Shah Latif and His Message - G. M. Syed
All Rights Reserved to Sain Publishers Sehwan Sharif,, Sindh ©
Chapter 4
The Sindh of Shah Latif's Imagination

In the last chapter, we have discussed Shah Latif in the capacity of tie national poet of Sindh. In this chapter we shall try to discover the limit and scope of Sindh as it was conceived by Shah Latif; are its geographical boundaries the same which consist of the present province of Sindh, or they were wider, and what exactly were its geographical boundaries in the past

It would be advisable that we try to explain this situation by discovering the boundaries of Sindh through the poetry of Shah Latif. The picture of Sindhi which ho must have conceived and the freedom, prosperity and progress which must have been the subject of his dreams.

Since time immemorial the valley of Sindh is known by the name of Sindh, for this very reason most of the historians have considered Sindh and Hind (India) quite separate from each other. For more than 1500 years Sindh has been divided into parts; the first, its northern part in which are included undivided Punjab, Hazara and Dera Ismail Khan, the districts of the Frontier Province, and it came to be called by the name of Punjab and the second, the Southern part, which consists of the parts from Multan, Junagarh, Jalsalmir and the central region of Makran. This entire territory came to be known as Sindh. When the Arabs invaded the country, they also viewed all this territory as the country of Sindh. Although later there had been different rulers in different parts of Sindh, there never had been one government in the entire country of Sindh for a long time. However there had been a state of mutual relationship between the people and cultural harmony continued to exist. Thus in the South of Sindh even today Multani and Sindhi languages are not considered much different from each other.

Quite a large number of Hindus and Muslims appear to have made their home in the present province of Sindh after migrating from Multan, Bahawalpur, Muzaffar Garh and Dera Ghazi Khan. Among the people of Sindh people belonging to the Chang, Leghari, Bhargari, Mari, Talpur, Zardari, Jalbani, Lashar, Brahamani and Nizamani tribes settled here after migrating from Dera Ghazi Khan. It is due to this reason that even the language spoken in their homes is Saraiki, from Northern Sindh (the language of the northern end of Sindh). Similarly Solangi, Nol and Merasi tribes appear to have come from Bahawalpur, and it is said that the ancestors of Hindu tribe Lahana came from Multan and settled here.

Shah Latif appears to have visited Multan during his travels. On one occasion, he also brought tiles in boats for the mausoleum of Shah Abdul Karim of Bullary. Many singers associated with Shah Latif used to sing in Saraiki language. The love story of Sohni and Maeenwal belongs to the region of present Punjab. But specially projecting these characters in his poetry, holding musical gatherings where he made the singers present songs related to the stories of Heer Ranjha, the subject of the work of other poets, even to the extent that this music constituted a part of the manuscript of his collected work in poetry and the mention of the Sikh religious guides and the Hindu saints In the Hindi Sur Bairag Is an obvious evidence that Shah Latif has not disregarded this part of Sindh.

One can see that from the lingual point of view, since the ancient times, Sindh has been divided into four parts. One is 'Saroo" in which Saraiki form of language is spoken. This region extended from Multan, Bahawalpur, Muzaffar Garh and Dera Ghazi Khan to the District of Sukkur. The other is the central region of Sindh, where Sindhi language was spoken, which extended from Sukkur to the present region of Kachh. The third part consisted upon Kalat, Lasbela, Makran and lower region of Sibbi in Baluchistan, where Sindhi language was spoken along with Baluchi and the fourth part consisted upon Kachh, Kathiawar and Jaisalmir regions, where Kachhi, Kathiawari and Marwari languages were spoken along with Sindhi. But the people of all these regions were closely associated and freely intermingled with each other. Their history, folklore, customs and traditions have a marked similarity with each other, and their traditional relationships at every level were close and deep. Consequently from lingual and geographical viewpoint we can see an exact picture of all the romantic tales and social systems of these regions in the poetry of Shah Latif. For example, the romantic tale of Sassi and Punnu associated with Makran has been presented in the various musical tunes characteristic of 'Sassi'. In this context, Shah Latif expresses himself in the following manner:

My heart is deeply moved by the caravan from Kech Makran: the very dust of it inspires respect. How fortunate shall I consider myself to be the part of this caravan.
And then he says at another place:
What a great distance stretches between me and my beloved, I shall seek guidance from the Holy Prophet
(P.B.U.H). I pray Allah to reveal his face to me.

