Satpanth literature can be defined as "popular", and almost entirely consists of either hymns expressing devotion and piety, or relating instructive miracles of various saints, appeals to be pious, moral advices, religious legends, and so forth. It never developed learned theological study, interest in the history of the community, the real art of controversy and refutation of false doctrines, as we see in Muslim general literature. It is polyglottic, using six different languages: Multani Panjabi, Sindhi, Kachchhi, Hindi, Gujrati, and Maratthi. We may believe that its earliest productions were composed in Sindi and Multani, but, while spreading to other provinces, these became translated into local dialects. It seems to be a difficult task to trace which of the existing gnans are original, and which are translations, but in the case of those in Gujrati and Maratthi there can be little doubt that they are fairly modern renderings of the earlier ones.
Tradition, probably with much right, relates that originally the gnans were preserved only in oral transmission. Later on they were reduced to writing. Apparently there never was such a thing as a complete collection of the whole literature, and no libraries except for small private collections. Under the continuous threat of persecution, books had to be kept in secrecy, and this not only discouraged their being copied but, in the conditions of the Indian climate always exposed the manuscripts to the attacks of worms, white ants, damage by dampness, and so forth. Piety itself was no less destructive. For instance, I was told that when about three decades ago a certain collection of the gnans was printed, the manuscripts from which the edition was prepared were buried in the ground.! It is extremely difficult to say whether there are any old manuscripts in existence, possibly in private possession, but on the whole this seems very doubtful.
Who the persons were who translated the gnans from one language to another, when they lived, and what principles they followed, all this remains unknown. The tone of many gnans (although it is difficult to prove this beyond doubt) suggests that great latitude was allowed by some translators in the rendering of the original. Perhaps even the names of the Pirs , and especially Imams, referred to in the text, were adjusted to the time of the translator. The very manner of these poems and versified stories of miracles often evokes considerable doubts as to what really the appellation "the gnan of the Pir so-and-so" should mean : is this the gnan BY that Pir , or ABOUT him ? In the majority of cases the latter is obviously the case, and it seems there is no doubt that the poems were composed perhaps much later than the saint with whom they deal. It is interesting that some of these are themselves polyglottic and contain verses (slokas) in different languages.
On the whole the style of these poems is purely Hinduistic with the use of the traditional rules of Sanskrit poetics. There is, however, a strong current of influence of Persian poetry in them, in the form of certain details. Such are the usual references to the author (often merely alleged), as the takhallus in Persian ghazals, enclosed in the last verse, or, more rarely, a reference to the Imam of the supposed author's time, as the mamduh in Persian qasidas . We may note, however, that, contrary to Persian usage, both are mentioned in immediate proximity. On the whole there are many stereotyped expressions and topics, together with monotony in the contents, but some show certain primitive, "runic", pathos and poetical inspiration.
Here again a striking resemblance appears with Ali-Ilahism. The Satpanth gnans probably find their closest parallel in the kalams attributed to the inspiration of various saints or incarnations of the Deity. The difference is only that the Hinduistic atmosphere, terminology, mythological references, and generally Indian elements have to be replaced by the spirit of the tribal feuds and warlike adventures of the Kurds, Lurs, Turks, etc. Even such a detail finds its parallel in both as polyglottism : Ali-Ilahi kalams are composed in various Kurdish, Luri and Gurani dialects, and in Turkish, and sometimes one and the same piece contains quotations or lines in a different language. It is unfortunate that not only have the kalams never been collected but even to this day only an insignificant part of them is known. Therefore it is impossible to follow the parallelism of the gnans and kalams and trace the difference in their style. Such a comparison probably would be interesting.
It appears as if collections of the gnans are divided into groups associated with this or that Pir . Some form a cycle of stories of his miracles, as, e.g., in the case of Pir Shams. Other collections are of mixed contents, and isolated gnans appear belonging to the authorship of saints of whom nothing is known. Many gnans are anonymous, and there is neither a key to both authors' names nor to the period to which they belong.
