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Amrita Pritam’s `Ode to Waris Shah’.. #Poetry



Today (31st August) is Amrita Pritam’s 96th birth anniversary.

Amrita Pritam (1919 – 2005) was one of the most prominent female writers and poets of our time. She published over seventy books – novels, short stories and poems.

Amrita Pritam was born into a Sikh family of “Gujranwala”>. She was the only child of a school teacher and a poet. Her mother died when she was eleven. Amrita married at the age of 16, and divorced in 1960, at the age of 41.

At the time of Partition, in 1947, Amrita migrated to Delhi. After migration, she started writing primarily in Hindi, instead of her native Punjabi. She has authored two autobiographies, titled, Rasidi Ticket’ and,Aksharon ke Saaye’. Her novel, `Pinjar’ (Skeleton)  about the agonies of Partition riots, was also turned into a movie.

Amrita’s impromptu capturing of the condition of

Ode to Waris Shah’ is a call to the legendary Punjabi poet<!--, Waris Shah (1722 – 1798) whoseHeer’ is considered the Bible of Punjabi poetry. It is filled with allusions to Waris Shah’s legendary work. She refers to Heer as the, “daughter of Punjab” (dhii Punjab di), and beseeches Waris Shah to step out of his grave and hear the partition cries of a million Heers. The poem also references many of the main characters of the Heer legend – Ranjha, his brothers, and Qaido (the villainous Uncle), comparing the attitudes of the Punjabis at the time of partition, to the evil acts of later.

My own understanding of pure Punjabi being severely limited, this translation would have been impossible without the inputs from Samina Rizwan, who researched the `Luddan’ reference and came up with a plausible explanation. Also, her brother Umar Rafi who started it all by circulating his own translation, which I have used as a reference point.

Amrita Pritam passed away on 31st Oct 1995 at Delhi.




AN ODE TO WARIS SHAH – by Amrita Pritam
Aaj aakhaN Waris Shah nuuN, kitoN kabraaN vichchoN bol,
te aaj kitab-e ishq daa koii aglaa varkaa phol

Waris Shah, I beseech thee, speak up from your grave
To love’s eternal treatise, please add another leaf

ik roii sii dhii punjaab dii, tuuN likh likh maare vaen,
aaj lakhaaN dhiiaaN rondiaa, tainuN waris shah nuN kahen

A single daughter wept once, you screamed out in protest
Today a million daughters weep and implore you, Waris Shah:

uTh dardmandaaN diaa dardiaa, uth takk apnaa Punjaab
aaj bele lashaaN bichhiaaN te lahu dii bharii chenab

Oh, voice of the anguished Arise, see the plight of your Punjab
The fields are lined with corpses, the Chenab flows red with blood

kise ne panjaN paniaN vichch dittii zahar ralaa
te unhaaN paniiaaN dharat nuuN dittaa paanii laa

Who has stirred this poison into our rivers’ waters?
It is this very water that now irrigates our land


is zarkhez zamiin de luun luun phuttia zaher
gitth gitth charhiaaN laaliaN fuuT fuuT charhiaa kaher

This fertile land sprouts venom, from each and every pore
The sky has now turned crimson, from all these cries of gore

veh valliissii vha pher, van van vaggii jaa,
ohne har ik vans di vanjhalii ditti naag banaa

It’s a terribly ill wind that rages through the woods
Transforming every bamboo-shoot into a deadly snake

pehlaa dang madaariaN, mantar gaye guaach,
dooje dang di lagg gayii, jane khane nuN laag

The very first snake-bite, and the charmer lost his spell
Yet every bite after that addicted them all the more..

laagaaN kiile lok muNh, bus phir dang hi dang,
palo palii punjaab de, neele pae gaye ang

Addicted to these waters, to be bitten again and again
See how the limbs of Punjab have turned blue with pain


gale’oN tutt’e geet phir, takaleon tuttii tand,
trinjanoN tuttiaaN saheliaaN, chaRakhRre ghuukar band

The songs have all been silenced, the cotton threads are snapped
The girls have fled the courtyards, the spinning wheels are mute

sane sej de beriaaN, luddaN dittiaaN rohr,
sane daliaan peengh aj, piplaaN dittii toR

The wedding beds and the boats have all been cast away
And the Pipal branch, the swing lies broken in disarray

jitthe vajdii sii phuuk pyaar dii, ve oh vanjhalii gayii guaach
raanjhe de sab veer aaj, bhul gaye uhadii jaach

The flute that just knew love, has been forever lost
Even Ranjha’s brethren no longer know this art

dhartii te lahoo varsiyaa, kabraaN paiaaN choan,
preet diaaN shaahzaadiaaN, aaj vichch mazaaraaN roan

It’s blood that’s rained on this earth, seeping through the graves
The damsels that lie within them lie weeping in their shrouds

aaj sabbhe ‘Qaido’ ban gaye, husn ishq de chor
aaj kitthoN liaaiye labbh ke waris shah ik hor

Today there are just Qaidons, looters of beauty, love
Today, where shall we find another Warish Shah?

aaj aakhaN waris shah nuuN, kitoN kabraan vichchoN bol,
te aaj kitaab-e ishq daa, koii aglaa varkaa phol

Waris Shah, I beseech thee, speak up from your grave
To love’s eternal treatise, please add another leaf

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