Soft steps towards the holy court of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

7 min

Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai Ghot of Sindh

Statue of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai at Bhit SHah Hala

Shah Abdul Lateef (1689–1752)

Ajuna otakun men talib tanvareen.

Adesee uthee viyamarhiyoon moon mareen.

Je jeea khe jiyareense lahootee lade viya.


Now at our meeting places, the seekers sing no more;

The hermits have departed, and their shrines are painful to visit;

They who were our life and soul, those dedicated ones are gone constantly.

Shah Lateef‘s chief contributions are his symbolic renderings of the old popular folk-tales of Sindh mentioned above. But Shah does not re-tell these classic tales in any specific detail or specific sequence of historical events; he only picks out some principal incidents and elaborately derives from them some spiritual significance based on Sufitic truths. The particular symbolism he typically employs in these love-tales is that of the beloved standing for the human soul in quest of the divine lovers, the worldly obstacles in the path of their union being the physical senses. In these fantastic tales, Shah has established such a vast portrait gallery of heroes and heroines, with their characters so varied and individualized, and with the heroines generally superior to the heroes, that it will not be an exaggeration to call him the myriad-minded Shakespeare of Sindh.

Soft steps towards the holy court of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

Although the vast body of Shah’s heroic poetry is mainly mystical, much of his earlier poetry is based on his minute observation of mortal life and nature, abounding in flights of imagination, and poetic similes and metaphors. Over here a few prime examples of how he scientifically derives moral lessons from the familiar objects of the accurate observation:

1. Kana manjh kararhua hehanda sanga men.

Gahe gah firaq je, kaya dharo dhar,

Najana beharkadanh melo theendo sajanen.


There were many a grain in the ear of corn, living happily together;

But on the threshing-floor they were separated one from the other;

I know not when I shall be inseparably united with the beloved again.

2. Vagar kayo vatanprit na chhinan pan men :

paso pakhiaranmanhun-an meth ghano.

Translation of Poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Sarkar:

They fly hither and thither in clusters, but they never sever their friendship. Lo; the birds embrace each other even more than men.

3. Parado so saduvaru vaee-a jo je laheen ;

Hua agheen gadubudhan men ba thia.


The distinct echo precious is the Voice, but for the air‘s rebound;

They always were one sound, but to our attentive ear, they sound like two.

4. Roza nimazoon, ee pin chango kam.

Par-a oo ko biyo faham, janh son pasan pireean jo.

Translation of Shah Bhitai :

These fasts and devout prayers endure undoubtedly excellent things all.

But the wisdom wherewithal to see my Love remains another thing.

It should be carefully noted that in the verse-translation of the last two couplets a successful attempt has been made to undoubtedly bring out the peculiar characteristic of the Sindhi doheera, of rhyming the second lyrical verse in the middle instead of at the endproviding a new kind of gentle melody to the couplet. Shah has also written many pure love-poems inspired by his youthful love episode on which no spiritual significance need be necessarily perceived as most Sindhi scholars ingeniously insist on doing. The following exquisite illustration will suffice:

Naza manjhran nikrijadahin pireen kare tho pand,

Bhoon pin bismillah chaveraha chumen thi rand,

Ubbyoon ghane adab sen, lage hairat hoorun hund,

Saeen jo sowghandsajan sabhna suhno.


When my beloved steps out and walk about with divine grace

Even the earth cries: “God be lavishly praised” and the path kisses his cautious footsteps;

The hours are struck with wonder and stand by in reverence;

I swear by the Lord. My beloved is most beautiful of all.

Shah remains a passionate lover of instrumental music. Also, devoted most of his remarkable poems were traditionally sung by his faithful followers at his desert residence at Bhit (Sanddune) on account of which he is appropriately entitled Bhitai Ghote (bridegroom of Bhit) of Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai, which latter is in addition the title of the only* critical biography of Shah carefully written by a western scholar, H. T. Sorley. 

Shah‘s lyrical poetry was composed to be sung joyously, his collected poetical works called Shah-jo-Rasalo were conventionally divided into used sections called Surs, e.g. Sur KalyanSur SarangSur Desi, Sur RamkaliSur BilawalSur Asa, and Sur Dhanasari, and his poems were traditionally sung by his devoted followers. In Adition, the Ragani indicated, and later on even by Hindu bhagats (devotional singers) at largely attended public meetings which oftentimes lasted late into the lovely night. 

Faqeer of Bhitai singing poetry of Shah Latif

Moreover, At the ultimate end of each SurShah composed prolifically a Vaee, the initial name of the famous Kafi which is the staple form of Sindhi music and is still sung by the goatherd carefully tending his flocks, the driver on camelback, and the minstrel in the street. 

Shah Lateef, along with his martyred friend Shah Inayaton top, developed a key innovation in the specific form of the traditional Doha and the various chhands or poetic meters of Sanskrit prosody employed in Sindhi poetry, by enlarging their ample scope from two verses, to three, four, or even more verses, but retaining the internal rhyme in the last verse and sometimes in the opening verse.

Sufi Fakir at bhitshah

 The unique combination of Doha and soratha lyrical verses is called doheero in Sindhi, and the two Shahs at considerable times even increased the considerable number of matras (distinct syllables) in each verse from the original 24, 25, and even 26 syllables.

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