In my paper, "The Sect of Imam Shah in Gujrat" (JBBRAS, 1936, pp. 23-24) I have already given a list of works of the gnan literature according to the association with various saints in the form in which it is now preserved, amongst the Bombay Khojas it is almost entirely in Gujrati, probably having been translated a long time ago. Antiquated Urdu is also used. Again I may emphasise the fact that the association with a certain Pir as Sham-su'd-din or others, very often does not in the least imply the Pir's authorship. The style of the poems very often makes it impossible to believe that these have been composed by his contemporaries or disciples. For the convenience of the reader I here repeat the same list with a few alterations.
1. Sloko moto , a larger collection of miracle stories.
2. Garbi songs (translated further on).
3. Mansamjani (Sufic, on the knowledge of self).
4. Bharam P'rakāsh (on knowledge of God).
5. Kathā, Rāja Govar Chand (instructive story)
6. Vāyak moto ( on ethics).
7. Hans Hanslī (religious legend).
1. Sloka nāno (a smaller collection of the gnans .)
2. Buj Nīrānjan (Sufic discussions).
3. Gīrbhāwali (the story of the creation of the world).
4 A'rādhna (prayers).
5. Vīnodh (lamentations).
6. Gāvan-tri (another story of the creation).
7. Khat Darsan (six pilgrimages).
8. Khat Nirinjan (six invisible worlds).
9. Atharv Ved (an imitation of the Attharva Veda ).
10. S'ūrat ( on physiognomy).
11. Budh Avatār (the ninth Avatar).
12. So Kīrīya (100 moral principles, translated further on).
13. Das Avatār (the Satpanth version of the well-known Sanskrit religious work. It exists in two versions, full moto , in abbreviated, nāno . Further on the tenth chapter of the shorter version is translated).
Pir Hasan Kabirud -din
1. Anant Akhāro (on eschatology, life after death)
2. Vel (a collection of gnans ).
3 Bharam Gavantri ( story of creation)
4. Nav Chhugā (nine appeals to the Imam.)
5. Hasna Puri (description of Paradise)
6. Samvad Pīr Hasan Kabir ud din wa Kānīpā Jog'i (instructive story)
1. Jannatpuri (translated in full further on, an instructive journey to Paradise).
2. Satvarni Moti miracle stories about the Imams.
3. Naklank Gītā (legends of the avatars of the Imams).
4. Jugeshvar Abdu-nā Gnān (Sufic).
5. Mur Gāva'nt-rī (story of creation).
6. Parb Pāndav (story of the Pandavas).
7. Si Harfī (thirty moral rules).
8. Athar vedī Gāvantrī (on the incarnations of the Deity).
9. Bāvan Gāti (description of Hell).
10. Momen Chetwānī (stories of miracles of Pirs etc.)
Nar Muhammad Shāh , the son of Imamshah who was proclaimed to be an incarnation of the Imam.
1. Satvarni legendary history of the Fatimid Imams.
2. Satveni-ji Vel (on various rites, stories of Imams and Pirs
Short gnans have been edited in six volumes or parts, each containing one hundred of these, and in addition, selections in groups of 25 or 50 have also been repeatedly printed. Sometimes groups of the gnans attributed to various saints have been printed as the Manhar a collection of gnans on the subject of asceticism, by Ghulām Ali Shāh whose grave is in Keyra, Kachchh, and others.
Almost all these have been printed in Bombay, in Gujrat both in the Gujrati script and in Khojki. It does not seem easy to ascertain how much is still omitted and has not been printed of the gnans that may be found in manuscript. All this printed material, it may be hoped, will be critically revised, systematized, collated with the manuscripts which have not yet been destroyed, and a reliable and easily usable edition prepared.
Here we may briefly review the works which have been wholly or partially translated in this volume:
1. "The Garbi Songs of Pīr Shams." The cycle of the 28 Garbis 1 attributed to the authorship of Pir Shams has been translated in full here. As it is easy to see, in reality it forms a continuous narrative into which instructive utterances of the saint have been fitted. The story, whether based on fact or fiction, relates the miraculous conversion of the people of Analvad (most probably the ancient town Anilvad in Gujrat, not far from the modern Ahmadābād) by Pir Shams. Arriving at the celebrations of the Norta, i.e., the nine days preceding the Hindu festival of Dasera, the saint mixes with the Shaktī worshippers, engaged in the dances in honour of Mata Bhavani (a name of Shakti) dances with them, and sings his own songs, preaching the Satpanth doctrine. It is not easy to believe that the poems have been composed by the saint himself because it would be strange that he should praise himself, quote his own words, and so forth. As the songs are in Gujrati, it is more than probable that they were composed at a much later period by someone whose name has not been preserved. It is not so apparent why and how the story has been divided into 28 poems, each forming a separate item, with its own refrain. Apparently no clue exists as to the real date of its composition, and it would be not surprising if the cycle is really the product of a comparatively modern period of time.
