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Lajwanti Rama Karishna
May 18th, 2008
4.5 / 5 (8 Votes)


Punjabi poetry has its own charm. Its language is more archaic than Hindi or Urdu; its imagery is drawn from country life and simple crafts. One might make a comparison with the Provencal poetry of Southern France. Provencal also is more old-fashioned than French; its poetry belongs to the countryside, to the farm, and tiny market town, and is instinct with a simplicity and sincerity that is rare in the more classical language. Panjabi poetry sings mainly of Love and God. By the Sufis these two themes are interwoven, as is explained in the Introduction.

This book presents us with studies of a series of Sufi poets of the Punjab who wrote in the Punjabi language. They begin with the second of the fifteenth century and end with the nineteenth. In this period of some four centuries we find half a dozen famous saints beginning with Farid, twelfth in spiritual succession from Shakar Ganj of Pak Patan, and leading on to several others not so well known. The greatest of them all was Bullhe Shah (1650- 1758).

For these studies Miss L. Rama Krishna has ransacked a great mass of material,—manu scri pts, printed poems, oral traditions, and such few essays as have been published on any of these poets.

The historical evidence she has handled cautiously and she arrives at very reasonable conclusions.

By a judicious selection of extracts, carefully transliterated and rendered in a literal but pleasing translation, the author brings out the main characteristics of each poet in turn, both as regards verse and style and as regards the doctrine or mystery he teaches. They vary from the orthodox, with a strong spiritual urge towards mysticism, to the lees orthodox and to those who so far transcend the barriers between sects and creeds that they can hardly be designated by the conventional man-made labels.

The history of the Punjab during these four centuries has seen many storms and also peaceful interludes. These vicissitudes are reflected in the Sufi poets though faintly. Yet for the comprehension of the period an understanding of this religious development is of great importance.

In Punjabi poetry the Beloved is a man and the Lover who seeks him is a woman. So in the Sufi sense Heer is the soul that seeks and Ranjha represents the Divine Beloved.

In this book Truth is the ideal pursued along the dusty tracks of research by a Punjabi woman.

A. C. Woolner


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