Bulleh Shah

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Bulleh Shah
An artistic depiction of Bulleh Shah
Born 1680 CE
Uch, Punjab
Died 1757 CE
Kasur, Punjab
Honored in Pakistan
Influences Shah Hussain, Sultan Bahu, Shah Sharaf
Influenced Countless Sufi poets
Tradition/Genre Kafi

Bulleh Shah, sometimes Bulla(h) Shah (1680–1757) (Punjabi: بلہے شاہ) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, humanist and philosopher. His full name was Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri[1]


A large amount of what is believed to be 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 information about his life has been pieced together from his own writings. Other "facts" seem to have been passed down through oral traditions.

Bulleh Shah is believed to have been born in 1680 in the small village of Uch, Punjab in modern Pakistan.[2] His father, Shah Muhammad Darwaish, was a teacher and preacher in a village mosque. Like most of the Sufis of Punjab his ancestors had migrated from Greater Khorasan region and settled in Punjab.

When he was six months old, his parents relocated to Malakwal. His father later got a job in Pandoke[disambiguation needed], about 50 miles south-east of Kasur. Bulleh Shah received his early schooling in Pandoke and moved to Kasur for higher education. He also received education from Hadrat Makhdoom Khwaja Syed Hafiz Ghulam Murtaza Daim ul-Hazoori. His spiritual teacher was the Qadiri Sufi Shah Inayat Qadiri, who was a member of the Arain tribe of Lahore.

Bulleh Shah's time was marked with communal strife between Muslims and Sikhs. But in that age Baba Bulleh Shah was a saint 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 Mullahs and Muftis of Pandoke. Bulleh Shah maintained that violence was not the answer

Bulleh Shah died in 1757 in Kasur.[3] Tradition has it that Islamic scholars of the time forbade local Imams to carry out Bulleh Shah's funeral, considering him an heretic. However, after he was buried outside of the city, his tomb started attracting thousands of pilgrims from the region, and soon the center of Kasur moved to that place. Today, a large festival (urs) is celebrated at the tomb every year.

Bulleh Shah's shrine in Kasur, Punjab, Pakistan


Bulleh Shah lived in the same period as the Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai (1689–1752). His lifespan also overlapped with the Punjabi poet Waris Shah (1722–1798), of Heer Ranjha fame, and the Sindhi Sufi poet Abdul Wahab (1739–1829), better known by his pen name Sachal Sarmast. Amongst Urdu poets, Bulleh Shah lived 400 miles away from Mir Taqi Mir (1723–1810) of Agra.

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).

The verse form Bulleh Shah primarily employed is called the Kafi, a style of Punjabi, Sindhi and Saraiki poetry.

Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy has never questioned the Islamic religious orthodoxy of his day but he did used sometimes metaphors to express his frustration towards the rigidity of Muslim clerics of his times.

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 (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union). 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 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pathanay Khan, Abida Parveen, the Waddali Brothers and Sain Zahoor, from the synthesized techno qawwali remixes of UK-based Asian artists to the Pakistani rock band Junoon.

Modern renderings[edit]

In the 1990s Junoon, a rock band from Pakistan, rendered his poems Bullah Ki Jaana and Aleph (Ilmon Bas Kareen O Yaar). In 2004, Rabbi Shergill turned the abstruse metaphysical poem Bullah Ki Jaana into a rock/fusion song that gained popularity in India and Pakistan.[4][5] The Wadali Bandhu, a Punjabi Sufi group from India, have also released a version of Bullah Ki Jaana in their album Aa Mil Yaar... Call of the Beloved. Another version was performed by Lakhwinder Wadali and entitled Bullah. Dama Dam Mast Qalandar, a qawwali composed in honour of Shahbaz Qalandar, has been one of Bulleh Shah's most popular poems and has been frequently rendered by many Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi singers including Noor Jehan, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Sabri Brothers, Wadali brothers, Reshman, Runa Laila, and Arieb Azhar. Other qawwali song by Shah, include Sade Vehre Aya Kar and Mera Piya Ghar Aaya.

Bulleh Shah's verses like Tere Ishq Nachaya have also been adapted and used in Bollywood film songs including Chaiyya Chaiyya and Thayya Thayya in the 1998 film Dil Se.., and "Ranjha Ranjha" in the 2010 film Raavan. Released in 2004, Rabbi Shergill's debut album Rabbi featured Bulla Ki Jana; the song was a chart-topper in 2005, helping the album to eventually sell over 100,00 copies. The 2007 Pakistani movie Khuda Kay Liye includes Bulleh Shah's poetry in the song Bandeya Ho. The 2008 film A Wednesday, included a song titled Bulle Shah, O Yaar Mere. In 2009, the first episode of the second season of Pakistan's Coke Studio featured Aik Alif performed by Sain Zahoor and Noori, while a year later, the first episode of the third season featured Na Raindee Hai and Makke Gayaan Gal Mukdi Nahi performed by Arieb Azhar. In 2013, Rabbi Shergill performed his composition of Bulla Ki Jana (originally released on his debut album in 2004) at the Hum TV Awards in Karachi, Pakistan.

Bulleh Shah's verses have been an inspiration to painters as well, as in the two series of paintings (Jogia Dhoop and Shah Shabad) by an Indian painter Geeta Vadhera inspired by the poetry of Bulleh Shah and other Sufi poets and saints. Recently"Chal Bulhya" song is being incorporated into Indian Movie "Total Siyapa 2014" starring Ali Zafar.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bulleh Shah: the love-intoxicated iconoclast, by J. R. Puri, Tilaka Raj Shangri. Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1986
  • Great Sufi Poets of The Punjab, by R. M. Chopra, Iran Society, Kolkata, 1999.

See also[edit]

Works online[edit]


  1. ^ The Life of Bulleh Shah
  2. ^ Bulleh Shah Biography
  3. ^ "Bulleh Shah". Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Zeeshan Jawed (4 June 2005). "Soundscape for the soul". Calcutta: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  5. ^ Bageshree S. (26 March 2005). "Urban balladeer". The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 

External links[edit]