It is also impossible to ascertain just how far the doctrine preached in the story really reflects the ideas of Pir Shams as a historical person. One may feel inclined to accept his name here being used arbitrarily, simply as that of an early missionary of Satpanth in general. The basic principles on which this propaganda rests are the same as in all other poems of this kind. They are the objection to idol worship, and generally Hinduistic theories, and an appeal to recognize Islam as the crowning phase of the peoples' earlier beliefs, joining the Satpanth Jamat, congregational prayers, and belief in Ali and his descendants the Imams as a collective last avatar of the Deity.
2. Miracles of Pīr Shams. These are extracts from larger hagiological works dealing with the miracles of the ancient Pirs. Some of these, such as the story of the conversion of the of the tiger and pigeons, bear striking resemblance to similar Buddhist and Hinduistic stories. Others, such as the conversion of the Hindu pilgrims by making the holy Ganges to flow before them, belong to Indo-Muslim folklore. Such stories are in fact repeated probably about almost every Indian Muslim saint of note. As a testimony substantial bundles of strings, supposed to be Brahmanical cords of the higher caste Hindus, are shown at shrines, such as those of Lāl Shāhbāz at Sehwan, Pīrāna, etc. The most miraculous fact in such miracles, however, is that these strings, exposed to the elements and believed to be centuries old, usually look quite fresh and new. The motif of the angry saint's locking of the gates of the town seems to be rare. The story preserves valuable details such as the descent of the celestial cow to be milked for the communion of the new converts and the Pir's instructing the raja by whispering to him the "High Name". The story of the revival of the dead boy is of a distinctly Sufic origin. Such revival figures in many darwish tales, usually with the use of the Arabic formula by which the hero effects the revival : qum bi-idhn-i and which has been omitted here obviously owing to the general ban on Arabic, but is plainly implied in further developments.
3. The Fourteen Jewels of Pir Shams . Although it is impossible to prove it in either way, the impression is that it is highly improbable that these golden rules have anything to do with an ancient period.
4. The Gnans . There are several hundred separate short poems to which preferably the term gnan is applied, although the same term is used in a wider sense, implying all kinds of the sacred Satpanth literature, just as Saran-jam of the Ali-Ilahis. They are undoubtedly the product of collective genius, and the names of their authors are very rarely known, as in no. 9, which seems to be perfectly genuine, dating from the end of the XVIII century. Here a few specimens have been selected for the sake of their being associated with various Pirs . Such association, as it seems, in the majority of cases is purely illusory, as the name of the saint is merely included for the author's expression of his devotion to him. Such poems, as far as I could see, show predominantly moralizing tendency, and rarely possess the features which are lacking in others.
5. Das Avatār . As mentioned above, in the Satpanth literature there are two versions of the work, the longer and the shorter one. Without proper study it is impossible to say what connection they have with their Sanskrit prototypes. The authorship is attributed to Pir Sadru'd-dīn, and if the reference to "Shri Salām Shāh" as the Imam of the time is genuine, and really refers to "Abdu's-Salām Shāh of Anjudān, who died in the end of the IX/XV c., then it must be a fantasy. It is also strange that an eminent Sufic Pir such as Sadru'd-din should say that the mother of Ali ibn Abi Talib was "Bibi Julika" (i.e. Zulaykhā). Tradition is quite definite on this point, and gives her name as Fatima bint Asad b. Hāshim. The identification of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, with Shaktī, probably is nothing but automatic parallelism : if according to these theories "Ali is the avatar of the Deity, Fatima, as his wife, should be an avatar of Shakti (the wife of Shiva). In this specimen only the tenth Avatar is translated, from the shorter version .
