Punjabi Literature


There is a long tradition of Punjabi literature, which goes back to the period of North Indian Vernacular, which later developed into the various modern provincial languages in the eighth century or earlier, with Sanskrit and Pali literature before it. Poetry in Sahaskriti and in Lahndi-cum-Punjabi-cum-Hindvi carrying the names of Khusro, Kabir, Kamal, Ramanand, Namdev, Ravidas, Charpat and Gorakh Nath is available. Punjabi language in its present form, like other Indian languages, mainly developed in the ninth and the eleventh centuries, the period of an intermediate form of Sanskritic Indian languages. The language of Addaiman's poetic work Saneh Raso (The Epic of Love) written in Multan in the ninth or tenth century is definitely a pre-punjabi apabhramsa in which we find more than 300 words of such Punjabi forms, as are currently in usage today. Most of the Scholars think that modern Punjabi developed from old Multani. Some of the Slokas as found in Guru Granth Sahib are in pure Multani dilect of that period. Some of the poetical forms popular during this period were: slok, chhand, swiya, kabit, sohile and pandi etc.

Three traditions are distinctly marked in Punjabi literature up to the end of the nineteenth century. The Sikh religious tradition popularly known as Gurmat tradition is based on the poetry of the Sikh Gurus as contained in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. The Sufi tradition of literature and thought has been an equally dominant component of Punjabi literary traditions and culture. Sheikh Farid, whose poetry is contained in the Guru Granth Sahib, marks the beginning of this tradition. But it is the superb poetry and chaste Punjabi language mainly of Shah Hussain and Bulle Shah, which is responsible for making it popular most powerful tradition of Punjabi writing and singing. There is the third tradition of Kissa poetry, of balladeers of singing tales of love and romance. The first available Kissa in Punjabi is by Damodar on the popular folk-narrative of Heer, written in the dialect of Jhang. The Kissa poetry reaches its peek of glory with Waris Shah's Heer, which continues to be the one of the most popular literary compositions in the Punjab. The major poets of this tradition are: Hafiz Barkhudar with his classic Yusuf Zulekha, Hashim Shah, Ahmed Yaar, Imam Bakhash and others.

The Sufi tradition and the Kissa tradition run parallel, interacting with each other to constitute the most comprehensive strong tradition of Punjab poetry, deeply rooted in socio-cultural life of Punjab, runs unabated to the end of the nineteenth century. With the beginning of the twentieth century under the impact of the western forces of modernisation, the idealistic over tones give way to the new emerging realities of modern life.

Sheikh Farid (A.D. 1173-1265)

Punjabi literature begins with the poetry of Sheikh Farid, composed in sloks (couplets) and hymns, included in the Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh scripture complied in the present form by Guru Arjan Dev in A.D. 1604. In an age of wandering faquirs and sadhus, Guru Nanak met one of Sheikh Farid's great followers Sheikh Ibrahim in the sixteenth century and collected Sheikh Farid's poetry, which was subsequently included in the Sikh Scripture. There are references to Sheikh Farid in many writings of Muslim period that he wrote poetry in Punjabi or Multani, as Multan was the first historical centre of Punjabi language.

Farid was one of the leading figures of Sufi movement in Northern India. Sufism as a parallel movement in Islam emphasized inner spirituality as opposed to dogmatic formulism. The orthodox Muslims excommunicated them. Leading simple, ascetic lives, rejecting all worldly ambitions, they located God and spirituality in the mind and the body of a living man.

Farid wrote large number of verses in musical meters so that they could be sung. Some of Farid's couplets are so popular that they have become an integral part of life of the people in Punjab:

	Says Farid,
	I think I am the only one, who suffers,
	from top of the house I find, 
	every house on fire.
	The lanes are muddy,
	And far is the house of my love,
	Walking the lanes my shawl gets spoiled,
	Stay home, I fail in my love.

In Sheikh Farid, as in Sufi and Bhagti writing, the relationship between God and man is that of husband and wife. Written in sensuous and erotic imagery, the poetry is lyrical and sentimental in nature. He was a deeply religious man and for him realization of God was the ultimate goal of human existence. Life of man on this earth is highly perishable, is the refrain of his poetry. It is very significant about Farid's poetry that there is no Islamic Shara as such and his teaching is free from any sectarian prejudice.

The Sikh Religious Poetry

Guru Nanak (1469-1539)

Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, was born in 1469 in a village in the province of Lahore. At a very young age, he renounced the life of a householder and spent 30 years wandering like a faquir. In his long wanderings, his legendry followers, Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana, who played on music while he recited his compositions, accompanied him. Finally, he settled at Kartarpur on the bank of river Ravi, complied his own compositions and compositions of other bhagats and established his own religion.

There is a long distance of two centuries between Sheikh Farid and Guru Nanak, a great poet whose poetry constitutes the most significant part of the canon of the holy scripture of the Sikhs. These two centuries were a period of great turmoil when invaders from across the western passes invaded the land. Guru Nanak was a witness to these tragic happenings and his reactions are most strongly depicted in his immortal verse called Babarvani. A superb poet and a sublime thinker of the stature of Guru Nanak cannot emerge in a literary vacuum: there must have been a strong literary tradition to produce a Guru Nanak. It is sad that no documentary evidence of the literary writings barring portions of ballads depicting battles and fuels between local chiefs are available.

Guru Nanak's poetry composed in Apabhramsha and Punjabi offers interesting studies in the development of language in this period. There are Hindvi propositions, conjunctions and verbs in the so-called Punjabi compositions. Similarly, there are Punjabi expressions in the Apabhramsha and the Hindvi compositions. Since the poems in the Sikh Scripture are hymns to be chanted, Guru Nanak's compositions are set forth in different ragas.

The Guru Granth Sahib: The Holy Scripture

Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606), the fifth Guru, brought up a scholarly tradition and on the basis of his inter-action with other religious centres in India, was mainly responsible for promoting the use of Sadhvi, Braj Bhasha. It was Guru Arjan Dev, who took the most important and historical task of compilation of the Sikh Scripture worshipped by the Sikhs as the Guru Granth Sahib. The compositions in the Sikh Scripture have been arranged in various ragas according to the Indian system of music. Guru Arjan himself decided to compile the authentic text of the composition of Guru Nanak and his successors, and Bhai Gurdas was asked to prepare the master- copy of the text. He included his own compositions, which constitute a major part of the Sikh Scripture. Along with the hymns of the Sikh Gurus, the hymns of the 30 other Bhagats belonging to various casts, regions and professions are also included in the Scripture. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and the last Guru, redictated that the scripture when he got Guru Tegh Bahadur's hymns also included in the body of the Guru Granth Sahib. But he did not include his own compositions in the Guru Granth Sahib, which he ordained to he the living embodiment of the Guru.

Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) the last and the tenth Gurus dissolved the office of the personal Guru and vested its authority in the Adi Granth. Thus, Adi Granth is popularly known as Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh wrote large number of poems in Braj and Persian. There is only one poem Chandi di var written in Punjabi language, a heroic tale that narrates the story of the goddess Durga destroying the demons in the battlefield. In fact, guru Gobind Singh Chandi di var is a continuation of the myth and narrative of Markendya Purana. Where Mother Goddess is conceptualized as the primal energy that destroys all that is evil in this world. After Guru Gobind Singh's passing away, his compositions were collected by his followers, mainly by Bhai Mani Singh in the Dasam Granth.

Sufi Poetry

The poetry of Muslim Fakirs who became popular as Sufi's constitutes a major part of the Punjabi Poetry in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Sufism emerged, as a movement in Islam, in Arabia in the ninth century. Drawing inspiration from the life of the prophet, in Sufi Cult, there has been emphasis on leading a simple life of pure spirit from the very beginning. Literally, a Sufi is one who is pure, one who goes about the world in a woolen blanket, in with no other trappings of the so called civilized society. The Sufis set up their centers at Lahore, Pakpattan, Kasur and at Multan in the Punjab and, with the passage of time, they assimilated the best of every faith, which could contribute towards the emotional enrichment of human life as opposed to religious dogma. They danced in ecstasy and believed that the intense involvement with the other leads to the realization of one's being. By annihilating one's being, through this process of exploring the other, one discover the ultimate reality. As such, in Sufi thought, as in any kind of mysticism located in human reality, the intimate relationship between man and woman becomes the model for the ultimate relationship between man and the God.

