Sachal Sarmast: Translated from the Sindhi by Anju Makhija

Anju Makhija
Sachal Sarmast was born in the year 1739. He was one of the three classical poets of Sindh, the other being Shah Latif and Sami. He belonged to the same tradition as Kabir, Nanak and similar medieval poets who challenged accepted norms of spirituality. Sachal openly ridiculed orthodoxy, rejecting rituals. Like Shah Abdul Latif’s verse, which I had translated a few years ago, Sachal‘s poetry uses folk tales as spiritual allegories. In these stories of Sasui-Punhoon, Moomal-Rano and others, the female seeker searches for her lover (God). They face innumerable hurdles in this uphill task. However, with determination and will, they reach their goal. As a woman, I could easily relate to these protagonists and this helped me greatly in understanding Sufi thought and way of life, which is non-dualistic and accentuates oneness.

Further, Sachal’s poetry is full of love and beauty as is apparent in the following verses. The original Sindhi text used in these translations is Sachal Sarmast by Kalyan Advani, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.

 

Grace of the Beloved

 

my beloved’s

splendour spreads

day after day

 

lovers

pay obeisance

day after day

 

my beloved’s hair

adorns the face

like sambal

 in the dawn

*

my beloved’s brow

 is radiant as a rainbow

 

eyes pierce

showers of spears

leave love marks

on the soul

 

such cruelty

may god shelter me

says sachal

*

droplets of sweat

glimmer

like dew drops

on tender leaves

 

inflicting

deep wounds

to hearts in pain

*

o quazi

if my beloved’s

 hair reflects

in your eyes

 

prostrate yourself to him

toss your cap

far off into the corner

*

now enticing

then perturbing

now appeasing

then reproaching

 

pearl studded

glowing like hashi

of the Quran

many sided

is my mehboob’s face

 

in kaba and kashi

my beloved

resides everywhere

*

habshee

raises the sword

as I enter

habeeba’s abode

 

millions

have become

victims to this wrath

 *

Notes:

Sambal:        A flower found in the Sindh countryside.

Hashi:          Margins of the Quran, decorated with beautiful borders.

Kaba:           A place of Islamic pilgrimage.

Kashi:          A place of Hindu pilgrimage.

Habshee:       Guard of Afro Origin

Habeeba:     Beloved
***

Bionote: Anju Makhija is a poet, playwright and translator. She has written 3 poetry collections; co-translated Seeking the Beloved,the mystical verse of Shah Abdul Latif; co-edited 3 anthologies related to partition, women and young readers. Her plays have been staged in India and abroad. Anju's awards include The Sahitya Akademi English Translation Prize (‘11) . She has been on the English Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, for 5 years. 


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