6. So-Kiriya. Another work attributed to the authorship of Pīr Sadru'd-dīn, equally evoking, doubts, is the collection of 100 moral and other advices to be followed by those who want to attain salvation. I could not discover whether there are versions of it in Multani or Sindhi, but I was lucky enough to trace a Maratthi version which is also published further on in this volume for the purpose of comparison with this one, which is in Gujrati. Many questions arise at the perusal of this work. The first concerns the genuineness of the preface and epilogue, because they for the most part simply repeat what is already contained in the main work. These are the same vague and monotonous exhortations found in all gnans , and especially in the works of the type of the "Fourteen Jewels" attributed to Pīr Shams, mentioned above.
It is hard to believe that at the time of Pir Sadru'd-din i.e. not later than the middle of the IX/XV c., so many prescriptions were needed referring to financial transactions. They form seven per cent of the whole lot. Some of these are rather strange, such as that which prohibits buying goods on credit or borrowing money. Surely rural followers had not much use for advice against forging money documents accepting as security for a loan something of doubtful origin, running away with someone's money, creating difficulties in the payment of a debt, living on the earnings from usury, etc. All this would rather suggest the needs of a trading community in the town. The great majority of the advices are the usual moral precepts of being good, polite, faithful, etc. Comparatively few deal with family and social life. It is probably implied that these are regulated by old customs against which one is powerless to fight. Some advices, such as that recommending avoidance of the sick, are noteworthy. Quite a number seem to be amazing do not eat while walking; do not leave unconsumed food in the vessel from which one eats; do not eat what is left by others ; do not eat garlick and onions; do not disapprove of food prepared from corn, to mention only some.
Some prohibitions are common with Hinduism, such as the selling of bones, or the animals which one keeps, or the wearing of cloth dyed with indigo. Music, dancing and theatrical performances are prohibited, although in Hinduism they are prohibited only to brahmacharyas (students of theology). Various other prohibitions are probably based on old magic beliefs. The most interesting, however, is the prohibition of chewing tobacco( which in fact forms a part of the "pan" which all Khojas eat). This prohibition, unless it is a later interpolation, as connected with tobacco, could not have been introduced before at least the beginning of the XVIIIth century, perhaps even much later, when the evil had spread considerably. Thus there is no question of the authorship of Pīr Sadrud-dīn.
The Maratthi version, under the name of Shiksha-Patri, differs in the preamble and epilogue, testifying to the fact that these portions are not original. The text is almost identical with the Gujrati version, and appears to be ascending to the same source. For the purpose of versification both versions are filled with what may be called the "metrical ballast", which, of course, is bound to differ with the language of the version. The appeals to the "ascetics", "hermits", etc., by which ordinary people are meant, is nothing but a form of the hyperbolism with which this religious poetry is permeated. All this is striking for its primitive lack of systematization, absence of perspective and proportion.
7. Jannatpuri . This Satpanthi parallel of Dante's immortal poem, the Divina Comedia , is attributed to the authorship of Imamshah himself, but we have every reason to doubt the genuineness of this assertion. The principal reason is that Imamshah, the founder of the Gujrati branch of the sect, a man of such "steel"energy and consistence as he appears in the Jannatpuri , could not have written so absentmindedly and incoherently. As we may see from the analysis of the work, it most probably is the result of repeated renovation and alteration by a number of authors who paid little attention to what Imamshah himself had said. Even if he wrote an account of his journey to Persia nothing remains of it. Someone in his moralizing zeal simply used the fact of Imamshah's journey to Persia as a pretext for writing his own fantasy on Paradise and eschatology in general.
It seems highly probable that Imamshah really traveled to Persia for the discussion of the community's affairs. We have seen above (pp. 18-19) what the situation was with the growing revival of Shi'ism and the decay of the Timurid power. This apparently also caused considerable changes in the policy of the Nizari Imams as is hinted in various contemporary sources. It is also probable that the discontinuation of the dynasty of the pīrs in Uchchh might have been direct1y connected with changes in the general world situation. The remoteness of their see from headquarters made them in fact almost completely independent in their actions. The author of the Jannatpu'ri , whoever he may have been, is so full of this idea that he does not even raise the question of Imamshah asking for the investiture from the Imam, as the Supreme Lord. Instead, he simply asks him to permit him to go to Paradise to see his father, obviously because in the opinion of the author the appointment of the successor depended on the deceased Pir only.