In the same manner, he expresses his feelings in the praise of the generosity of the Nawab (ruler) Sapar of Lasbela:

Spiritual blessings or acts are not bounden to the people of one particular color or tribe. Only Nawab Sapar can serve the needs of the poor and the destitute. No one even feels any discomfort who enjoys the hospitality of the Nawab.
Then at another place he speaks thus about the Nawab:
Nawab Sapar sent for the poor and the destitute when he found them in wretched state. Their hopes were revived when they heard his voice.
Shah Latif also had great affection for the region of Kachh and this is how he expressed his feelings about its Rajas (rulers).
The Lakha Phulani tribe has no equal. Even those who live in the protection of well fortified castles stand in fear of him and the people of Jareja tribe are overwhelmed by its fear even in their dreams.

He says at another place:

The Raja of Bhuj, riding his horse has arrived at the seat of a pious man. Who would ever like to live in Kachh where Lakha lives.
For a long time, the people of Jareja tribe have been ruling Kachh and one of their famous chiefs was Lakhu Phulani. Lakhi is the name of Lakhu Phulani's well-known mare, which Shah Latif describes in the following manner:
It is well Lakha and Lakhi (Lakha's mare), thus reliving some of their fears and anxieties. But the youth of Rebari tribe still live here.

The poetry of Shah Latif is sung in greater part of Kachh even today. Among the provinces of Kathiawar, Shah Latif has especially commemorated Juna Garh in musical tunes of Suratth. He mentions the tales of Bejal and Rai Diach in the following manner:

There came in Juna Garh a man of remarkable musical talent, who possessed an excellent capacity to please through his music. The entire city was ecstatic when he played upon his instrument. The court ladies were struck with wonder and Ranis (Queen) lost control of their senses. Such was the magic effect of his music.

He describes the same incident at another place:

A musician has arrived in the palace who has built a magical harmony with his instrument. He says that he would take away the head of the Raja and all the people in the palace will be mourning and Juna Garh will be razed to the ground.

The tale of Momal and Rana belongs to the region of Jaisalmer. There was a village named Ladhoro in the neighborhood of Jaisalmir, which later came to be known as Ludhano. Now it is quite deserted and river Kaak flows through it. It was on the bank of this river that Momal ordered his palatial house to be built: "Dhas" Ludhana and Kaak were the villages belonging to this region and Shah Latif has mentioned these places in his poetry:

Leaving Broria, the palace of Momal, they are wandering with the hope of meeting again.
Momal says that:
Many arrive here with the determination to settle here. But it is Rana who has won my heart.
Momal speaking to her friends says:
My friends, when all had gone into deep sleep, my beloved Sodey said something in the middle of the night which if revealed to you, you will find no rest in your sleep.

Then he says:

The eyes of Momal are arrows of steel, with which she destroys the Rajas (the rulers). Go and be a witness to the many victims of Momal's love, whose graves are on the banks of Kaak.
Oh my beloved, do not leave me (Momal) alone in Kaak, although I suffer from many weaknesses.
In the same manner Shah Latif has especially included the names of Harho Jabal, Pale Jabal, Hinglah, Wender, Jao, Hab, Kalat, Purbander, Jaisalmir and Bekanir in his poetry, which can give us an idea about the regions in which the territory of Sindh extended as he had conceived it. And then praying for the prosperity of this extensive territory of Sindh, he says:
Oh my God, I beseech your blessing and mercy forever on Sindh. Bless it with prosperity and its land be green and fertile.

Shah Latif's poetry is replete with the sentiments of patriotism and the land for the prosperity of which he prays is Sindh. Hearing about the variety of tales of Sindh, he has projected their characters in his poetry. The tragedy of Karbela had become known throughout the world, it was not possible for the Sufis (mystics), and saints to remain dissociated from it. But it is also evident that Shah Latif has not made any story outside Sindh the theme of his poetry. To completely focus his attention on his homeland was most befitting for his poetic imagination and his thought:

We should remain deeply associated with our countrymen. One can never imagine strangers and aliens to be our friends.
He further expresses himself in the following manner:
The strangers will always act as strangers. They never can have love and sympathy for the wretched people of Sindh.