The Sufis wrote lyrical poetry in simple language of the people and used images and symbols drawn from everyday life around them. Since their compositions were mint for singing, they employed folk forms like baramah, doha, baint, kafi, siharfi etc. Preoccupied with the spiritual nature of human existence, they used the popular folk narratives of Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Sasi Punnu and Mirza Sahiban to express their understanding of life as a voluptuous union of man and woman. The Sufis in the Punjab had the model of the Iranian Sufis who employed the folk narratives of Yusuf Zulaikha, Laila Majnun and Shirin Farhad for a similar purpose. Prominent among the Sufi poets who wrote in Punjabi language were Shah Husain, Sultan Bahu and Shah Saraf. Farid had already established the tradition in the twelfth century and the movement finds its glorious culmination in the poetry of Bullah Shah. There was Ali Hyder, Wajid and others in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries.

Shah Hussain

Shah Hussain (1539-1593) who ranks with Farid and Bullah Shah as a Sufi poet is one of those prominent writes who are responsible for developing medieval Punjabi into modern Punjabi language. In chaste central Punjabi idioms, he wrote 160 kafis besides slokas and other compositions to music as per the traditions among the Sufis. Shah Hussain was highly educated and accomplished man who was widely respected and well known to the Mughal emperor Akbar and Jahangir and to Guru Arjan Dev. Jahangir ordered one of his officials to write down Shah Hussain's sayings and specialties of his conduct. Which were put in volume called Baharia, wrapped in red garments, Shah Hussain drank liquor and danced in ecstasy like a typical Sufi possessed by some divine spirit.

Sultan Bahu

Sultan Bahu (1631-91) belonged to an aristocratic family of Arabic origin and lived in royal style unlike the Sufis. He was a great scholar of Arabic and Persian and wrote many books in this language. His poetry in Punjabi is written in Davayya form, in which syllable 'hu' is added after every line. Presenting a fascinating mixture of Iranian thought with Punjabi way of life, his poetry sounds quite modern and contemporary.

The Kissa Poetry

One of the major forms of poetic narration in Punjabi is called Kissa, an Arabic word current in West Asia. It originated around the love story of Yusuf and the Egyptian beauty Zuleikha that became a kind of model for narratives of love and romance. The earliest Kissa available in Punjabi is that of Heer and Ranjha by Damodar Gulati, composed in the local dialect of Jhang. Damodar was contemporary of Shah Hussain and the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjun Dev. Another Kissa belonging to the same times is that of Mirza and Sahiban composed by a Muslim Jat, Pilu. Which continues to be considered the best rendering of the narrative. After Pilu, Hafiz Barkhudar narrates the same love story and also introduces the romances of Sassi Punnu and Yusuf Zuleikha in Punjabi literature. He is at his best in Yusuf Zuleikha where he used Davaya, which was later used with greater art by Hashim Shah and Ahmed Yaar.

The Kissa poetry reaches its pinnacle of glory with Waris Shah's (1735-84) classic work Heer, woven around the love story of Heer and Ranjha. Which continues to be the most popular legendry literary work in the Punjabi: Written in Chaste, impeccable central Punjabi, Waris Shah's Heer is an excellent social and cultural document of the times, giving detailed information about the Hindu and the Muslim sects and orders, castes and professions, of systems of medicine, and legal administration. Since Waris Shah is dealing with real life of the people, he describes food systems and foods served on particular occasions, garments and ornaments and gifts exchanged on ceremonial occasions. In Waris Shah's Heer, we find a vivid, clear picture of life in a Punjabi village right from the kind of crops cultivated in the fields, animals, men and women and the way they live a rugged life, full of passion and vitality rooted in the soil.

Hashim Shah

Hashim Shah (A.D. 1753-1823) is another prominent Kissa poet, who wrote beautiful Kissas on the romantic folk narratives of Sassi Punnu, Shirin Farhad and Sohni Mahival. In Sassi Punnu, the heroine of the romance belongs to the ruling family of Sindh while Pannu, the hero, is the son of a rich merchant, from the hot clan of Baluchis. We find the same pattern in the romance of Sohni Mahiwal where the hero is again a rich young merchant from Bukhara, who meets a beautiful girl Sohni in the town of Gujarat on the bank of river Jhelam, on his way to Delhi. He wrote another beautiful Kissa on Shirine Farhad, a romantic tale taken from West Asian folklore. Though all the three Kissas are very popular in the Punjab, but Hashim is a best known from his rendering of the romance of Sassi Punnu.

Ahmed Yaar

Ahmed Yaar, born in A.D. 1768 in Gujrat district (Pakistan) is another prominent poet whose better known Kissas are Yusuf Zuleikha, Laila Majnu and Hatim Tai from West Asian folklore, Prem Katha of Kam Roop from India, and the traditional romances of Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahival from Punjab. Unlike the other Kissa poets, he uses large number of Arabic and Persian words in his poetry.

Kadir Yaar

Kadir Yaar, a Jat of the Sandhu Clan, born in A.D. 1805 is another very important Kissa poet known for his Kissa Puran Bhagat, based on the narrative which is one of the most popular legends of the Punjab. The narratives structure around the triangle constituted by an aged king, marrying a young woman who, in turn, falls in love with king's son, her stepson, has parallels in many narratives in India and other cultures of the world.

The Kissa poets wrote on number of religious and social themes concerned with the life of the people in the Punjab. The Kissas are excellent chronicles of the times for all the significant happenings and events become the subject matter of their compositions. The Kissas became popular for their renderings of heroic and romantic tales, which are still sung by the balladeers in the villages of the Punjab. Like the romantic tales found all over the world, these narratives belong to the feudal times, the period of love and romance in human history. Structured around the relationship of love and romance between a commoner and a prince or princess, they are the tragic tales of conflict between passion and society, which cannot be resolved in a feudal setup. There are number of romantic tales but the romances of Heer Ranja, Miraza Sahiban, Sassi Punnu, Sohni Mahival, Shirin Farhad and Puran Bhagat are extremely popular in Punjab. There is a whole series of narratives around the Puran Luna semiological pattern beginning from Puran Bhagat to the legends women around the life Raja Rasalau.

Modern Age

India enters modern age with the British rule on this sub-continent. The British missionaries had established their quarters at Ludhiana some twenty years earlier than the annexation of the Punjab in 1848. They started working on Punjabi language and Sikh religion. On commission from East India Company, Rattan Singh Bhangu, wrote the first history of the Sikhs in 1840. Sharda Ram Philauri, a Brahamin Munshi, made significant contribution to Punjabi literature by writing Sikhan de Raj di Vithia (An Account of the Sikh Rule) in 1875. Again on commision, he wrote the first grammar of Punjabi language, Punjabi Baat Chit (Conversation in Punjabi) for British officers trying to learn Punjabi. The Christian missionaries brought out translations of the Holy Bihble in Punjabi and freely distributed pamphlets at local gatherings and in the homes to propagate Christianity. Threatened by the onslaught of Christianity, backed by the Imperialist rulers, sectarian religious movements emerged among the Sikhs, the Hindus and the Muslims which undermined the composite Punjabi religious and cultural traditions in their attempts to define, shape and project their so called distinct religious identities.

Modernity in Punjabi literature, as in Indian literature, goes back to the modernization of our society and the consequent changes in our life styles and outlook. By the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the modern age, the British had consolidated their positions in the Punjab, and the their was wide spread change under the impact of western way of life. The learning of the English language acquired high prestige and importance for it opened up new worlds, avenues of employment and social mobility. With the spread of western education, new schools and colleges were opened up; libraries and reading rooms were established. With the introduction of the printing press, newspapers and books were printed in large numbers. The study of English literature became popular which started influencing national literary traditions. Through systematic implementation of western educational system with introduction of English language as the guiding principle, the British in a short span of time, were able to create an elite class in the Punjab, which provided a working base for the colonial rule in this part of the land. But, at the same, the western education and English language made Indian people aware about the life in western democracies which sharpened their political consciousness about the unjust predicament of the subjugated people in a colonial situations.