In my paper on the sect of Imamshah in Gujrati I have already drawn the attention of students to the fact that, as it may appear, the custom was probably quite well established that the pīrs were usually succeeded by their youngest sons. Tradition makes Imamshah the youngest son of Hasan Kabir ud dind-dīn. It would be difficult to believe that all this fuss, including the journey to Heaven, was raised simply for the sake of a share in the inheritance of ordinary moveable or immoveable property. Obviously the "share" meant the right of succession, or the headship in a subdivision of the see .It is unfortunate that we know nothing about the biographies of the pīrs . The extraordinary insistence of Imamshah shows that he had a strong case, and we really see that he in fact is recognized as a Pir by various branches of the Satpanthis except for the Khojas who accept Taju d-dīn, the brother of Hasan Kabir ud dind-dīn. It is not impossible that Taju'd-dīn was appointed in accordance with the instructions of headquarters in Persia, contrary to local custom which by that time had already become well established and Imamshah in reality found many supporters, to which fact the sentimental story with his expulsion from the Jamāt-khāna perhaps alludes.
The poem generally is full of strange gaps in the narrative which seems to be incoherent because the author forgets to mention essential matters while losing himself in trivial details, whether deliberately or due to the lack of talent and experience. It may be admitted that probably much has been sacrificed to the established standard literary cliché, as in these stories of the sufferings of the saint, or his being unrecognized, the motif which appears in almost every second story about these saints. To the ordinary man it would appear absurd that a person who had undertaken a long, extremely difficult and dangerous journey to see the Imam, and having reached his destination, would not report himself, but play hide and seek with the employees of his master. In our sophisticated times all this seems so childlike, but probably appealed to the reader and devout admirer of the middle ages. We may admire the religious mentality for which the word of the pīr, as the Jannatpuri is intended to be, entirely divorces the subject from all unalterable laws of logic, common sense and feeling of reality which are so completely disregarded in all these stories of miracles.
Analysing the Jannatpuri simply as a literary production we can see that its main part is the second, namely the description of Paradise, and the exhortations to piety which will help one to be admitted there. The first part, which is disproportionally long, and is filled with irrelevant matters, is merely intended to explain how Imamshah had found an opportunity to visit and see the place, to make such fantastic experience natural and, if such a term may be applied to such matters, "realistic".
The story opens with the account of the happenings at the burial of Hasan Kabir udind-dīn at Uchchh, when the disinherited son of the deceased, Imamshah, suddenly returns and presents his claims. As pointed out to me by Mr. P. V. Kane, a specialist in Sanskrit literature who had kindly read through this translation, the situation closely resembles that of the son of Manu, familiar from various ancient Sanskrit works. In both cases compensation is derived, so-to-speak from supernatural sources. The date of the event given in the poem, 1575 Samvat (i.e. 925 A.H. or 1519 A.D.) seems to be rather too late. From what we know about Imamshah he himself died about that date, after a long career in Gujrat.
The "consolation gifts" from the dead body, in the form of a rosary and a piece of sugar, mentioned here, have not consoled the hero. The author does not take the trouble either to explain their symbolism or the reasons for the hero's dissatisfaction ,with them. From the point of view of the logic of the story this is an important omission. But the author does not even mention the hero's decision to go to Persia. For this reason the reader only later on realizes why Imamshah goes to Sind. But the author, or one of the authors, finds great delight in reporting the hero's trivial inconveniences caused by the rudeness and hostile attitude of the people in the villages that he visited, a feature of life which is by no means extinct now. From the sloka 27 the action is apparently taking place in Persia. Imamshah arrives at a place called Bhom where he wants to have the didar of the Imam, Nūr Shāh, as he is called, probably not by his real name, but a honorific title. It is needless to mention that there is no such place in Persia called Bhom. The nearest approach would be Bam, a town in the province of Kirmān. As at that period the Imams perhaps were really connected with that province, probably residing in Shahr-i Bābak, there is nothing improbable in the suggestion that one of them might have stayed in Bam in some official capacity. 2
Here Imamshah applies to the servant of the Imam called mukh'ī Ghulām. But ghulam itself means servant, and is used in personal names only in combinations such as Ghulām 'Ali, G.Husayn, G. Nabi, etc. Very interesting details of this contact are noteworthy. The Imam, receiving the report of the arrival of a Khoja pilgrim asking for the dīdār, tells his servant to put him up and provide necessary food. We may note how the servant does this. He sits down, sews a scull-cap, goes to the market, sells it, and by the money thus earned buys some food which he brings to the guest. It is not clear whether this detail is meant to emphasise the poverty of the Imam. The absence of any hyperbolic mention of the beauty of his palace, or something on these lines, may suggest that this really was so.
