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Koel Koo after 95 years

June 02, 2011

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KOEL KOO by Bawa Budh Singh; pp 184; Price Rs200 (hb), Publishers Punjnad Academy, Punjab Plaza, Machhli Mandi, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore Punjab.

Some of the writers and intellectuals of the Punjab, belonging to different faiths, were sad to see that the British after coming to Punjab abandoned their education policy they had introduced in different provinces of India. These provinces for the first time had their mother tongue as medium in British-established schools but the ensuing rulers deprived the Punjab children of their right to be taught in their mother tongue.

In the early 20th century, protesting intellectuals got the backing of Chaudhry Shahabuddin, speaker of the Punjab Assembly who also translated Musaddis-i-Hali into Punjabi, Bawa Budh Singh. The third eminent person was Prof Dr Mohan Singh Diwana from Rawalpindi who first wrote history of Punjabi literature in English which was published in 1932.

Bawa Budh Singh was also wrote the history of Punjabi writers’ literature. More than 90 per cent of prominent poets belonged to Muslim creed and originated from west Punjab with Lehnda as the standard literary language. Budh Singh was under the influence of Aab-i-Hayat, by Muhammad Husain Azad. The book gave Bawa Budh Singh a pattern to follow and his first volume (out of three) was ‘Hans Chog’ which he published in the Persian script. He might have thought as the Punjabi is dominated by them, the Muslims would welcome his effort. But that was not the case.

Urdu was not only introduced in the Punjab and former Frontier but also in states like Bahawalpur and Kashmir. The bid was tolerated even by Khwaja Ghulam Farid, the great sufi poet. In 1940, another controversy hit United Provinces and Bihar that the Hindus got accepted Hindi as medium of classroom instruction. Before that Urdu was the only medium of instruction at primary level and English at a higher level.

This Hindu-Muslim linguistic conflict hit hard the future of Punjabi in the Punjab and of Urdu in the entire subcontinent. The Punjabi Muslims showed solidarity with their Muslim brethren of the UP and Bihar ignoring Punjabi, their own mother tongue.

Under such circumstances Bawa Budh Singh’s first book, Hans Chog, was not welcomed in Punjabi script therefore he published his next volume, Koel Koo, in Gurmukhi script in 1916.

This was the first ever history of Punjabi literature in Punjabi prose. Before that our two major poets -- Mian Muhammad Bukhsh and Maulvi Ahmad Yar Islamgarrhi -- in their poetry books had versified a sort of history or reference to Punjabi poets. For instance Mian Muhammad said;

In the same vein Ahmad Yar recorded the names and their peculiarities of the poets. Budh Singh did it in a modern fashion with some critical approach in his trilogy, Hans Chog, Koel Koo and Bol Banbeeha, the last two in Gurmukhi scripts which even after 95 years have not been transliterated into our Punjabi script.

The version under review is the sole credit of Riaz Raji, a poet who is proud of to be called “Punjabi Kaama” (Punjabi worker), and Prof Aashiq Raheel, a mathematics lecturer who has transliterated seven Gurmukhi books into our script, including ‘Koel Koo’ and ‘Yaadaan Ganji Bar Dian’ published by Punjabi Adabi Board. Their collective effort has fulfilled the wish of the late author Bawa Budh Singh who had expressed his desire in the first edition of 1916.

As referred earlier, the book of Budh Singh includes seven poets, all Muslim, who are: Hafiz Barkhurdar (Gujranwala), Muqbal Shah (East Punjab) and Waris Shah (Sheikhupura), Hamid Abbasi, Maulvi Abdul Hakeem, Mian Naurez and Mian Bukhsh. Neatly produced this book realizes the fact that Punjabi literature has great treasures but people like Riaz Raji and Aashiq Raheel are much needed.

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MAULVI GHULAM RASOOL ALAMPURI Shakhsiyat aur fun by Sahibzada Masud Ahmad; pp 246; Price Rs400 (pb); Publishers, Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad.

This Urdu book is the part of a series of the Academy named ‘Pakistani Adab Kay Maimar’. Masud Ahmad is the son of the granddaughter of Maulvi Ghulam Rasool. He lives in Faisalabad where he has established an institution in the memory of Ghulam Rasool, one of the three giants of Punjabi poetry, Khwaja Farid, Main Muhammad Bukhsh and Maulvi himself.

He was born in 1849, the year when Punjab was annexed by the British, in village Alampur, Hoshiarpur (east Punjab). He died at the age of 43 years in 1892 and was buried there. After Partition, non-Muslims not only observe his annual urs but also take care of the grave.

Apart from that there is Ghulam Rasool Hall and Library. Some literary organisations have also established a literary award after the poet’s name who was the author of most popular story of Yousuf Zulekha.

His other books include Dastan Amir Hamza, Sassi Punnu, Bandanama, Chaupatnama, Chittian, Roohul Tarteel and two short books in Urdu prose.

Maulvi Ghulam Rasool was one of the most acknowledged teachers of his time. He earned tribute from Dr Leitner, founder of the University of the Punjab, and author of History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab. It may be recalled that Leitner was in favour of mother tongue as medium of classroom instruction.

A former prime minister of India, IK Gujrat, originally from Jhelum, also paid tribute to the poet in following words: ‘The late Maulvi Ghulam Rasool Alampuri was once such a remarkable personality whose contribution has left an indelible mark on the Punjabi literature and folklore of both Pakistan and India. His influence transcends political boundaries and his legacy creates unified responses in the two countries which is a matter of great pride’. — STM