Heer Damodar – revived in translation
The legend of Heer-Ranjha’s love has been narrated by 42 different poets. No other epic in world literature is known to have achieved this distinction. Among the surviving versions of the story, Heer of Damodar is probably the oldest.
The talented poet has left little on himself except the repeated chants like “name Damodar, caste Gulhati” in the fascinating story, which has been the subject of numerous films and plays over the decades on both sides of the Pakistan-India divide. . . The story, characters, tribes, and locations have been almost the same in each narrative with minor changes. For example, Waris Shah names Heer’s mother Malki, but Damodar calls her Kundi.
Researchers were only able to unearth scant details about the writer of this variant of Heer, such as that he was a Sikh named Damodar Das Arora, a resident of Jhang, where Heer’s tomb is still revered as a shrine. His claim that the legend took place during the reign of Emperor Akbar and that he saw it unfold before his very eyes is dismissed by critics as nothing more than poetic fantasy. Among other things, they say, the vocabulary he has used reveals that he lived sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century. Damodar and his work were virtually unknown until 1927 when the first of his three Heer manuscripts was discovered in Jhang.
Although the Waris Shah version of Heer has overshadowed all other narratives and thus has not been widely read or appreciated, Heer Damodar is clearly remarkable in certain respects.
“Heer de Damodar is written as a fast-paced script. There are no pauses or descriptive flights of the imagination. The story moves at high speed. Damodar draws on an immense amount of his knowledge of human nature and the problems of society. rural. Punjab in the tale and its characters, “says Muzaffar Ghaffar in his preface to the book, which is a link in the poetry series Within Reach – Punjabi Masterpieces. “He is a master storyteller who always keeps the reader’s interest alive. In fact, his Heer should have become a great favorite of professional storytellers, but … he is virtually unknown in oral tradition. And yet, there seems to be Strange material in the three available manuscripts. Such corruptions generally only occur with tales that are very told and orally transmitted. This is another enigma about Heer Damodar. “
When we evaluated the Within Reach series by Muzaffar Ghaffar, we really fell short of adjectives. Call it fantastic, great, great, wonderful, monumental, phenomenal, wonderful … none of the words would seem hyperbole. He has produced Bulleh Shah (two volumes), Baba Fareed Ganjshakar, Baba Nanak, Sachal Sarmast, Sultan Bahu, Khwaja Ghulam Fareed, and Shah Husain (three volumes). Even a single volume on Khwaja Ghulam Fareed in Urdu earned a scholar a Pride of Performance Award during the Musharraf regime. The writer, withholding his name for fear that he may appear to be belittling his contribution to Punjabi language and literature, truly deserved the award. But I firmly believe that each of Muzaffar sahib’s books deserves the same recognition. His other works, five collections of English poetry; How governments work; The brain, the body, the soul, the mind; and Unity in Diversity, A Vision for Pakistan, are also enlightening and very easy to read.
What is it about those Punjabi Sufi poetry books that is weird? He has taken a wide selection of the works of each of the great masters first at Nastaliq and did his poetic translation at Gurmukhi. As with these books, he particularly tries to reach English reading lovers of classical Punjabi poetry around the world, he translates them into romanized script, he translates the poetry into English verse (only one line for each line), explain the meaning of difficult words. and then you have a detailed discussion on those lines in lucid language. To make the reader’s job even easier, it provides an elaborate glossary at the end of each volume. Only a random quote from Heer Damodar can illustrate the point:
“The charm comes now. Heer Syal has grown. Her beauty and demeanor are affirmed by telling us that her feet do not touch the ground. (In this sentence, the word zamin is often pronounced zimin). With grace and beauty, she is almost in flight. This description may be setting us up for arrogance in Heer. Such disregard of being oblivious to her surroundings is surely the result of an irrefutable knowledge that she is beautiful. The poet gives a masterful foundation in his demeanor by telling us that his feet are not they hit the ground. This is so for good reason, not just an innate arrogance … “
Muzaffar’s interest in what his true love work is seems to be increasing with his age and declining health. His latest book, Shah Husain, was in three volumes. The book under review has four, all Heer Damodar. His next adventure, Heer Waris Shah, which is getting the finishing touches, will be six volumes. And one can hope that the process continues and what might be extinguished in the original text comes to life in its excellent translation.
Considering the high-quality production, the cost could be justifiable. But how ordinary people interested in Punjabi Sufi poetry would access and benefit from this book is a question that must be addressed.
Heer Damodar: Within Reach (four volumes)
By Muzaffar A. Ghaffaar
Ferozsons (Pvt) Ltd
60, Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam Lahore;
277, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi;
Mehran Heights, Main Clifton Road,
Four-volume boxed set $ 395