An unpublished Ginan

DR. Gulshan Khaki

This paper is partly based on one of my previously published paper [1] and draws freely from it.

The concept of Das Avataar has been mentioned in numerous Ginans. In the Ginanic literature there are three works which are specifically identified by the name Das Avtaar. The smallest of these three is attributed to Pir Shams and has been published in his Ginan Collection [2]. This version, which is sometimes called "Pir Shams jo Das Avataar" and consists of twenty eight lines divided into ten verses of varying length. The second version was composed by Pir Sadardin and is counted as one of his major works or Granths. This Granth is generally known as "Nano Das Avataar" and consists of about ten pages of text, divided into ten sections of varying length. The third and the largest version was composed by Sayyed Imam Shah and is known as "Moto Das Avataar". This monumental work consists of a short prologue followed by ten sections of varying length, totalling sixteen hundred verses.

While examining several manuscripts of Das Avataar, I came across in one of the manuscripts (Kx Ms. - described in another paper in this proceedings), a hereto unknown version of Das Avataar. This version is in very archaic sounding Sindhi and is attributed to Pir Shams. It seems that there is no difference in the theme or main contents between this and the other version of Pir Shams Das Avataar. However, it is the linguistic value of this newly discovered version that is of interest to us here. As far as I know, there is only one copy of it in the manuscript now in possession of Ismaili Tariqa Board of Pakistan (Karachi).

Linguistically it is interesting, because it is composed entirely in archaic sounding Sindhi. (I have appended a text of it to this paper.) In the opinion of Prof. A. Schimmel, based on the fact that the earliest Sindhi uses the littlest possible Arabic and no Persian vocabulary at all, the Sindhi Das Avataar of Pir Shams must have been composed prior to the seventeenth century A.D. In this respect it can hold comparison with the works of Shah Lutf Allah Qadiri who died in the seventeenth century A.D. In our text the following Arabic or Persian words are to be found: Shah (nine times), Ali (once), Pir Shams (once), Alamut (once), `ilm (once), Bhajara (bazar ? once), ala ( ? once), bhecara (once). At the beginning of the Ginan the instruction is given that it should be sung in the raga Kedara, which interestingly is the raga Shah Abd al-Latif of Bhit (d. 1752) uses for his poetry concerning Muharram happenings.

Since this is the only copy known at this point in time, it makes it very difficult to decipher some of the illegible and /or in-comprehensible words. Should more copies of it be found it may be possible to prepare a standard version of this Ginan. Not only would it comprise an interesting specimen of Pir Shams work in Sindhi, but it would also be a rare example of a Ginan composed in different languages for geographically diverse converts.


1 Khaki G., "The Dasa Avatara of Pir Shams as linguistic and literary evidence of the early development of Ismailism in Sind"; SIND THROUGH THE CENTURIES, pp 143-155.

2 Shams Pir, Collection of Ginans; pp 35-37. Ismailia Association for India, 1952.