It is most important to understand that the freedom movement and the spirit of nationalism had seized the people all over India especially after the First World War. In some parts of the country as in Bengal and the Punjab, there were violent uprisings and movements especially after the horrible massacre of innocent people at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in 1919. Threatened by the wide spreading tide of Indian liberation movement, the British colonisers were becoming more and more barbaric and letting loose a rein of terror in India. The freedom fighters of the Ghaddar movement, Kartar Singh Sarabha and his sixteen fellows were hanged in 1917 and many were sent to the prisons in Andaman Islands.

Bhai Vir Singh

Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957), a great scholar of number of Indian languages, is considered to be the harbinger of modernism in Punjabi literature. He made a careful study of English literature and was greatly influenced the English romantic poets especially William Wordsworth and John Keats. A devout Sikh by faith he wrote, a both prose and poetry, strictly within the framework of Sikh religion and philosophy which readily served the needs of the Sikh aristocracy trying to carve out a separate identity for them. In a prose that reads like poetry, he wrote the biographies of the Sikh Gurus. As such, he became popular among the Sikh masses as an exponent of Sikh way of life and the annotator of Gurbani, the Sikh religious poetry. As a man of great learning with deep understanding of Sikh teachings, his Guru Granth Kosh (1927), a dictionary of Guru Granth Sahib and his annotation of Guru Pratap Suraj Granth (1933) are significant works of Scholarship. By writing novels like Sundri Satwant Kaur etc, he did pioneering work in fiction. Though his characters are mere puppets for the propagation of Sikh teachings.

Bhai Vir Singh, gifted with a fine sensibility and master craftsmanship, is the leading figure in the field of poetry in the beginning of the twentieth century. In his epic poem, Rana Surat Singh (1903) voluminous work of fourteen thousand lines, Bhai Vir Singh narrates the mystical journey of a lost soul on its way to the ultimate union with God. He rejected classical models of versification and experimented with blank verse, which gave him liverty to express his mystical experience and changing emotional moods. Bhai Vir Singh was basically a mystic poet completely with drawn from social reality. The massacre of Jallianwala Bagh disturbed Rabinder Nath Tagore, thousands of miles away in Bengal, but fails to touch a sensitive poet living in the midst of the horrifying holocaust is a strange phenomena! From the publication of his long epic poem Rana Surat Singh (1903) to the collection of his short poems, Laharan de Har (Garland of Ripples, 1908), Bijlian de Har (Garlands of Lightening Flashes, 1910) up to his last collection of poems Mere Saeean Jeo (My Dear Lord, 1953), metaphysical trend and mysticism is all-pervasive in his poetry.

Puran Singh

Puran Singh is a very important scholar poet of the period (1881-31) who wrote poetry and prose inspired by the American poets, Walt Whitman and thinkers like R.W. Emerson and social thinkers like Thomas Carlyle and Thoreau. He was a learned man with deep knowledge of Buddhism, Vedanta and Christianity. In his writings, both in English and Punjabi, we find him striving to create a bridge between the East and the West as it was wrongly posited as the major problematics of the times by many thinkers who failed to realize the predicament of the native people in a colonial situation. He went to Japan for highly studies, was so influenced by Japanase Buddhism that he became a disciple of Swami Ram Tirath. Back home in the Punjab, he returned to the field of Sikhism came under the influence of Bhai Vir Singh, but the mood of abandonment in his poetry is entirely different from the kind of mysticism in Bhai Vir Singh. His collection of poems includes Khule Maidan (Open Fields), Khule Ghund (Open Veils) and Khule Asmani Rang (Open Clouds of the Sky). His collection of poems, along with his collected works, including Spirit of the Sikhs were published by Punjabi University, Patiala in 1965. Written in the style of Walt Whitman, his poetry is full of love and passion for the infinite beauty that he finds in abundance around him in the rivers, trees, fields and men and women. He was greatly influenced by the romantic legends of the Punjab especially Heer Rangha as he identified himself with Rangha as his brother and Heer as his sister. He finds such a deep meaning in the legend that he tries to understand man and woman of the Punjab within the framework of the archetypal of the narrative for he finds all men as elder or younger brothers of Rangha and women as Heer's sisters. He was so fascinated by the legend of Puran Bhagat that he wrote a beautiful poem trying to reinterpret and redefine the narrative which has been dominating the minds of the people of this subcontinent.

Dhani Ram 'Chatrik'

Born in a village of Amritsar in 1876, Dhani Ram Chatrik continues to be one of the most popular poets who wrote about the life of Punjabi community. He worked all his life in Bhai Vir Singh's printing press and called himself his disciple but he does not continue in his tradition of poetry. Deeply rooted in the soil with painful awareness of the social conditions of the Indian people under the British rule, the spirit of patriotism and nationalism that was rising like a tide dominates his poetry. In direct opposition to the elite tradition nurtured by the British colonial rule in India, Dhani Ram Chatrik goes to the folk traditions of the Kissa poetry, explores narratives like Damyanti a legend from the Mahabharata and the tradition of romance between Radha and Krishna to emphasize the richness of national traditions. Written in folk form, with images and symbols drawn from the real life in a village and a town, Dhani Ram Chatrik's poetry is a beautiful expression of the well-knit, integrated life of the vibrant Punjabi community, the land and the people, in all its colors and hues, loves and joys, pains and sufferings, fairs and festivals and song and dance.

Inspired by the freedom movement and the spirit of patriotism Kirpa Sagar (1875-1939) is another important poet of the period, who wrote in folk forms about the richness of the Punjabi life about the rivers and the natural beauty of the fertile land of the Punjab.

Dr. Mohan Singh Diwana.

It is significant that there emerges a great intellectual writer, Dr. Mohan Singh Diwana, in the beginning of the modern age, when modern Punjabi literature and scholarship was taking shape. A scholar of the classical tradition who had mastery over several languages especially English and Persian wrote in every literary genre, poetry, drama, short story and literary criticism. His collection of poems includes Dhup Chhan (Light and Shade), Neel Dhara (Blue Stream) and his third collection of poems is Jagat Tamasha (Variety Show of the World). He was a great scholar of Indian religious and philosophical traditions and made significant contribution in his writings on the medieval thought. Working on the faculty of Punjab University, Lahore, hub of cultural activities, Mohan Singh did pioneering work in literary research and produced well-documented, A History of Punjabi Literature (1935), a most valued source book.

Professor Mohan Singh

Mohan Singh is responsible for enunciating a truly modern age of Panjabi poetry by liberating it from the all pervading mysticism of Bhai Vir Singh and Puran Singh. Mohan Singh is the product of the political ethos of the post World War period when National Liberation Struggles were the order of the day. On the teaching faculty of Khalsa College, Amritsar, he had among his colleagues great scholars like Prof Teja Singh, Gurbachan Singh Talib and Sant Singh Sekhon who were all students of English literature. Indian writers and intellectuals like Mulak Raj Anand Munshi Prem Chand and Sajjad Zahir were actively involved in the movement of progressive literature launched in 1934 by Russian, French and English writers like Gorky, E.M. Forster, Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann. Under the impact of the movement, Punjabi progressive writers organized societies particularly at Lahore and Amritsar which produced, among others, leading poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz in Urdu and Mohan Singh in Punjabi.

