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      /  Culture   /  Baluch National Identity and Baluchi Poets

    Baluch National Identity and Baluchi Poets

    Author: Nasser Boladai

    This article discusses ideas that ancient poets used in their verses. Throughout history the nations who were under great domination studied their ancient folklore, and with the help of these ideas reflected in folklore, their national spirit flourished.And these ideas paved the way for these nations to understand their national identity and eventually helped them in  achieving their national freedom and sovereignty. This article also discusses the ancient Baluch poets and their role in relation to the Baluch national identity.

    There’s not only meaning behind words but ideas too, for instance, nation and motherland are both words. The first defines the peoples sovereignty, however latter derives its meaning from the monarchy.

    The idea of ​​nationalism is based on the principle that legitimacy is given to the state through the consent of the common people. Nationalism is essentially a liberal movement that seeks the freedom and sovereignty of nations. But today, when most European countries have achieved their freedom and sovereignty; their desire is the progress of the federal governance, hence today nationalism is considered more of a conservative movement in the western world. The movement may switch from left to right, however it is still believed to be a liberal movement in the countries where the majority of people are living under dominance of other nations.

    An idea is a means through which one gains an understanding of the changes and transforms the society. Every society that is in the process of transformation and change needs a idea to determine its future and to know and learn from its own history in order to identify the obstacles and develop a plan for the future. If we don’t take our current circumstances seriously, we will face many problems in building the future.

    The ancient poets of popular culture incorporated unique ideas to the words used in their poems. The crux of these ideas, which have been based on national culture and history made their way into the hearts of European historians and scholars and other countries that have loved their national identity. They tried to identify and define their national identity, which originates from the folktales recited by the ordinary people that they had collected over the time. In this way, they tried to manifest the popular identity of their nation in a beautiful way and conveyed that their identity is separate from the identity created and imposed by their ruling masters; as a result, they lead their nation to the path of freedom and sovereignty.

    European writers and scholars such as Goethe and Jacob Grimm called on their European counterparts to compile their own national folklore. Dante, meanwhile, called on Italian poets to write poetry in Italian to showcase the purity and charm of the Italian language to the world.

    The French, the British, and the Swedes, who had clear political boundaries and a monarchy, did not feel the need to re-definition and rewriting of their history or collecting folklore or creating a standard language since their identity was already defined and shaped by their monarchs at will. It however, goes without saying that Shakespeare played a major role in the identity of the British people by rewriting and re-imagination of British history through his plays. The Greeks who were under the domination of Ottoman Turks did not see the need either, as they had already inherited a unique treasure trove of written literature that had come down to them from ancient Greece. All they had to do was to use that treasure, along with other factors, to regain their freedom and sovereignty.

    But those nations ruled by foreign rulers and monarchs, who, like the Greeks, did not have written literature, turned to their mother tongue and oral folklore to recognize their national identity and the legitimacy of their popular struggles for national liberation and sovereignty.

    Besides the Greek , there were scholars from two other European nations who made extensive use of language and folklore to identify their national identity, freedom, and national sovereignty. They were Italian and Finnish scholars.

    For Italians it was not easy to disconnect themselves from Roman empire and Catholic Popes who had their grand influence in the capital of Rome. Rome was also an ideal location for other European Emperors. The incredible grandeur of Rome was a source of inspiration for them to relive and recreate national identity. After a long process, the Italians were able to free themselves from the domination of the Roman Empire and the pope, to achieve their national sovereignty and to unite the segregated territories of the country.

    This process lasted from the time of Dante, who sought a standard language in Italian and its various forgotten dialects on the Italian peninsula, until World War I.

    The second nation to benefit from ancient folklore for its liberation was the Finland. Finland has been a part of Sweden or Russia for most of its history.In the early 18th century, Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire, but it was heavily influenced by the Swedish culture and the Swedish language was vastly used in Finland. In such a situation, Finnish scholars feared that Finland would gradually lose its identity between Russia and Sweden.

    As a result, Finnish scholars began collecting poetry and folklore from all over their territory. These poems fell into the hands of Elias Lönnrot. He compiled twenty-three thousand (23,000) poems, put them in order, and published them in a book called Kalevala. In ancient Finnish folklore, Kalevala is the name of one of the heroes.

    As a result, Finnish culture, which was fading between Russian and Swedish culture, was revived. The Finnish language and culture appealed to the general public in all areas, and Swedish and Russian were used less and less.

