Punjabi Poetics / Bani Baba Farid.
Dr. Sutinder Singh Noor
Going through the Punjabi poetics, when we take up Baba Farid’s Bani, it becomes necessary to examine its lingual concept from a different point of view. The lingual concept does not mean here “in how chaste and common man’s language this Bani has been written”. The lingual concept means here as to how Farid Bani builds the paradigm of relationships and how this paradigm develops in Gurbani. Farid Bani develops affinity with Gurbani because of this paradigm. How the main symbols get reflected in Gurbani can be found in such lines of Nanakbani as are the representative examples thereof –
Mundh rain duheladiya jio neend na awai.
Sa dhan dubliya jio pir kai bhavai.
Dhan thiyee dubal kant havai
kev naini dekhiyai.
Seegar mith ras bhog bhojai
sabh jhooth kitai na lekhiyai.
SGGS, p. 242
(Separated from her spouse, she cannot sleep. She gets weak suffering the pangs of separation. Thus weakened, she laments and yearns how to see him. For her, all the pleasures, and make-up, delicious food, seem to be of no avail and of no consequence).
Man-woman, and in the context of society, husband and wife are the mainstay of the universe; they are the root of the reality of language. The relationship developing between them becomes a link with culture or civilization. Recognition of symbols spread over in different cultures and the process of their symbolization and their getting moulded into poetry can be possible only by having an understanding of this paradigm. Therefore, going into the Punjabi poetics, it is essential to understand its distinct nature.
Man never found himself in such a situation during the development of civilization when his eyes did not open towards the universe or nature. He always had been in need of establishing and defining a relationship with the universe or nature. In a single process civilization and nature get tied up in a mutually complementay bond. Because of this complementary bond, consciously or unconsciously, folklore, myth, relgion, and lieterature are created. We’ll try to understand, through the symbols of social relationships, this complement of civilization and nature.
In the Punjabi thought process, the period before the medieval times, is that of directly living through the pauranic or mythical concepts. The consciousness developed with regard to human relationships from the social angle is also present there but the complementarity or taking into its clasp or consciousness the universal approach indicated above, as understood by turning the relationships into emotional experiences, is seen particularly in Baba Farid’s Bani for the first time in the new Punjabi poetic diction.
Myth had been accepted consciously or unconsciously at one layer as a tale and at another layer as a social or moral process by the Punjabis as a whole or the Indians (it is so in other civilizations also), but in the medieval times, when the concept of Formless Brahm (Khuda, Allah, or Waheguru) was propagated the writers and the people too begin to look for a language through which their transcendental and far reaching experiences could be expressed. From the communication angle, which can be an easier language for communication than the social relationships and rites and usages prevalanent in a culture, it needs to be linked with its process of metamorphism. These relationships and rituals are peculiar to all cultures. Therefore, their language too is distinct.
A glance through Baba Farid’s Bani would show that these relationships and rituals seem to be part of the chain of the human history. Let’s begin with these salokas –
Jit diharai dhan vari, sahai laye likhaye.
Malak je kanni suninda, muhe dekhalai aiye.
Jind nimani kadhiai, haddan koo kadkaiye.
Sahai likhai na chalni, jindoo koo samjhaiye.
Jind vahuti maran var, lai jasi parnaiye.
Apan hathi jole kai, kai gal lagai dhaye. (SGGS, p.1377)
(When a woman is to be married, wedding date is fixed. The god of death, we hear about, shows his face. The life is wrung out by shaking the bones (structure). That the pre-determined time (of the life span) cannot be changed, should be fully understood. Life is the bride and death, the groom who would marry her and take her away. You have seen, Farid, others dying like this. Who can then be approached for solace?)
It starts with dhan (woman) and the date of her marriage, of becoming a bride, and ends with ‘apni hathi jole kai’.These symbols, in accordance with the Punjabi culture, in these relationship/rituals – the malak (yama) and maran (death)- are to be moulded into a new communication system. Metamorphosis is conscious. It is necessary to pay attention to the poetic aesthetics of this process. On the one hand is saha (date of marriage), var (the groom), vahuti (the bride), prahuna (the guest or bridegroom) are all connected with the living time, with which is connected the flow of human history in the cultural form, and on the other, ‘malak’ and ‘maran’ (yama and death) are connected to that concept of death with which the end of human time is linked: both these contradictions are complementary to each other. Because of this, the poetic power of these lines is taking birth.
To have a full assessment of such a language in Faridbani, we can build a paradigm from his salokas in regard to the relationships/rituals and their images/symbols.
‘Farida, je janaan till thoddai, samhal buk bhari.
