Shah Hussain (1538–1599) was a Punjabi Sufi poet who is regarded as a Sufi saint. He was the son of Sheikh Usman, a weaver, and belonged to the Dhudha clan of Rajputs. He was born in Lahore (present-day Pakistan). He is considered a pioneer of the Kafi form of Punjabi poetry.
Shah Hussain's love to a Brahmin boy called "Madho" or "Madho Lal" is famous, and they are often referred to as a single person with the composite name of "Madho Lal Hussain". Madho's tomb lies next to Hussain's in the shrine.
His tomb and shrine is located at the Baghbanpura precincts, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens Lahore, Pakistan. His Urs (annual death anniversary) is celebrated at his shrine every year during the "Mela Chiraghan" ("Festival of Lights").
Kafis of Shah Hussain
Hussain's poetry consists entirely of short poems known as Kafis. A typical Hussain Kafi contains a refrain and some rhymed lines. The number of rhymed lines is usually between four and ten. Only occasionally is a longer form adopted. Hussain's Kafis are also composed for, and have been set to, music deriving from Punjabi folk music. Many of his Kafis are part of the traditional Qawwali repertoire. His poems have been performed as songs by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Junoon (band) and Noor Jehan, among others.
Here are three examples, which draw on the love story of Heer Ranjha:
Ni Mai menoon Khedeyan di gal naa aakh
Ranjhan mera, main Ranjhan di,
Khedeyan noon koodi jhak
Lok janey Heer kamli hoi,
Heeray da var chak
Do not talk of the Khedas to me, mother.
I belong to Ranjha and he belongs to me.
And the Khedas dream idle dreams.
Let the people say, "Heer is crazy;
she has given herself to a cowherd."
Sajjan bin raatan hoiyan whadiyaan
Ranjha jogi, main jogiani, kamli kar kar sadiyaan
Maas jhurey jhur pinjer hoya, kadken lagiyaan haddiyaan
Main ayani niyoonh ki janan, birhon tannawan gadiyaan
Kahe Husain faqeer sain da, larr tere main lagiyaan
The nights are long without my beloved.
Since Ranjha became a jogi, I have scarcely been my old self; people everywhere call me crazy.
My young flesh is all wrinkled, my bones are a creaking skeleton.
I was too young to understand love; and now as the nights swell and merge into each other,
I play host to that unkind guest - separation.
Main vi jaanaan jhok Ranjhan di, naal mere koi challey
Pairan paindi, mintaan kardi, jaanaan tan peya ukkaley
Neen vi dhoonghi, tilla purana, sheehan ney pattan malley
Ranjhan yaar tabeeb sadhendha, main tan dard awalley
Kahe Hussain faqeer namana, sain sunedha ghalley
I have to go to Ranjha's hut, will someone go with me?
I have begged many to accompany me, but I had to set out alone.
The river is deep, and the shaky bridge creaks.
I am tortured by my wounds, but Ranjha my beloved is the doctor who can cure them.
Only my beloved can bring me comfort.
Two Kafis that are addressed to his converted Hindu disciple Madho Lal Hussain need a special mention:
Madho Lal! Piyaare ki parwaasa dam da?
Udeyaa bhor theyaa pardesi aggey raah agam da!
Jinhaan saada shauh rijhaaya tinha nu bhow jam da?
Aakhey Hussain faqeer nimaana chhaddiye sareer bhasam da!
Madho Lal! My dear what is this trust on life?
You fly out in the morning and become a stranger, to take on an unknown road!
Those that have pleased our Master in this life do they have to fear death which is the hereafter?
Says Hussain the pride less mendicant, cast off this body of ashes!
Ve Madho! Main wadda theyaa badnaam!
Raati pi ke dukh da piyaala tureyaa suwairon shaam!
Ki aakhaan main ki si peeti? Loki dassan haraam!
Kaafar aakhan saarey mainoon laawan sabh ilzaam!
Mukh fairan sabh maidey wallon naal kaddan dushnaam!
Rowey Hussain maidey Saain nu Madho chheti pej salaam!
O Madho! I have been greatly defamed!
After drinking last night from my cup of sorrows, I have wandered from morning till evening.
What can I say that I had drunk of? People say it was the forbidden wine!
All here call me an infidel and accuse me of transgression!
They turn back their faces from me and abuse me!
Wails Hussain O Madho fast send my prayer to my Master!
- Lal, Mohan. (2006) Encyclopaedia of Indian literature. Vol. 5, Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, p. 3940. ISBN 81-260-1221-8
- Great Sufi Poets of The Punjab, by R. M. Chopra, Iran Society, Kolkata, 1999.
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