The dī'dār is further on described in appropriate words which, as Mr. Kane points out ( sloka 45 sqq.), strikingly remind one of the XIth charter of the Gita. The religious mind of the author passed over the most important discussions which the hero probably had with the Imam. He merely pursues his basic theme, of the persistent claims of the disinherited hero for his "share", and makes him follow his father even to Heaven. As if the Imam has no say in the matter, Imamshah merely asks him to let him go to Heaven to claim that "share". The Imam gives the necessary permission, and the hero goes there. Strangely, in order to go to heaven he goes first to a cave. The absent-minded author, having brought Imamshah to his father, forgets all about the purpose of his extraordinary journey, and makes him merely ask for the keys of Paradise, thus implying that the pīrs themselves were not in Paradise.
The author absent-mindedly forgets to mention whether Imamshah has generally attained the aim of his journey or explain the reasons for the failure. For him all this is merely a pretext to explain his theory of the magnificent reward prepared for the pious in Paradise which is described in terms intended to evoke the maximum of admiration. The hero, Imamshah, visits it, using the modern parlance merely as a tourist, out of curiosity. During his journey on earth in Persia he cannot recollect anything, even the name of the place in which he had the privilege of the dīdār here he shows himself as a keen observer. Various details deserve mention.
He begins from what may be termed the Purgatory ( sloka 71) and mentions that Hindu souls, if piously acting, will reach the sixth heaven, but later on will fall down, and their good actions will not help them, why and how, it is not explained. In slokas 75-97 the author, or a later interpolator, inserts a short account of the history of Satpanth, apparently quite unconnected with the narrative and based on vague legends rather than on facts.
The Arab of the desert pictured Paradise primarily as a garden, fresh and well supplied with water. The author, all Indian accustomed to living amongst rich vegetation, only incidentally mentions the garden, but devotes all attention to the buildings with which he covers Paradise. All these are made of precious metals and stones. The Arab dreamt of black-eyed hurries with virgin breasts, ever remaining virgins. The Indian poet does not care about their eyes or anatomy, but about their dress and ornaments. He is accurate enough to mention that the share of every pious man is "about fifty" of them. Moreover he is so observant that he even informs us about their social standing: four times four of them (i.e. 16) are the daughters of god -desses (why not of gods ?) ( sloka 127). In the next sloka it is also said that "those who will get fifty hurries will have Divine princes born by them". These hurries, or Apsaras of Hindu mythology, are in these descriptions plainly modeled on temple hierodulas, devadasis. The author even gives a detailed description of the bed, of course of the most gorgeous quality, which forms a art of their professional outfit.
Finishing with the hurries, the author proceeds with other attractions of Paradise in the form of an astronomical number of castles, each with turrets, similarly of astronomical dimensions.
Strangely, the poet makes Imamshah more precise in his account of the return journey ( sl . 141 sqq,). He gradually descends from Heaven to his native Uchchh, returning to his mother, via the Hindu Paradise, the Mount Meru. Such inconsistency of subject, various additions which hit the eye, and concentration on religiously illustrative matters leaves very little room for doubt that a long and
complex process of gradual alterations took place. Most probably the original poem, perhaps really composed by Imamshah himself, suffered at the hands of various adaptators. How precious would have been such an original and unpretentious account of the journey to Persia by an intelligent Khoja traveller of the end of the fifteenth century if it had been preserved in the community !