Je janaan sahu nandhda taan thoda maan kari.4. (SGGS, p.1378
(Had I known that the life span (the number of breaths) was limited I should have spent it judiciously.
Had I known my spouse was so young and short in stature, I should not have become proud (of my height).
Je janaan lad chhijna, peedi payeen gandh.
Tai jevad main nahi ko, sabj jag ditha hand.5. (SGGS p.1378)
(Had I known the loose end of knot would get pulled off so soon, I would have tied it tightly. For me no one is like Thee, I have seen this for myself in this wide world.)
Nhati dhoti sambhio, sutti aiye nachind.
Farida rahi su bedi hing di gayee kathoori gandh.33. (SGGS,1379)
(After taking bath and perfuming her boy She went to sleep caring for none. Sayeth Farid, she remained like asfoetida (stinking) And the musk perfume had gone. (One without true love for God has been likened to an arrogant woman whose make-up and finery serve no purpose as she does not care for her spouse and remains unloved))
Aj na sutti kant sio ang mudai mud jaiye.
Jaiey puchhahu dohagini tum kyon rain vihaiye.30. (SGGS, 1379
I have not slept with my spouse today and my limbs are twitching. I’ll go to enquire from those who fail to be loved by their spouses, how do they spend their nights.
(A day missed without daily prayers and devotional union, makes a true devotee uncomfortable)
Dhundeyiai suhag koo tau tan kayee kore
Jinha nao suhagini tina jhak na hore.114 (SGGS, 114)
(Ye looking for the spouse must have something lacking. Because those who are loved by their Lord do not look elsewhere.)
Sahurai dhoyee na lahai, paiyiai nahi thao.
Pir vatdi na puchhyee dhan sohagani nao.31. (SGGS, 1379)
(Not welcome at spouse’s place nor is she kept by her parents. Her spouse doesn’t care for her. Still she calls herself a happily wedded one. (A person not devoting himself to Him has been likened to such a clever but wayward woman)
Ja kuari ta chao vivahi ta mamlai.
Farida eiho pachhotao vatt kauri na thiyai. 63 (SGGS, p.1381
(When a virgin, she was so keen to be married and when married, she has to face all the problems. She repents day and night, but she can’t be a virgin again.)
(The so called devotee, whose mind is not in devotion but in wordly pursuits, has been likened to such a woman who, though married, wants to be a virgin again)
After ‘dhan vari’ (the girl is married) the ‘var’ (spouse) comes and the ritual of sesam is performed by holding the sesams in her cupped hands, but the spouse is so young in the context of the entire relationship and she fears lest the loose end of garment (uniting her with the spouse) should wear out. When this fear begins to assume the form of reality, the married woman, though bathed and made up,remains asleep. Without sleeping with the spouse, her limbs twirl and ache and a question arises in her mind as to how those not loved by their spouses spend their nights? The spouse does not care, nor is she shown due regard in the parental house. When she was a virgin she was so eager to get married, and when married, she had to face all the problems. She laments having become an unloved one.
It appears from this simple paradigm that Baba Farid is writing a purely social or cultural poetry, which speaks mostly of making and unmaking of human relationships, wherein the married woman is the centre. But when he talks of ‘loved one/unloved one’, the ‘contra-combine’ gets metamorphosised and we enter into the experience of a different world; from form to formless, but at the poetic level this assumes complementary state.
Through this process we reach the poetic style of Baba Farid, and the message of Bani/its communication. Being an unloved one, the relationship with the husband is broken, with husband’s family is broken, and with the parental family is also broken. All these relationships were within the social framework and in the context of complmentarity of culture-nature, breaking relationship with one, the balance with others too gets upset:
Farida rut phiri van kambya,
pat jharahe jhar pahe.
Char-e kundaan dhoondhiaan,
rehan kithaho nahe. (SGGS,1383)
(The seasnon has changed, the forest is shaken, the leaves are falling. I look around in all the four directions, but find no place to stay.)
After arriving at such a metamorphosis, we can easily efface the myth of contrariness and get into a combined experience/consciousness. Here does begin to unfold before us the communication methodology employed in Bani. The moral aspect permeating in Farid Bani becomes subject of our study at this point of time. ‘Rehan kithaoo nahe’ (No place to live) is the question which does not remain confined only to relationships, but the bigger problems of human existence begin to confront us.
In this way the language of human relationships in Punjabi culture/rituals used in Faridbani does not seem to show us only such forms but it creates initial problems for its identification in the Punjabi poetics. Identifying the Punjab Poetics in such a way, the problems of Bani-writing can be discussed in greater details.