    The dream of freedom appeared in the hearts of the Finnish people with a slogan: “We can not be Swedish. We do not want to become Russian, let us be Finnish.” Later, Johhan Ludvig Runebärg contributed greatly to the process with his epic war poem, ‘Fanrik Stalas Sagner (Tales of Ensign Stål). This poem is about the Finnish war. Sweden lost to Russia in this war and the eastern part of Sweden were annexed by the Russian Empire. The epic poem narrated the tale of bravery of Finnish people and their sacrifice for their motherland.

    After the Russian Revolution, Finland, like other Russian colonies, gained its freedom, but after World War II, the former Soviet Union decided to restore Russia’s former borders, but this time not in the name of Caesar but in the name of the socialist state.

    The Soviet army was able to annex the former Russian colonies to the Soviet Union, but the Finns were able to prevent the “Russian bear” from advancing. In the ‘Winter War’, the Finns defended their freedom with their blood. In this war for freedom, Fanrik Stalas Sagnerm epic battle story played a major role in stirring up the national spirit of the Finnish people.

    The emergence of popular folklore culture in the 17th and 18th century, also created controversies and debate among the intellectuals. Some viewed its importance and value so great for their national identity and sovereignty that even if they did not already have ancient folk songs or samples or had not been heard by then, they decided to do it themselves by creating fake folktales and pretending that those were the poems or ancient samples of the folklore of their nation.

    In Scotland, the emerging poet and writer James Macpherson went to the Highlands to search for and collect ancient Scottish Gaelic poems. He also translated those poems into English. Everyone was amazed at the war poems he had collected, and said, “Look at the war of the Scots, which is equal to the war of the Greeks.” However some time later, when others went and researched, they did not find such folklore. The Scottish poet could not provide a written and authentic sample in the Scottish language.

    Another such thing was done for the Serbs. In 1827, a book called “La Gazala” was published, which contained samples of Serbian folklore. ‘La Ghazala’ is the name of one of the musical instruments. European scholars and writers were enthusiastic that one of the nations under European domination had ancient warfare and folklore. This book was translated into many European languages.

    The Russian scholars, in particular, were elated to see that their all-religious brothers, under their domination and secession, enjoyed precious literature and folklore like the Greeks. Pushkin translated some of them into Russian and later translated and published them in many European languages. At that time, the Serbs were dominated by the Ottoman Turks.

    Later, however it was revealed that La Gazala was fake. Its creator was found, and he was none other than Prosper Mermiee, who later wrote valuable books such as Carmen. Explaining this, Marmi said that the reason was that so he could earn some money to go to the Serbian villages to research and collect old epic poems and folktales.

    The forgery of the book became clear to everyone, but Pushkin, who had a soft corner for his Slav kin, refused to believe that it was fake. Eventually, the Mermiee himself had to write to Pushkin, saying that he was the creator of these folklore and that there was no originality in them.

    The ancient Baluchi poems and songs that have reached us are authentic and there is no doubt in their authenticity. For hundreds of years, these poems have been sung and quoted by Baluchi classical music singers in gatherings and music circles; In this way, these poems have reached us through narrators.

    First of all, the classical singers and musicians of the Baluch nation called Pahlawanhas have protected these poems and taken them to the people. In this regard, they have played a significant role, especially when the chauvinist rulers of Iran in Western Baluchistan have systematically demanded the transformation of the national identity of the Baluch nation and make the Baluch a Persian, and tried everything in their power to erase Baluch national identity. In that time, it was the melodious singers and musician like Kamalaan, Gholam Kadir, Kadir Bakhs, Saleh Mahmad Maliri (Sawalig), Dor Mahmad, Rasool Bakhs, Ali and Pahlawan Arzoo who played a great role in preserving the Baluch culture and national identity.

    The selection and writing of classic poems started by Mansel Longworth Dames. He was one of the most knowledgeable and intelligent British officers on duty in the mountainous regions of Baluchistan. He collected Baluchi epic and love poem in Dera Ghazi Khan region of Eastern (Pakistani) Baluchistan. He published his book, titled ‘Popular Poetry of the Baluches’ in which he translated his selection of some classical Baluchi poems in 1907 to English. This book was also published and shared in 1988, in Quetta, Pakistan.

    Sher Mahmad Marri’s book, ‘Baluchi Kohanin Shayari’ (Baluchi old poetry) is also considered a treasure in Baluchi literature. The poems in ‘this book are in ‘Suleimani ‘ dialect of Baluchi. In addition, he had also included a background and a brief introduction before each classical poem. This book has been published by the Baluch Academy in Quetta.