With his first collection of poems, Save Pattar (Green Leaves) published in 1935, Mohan Singh becomes so popular that some of the poems have become household songs of the people. The influence of Marxism and Freudian Psycho-analysis is explicitly evident in his second collection of poems, Kasumbhara (The Red Oleander) that establish him as the representative poet of the period. In his celebrated poem, Taj Mahal, he rejects the grandeur and beauty of the Taj Mahal built on the exploitation of ill-paid workers. In this collection, there are poems written on contemporary social and political problems and the poems to inspire youth to take up army against the British rulers. He wrote beautiful love-poems mainly structured around the theme that love couldn’t be realised in a hierarchical society based on the suppression of human desire. In his collection of poems Vadda Vela (Early Morning), Mohan Singh is very clear that the future of mankind lies in socialism. After the Second World War, threatened at the impending danger of U.S.A. launching an atomic attack against the socialist countries as they had done against Japan in 1945, writers and intellectuals organised a movement for world peace, which inspired large number of Indian writers. Mohan Singh next collection of poems entitled Awazan (voices) welcomes and celebrates the voices of protest which were being raised all over the world. In his next collection Trishul (The Trident), he appeals to the worker, the peasant and the intellectual to collect pen and hammer and the sickle to make a powerful trident to usher into new era of revolution. By the time he comes to one of his very significant collection of poems, Jandare (Locks), 1975, Mohan Singh's revolutionary zeal and romantic passion and subdued by the realisation that the dreams of revolution and fulfillment of love are far from being realised. Mohan Singh wrote extremely beautiful love poems, which are reminiscent of nineteenth century English romantic love poetry. In the beginning of his career, under the influence of English literature, he translated Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia with Punjabi verse and the translation is so marvelous that it seems to surpass the original. He wrote a long poem on the life Guru Nanak that was published by Punjabi University, Patiala in 1975. In his last volume of poems, Buhe (Doors), 1976, Mohan Singh continues to express his unflinching in the bright future of the mankind. To conclude, in Mohan Singh we find a great poet conscious of his responsibility towards his people; and his poetry represents the momentous times he had lived through.

Darshan Singh Awara

Darshan Singh Awara (1906-1982) and Prem Singh Prem are among the prominent poets who wrote poetry of social commitment inspired by the freedom movement. Deeply moved by the independence struggle Awara wrote nationalistic and radical poems in simple language in folk forms. His first collection of poems published under the symbolic title Bijli di Tarak (The Lap of Lightening) was confiscated by the British government. He published two more volumes entitled Baghavat (Rebellion) followed by his open declaration of political commitment to rebellion at all levels, from to British colonial rule to the institunalized religion of India which divide India into the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. Darshan Singh Awara was very popular as a 'stage poet' throughout his life. Prem Singh Prem is another important poet who wrote lot of poetry inspired by the national movement for independence and gradually moved into active politics so much that he became a state minister. After a long intervening period, he reappeared with two major collections of poems. The major part of his second collection is devoted to ghazals, an interesting new trend that emerged in the post-partition Punjabi poetry. Though ghazal came into Punjabi under the powerful influence of Urdu literature but it has been established as a popular form of Punjabi poetry.

Devinder Satyarthi

Devinder Satyarthi (1908) who has done pioneering work in the field of folklore is another important poet of the period. Satyarthi, a true disciple of Rabinder Nath Tagore in his outlook and attire, translated Tagore's poetry into Punjabi, traveled all over India collecting folk songs and published first significant collection of Punjabi folk songs under the title Gidha in 1930. He published a large number of collection of poems Dharati Dian Vazan (Echoees of the Earth), Murhaka te Kanak (Sweet and Wheat) 1950 Buddhi Na Hoyi Dharti (The Earth is Never Old) and Lak Tunnu Tunnu (The Doves's Songs) 1958. The influence of folklore is so overpowering in Satyarthi his poems read like folk songs, which sing about the beauty that is there in man and nature.

Pritam Singh "Safeer"

Pritam Singh "Safeer" is another important figure in Punjabi poetry who wrote ten collections of poems, rose to the office of the Judge of the Delhi High Court and had won many literary awards. Pre-occupied with metaphysics, Safeer's poetry written in Sikh scriptural idiom, is concerned with the propagation of Sikh way of living and conduct.

Dr. Gopal Singh "Dardi"

Dr. Gopal Singh "Dardi" a contemporary of Pritam Singh "Safeer" was a highly educated poet, with a doctorate from a British University, who produced four collections of longer and short poems. His involvement in power politics over shadowed the poet in him. He is known for his translation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs. It goes to the credit of Sadhu Singh Hamdard a pioneer in Punjabi journalism for establishing ghazal as a respectable form of Punjabi poetry. With his voluminous output of ghazals and his doctoral thesis on the form and traditions of ghazal writing, the ghazal form has come to stay in Punjabi poetry. As a pioneer in Punjabi journalism, he started a daily The Ajit, which subsequently, after his death, with the efforts of his accomplished son, Barjinder Singh Hamdard, has decidedly become the best produced newspaper in Punjab.

Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam is a highly talented woman poet with a fine sensibility who along with Mohan Singh represents the modern era of Punjabi poetry. It goes to the credit of Amritsa Pritam and Mohan Singh for commencing a truly modern era of Punjabi poetry. The writing of Amrita Pritam is a chronicle of the times which has traveled a long distance from its beginning in the early twentieth century when Punjabi poetry, mired in the spiritual transcendentalism and mysticism, was struggling to create a space for itself as an independence literary discourse.

Welcoming the advent of freedom and the consequent changes taking place in the country, she thinks that the long cherished dreams of the people are going to be fulfilled. Written during this period, her collection of poems Sarghivela (The time of Dawn) proclaim and celebrate that a new era is going to begin when the tiller of the land will become the owner of the land and thus putting an end to human exploitation.

Amrita Pritam today stands as a symbol of woman's liberation among Indian writers fighting for a woman's right to exist on her own in a feudal society. Beginning from a fairly tale magic of her early romantic poetry, her writing becomes a serious attempt to understand and explore the situation of woman in contemporary society. Amrita Pritam emerges as a major poet after 1947 when the tragic Partition of the Punjab becomes the Central Thematic Concern of her poetry, the well known poem I Address Warish Shah, expressing the pain and anguish on the holocaust of the partition established Amritsa Pritam as the most dear and popular poet of the people. The opening lines of the poems have become extremely popular in Punjabi Language:

	A daughter of Punjab (Heer) had cried,
	And you wrote long lamentations
	Today Millions of Daughters are crying
	......  		.......		............

Dr. Harbhajan Singh

Dr. Harbhajan Singh was a scholar-poet who introduced a new style of poetry, a poetry marked by its thought-content trying to comprehend the situation of modern man in contemporary industrialised urban society. With a background in Hindi and Sanskrit literature, Dr. Harbhajan Singh along with his learned colleagues at University of Delhi is mainly responsible for introducing Russian formalism and structuralist poetics in Punjabi literary theory and criticism.

Harbhajan Singh is basically an aesthete and he presents aestheticism to oppose and reject the radical mood of the progressives. But in his early poems published in 1960 under the title Lasan (Wheals), he expresses the exploitation of the working class under the capitalist systems. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by U.S.A. to Strike terror in the world, Harbhajan Singh wrote a long superb long dramatic poem Tar Tupka (The Drop on a Wire) where he presents that the capitalist system which has invented atom bombs to perpetuate its dominance is doomed to fail.

Like a typical modern poet, he creates poetic reality in dramatic situations, capturing the moments of self-confrontation a kind of dramatic monologue where reality is presented from diverse perspectives of a lonely individual completely alienated from tradition and culture. After 1960, Harbhajan Singh poetry becomes much more subjective as a he cannot encounter objective reality as the title of his next collection, Na Dhupe Na Chavan (Neither Sun nor Shade) clearly expresses itself. The poems in his next collection Sarak de Safe Ute (On the Page of the Road) are written in the same vein. Harbhajan Singh, as a master Craftsman, introduces a new trend of writing beautiful rarefied lyrical poetry sans deep passions.

