The following are the important features of Shah Latif's poetry.
- It is fully representative of Sindhi nationality. Love for Sindh and every thing, which belongs to it, is its important element. With the exception of the tragedy of Karbela almost the stories and characters in it are Sindhi.
- The language which has been used in his poetry, ipw"t from some reference, is purely Sindhi, to the extent that some of the words which have now become archaic, are not quite easy to understand.
- The third important feature of Shah Latif's poetry is that in the tradition of Hindi poetry he has visualized woman as the lover and man as the beloved. The approach is contrary to the tradition of Persian and Arabic poetry.
- All the folk tales and their characters, which he has presented in his poetry, from the point of view of their end, are tragic.
- His poetry never arouses people for an immediate gain and transitory success, rather teaching man to sacrifice temporary gain to achieve an enduring aim is the real spirit of his poetry.
- Like Mathanvi of Maulana Rome, he does not ever convey moral lessons by narrating entire stories. He has not narrated even one of the folk tales completely, which constitute his poetic work He has rather presented the characters partially and has projected some of the incidents and situations from specific angles. In other words he has used the well-known stories, characters, incidents and situations in the form of a symbol or a metaphor and thus adopting this mode of expression he has conveyed his message by establishing a relation of the put with the present and future. Here are some examples to elucidate this point.
In this musical tune Shah Latif mentions excesses and tortures inflicted upon the people and their trials and tribulations and denitrifying those who struggle for the salvation of the country and the people. He says:
While trying to identify’ the virtues and qualities of the sincere leaders he also counsels the people to be warned against being trapped by the designs of selfish, self seeking and hypocritical leaders:
The objective, in the view of the mystics is one God, and for the patriotic, the freedom and progress of the nation. At one place comparing this with the moon, which signifies here a borrowed beauty and impressiveness, he says:
Life has been compared, in this tune, to journey in a deep and vast ocean, in which the raveIers are confronted with many storms, whirlpools and terrifying waves. In this adventurous journey he counsels the patriotic as the envoys of truth to achieve their objective through faith, penitence, prayer, dedication to the objective, percussion, acquisition of necessary information and equipment and finally by plunging into the depth of the ocean. He says:
Bargain for the equipment, which does not lose its value. No matter where you take it, it should maintain its value. Always deal in such business, which is ultimately profitable for you.
In this musical tune Shah Latif in the style of the sailors, has selected such patriotic and honorable elements as his subject, who become homeless in the service of the nation and the country. For years, they suffer the advertisement of imprisonment and exile fight the dangers of storms; due to which the people of their household live in a state of fear and uncertainty. With hearts beating they pray for their security and make offerings to ensure their safe return. Interpreting their feelings Shah Latif expresses himself in the following verse:
In this musical tune, using Sohni as a symbol, he has made his subject the people who not only have an objective before them but also the spirit to achieve. He desires to explain that unless there is an objective, the seeker has no significance and if the objective is not achieved ~e seeker remains unholy, and when he does achieve it he is thoroughly cleaned. But achievement of noble aims is not easy, for in the struggle to achieve it one has to go through the darkness of trial, the whirlpool of suffering, terrifying rivers, and riding the unbaked pitcher. (In the romantic folk tale, Sohni and Maenwal, Sohni tries to cross the river, supported by an unbaked pitcher to meet her lover across the river-of course she drowns) During these terrifying trials, only the dedication to the achievement is the greatest source of guidance. In addition, this love and dedication strengthens the nerves, consoles and urges on the travelers, and leaves an impression on the mind that one can never escape death. But only that person is really triumphant who lays down his life in the search of his objective.
He counsels love for the objective:
While counseling the seeker to keep advancing to achieve his objective, brushing away all the obstacles in the way, he does not lose sight of the elements standing in the way. In addition, addressing them he gives a warning in the following verse:
Does not be so proud Oh River, you will have to answer for the wrong you have done. Remember that the days of your revels will not last forever. Just in one single shock, you will be startled out of your ecstasy.
In this musical’ tune Shah Latif has given the good news to the people to remove the chains of enslavement from the neck of the country, to re-enkindle their spirit of determination and courage to rid themselves of fear and terror which tend to turn them into weaklings and to eliminate the hoarders and black marketers. At the same time he has conveyed to them the news to let them hear the echo of revolution in the paralyzed atmosphere of the homeland, the thick clouds from the North which promise to bring heavy rains to the, thirsty land, for the farmers to put their hands on the plough, to end the suffering and pain, to let the fellow country-men to savor success, for the grain to be available cheap, tile coming of refreshing rains, the hollows and pools to be over-flown with water and the pitchers to be filled to the brim with milk and butter. This entire musical tune is infused with the spirit of revolution. Primarily, in this tune, Shah Latif has extended consolation and encouragement to the humanity suffering in impoverishment and enslavement, and gives them the message that this drought of oppression will come to end. The day is not far that the drums of revolution will sound and the hearts will be enlivened with a new spirit. Using Sarang as a metaphor for Revocation Shah Latif says:
Some of the scholars who have conducted research on the works of Shah Latif do not agree that he is the author of Sur Kedaro verses. In their opinion the major potion of these verses are contrary to the principle of Shah Latif that the tales and characters external to Sindh should be included in Sindhi literature. But due to the following reasons in my opinion Shah Latif has definitely chosen the’ incident of Karbela as the subject of his poetry, and the major portion of the Kedaro verses have -been written by him.
