Bulleh Shah

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Bulleh Shah
An artistic depiction of Bulleh Shah
Born 1680
Uch, Multan Subah, Mughal Empire, (now Punjab, Pakistan)
Died 1757 (aged 77)
Kasur, Bhangi Misl, Sikh Confederacy (now Punjab, Pakistan)
Major shrine Kasur, Punjab, Pakistan
Influences Shah Hussain, Sultan Bahu, Shah Sharaf
Influenced Countless Sufi poets
Tradition or genre

Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri[1] (Punjabi: سید عبداللہ شاہ قادری) (Shahmukhi), ਸਈਅਦ ਅਬਦੁੱਲਾ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਕਾਦਰੀ (Gurmukhi); 1680–1757) popularly known as Bulleh Shah (بلھے شاہ (Shahmukhi); ਬੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਸ਼ਾਹ (Gurumukhi)), was a Punjabi humanist and philosopher. His first spiritual teacher was Shah Inayat Qadiri, a Sufi murshid of Lahore. Bulleh Shah gathered spiritual treasures under the guidance of his murshid and was known for the karamat (miraculous powers) he had.


Bulleh Shah lived after the Pashto Sufi poet Rahman Baba (1653–1711) and lived in the same period as Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (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 practised 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 the Kafi, popular in Punjabi (Saraiki) and Sindhi poetry.

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.

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 synthesised 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 in his debut album Rabbi; the song was a chart-topper in 2005, helping the album to eventually sell over 10,000 copies and became immensely popular in India and Pakistan.[2][3] 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. The 2007 Pakistani movie Khuda Kay Liye includes Bulleh Shah's poetry in the song Bandeya Ho. The 2008 Bollywood 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 2012, Bulleh Shah's poetry was featured in Coke Studio again, with Hadiqa Kiani performing "Kamlee".[4][5] The 2016 Bollywood film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil features a song titles Bulleya, sung by Amit Mishra, which is short for Bulleh Shah. In 2016 Coke Studio Pakistan (season 9), Bulleh Shah's poetry was featured again, with Ahmed Jahanzeb and Umair Jaswal performing "Khaki Banda"[6] and Rizwan Butt and Sara Haider performing "Meri Meri".[7]

Also in 2016, a collaboration between two EDM artists(Headhunterz and Skytech) named "Kundalini" used words created by Bulle Shah, as well as having the words Bulle Shah in the lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8zB7QKU87c

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.

See also[edit]


  • Great Sufi Poets of the Punjab by R. M. Chopra (1999), Iran Society, Calcutta.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Works online[edit]