The people of this vast homeland of Sindh have been wandering from one place to another because of unceasing changes in the condition of the country. The ancestors of the Memons of Kachh and Juna Garh were the inhabitants of present Sindh and due to the changing times, they were constrained to migrate to their present region of habitation. However, at this time quite a large number among them had returned to their ancestral homes. In this manner quite a large number of forefathers of Hindus who had settled in the Kandla Bandar region of Kachh after migrating from there had come back and settled here again.

In his poetry, Shah Latif has mentioned Sindh by various names; for example he calls it 'Watan' (the homeland), Mahi and sometimes Loy and has called its people by the names of Warehja, Maro, Sanghaar, Sen and Mutt.

The sentiment of patriotism and the spirit of nationalism was so deep-rooted in the character of Shah Latif, that he held the huts and the humble dwelling in the desert and the simple dress of the people much dearer than the bungalows, the palaces, the gardens and rich garments or the aliens and considered tasteless, unappetizing and colorless dishes of his own people much superior to delicious appetizing and colorful food of the strangers. He does not bemoan the backwardness, weakness and slavish condition of the people of Sindh, but looks at their semi-nomadic culture with great sense of pride rather than looking at them with contempt. He believes that these conditions will never continue to remain forever. That day is bound to come when they will live a life of freedom and prosperity. Therefore, he counsels the people of Sindh to keep their traditions alive as long as they live a life of backwardness and slavery. This is a special distinction of your tribe that it maintains its national pride under all kinds of trials and tribulations. Therefore, he addresses Marvi in the following words:

You will not remain a prisoner in the fort for long. Be aware, you don't give up your self-respect and dignity, which is the source of pride for your tribe. Marvi do not be disheartened by sufferings in the prison. Maintain your honor, the time will soon change. You will be free and come back amongst your people with honor.

In his poetry, Shah Latif has given expression to his dreams of a revolution, breaking of the chains of slavery and a beginning of a period of prosperity in the country:

Addressing Umer he says, that the day of festivities for you is the day of mourning for him. His people are no more familiar with the moment of joy. They have embraced martyrdom for the love of their country.

At another place, Shah Latif expresses himself in the following manner:

Oh my Allah! I am afraid I shall die in this prison. My body confined with chains loves for freedom. I shall have lived a full life, if I am united with my people after my freedom.

Those who analyze Shah Latif's poetry from the point of view or mysticism they consider Marvi symbolizing soul, Umer human desires, Malir the valley of Oneness of Allah and Umer Kot, desires and greed of the world of matter and assert that through the use of these metaphors by narrating the story of the reality of the soul and the ultimate end Shah Latif has comprehensively interpreted the idea that "everything returns to its origin".

In my opinion, it would be doing less than justice would, if we confined ourselves to interpreting his poetry in this limited way. Shah Latif has spent his entire life in association with the people, equally sharing their suffering and privation. It is therefore not possible that his poetry should remain devoid of the expression of these vital sentiments. This fact is also evident that for many years he remained associated with Makhdoom Muhammad Moeen Bilawal, the disciple of Shah Waliulluh. For long, he also continued to enjoy his relationship with Shah Inayat Sufi. Similarly he also remained attached to the school of mysticism of Makhdoom Bilawal, and the political faith of all these celebrated personalities of the spiritual domain is recorded in history. It was inevitable that their teachings should deeply influence Shah Latif. So whenever Shah Latif mentioned his homeland in his poetry, it would not be wrong to say that by this homeland he definitely means "Sindhu Desh"

Shah Latif was not merely a monk. In politics, he was a staunch advocate of the idea of patriotism. He had a distinct conception about Sindh, and the boundaries of Sindh according to his view could be the following.

In the North, parts of the Jaisalmir state a major portion of Bahawalpur State, Dera Ghazi Khan, and the northern region.

In the West, the region of Baluchistan extending upto Sibbi, the present Kalat, Lasbela and Makran.

In the south, the state of Kachh, Junagarh and a part of Kathiawar.

In the East, Kathiawar, and a part of the Jodhpur State.

In my opinion, the territory comprising all these regions constitutes the land of Sindh in the opinion of Shah Latif; and be expressed himself in the rhythm of music in his poetry about its freedom and prosperity.

Acknowledgment  | Saeen G. M. Syed Home Page | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | World Sindhi Congress