    The two books by Gul Khan Naseer, ‘Baluchi Ishqiya Shayari’ (Baluchi Love Poetry) and ‘Baluchi Razmieh Shayari’ also contain ancient Baluchi poetry. These books highlight the Baluchi culture and identity and have been translated into Urdu language as well.

    Mr. Gul Khan wrote two more books about war tales and nationalism that were inspired from Baluchi heroic tales such as Hammal Jeyand’s epic battle with Portuguese. At that time, the Portuguese were plundering the Mekran Sea and trying their best to force the people to cross the shores of the Mekran Sea and monopolize the privilege of trading at sea. Hammal fought the Persians in order to preserve the freedom the of Mekran Sea.

    The brave and valour Hammal fought for the freedom of Mekran but unfortunately was caught and martyred by the Portuguese.

    The second story was about ‘’Dostain’’ and ‘’Shirin’’ first composed by “Jam Dorouk’’, in 17th century. Jam Drouk was a poet at Naseer Khan Nouri’s court (1749-1817). It was about Dostain and Shirin’s love story.

    Dostain was Shirin’s fiancé, one day Herat’s ruler attacked their town, many people were killed and Dostain was captured and taken to Herat. After many days in confinement he escaped on a horse to be reunited with Shirin. This story was rewritten with a new interpretation by Gul Khan Naseer; in the new interpretation Dostain’s deep love and longing was not only for Shirin but also expressed it for his motherland Baluchistan.

    Another great work in this field was done by Mahmad Sardar Khan Baluch. His book contains a background of classic Baluchi poetry as well as a selection of epic and love poetry. The book also talks about Baluchistan and the Baluch people’s culture and heritage in two volumes that have been published by Baluch Academy in 1977 in Quetta.

    Another incredible work was about (Baluch) national heritage which was edited by Mr. ‘’Pakeer Shad’’. His poetry books were edited from narrations of Mekran’s melodious balladeers especially from the Western Mekran. He has gathered more epic and love poetry than previous ones. It was printed first in 2000.

    In this essay different political thinkers, anthropologists and linguists’ works has been referenced through quotations. Some scripts were also taken from the voice recording of classical singers, and my own knowledge of Baluch song and epic poetry that I have learned in my own surroundings.

    The ancient Baluchi poets, like the poets of other lands, added ideas to their words and poems. The meaning we have today of Baluchi identity in our minds stems from the ideas behind the words of these ancient poems. It would not be wrong to say that the ancient Baluchi poets, classical singers, and Baluch musicians (heroes) played a much higher role in shaping the Baluchi identity than the Khans (tribal heads), Sardars (tribal chieftains), and Kings who described these poems and their kingship.

    In the late 15th and early 16th century, when thousands of Baluch men were engaged in a reckless thirty-year civil war stemming from a rivalry between two dominant tribes of the time Rind and Lashar led by Chakar and Goharam.. It led the nation into a path of destruction and near extinction. This war especially worried the Baluch balladeers that whether Baluch nation would survive such destruction and mass migration towards Sindh and Punjab or not. Under such dire circumstances, ‘’Sholan’’ with great diligence made literary efforts in this regard to save his nation by composing Baluchi epic poem, called “Rind o Lashar Shair” (Poetry of Rind and Lashar).

    The singers and warriors heightened Sholan’s status equivalent to Kings and to those who controlled peoples’ mind and thinking. He

    Sholan asked musicians and singers to carry with them his verses and lyrics of poems and to sing and narrate them in all kind of gatherings to motivate the youth. Sholan described the first stanza of ‘’Rind’’ and ‘’Lashars’’ poetry as follows:

    Hoti [a person’s name] my grandiose friend

    This is an informative discourse

    You ride on the way

    Ride on a vast field

    Go like a wind

    My being is grief-stricken

    My heart is pounding

    You participate in youth session

    Inform enlighened minds

    Take the charge of bravery

    go around the world

    If you take my note with you

    I give my word

    Swore on my head

    To give you a coat and a crown

    Chakar (Baluch King) was fighting for a herd of camels

    Lashar [a Baluch tribe] is fighting against the King of Rind

    Both sons of same ancestors

    You all should listen to to my verses

    I bring to life old stories

    From fathers to granfathers and ancestors

    In this essay, Sholan’s verse is given as an example. The Baluchi poets, musicians and composers’ ideas and thinking have been discussed and analyzed on how they have shaped Baluch culture and national identity.