Shiv Kumar Batalvi

On the basis of his lyricism, images and symbols drawn from village life, using folk forms and simple language, Shiv Kumar Batalvi could make Punjabi poetry popular again after Mohan Singh and amrita Pritam. Shiv Kumar was born in 1936 in a village of district Sialkot (Pakistan) but grew up in Batala where his father was working in the revenue department. From his first collection Piran da Paraga (The Scarp of Sorrows) published 1960 to Lajwanti (Touch Me Not), Atte Dian Chirian (The Sparrows of Flour) Menu Vida Karo (Bide Me Farewell) and to his long poem Main Te Main (I and I) published in 1970, the theme of disappointment in love, bereavement and despair dominates his poetry. There is an obsession with death wish throughout his poetry. Shiv Kumar published his masterpiece, Luna a dramatic poem of epic dimensions where he re-interprets the most popular legend of Puran Bhagat by making Luna not Puran, as the moral centre of his dramatic poem. In other words, Shiv Kumar's Luna is a severe indictment of a highly male-centered. Indian society based on the subjugation of woman by man.

During this period, there appears a group of poets from the middle classes, greatly influenced by twentieth century English literature especially T.S. Eliot, who write poetry about the new man, a split personality torn between tradition and modernity. The leader of the group, Dr. Jasvir Singh Ahluwalia experimenting with new verse called it Prayogvadi (experimentalist) employing new imagery and new rhetoric. On the basis of his enormous critical writings and to collections of poems entitled Kaghaz da Ravan (The Paper Deman) and Kood Raja Kood Parja (False King False Subjects) did create a cult but it was soon marginalized by the dominant trend of writing poetry of social commitment. Ravinder Ravi, Ajaib Kamal and Sati Kumar are the major poets who are still doing lot of experimentation in Punjabi poetry. The trend of writing poetry of mysticism and spiritualism enunciated by Bhai Vir Singh continues in the poetry of Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki. Jagtar Singh Jagtar is a college teacher by profession, well versed in Urdu literature, has written beautiful poems in ghazal forms dealing with the problems in the life a common man. Dr. Jagtar Singh initiated the process of introducing Punjabi literature written in Pakistan long time back which has now developed into a popular movement cultural exchange and understanding.

During the Great sixties when National Liberation Struggle and cultural revolutions were order of the day all over the world; there emerged literary and cultural movements challenging the power structures which marginalize workers, peasants and women in a society. During the revolutionary upsurge in the Nineteen sixties, popularly known as Naxalite movement, there rose a powerful literary movement in Punjabi as in most parts of India, which strongly pleaded in favour of writing of social commitment where literature becomes an instrument in the process of social and cultural transformation. There were some old guards who were swept away but it was mainly young highly educated people from the middle classes who were in the vanguard of the movement. Prominent among the poets were Lal Singh Dil, Darshan Khatkar, Amarjit Chandan (Now in U.K.) Sant Ram Udasi, Avtar Singh Pash and Surjit Patar. Though Surjit Patar was not involved in the movement like his fellow poets but he was deeply influenced by it because of his education at Punjabi University, Patiala that was the hub of the revolutionary student movement, all kinds of literary and intellectual activities.

It is very important that this cultural and literary movement has produced considerable volume of excellent poetry, which finds its finest culmination in Pash and Surjit Patar. After Mohan Singh and Amrita Pritam, Pash and Surjit Patar are highly respected, well established, poets who have again, defined the relevance and significance of literature in the contemporary situation especially when Khalistani terrorist violence and police repression had turned the Punjab into a god-forsaken place. Pash along with doyan of Punjabi theatre Gurshan Singh play wrights Ajmer Aulakh and Atamjit, Short story writers Atarjeet and Waryam Sandhu, poets Darshan Khatkar, Swaraj Bir, Amarjit Chanden (U.K.) Surinder Dhanjal (Canada) and Surjit Patar, etc were in the forefront of the fight against the Khalistani Terrorists who were destroying the very fabric of Punjabi society where people belonging to different religions and belief systems have been living together since centuries. To terrorise the writers, intellectuals, Journalists and social activists who were exposing the fascist designs of all kinds of religious fundamentalists and communalists, the Khalisatani terrorists assassinated Pash on March 23, 1988, the day of martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. From among the writers and intellectuals, they killed Sumeet, young poet editor of Preetlari, leading literary critic Dr. Ravinder Singh Ravi, Professor from Punjabi University, Patiala and well-known scholar Professor V.N. Tiwari from Panjab University, Chandigarh. The holocaust of Partition of Punjab when the Muslims were divided from the Hindus and the Sikhs continues to haunt the Punjabi writer like a nightmare as Surjit Patar has put in a powerful poem:

	Waris Shah was divided yesterday
	Today is the turn of Shiv Kumar
	..........		.........		........... 

Bhai Vir Singh

The conceptualization and projection of life in the narrative form of fables, folktales, myths, legends and romances has always been there in India since ancient times but novel and short story, as literary genre, appeared under the influence of the Western literature. Punjabi novel comes of age with the publication of Nanak Singh's Chhita Lahu (White Blood) in 1932 but historically Bhai Vir Singh's Sundri, which is more like a historical romance, can be considered as the first novel in Punjabi language. Bhai Vir Singh wrote four novels, Sundari, Bijay Singh, Sukwant Kaur and Baba Naudh Singh using the form of the historical romance for the propagation of Sikh teachings and Sikh way of life. Familiar with English literature, Bhai Vir Singh had Sir Walter Scott as the model before him but he was not interested in the depiction of real life of the people in a given period as Walter Scott did so superbly in his historical romances. Bhai Vir Singh, in his fore ward to Sundari makes it clear that his purpose in writing these accounts is to propagate Sikh way of life. The narrative is structured around one Khatri girl Saraswati who is named Sunder Kaur or Sundari on coming to the Sikh fold. On the eve of her marriage, she is abducted by a Mughal officer but rescued by her elder brother who has already joined a band of Sikh soldiers. The story runs around her joining the band of Sikh soldiers, her emergence as a great soldier and then weavers around her capture again and again by the Muslims and her liberation by the Sikh soldiers. At the climax of the narrative, she succeeds in protecting her chastity and rejects all temptations of becoming a wife of the Governor of Lahore. Bhai Vir Singh repeats the same pattern in Bijay Singh where a Hindu youth, in opposition to the wishes of his parents, becomes Bijay Singh from Ram Lal. The story deals with the exploits and adventures of Bijay Singh leading to his imprisonment by the Governor of Lahore, who is a widow of Mir Mannu. Bijay Singh is presented so impressive and intelligent that the Begum falls in love with him and proposes to marry him but he must become a Muslim. Bijay Singh as a devout Sikh cannot be tempted by worldly pleasures. As usual in Bhai Vir Singh fiction, Bijay Singh is finally liberated from his imprisonment at Lahore. In Satwant Kaur a long narrative with cumbersome complications, Satwant Kaur, along with her son, is abducted from 'Khanna' in Punjab and carried to the house of Governor of Kabul. Amir’s wife is presented as a noble woman who protects Satwant Kaur from the evil designs of her husband. After long years of confinement at Kabul, Satwant Kaur, her grown up son and the Begum herself run away from the fort and meet a band of Sikh soldiers. Helped by the Sikh soldiers, on reaching the Punjab, Satwant Kaur's young son and the Begum become Sikhs. In Baba Naudh Singh, the Baba is presented as a great Sikh social reformer preaching Sikh doctrine to bring people to the fold of Sikhism. The narrative is based on the miserable life of a Hindu widow who is finally converted into Sikhism by Baba Naudh Singh and thus settling her into a happy life.

Looking at the pattern of presentations of different communities in his fiction, the Sikh characters are presented as ideal in every aspect, the Mughal Afghans are presented as corrupt and evil; and the Hindus are described as covered, timid and subservient to the Muslims. In his novel Sundari, Bhai Vir Singh presents his ideal of a Sikh woman who can ride a horse, wield a sword and can resist all kinds of temptations.

