ਜਿਨ ਕੀ ਨਿਗਾਹ ਸੋਂ ਪਿਆਰੇ,
ਗੱਲਾਂ ਲਗਦੀਆਂ ਦਿਲ ਨੂੰ ਭਲੀਆਂ।

Akhaan asadiyaan dhoondan ohna nu,
haye oh kithe log gaye,
jin ki nigaah son pyaare,
gallan lagdi din nu bhaliyaan
One explanation of such heavy influences in this Sheyr can be that Non-Punjabi scribes, while copying his Punjabi verses, tried to put an Urdu touch to these verses or could not copy them with full justice, and the Punjabi original became obscure in character. The last word on this will probably never be heard. But still, the Punjabi element in these can well be judged.

At another place in the appreciation of his spiritual mentor, Hazrat Fakhruddin Dehlavi, Zafar has cast a Punjabi verse using pure Punjabi metre,

ਲੱਖਾਂ ਪੱਤੀਆਂ, ਲੱਖ ਚੱਕੀ,
ਲੱਖ ਲੱਖ ਥੱਕ ਗਈ ਬਾਤ,
ਪਹੁੰਚੇ ਯਾ ਨਾ ਪਹੁੰਚੇ,
ਇਹੀ ਕਿਤੋਂ ਪੁੱਛਾਂ ਬਾਤ,
ਦੋ ਦਿਬਾਨ ਸੇ ਏਕ ਪਰਚਾ,
ਲਿਖਕੇ ਭਿਜਵਾਤੇ ਮੈਂ।

Lakhaan pattiyan lakh chaki,
Lakh lakh thak gyi baat,
Pahunche hai ya na pahunche,
Ehi keehton puchhan baat,
Do dibaan se aik parcha,
Likh ke bhijvate main.
In another of his famous poems, Punjabi flavour shows its colour in a subtle manner,

Jin gallin main pehle dekhe,
logan ki rang raliyan thi,
phir dekha to un logaan bin,
khaali padi woh galiyaan thi.
The Punjabi connection of Zafar's poetry is a matter of serious research, but still, even to the lay reader, his knowledge of the Punjabi folk-tradition and Punjabi language is very evident, and that too, in more than one way.

Bahadur Shah Zafar (Urdu: بہادر شاہ دوم‎)(24 October 1775 – 7 November 1862), was the last Mughal emperor and a member of the Timurid Dynasty. He used Zafar, a part of his name, meaning “victory”, for his nom de plume as an Urdu poet, and he wrote many Urdu ghazals under it. After his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British tried and then exiled him from Delhi and sent him to Rangoon in then-British-controlled Desi. (Source: )


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