Popularly and reverently known as Baba Farid, Shaikh Farid-ud-din, Ganj-i-Shakar is rightly regarded as the first Punjabi poet of sufism. His was a saintly life of asceticism and meditation. He wrote verses in Arabic, Persian, Punjabi and Other languages; but his Punjabi verses found an ardent admirer in Guru Nanak who is said to have preserved them for the benefit of future generations. It is significant that Baba Farid’s slokas charged with intellectual depth and emotional texture, have been incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs.
Sri Balwant Singh Anand assesses in this interesting monograph the poetic value of farid’s verse incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib besides providing a brief account of the development of Sufism in Arabia and Persia and its advent in India in the form of Sufi Silsilahs.
The winter of 1973-74 in Delhi will be remembered, among other things, for the celebration of the octocentenary of shaikh Farid-ud-din, Ganj-i-Shakar. The credit for this event should go to the Punjabi University, Patiala, which arranged an International Seminar on Baba Farid in Delhi. Historians, scholars and lovers of Farid’s poetry collected at the India International Centre and for three days discussed various facts of life and works of Shaikh Farid. It was a meeting of like-minded people and served to strengthen bonds of friendship among Indian and Foreign scholars. We, who had admired the slokas of Baba Farid and had sung them so often, learnt many aspects of Sufism as represented in his works hitherto unknown to us. We also had privilege of enjoying a Faridi langar (lunch) at the Chisthti Culture Centre adjascent to the mausoleum of Khwaja Nizamuddin Chishti.Before the lunch, the hosts had arranged a delightful function at which prayers were offered to the departed saints and Kawalis were sung in the well-known emotional and ecstatic style of the chishti silsilah. The seminar and the functions connected with it heightened our awareness of Farid’s contribution to the composite culture of our country.
It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise for me, when soon after the seminar, the sahitya akadami invited me to write a monograph on Baba Farid. Nothing could have been more timely and more welcome. But the stipulated deadline for its completion added an element of urgency to it. However, I was happy to undertake the work. I was faced with two difficulties. One was the very limited authentic material available on the life of the poet and secondly, the existing translations of his verses did not do justice to the original text. Poetry in its verses did not do justice to the original text. Poetry in its totality cannot be translated from one language to another. The emotionally surcharged nuances of poetry and its deep associated with its cultural and social background have no counterpart in the language of a foreign land, particularly when one language belongs to the East and the other to the West. Farid’s verses have been translated by Macauliffe and Gopal Singh. Macauliffe’s translation is too literal and misses the deeper religious and spiritual connotations while that of Gopal Singh, though comparatively more imaginative, tends to take all manner of liberty and often misses the mark. Some verses have been translated by Khushwant Singh and Gurbachan Singh Talib. They are certainly an improvement on the earlier translations but they have yet to translate all the verses and make them available to the Public. I had, therefore, mostly to fall back on macauliffe’s translation and provide what I thought was lacking in the form of comments and analysis of verses. It is hoped that the reader will get some idea of the underlying music and deeper meanings of Farid’s slokas.
The present monograph seeks to provide a brief account of the development of Sufism in Arabia and Persia and its advent in India in the Shape of Various Sufi Silsilah. Apart from some details about the life of Shaikh Farid, an attempt has been made to assess the poetical value of Farid’s verses incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs. It is hoped that the monograph will provide a fair idea of the personality and writings of Shaikh Farid-ud-din-Ganj-i-Shakar.
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