Charan Singh Shahid

Following Bhai Vir Singh tradition, Charan Singh Shahid wrote two historical romances Daler Kaur and Chanchal Murti and a novel Do Vahutian (Two wives) dealing with the problem of having two wives. He wrote lot of verse full of humour but his real contribution remains his weekly, Mauji, full of real Punjabi wit and humour. Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid is another writer of the period who wrote novels with the objective of bringing back Sikh youth, which was being lured by western influences. It is interesting that the great Akali Leader Master Tara Singh wrote two novels Prem Lagan (A Life of Devotion) and Baba Tega Singh. Prof. Puran Singh leading poet and intellectual of this period also wrote a story about an Arab couple who became followers of Guru Nanak. Prof. Ishwar Chander Nanda, noted playwright, also wrote a story about a Mirasi boy who goes to Lahore and becomes a great actor. Mir Bakhs Minhas wrote a realistic story about a poor peasant, completely broken down under the burden of heavy debt. Another writer of the period, Joshua Fazal Din wrote a romantic novel Prahba, dealing with problems in the life a sensitive girl. Gurbakhsh Singh, a great man of letters, who played a pioneering role in promoting rational inquiry also wrote a novel Anviahi Man (Unmarried Mother) about an unmarried mother, exposing irrational double standards which discriminate between man and woman in our society. Late in his carrier, he wrote another very interesting novel, Rukhan di Jirand (Patience of the Trees) which deals, among other things, which deals with the political events of the period visit of the Simon Commission to Lahore in 1928 massive mass demonstration against the commission and brutal police attack on the peaceful people especially targeting Lala Lajpat Rai, who was severely heart in the attack. In this brutal police repression Lala Lajpat Rai, the most popular leader of the people was so badly hurt that he expired within a week.

Nanak Singh (1897-1971)

The real history of Punjabi novel begins with the publication of Nanak Singh's Chitta Lahu (White Blood) in 1932. Following dominant literary traditions established by Bhai Vir Singh and Singh Sabha Movement, Nanak Singh wrote religious poetry in praise of the Sikh Gurus and preaching Sikh way of life. But on reading Munshi Prem Chand's novels, there comes a radical change in Nanak Singh's perception about the role of the writer and social reality in India. With Munshi Prem Chand as the model before him, Nanak Singh emerges as the pioneer novelist, setting Punjabi novel on the path of development and growth.

It is important to understand that Punjabi novel and short story took its form and developed under the dominant influence of the international Progressive writers movement which was sweeping all over the world in the 1930's. The first conference of Indian progressive writers was held in Lucknow under the Chairmanship of Munshi Prem Chand. In India Munshi Prem Chand, whose novels are excellent documents of the village life emerges as the model to follow for Indian writers.

The title of the novel Chitta Lahu (White Blood) is highly symbolic exposing the dehumanisation of man, corruption and exploitation in the feudal system. It is very important to note that Nanak Singh places woman at the moral centre of the novel and through the exploitation of her predicament in a feudal set up exposes the inhuman nature of the system. In other words, the novel is a tragic tale of pain and suffering in the life of a woman in a feudal society. The hero of the novel is Bachan Singh, a young man committed to social reform even at the risk of his life. The story is moves around the tragic happenings in the life of a young woman Gurdei, who, at a very tender age, is married to an old man who expires very soon. After the death of her aged husband, Gurdei is left alone in the world as her 'in-laws kick her out of their house. The marriage of a young girl to an aged man has been a typical case of social exploitation of woman in our society. On being turned out of her house by her cruel 'in-laws on a dark, cold night, she finds shelter in the house of a noble Muslim woman. Next day, Gurdei is declared an apostate by the society for having eaten in the house of a woman belonging to Muslim caste. As a lonely helpless woman, Gurdei finds shelter in the house of Tara Chand who disowns her at especially at a time when she is pregnant with his child. Again, it is the Muslim women who come to her help when she gives birth to a beautiful girl-child, named Sundari. As Tara Chand is not the man to own her, she falls in the hands of a scoundrel who sells her to a prostitute in Delhi. As the narrative moves on, Sundari goes to school and grows up as a beautiful girl. The bad men of the village have evil intentions but Bachan Singh really loves Sundari and marries her. When Bachan Singh, the social reformer, marries Sundari, the bad men of the village get Bachan Singh ostracised by the village community. Gurdei emerges as a very strong woman who stabs to death Radha Krishan and her stepson who try to out rage her modesty. Bachan Singh is implicated in a false case of murder and sentenced to death on the basis of false evidence by the bad men of the village, Pala Singh Granthi. Sundari, as a true daughter of her mother Gurdei, and to avenge the death of her husband who loved her so much, manages to burn Pala and his accompanies alive. Nanak Singh is very clear that a woman is trapped in such a situation in the feudal society that there is no way out for her. As such, Sundari commits suicide by jumping in a canal. Thus putting an end to the tragic tale of pain and suffering, which is the destiny of women in a feudal society.

In his next novel, Fauladi Phul (1934) Nanak Singh creates another very strong woman Sarla, who like Gurdei, is married to an old man Tarlok Singh. But Sarla has the moral courage to subvert the institution of marriage that imprisons her true being. In utter violation of social morality, she really loves a young man, Mohan, but never succumbs to the fulfillment of physical desire for true love is based on understanding and respect for each other. On coming to know about her affair from his secretary Jagat Singh, Tarlok Singh beats wife so badly that she becomes unconscious. Fearing that Sarla is dead, he commits suicide by consuming poison, which Jagat Singh had brought to kill Sarla. Sarla is arrested on the charge of killing her husband, but at the last minute, when the Judge is about to announce the death sentence Jagat Singh appears in the court to confess his role in the conspiracy. Sarla is acquitted of all the charges and, significantly, goes to join her lover.

It is very important to understand that Nanak Singh like Prem Chand, Sarat Bose and other Indian novelists of the time also deals with the institution of prostitution, generated and maintained on the basis of miserable plight of a forsaken woman in a feudal set-up. Nanak Singh was writing at a time when there was great social and political upsurge under the banner of various political parties and new ideas about a social system, when there is no discrimination between man and woman on the basis of class, caste and religion were in the air. Under the influence of new ideals which were challenging the age-old values of a decadent feudal system, Nanak Singh wrote large number of popular novels like Piar di Duniya (The World of Love), Garib di Duniya (The World of the Poor), Adh Khiria Phul (The Half-blown flower), Tuti Vina (The Broken Lyre) and Gangajali Vich Sharab (Liquor in the Flasks of Sacred Water). It is interesting that Gurbaksh Singh's ideas about ideal love, about the newly emerging relation between man and woman are reflected in Pyar di Duniya where true lovers, are united in the end.

Garib di Duniya is a typical novel of the period where, an educated young son of a factory owner becomes a trade union leader and confronts his own father. In these works of fiction, Nanak Singh is trying to show how true love for the other can cut across contradictions of class and religion and unite people as human beings. By the time, Nanak Singh moves to his next novels Adh Khiria Phul and Pavitar Papi (The Holy Sinner) he becomes acutely aware that true love cannot be fulfilled in the present system based on social and economic exploitation. It is evident from his novels, Jiwan Sangram (Life is Battle) and Dhundle Parchhaven (Misty Shadows) that Nanak Singh becomes fully conscious that it is the economic and social forces that determines the destiny of a person in a society.

The Partition of a the Punjab in 1947 was a terrible happening, both at the personal and the political level, in the life of Nanak Singh, as in the lives of many Punjabi writers and intellectuals. To deal and to live with the horrible massacres, orgies of violence, desecration of religious places and women and mass exodus of people between Western Punjab and Indian Punjab, Nanak Singh wrote two very important novels, Khun de Sohile (Paean of Blood) and Agg di Khed (The Game of Fire). The titles of the novels, Paean of Blood and the Game of Fire are so symbolic signifying the devilish game and the mad frenzy which vested political interests and evil forces were playing with the lives of the people. The narrative deals with one Bhane Shah, a Hindu moneylender from Pakistan, who looses all his family members and crosses over to India, alongwith Nasim, young daughter of a Muslim friend. During their shelter in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, they come in contact with a social worker Brijinder who persuades them to stay with him at his house. On listening to Bhane Shah's accounts of tragic tales of woe, he joins a group of Hindu-Sikh writers to take revenge upon the Muslims. Krishna (Nasim) explains, in one of the meetings of those writers, that the Muslims were misguided by the communal propaganda of the Muslim League; and by targeting the Muslims, they are going to fall in the hands of the same forces which want to divide people on communal lines. In Pakistan, Yusuf is so upset by the atricities committed by the Muslims on the Hindus that he safely escorts Bhane Shah's daughter-in-law with all her jewellery and money to India to join him in Amritsar. In Manjhdhar (Mid Stream), Nanak Singh deals with the miserable plight of the refugees, people uprooted from their homes and hearths, to express the kind of devastation that the Partition of India brought about in the lives of the people. It is very significant that Nanak Singh, like most of the writers on both sides of the India–Pakistan border, is thoroughly secular in his out-look and there is no communal bias in his writings.

