‘HEER’ OF WARIS SHAH
THE MUSICAL RENDERINGS
by Nayyar Hashmey
Influence of Heer Rañjha, the love story of the pre-modern Punjabi folklore in the poetry of the Punjab stands unrivalled. Even in contemporary Punjab the story continues to enjoy an enormous popularity.
Waris Shah’s Heer is most brilliant rendering of Punjab’s love legend. A classical poem which puts the poetry of Punjab at par with that of world’s most read literature. Heer has been transliterated into many languages and the legend has thus reached almost every corner of the world.
A strong ethos of love has made this legend as much famous as Laila Majnooñ, Shiriñ Farhad and Romeo Juliet, however, the aspect that distinguishes Heer Rañjha from other love stories is, it goes much deeper into the soul of Punjab. Its not only a love story, its poetical rendition by Waris Shah has made the book a sort of bible for the bulk of Punjabi folk. No Englishman will sing Romeo Juliet in their cultural forums; neither would they quote words of wisdom from the legend. From Heer Waris Shah, on the other hand one can find so many quotations in form of verses and these are not just piece of verse, these are pieces of wisdom, wisdom which has got universal validity because these are based on the very psyche of human being.
To the population in Punjab the special appeal of Heer’s rendition, its folkish style, is the mellowness, the pitch in the melody, so that people listen to its lilting melody for hours and still their urge to continue listening remains unabated.
Influence of this particular rendition of Heer’s story by Waris has been so tremendous that even after so many centuries, the particular style of singing Heer persists. I have been listening to Waris Shah’s Heer since my childhood days. Many singers excelled in singing Heer, but some Pakistani singers like Ghulam Ali and some other who are quite unknown have given such a colour to Heer’s traditional rendition that they appeal to me like none else. Ishq da Waris, Waris Shah (https://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/waris-shah-ishq-da-waris/) and as a sequel to that post, this piece is being inserted here as a tribute to genius of Punjab’s soul, the great and most loved, most sung poet of Punjab.
When we talk of masterpieces in literature like Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or say the Ruba’iyat of Omer Khayyam, every piece in itself carries the resonance, the typical charm of writer’s country, his language and the very specific cultural milieu in which the writer finds the theme around which he then weaves his piece. When such masterpieces are transliterated in other languages, it turns the previous local stint of the writer and his work to acquire international dimensions; has becomes a piece of world literature, a recognition which brings fame to country, the language and above all to writer himself.
Seen in this context, Heer Waris Shah in Punjab can easily be counted as an international masterpiece. In 1977 a subsidiary company of New York Times chain of newspapers published anew some stories and legends from world literature. The collection did not reproduce the complete legend but made a reference to ‘The Legend of the Punjab’ by Sir Richard Temple. The reference and the commentary over this love legend aroused so much interest in world literary circles, that it was put at par with world’s great love stories.
Simultaneously much interest arose about the writer too. Who was this writer? In a previous post, Umair Ghani of WoP sent us his piece
While rediscovering the life and times of Waris Shah, Umair Ghani went to the birth place of that bard of Punjabi Poetry and filed:-
About 34 KM from Lahore while driving on Lahore Faisalabad (formerly Lyallpur) Road comes the district headquarter Sheikhupura, known for its fort and Hiran Minar, both described to have been constructed on orders of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir.
From Sheikhupura, we take a turn to Hafizabad. Hardly at a distance of 14 KM is the town of Jandiala Sher Khan. This small town was destined to be blessed by Allah Almighty to become the birthplace of Waris Shah. Its here at Jandiala Sher Khan that the great Punjabi poet was born in 1706 (the date is approximate as no definite record on his birth record exists). From 23rd to 25th of July three days’ celebrations are held at Jandiala. This year too the 210th anniversary of the great poet of Punjab was observed with full solemnity and devotion. Waris’s fans, devotees and Heer singers not only from Jandiala, but from whole of Punjab, Punjab that starts from Obaro town in Sindh to Attock bridge on the NWFP border, from Rakhni in Balochistan to Kohala in Kashmir and then beyond the border at Wahga, from Amritsar to Delhi, from all over the world, thronged the mausoleum – a testimony that wherever does a Punjabi live, lives Waris Shah in his heart and soul.
Waris a bulwark of Punjabi poetry, expressed his life, his past and present, whatever ups and downs did he face, did he experience, his own personal analysis of human mind, its weaknesses, its strengths, its good and bad deeds, jealousy, treachery, pride and prejudice all what he experienced on his persona, he beautifully transferred all this into his masterpiece. The force of Waris Shah’s rendition is such that he starts his poem with love and ends also with love.
The poetry of Heer is full of ethos, more than any other poet. If one reads Waris by going deep into his poetry, one gets choked with emotions as the reader finds himself in the same mood, same feeling and same remorse which Waris Shah felt during his own life time, a legacy that abounds and persists in mind of every Punjabi even today.
(In 1974 Govt. of Punjab constituted Waris Memorial Committee and in 1983 a complex was raised to pay homage to this great Doyen of Punjabi poets. The complex is spread over an area of 8 acres & is being run by Information and Cultural Deptt. Government of the Punjab. The annual Urs is celebrated under the aegis of the Punjab Art Council, the City Distt. Govt. Sheikhupura and the Town administration of Jandiala Sher Khan)
I have added three videos on rendition of Heer by different artists. The first one is by Ghulam Ali; the maestro sings Heer in this video in his peculiar mellifluous voice and appears to have done full justice to the art of Heer recital.
– The second is a rendition of Heer Waris Shah by a Saieñ (wandering mystic, dervish or devotee of a saint). The masterly singing by this unknown saieñ is so perfect one would hardly believe it has been sung by a non professional.
– The third one is an old documentary (encore) on brief recording of Heer recital by different Pakistani artists.
(In case of weak net signals, videos may take a good time to load. Please don’t blame me for that. In such a case first run the video as a load up test and then replay. In second effort the video will continue running without a jerk or break).
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