- The dispute, which existed among the religious scholars, during the period of Shah Latif, about whether there, should be mourning or not during the month of Muharam, Shah Latif supported the religious scholars who were in the favor of mourning.
- The successors and descendents of Shah Latif have continued the tradition of mourning till today. The turban of Shah Latif, one of his relics is black in color and his followers and caliphs also wore the headdress of black color.
- Shah Latif selected mostly tragic themes for his poetry, and since the tragedy of Karbela is an extraordinary incident in the history of Islam, it was quite natural that he did not consider choosing this theme contrary to his principle. Shah Latif was definitely influenced by the extraordinary character of this tragedy. For a majority of people to unite against Imam Hussain in violation of all canons of justice was something which did not impress Shah Latif favorably? Despite the fact Imam Hussain was not well equipped against the enemy he aid not surrender to the government and a superior power. Shah Latif has expressed admiration and praise for those who confronted the enemy on the battlefield in defense of justice and has condemned the cowardly, and has counseled the true and the just to go through trials and attain a place of honor. He says:
In this musical tune, Shah Latif has mentioned, especially Sassi, Punnu, the hills of Kech Makran, the jungles, moreover the brothers of Punnu and Sassi’s parents in-law. If all these elements are taken as political symbols, Sassi stands for the oppressed people, Punnu for a brave and determined national leader, the Kech Makran hills for the independent and progressive country, and the brothers of Punnu and Sassi’s parents-in-law stand for the forces of antagonism which stand in the way of the progress and prosperity of the people. The jungles and mountains will be visualized as difficulties and temptations, which stand in the way of the achievement of the objective, and suffering and pain as guides in this enterprise.
Just as saccharin is the essence of sweetness, in the same manner suffering and pain are the essence of love in which lies the real happiness. In order to achieve the objective people have to be inured to the difficulties, calamities, adversities and mischance. Without sacrifice and temptation, the achievement of the objective is nothing but an illusion. Only those people can achieve the objective who are inspired with a sincere spirit and determined to trample the mountain under their feet.
The initial disappointments bring us closer to our expectations. However, there is the need of the kindness of the Baluch, which Shah Latif has used as a figure of speech. Not only, the apparent struggle is essential in this course, but also the ability to search one’s soul. Wisdom is an essential element as the part of practical struggle, and a state of obsession along with wisdom. Those who rely only on their wisdom will cease their struggle in the middle of their efforts. Many are the friends in your prosperity, but there are hardly any friends in adversity. But those who are endowed with the courage and determination to pass through temptation, they are thoroughly justified in their determination to set about their journey. Those who are not capable of going through trials, quite naturally they are constrained to follow a different and easier path. This is hardly the business of the people who are not prepared to take this course seriously. To be oblivious about one’s objective and to sit idly is not at all desirable. Only those people can understand it who never stops in this journey:
This musical tune also deals with the theme of Sassi and Punnu, but illustrating different subjects. What are the m~ to achieve the objective, and what are its advantages. Demonstration of courage, to be prepared to die before the death, to continue the journey without caring about the extremities of weather, being able to withstand the agonies separation, restlessness in love, are the emotions which hi been visualized here. These are the sentiments, which pain us well as comfort. Observe these sentiments expressed in following verses:
In this musical tune, also Shah Latif has expressed different sentiments with reference to Sassi and Punnu. At one place identifying the elements, which are the cause of Sassi’s suffering and agony, he says:
Strangers can only be strangers. They can never be sincere and faithful. There is nothing in the hearts of my husband’s brothers except falsehood, but they maintain this pretense of pleasant behavior. But the morning sees the caravan disappear.
