Literary Reading: Imagery in Ginan, “Ooncha re Kot…”, Underscores Soul’s Yearning for the Beloved

"I am a fish of the briny deep, Ah Love, hast Thou to succour me"

"I am a fish of the briny deep, Ah Love, hast Thou to succour me"

Eji Ooncha Re Kot Bahoo Vech-Na
of Pir Hasan Kabiru’d-Deen

Freely rendered in English verse
By (Late) Esmail Thawerbhoy
(iambic tetrameter, rhyme scheme abab)

Verse 1

So high the fort and climbing steep,
And surging round its base the sea;
I am a fish of the briny deep,
Ah Love, haste Thou to succour me.
Thy absence frets my heart’s commotion,
Beloved come home, my Love return;
Forgive Thy slave his scant devotion,
Show me Thy face, to Thee I turn.
Thy absence frets my heart’s commotion.

Verse 2

This sweet-scented sandalwood home,
Enclosed with beauteous acts galore;
‘Tis Love that locks me in my tomb,
Beloved I pray Thee ope the door.
Thy absence frets my heart’s commotion…

Verse 3

Enmeshed in ties of kith and kind,
How few realize its fatal art!
My soul’s torment, my body’s grind,
Beloved come soothe my aching heart.
Thy absence frets my heart’s commotion…

Verse 4

Be not so wroth, O Darling mine,
And deign to grant Thy Sight sublime;
Pir Hasan Shah entreats divine
Redemption from the sea (of time).
Thy absence frets my heart’s commotion…

______

Transliteration

Verse 1

Eji Ooncha re kot bahoo vech-na,
Neeche vahe dariya;
Hoon-re dariya vandi maachhli,
Sa-yan taaran aav.
Hoon-re darshan vina baavri,
Baalam ghare aav, Saajan ghare aav;
Bando bhooli-yo taari bandagi,
Sa-yan soorat bataav,
Hoon-re darshan vina baavri.

Verse 2

Eji Agar chandan-ni kota-di,
Soofal rachi-ya kamaad;
Taara deedha chhe premana,
Sa-yan kholan aav
Hoon-re darshan vina baavri…

Verse 3

Eji Pinjar padi-yo pari-vaar no,
Koik boojat jann;
Merre tann-ki vedana,
Sa-yan tapat boojaav.
Hoon-re darshan vina baavri…

Verse 4

Eji Itana kop na keeji-ye,
Sa-yan deeje didaar,
Pir Hasan Shah-ni venati,
Sa-yan taaran aav.
Hoon-re darshan vina baavri…

__________

Commentary

In this Ginan Pir Hasan Kabiru’d-deen speaks of the soul’s yearning for the Beatific Vision (Noorani Didar). The imagery employed by the Pir is the familiar mystical vehicle of human love and the pangs of separation. In mysticism human love is ennobled and elevated to symbolize divine Love.

The word ‘religion’ comes etymologically from the two roots ‘re,’ again, and ‘ligare,’ to bind. It thus implies a former union from which the soul was separated and seeks to be reunited again.

The Holy Qur’an has the Verse with the same signification:
Inna li-llahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon which means
“From Allah we come and to Him is our return.”

A famous Hadith of Prophet Muhammad says:
“Between Him and me there are seventy thousand Veils of Light.”

By ‘Veils of Light’ are meant the entanglements of the flesh which hinder the Soul from its meeting the Noor. It is in transcending the limitations of the flesh and establishing rapport with the Noor that the soul finds its ultimate fulfilment.

But this is no easy matter. Family ties, material gains, power and pelf distract man from his duty.

How difficult the task is, is allegorized by the Pir as the effort of the fish (soul) to swim to the edge of the sea, and then climb up a stiff and fortified fort. The soul is also symbolized as a bird in its cage which is enamoured of its cage, and is loth to leave it to find its true place.

Beatific Vision can only be an act of Grace; and no soul, however much it strives, can claim to be entitled to it. If and when Grace comes, it comes from above. It is transcendent, not immanent. That is to say, it must come from outside of our sense-perception, and cannot be induced from within our consciousness. If we can, in Ibadat, eliminate all consciousness of Space and Time, the soul untrammelled by ‘mortal coil’ could, with Divine Grace, hope for a glimpse of the Beatific Vision—Noorani Didar. But it is always an act of Grace, and man cannot claim to merit it on the strength of his effort.

To use the terminology of photography, a sensitized plate kept in a darkroom will not take an impression however long it remains in the darkroom. But if light from an object falls upon it, it immediately takes an impression. The soul, freed from its entanglements, is like a sensitized plate. It is ready to receive Noorani Didar. But this Light must come from outside. It may come in a few days, a few weeks, or months, or years. It may not come at all. Man’s volition cannot accelerate or ensure the moment. He must strive patiently, and hope for Divine Grace.

Redemption is a common motif in many philosophies. In Eastern philosophy the sea is the symbol of the cycle of life (bhava saagar). To be saved from the sea means release from the flux of life. In Neo-Platonic philosophy it stands for the Individual Soul’s relation to the Universal Soul. In Sufism it is fanna fillah baqa hillah (annihilation in God and then everlasting existence in God). In Ismaili philosophy it stands for the absorption of the individual soul into the Noor of Imamat.

____________________

Editor’s Note:

This article was submitted by  (late) Esmail Thawerbhoy to Ilm magazine, London, and published in the July 1977 issue (Volume 3, Number 1), under the heading Ginan Sharif of Pir Hasan Kabiru’d-Deen.

The late Esmail Thawerbhoy, originally from Mumbai, India, was a lawyer by profession  and lived in Bangladesh before making  London, England, his home in the 1970′s.  He participated actively in numerous research and study groups while he was in Mumbai and Dacca. The editor remembers  him fondly for his immense interest and support for Ilm magazine, published by the Ismailia Association for the U.K, (now the Ismaili Tariqah an Religious Education Board) and for contributing an extensive article  “The Concept of  Imamat in Ismailism and Other Schools in Islam” which appeared in the March, 1977 issue of the magazine (Volume 2, Numbers 3 & 4).

May his  soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.

7 thoughts on “Literary Reading: Imagery in Ginan, “Ooncha re Kot…”, Underscores Soul’s Yearning for the Beloved

  1. I really enjoyed the ginan, and the translation. Please keep up the good work you are doing. Thank you, and Ya Ali Madad.
    Nurjehan.

  2. Truly appreciate your efforts to publish the meaning of this particular ginan.

    This ginan was one of those that I recited the most when I was a kid — It’d be great to see more ginan translations! Keep up the great work!! Best Regards,

    Zohra

  3. Really wonderful article, it touched my soul as we all are celebrating Lailat-ul-Qadr; it will definitely boost my morning prayers.

  4. The soul is stirred, the emotions flow, true knowledge gained in understanding . Please do more of these explanations of Ginans from our Pirs. Thank you for doing it in such beautiful manner.

    Amir Fazal

  5. This explanation of the imagery by the late Esmail Thawerbhoy – as well as the visual approach you have taken – is quite impressive for many of us who merely recite the Ginan as a convention and do not search for its deeper meaning. This tremendous service you are doing will hopefully take us on a path beyond the vernacular that many of us are so accustomed to.

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