The decline of the Mughal Empire produced one of the finest poets, authors, and artists in South Asia. Most of these poets, writers, and scholars worked in Persian or Urdu’s elite languages, but a few opted to work in native or local languages. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai did a similar work of literary excellence in the Sindhi language, still regarded as the finest Sindhi Literature and poetry.
In 1689, Shah Abdul Latif, a Sufi poet, was born in Hala Haveli near Hyderabad, Sindh. Though he did not attain formal education, he was fluent in Arabic and Persian languages. The art of poetry ran in his blood as his Grandfather Abdul Qudoos Shah was a poet. He kept a copy of his grandfather’s poems with him along with a copy of the Holy Quran. Besides his grandfather, Maulana Rumi also inspired Shah Abdul Latif. Altogether, these influences helped shape Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetic work, collected by his disciples in Shah jo Risalo.
Shah Abdul Latif taught the meaning of life and the journey of divinity for every soul through his Seven Queens. The Folktales of the Seven Heroines are renowned as stories of love, but each story unveiled different spirituality levels. The tale of Sorath Rai Diyach focused on the evil of greed and jealousy, which quickly devours the good-hearted if left unchecked. Lilan showed that the material world is nothing but a mere illusion and trap for the soul. On the other hand, the fisherwoman Noori stayed humble to her roots, making her the noblest queen of her time. Marvi’s the symbol of resilience, stood up against the tyrant Umar, showing submission is not the answer always. Rano’s struggle to gain Momal revealed the challenges of life and love. Sohni’s dedication and Mehar’s sacrifice are the keys to their reunification. Sassi and Punnu show the connection of all souls to their common origin. Moreover, Shah Abdul Latif also symbolized death as an emblem of reunification. In his eye’s the end of the worldly life is the ultimate level of divine love when the spirit meets the creator.
The stories of the seven Heroines are a part of the 30 Raags (rhythm) in the Shah Jo Risalo. Shah used music to preach his message to the masses. He even invented a stringed musical instrument called the Dhambura, which resembles the Tambura. Shah Abdul Latif started a tradition of singing his Wa’ai (poem), accompanying the melody of Tambura. He gathered his disciples at a Sandhill (Bhit) by night, and together, they sang his Wa’ai and Raags. Later he permanently resided at the mound, making him known in the region as Bhittai- The Dweller of Sandhill.
His Wa’ais (poem) are still sung by the Faqirs in a high-pitched sound, mimicking a woman’s voice at his shrine in Bhit Shah, Mitiari. Like all Sufi Saints, his poetry had women as the main character, and through them, he portrayed the wider message of the love of All humankind.