At one place, in the words of Sassi, he identifies the elements, who in complicity with one another become the cause of trouble. All these elements serve as a symbol. Shah Latif says:
In this tune, also Shah Latif has expressed the feelings attributed to Sassi and Punnu. In its first part, he counsels to continue the journey by shaking off negligence and lethargy. He says:
This musical tune is also dedicated to Sassi and Punnu as symbols. The struuggle and determination which is required from the seeker for the achievement of his objective is described in the following verse:
The spirit which is inspired by truth and justice Proudly confronts all trouble, which stands in the way of freedom Shah Latif, identifies this truth in the following manner:
Five important names occur in this musical tune. (1) Rai Diach (2) Junagarh (3) Suratth the queen of Rai Diach, (4) The famous musician, Bejal and (5), the neighboring Raja Anerai,
Assuming these names as symbolic, the mystics explain these names in the following manner. Bejal stands for the perfect guide. When he recites the name of God, Rai Diach who stands for his follower after being impressed sacrifices his ego. Suratth symbolizes the evil self, which prevents Rai Diach from making this sacrifice. Anerai signifies that voice of ecstasy at whose suggestion Bejal play on his instrument to test the truth and sincerely of Rai Diach and Junagarh stands for this world.
If we attempt a political interpretation of this tale, Rai Diach is the symbol of a true and patriotic servant of the country and the nation and Junagarh will stand for the society or the state. Suratth would be considered as form of persuasion to indulge in selfishness and opportunism. Bejal will stand for public opinion, and Anerai an evil minded political leader whose main objective is to misguide the public opinion.
In this musical tune presenting the example of a true national leader In consonance with this Idea, Shah Latif has characterized him as a man who deeply respects public opinion, and knowing that selfish people in promoting their class interests have turned public opinion against him, he yields to the public demand, not showing stubbornness like willful dictators. The spirit of sacrifice, generosity and complete conformity of word and deed are his main characteristics. His conduct helps to explain the force of the public opinion. Using Bejal as signifying an honest and a wise orator and representative, Shah Latif emphasis the point that except his established aim he is never prepared to accept even a most valuable offer. There is a remarkable identity and resemblance between music and public opinion, both are capable of leaving a lasting impression. If both are used in an effective manner they leave indelible impression on society.
There can be a fixed value of the traditional musicians and representatives, but the object of attention of Shah Latif are those musicians and people’s representatives whose specific aim is high moral conduct, whose basic desire is to achieve eminence through their musical talent rather than hankering after money. They do not make the people the victim of exploitation, but make the dictators and kings their target. It is the business of their life to roll the crowns. In the following verse, Shah Latif expresses his feelings for such freedom fighters:
In this musical tune, there are Ibbiyat (verses) consisting of different emotions and situations, which can be considered different from the point of view of their themes. For example, the following verses are worth noting which depict the experience of separation from the beloved:
Sur Momal Rana
In this musical tune, Shah Latif has made a famous folk tale of a princess named Momal, her magical gardens, palaces and her lover Rana Mendhra as the theme of his poetry. Whatever their interpretation from the spiritual view point, but when they are viewed in political perspective, Momal appears to us as an image of a clever and crafty political acrobat, who exploits the people through his duplicity by making false promises and involving them in intricate and inextricable situations. The people belonging to the affluent class are easily trapped due to their greed and selfishness. But as compared to them, Rana, who is the image of a wise and sincere national leader, overcomes him through his stead fastness and wisdom, and when he triumphs through his wisdom, he is deservedly rewarded with the blessings of colorful garments, green shawls, variety of perfumes, wealth and all that ensures his comfort and pleasure. It is for the acquisition of these sources of pleasure that greedy and selfish people are caught in the trap of Momal. But people like Rana never become a prey to this greed even when they have acquired all these things and totally disregarding them advance toward the achievement of their ideal. Politics soon entangles the people of wealthy class in its tempting trap. Referring to this truth Shah Latif says:
This musical tune is concerned with the description of the ideas and character of the revolutionaries. Shah Latif expresses himself in their praise in the following verse:
In this musical tune Shah Latif mentioning the religious and moral guides, divides them into two different groups. The one he calls Noori (who possess spiritual light) and Naari (who are concerned with this material world):
Shah Latif speaks of pious and godly people he had met and when he was separated from them. He says:
In a very touching manner, Shah Latif has expressed the emotions of sorrow and giief in this musical tune, for example:
There are four different elements of this folk tale, which are of vital significance. Among them, three are characters, namely Leelan, Chanesar, Konru and the fourth element is the necklace of pearls. The mystics consider Chanesar as the "Truth" which is desired, Leelan the true seeker after this ‘Truth’, Konru is the Satan and the necklace symbolizes greed and avarice.
But when we look at this story in a political perspective Chanesar stands for the noble objective, Leelan for the national political leaders, Konru for selfish and greedy politicians and the necklace symbolizes temporary and superficial benefits.
In the way of the noble objectives of a national leader stand the selfish interests, greed, transient honor and the craze for the acquisition of power by the selfish politicians, and sometimes overcome by the superficial emotions they become prey to the common human frailties, as a consequence of which they have to go through humiliation and suffering. Shah Latif offers a word of admonition in this situation.