In Nanak Singh's fiction, there is a consistent search to locate the forces that can play a positive role in alleviating human pain and suffering in an other wise decadent, corrupt feudal set-up. Though Nanak Singh was not a political novelist but there is very conscious attempt to define and articulate the emerging forces that will provide the basis for the radical change and transformation in the social system. At the centre of Nanak Singh's novels, we have kind hearted noble heroines with in surmountable courage to stand against any kind of social oppression, social reformers full of high idealism, labour leaders with firm commitment to the welfare of the workers and lovers, artists and writers – rebels with dreams about the new order.

Again and again, Nanak Singh tries to explore the situation of woman in Punjabi society as in Kati Hoi Patang (he Stringless Kite), he presents woman as a kite in the form of Kamini, Chambeli and Kesari signifying different situations in the life woman where her destiny is in the hands of someone else. In such a system of exploitation of man by man, Sukhbir, one of the leading characters in the novels, speaks out about the urgent need to change the order in which the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. One of the three women characters, Kamini becomes a writer, joins the films and earns lot of wealth. Kamini comes to realise that civilization culture and fine living are meaningless in a society where people do not have enough to eat. She thinks of living among the workers, making films about their struggle and, thus, devoting her life to the cause of revolution. But Kamini is very clear that her revolution will not be a violent one. Since Nanak Singh was a genuine writer committed to the cause of common man, the urgent need to change the social system, trade union movement, socialism and revolution become major themes of his fiction. In one of his most ambitious novels Adam Khor (Enemy of Man) Nanak Singh introduces Bharati, a communist revolutionary of Telanghana and Sunder Das a follower of Gandhi who believes in non-violence. There is a discussion between Sunder Das and Bharti on the question of violence versus non-violence that clearly expresses that Nanak Singh was fully aware of the political and ideological debates in the country. After Adam Kahor, Nanak Singh wrote another very significant novel, Ik Mian Do Talwaran (One Scabbard Two Swords), which deals with the formation of the Ghaddar Party by Punjabi emigrants to Canada and the U.S.A. and their supreme heroic sacrifices for the liberation of India from the colonial yoke. The novel presents an excellent description of the armed uprising against the English Colonisers in India and the heroic deeds of the prominent leaders like Kartar Singh Sarabha, Baba Visakha Singh, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna and Baba Gurmukh Singh. The novel gives vivid description of the attempts of Kartar Singh sarabha to arouse the Indian Army units in Meerut and in the Punjab against the British rules. It is highly admirable that Nanak Singh presents a historically realistic depiction of the hypocritical role of the Sikh priestly class in the freedom movement.

Sant Singh Sekhon

The pioneer of Punjabi literary criticism Prof. Sant Singh Sekhon also published a novel, Lahu Mitti (Blood and Soil) in 1948 dealing with the realistic description of the life of peasantry in the Punjab, in the beginning of the twentieth century. The novel is a real socio-economic account of the life of a poor peasant family, the characters are just puppets devoid of any bone and flesh, and the novel is a sociological survey rather than a work of literature. Sant Singh Sekho wrote his second novel after a long span of time in 1973 under the title Baba Asman (Grandfather Sky) that deals with the Ghaddar movement organised by Kartar Singh Sarabha, Sohan Singh Bhattna, Jawala Singh and Hardial. The narrative runs around the life-story of a poor peasant who migrates to U.S.A. to earn his living, but compelled by racist discrimination by the Whites, joins the Gadder Party. After Nanak Singh's Adam Khor, Sekhon's Baba Asman is the second important novel, which deals with the Gaddar Movement, an armed uprising against the British Colonisers in India.

Kartar Singh Duggal

Kartar Singh Duggal, one of the most prominent short story writers of Punjabi, has also written number of novels of high literary value. Duggal, with a thorough background in English literature, wrote a very significant novel Andran (Instestine) in 1948, which on the pattern of Thomas Hardy's novels about the rural life in England – depicts life in Pothohar, particularly Rawalpindi district, now in West Punjab in Pakistan. The language of the novel is not standard Punjabi but Pothohari dialect, a dialect of Punjabi spoken in that region.

` In his next novel, Nahun te Mas (Nails and Flesh) published in 1950, Duggal deals with the theme of Muslim-Sikh unity during the bad days of the Partition of the Punjab in 1947. When Duggal decided to write triology about the life in the Punjab before and after, the Partition in 1947, he merged this novel in the second volume of the triology, Ma Pio Jaya (Born of the Same Parents). The first volume of the trilogy deals with the emergence of national forces after the First World War, the creation of Pakistan and estrangement of age-old relations between the Hindus and the Muslims. The second volume, Ma Pio Jaye is about the liberation of Bangladesh. In the last volume, Jal Ki Pyas Na Jaye (Water Remains Thirsty) Duggal tries to depict new India after 1947, the imposition of the national Emergency by Indira Gandhi, her defeat in elections and disillusionment of the people with the new government and Indira Gandhi's return to power again. Haunted by the Partition of the Punjab, Duggal wrote a beautiful novel, Man Pardesi (Alienated Heart) about the tragic plight of the Muslims in India. Duggal wrote another important trilogy, Nanak Nam; Tere Bhane and Sarbat Ka Bhalla which covers the history of the Sikhs from Guru Nanak's time to the present day. In the first volume, Duggal covers the period from Guru Nanak to Guru Ram Das while in the second volume, Duggal continues with the story up to the supreme sacrifice of the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. Dugal devotes the concluding third volume, about the life and the times of Guru Gobind Singh.

Sohan Singh Seetal

Sohan Singh Seetal entered the field of fiction after 1947 and wrote large number of novels some of which deal with the situation of women in Punjabi society. Some of his prominent novels which try to understand the predicament of woman in Punjabi society are Dive di Lo (The Falme of the Earthen Lamp) Mul da Mas (Flesh at a Price) and Badla (Revenge). While Nanak Singh novels depict much more realistic portrayal of the life in the Urban Punjab, Seetal gives very vivid authentic description of the life of the people in the rural Punjab.

Surinder Singh Narula

Surinder Singh Narula wrote number of important novels but he is known for his epic novel Pio Puttar (Father Son) that is an excellent social document of the life of the town and the people of Amritsar in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The narrative deals with the life of Hira, beginning from his childhood moving to the next generation, taking in its sweep all the major economic and social changes taking in the society. In the background of the narrative, there are very clearly audible echoes of the Ghaddar movement. In 1950, he wrote another novel Rang Mahal (The Pleasure Palace) that moves around the life of a middle-class family in Amritsar. With his novel Din Duniya (The Spiritual and the Empural), Narula attempts to improve on what he had achieved in Pio Puttar--- to use novel as a narrative form to bring alive the life of a town and its people. In Din Duniya, Narula depicts the commercial, social and communal life of the city of Lahore on the eve of Independence of India in 1947. As a terrible consequence of the Partition, the novel deals with the migrations of the people, their shrieks and cries and the madness of devilish violence. In Dil Darya (The Ocean of Heart), Narula deals with a similiar situation in Delhi during the Partition days where he advocates Gandhian socialism as the way out in an otherwise deteriorating situation where all kinds of vested political interests want to wreck the fabric of Indian society. In another novel, Lok Dushman (Enemy of the People) Narula deals with the tenant’s movement against landlords of the Malwa region, where Narula advocates Gandhian socialism in opposition to successful armed struggle of the tenants. He wrote another important novel Nilibar about the miserable condition of the Aboriginal tribes who were uprooted during the settlement of the canal colony of Sargodha by the British rulers.

Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam, an eminent highly respected poet, has also written large number of novels dealing with the situation of woman in a highly patriarchal Indian society. Amrita Pritam is a privileged being, with a fine conscience, has been trying to articulate the problems of Indian woman both in her poetry and fiction. Since Amrita Pritam is every inch a poet, her novels read more like long poems dealing with the situation of woman in a traditional society. After experimenting with couple of romantic works of fiction, in Doctor Dev Amrita Pritam develops the central theme of her writing about the dichotomy of mind and body in women, the basic disintegration of women's being, generated and perpetuated by the male-centered society that refuses to recognise woman as a fully developed human individual. In Doctor Dev, the heroine of the novel offers her body to her husband but remains deeply in love with another man. The exploration of full-fledged relationship between man and woman is the central pre-occupation in Amrita's writings and many a time, the suppressed desire in woman shrieks with much vehemence in her fictions as in contemporary woman's writing all over the world. Haunted by the traumatic happenings during the disturbances of 1947, Amrita Pritam produced finest of poetry and fiction. Pinjar (Skeleton) is one of her representative novels, which deals with the desecration of women and the animal in man behind the sneer of centuries of civilization and culture.

Jaswant Singh Kanwal

Jaswant Singh Kanwal is one of the popular novelists who deal with adolescent romantic love in his fiction. Coming from a Jat Sikh family from the heart of the Malwa region of the Punjab, Kanwal understands fully well how marriages are arranged on the basis of economic and social factors in a feudal set-up. His first novel 'Such nu Phansi '(Truth on the Gallows) published in 1945, is a tragic love story resulting in violence and killing and the hero going to the gallows. In his second novel Pali (1946), the narrative deals with a beautiful young girl Pali who, during her school days is married to a military officer, much elder in age. Kanwal brings out that there is nothing common between the two families. Disenchanted with her husband and his family, Pali falls in love with a young man of another village. Finally, Pali leaves her husband, joins army as a nurse and gets killed in a bomb attack. Kanwal's third novel Puranmashi (Night of the Full Moon) is a typical romantic love story where the unsuccessful romance of the parents finds fulfillment in the wedding of their children. Kanwal's next novel, Rup Dhara (The Stream of Beauty) is a love story of a beautiful peasant girl who gets married to the boy who had been very close to her heart. But he goes to Singapore in search of a job, thus leaving her alone in the village. Helped by the village chief, she demonstrates high moral courage in protecting her honour from the evil designs of the scoundrels of the village. In another novel Hani (Playmate), within the same romantic pattern, a girl belonging to the water-drawer community can get married to her lover husband who belongs to the same caste. But a girl belonging to the schedule caste fails to marry her lover belonging to the Jat peasant community since for Kanwal caste system is much more powerful than the economic system.

Jaswant Singh Kanwal is known for his progressive views for his novels bring out the contradiction between the common man and the landlords in a feudal system. In 1954, he also wrote a novel, Rat Baki Hai (The Night has not yet Passed) which dealing with the struggle of the tenants against the landlords but as usual in his fiction, the thematic concern of the novel remains in the love story. Civil Lines (1956) is another novel, which deals a typical love story but the setting has been shifted from the rural to the urban area. Kanwal wrote number of romantic novels including Bhavani, Mittar Pyare Nu (To a Dear Friend) and Tawarikh Vekhdi Hai (The History is Witness) and also two political novels one dealing with the Naxalite movement and another Khalistani movement in the Punjab, but there is no improvement either in the exploration of the love theme or in the treatment of the subject matter.

Narinder Pal Singh

After experimenting with number of minor romantic novels, Narinder Pal Singh came to recognise as novelist with the publication of Shakti (Power) in which woman is presented as the real source of strength in the fortunes of a family. Narinder Pal Singh has written large number of works of fiction but he is known for his four historical novels. Khannio Tikkhi (Sharper than the Sword), Valon Nikki (Finer than a Hair), Eti Marga Jana (This is the Way to Go) and Ik Sarkar Bajhon (Without a Sovereign).

Harnam Dass Sahrai

Harnam Dass Sahrai is another novelist who has written many historical novels but he is known for his very important novel Loh Garh which dealing with the legendry exploits of Banda Bahadur, how he organised an army and defeated the Nawab of Sarhind. Among his other works of fiction, Gali Muhalle de Lok (People of the Neighbourhood) is another important novel for the presentation of realistic portrayal of common life in a town. Niranan Tasnim is another novelist who has written large number of novels dealing with the economic problems and sexual frustrations of the lower middle classes. Mohan Kahlon known for superb description of nature is another novelist who has written many novels dealing with sexual distortions in the life of the common people. Kahlon's obsession with sex leads him to write a novel like Gori Nadi da Geet (The Song of a Crystal Stream), which borders on profanity.

Gurdial Singh

During the last three decades, Gurdial Singh has emerged as the leading novelist of Punjabi literature. It is highly significant that Gurdial Singh has been writing in Malwai dialect of Punjabi, the language of the Malwa region of the Punjab, which is, invariably, the locale of his novels. The publication of his Marhi da Diva (The Earthen Lamp on the Memorial Stone) in 1962 marks a radical departure in the history of Punjabi novel where Gurdial Singh deals with the deep underlying changes and transformations taking place in the life of village community. The novel is structured around the narrative depicting the changing relationships between the landowner and the agricultural servant belonging to two generations. Dharam Singh has a deep bond of human relationship with his agricultural servant but his son has no such feelings. Dharam Singh is so generous that when his servant dies, he permits his servant's son to create his father on a piece of his land. But his son has no such feelings. In another important novel, Anhoe (The Non – Living) Gurdial Singh depicts the life of a carpenter, a skilled artisan, who cannot adjust himself to the changing conditions at the cost of his values. In this novel, Gurdial Singh brings out the heroic strength and high dignity in a common man rooted in the soil – which, of course, is the major thematic concern in Gurdial Singh's fiction. Adh Chanani Raat (Night of the Half Moon) is another very important novel, which deals with the extremely vital and wild life of the peasants in the Malwa region of the Punjab. In Adh Chanani Rat and in his next novel, Athan Uggan (Sunset and Sunrise) the life of the peasants in the Malwa region in its raw and rugged form, where battles of power and honour are fought over land and women.

As a well-read scholar, a university professor and a conscious novelist, Gurdial Singh becomes more and more aware of the use of myth and legend in novel. In Anne Ghore da Dan (The Blind Horse Sought as Arms). Gurdial Singh uses the famous legend about the lunar eclipse, which narrates that, on this day, the moon-god is hiding from his creditors for he is under such a heavy debt that he cannot simply repay. It is a prevalent practice in the Punjab, that during the time of the lunar eclipse, the Harijans (Dalits), the scheduled caste labourers bag alms in the name of the moon-god in debt. The use of the myth and the ritual of begging alms in the name of the moon-god by the village scheduled caste workers are superb to express the wretched life of the scheduled caste agricultural labour in a village. Gurdial Singh's use of myth and narrative to explore the predicament of a common man in the contemporary society gives his latest novel Parsa wide range of meaning and significance.

Dalip Kaur Tiwana

Dr. Dalip Kaur Tiwana, a University Professor at Punjabi University, Patiala who did her doctorate on The Technique and Development of Short Story in Punjabi, is better known as a short story writer but she has written more than 17 novels. She has also published her autobiography in four parts. She short into fame with the publication of her novel Eh Hamara Jeevna (This My Life), a well-constructed novel which reads more like a long narrative. Tiwana presents a well- meaning exposition of the miserable plight of a woman in a feudal setup of Punjab. In her novels, Tiwana deals with the pain and suffering in the life of a woman but her woman are weak and submissive who fails to realise that their dreams and aspiration cannot be fulfilled in the age-old feudal traditions based on the subjugation of woman by man.

Short Story

There is a long tradition of Katha, of narratives which goes back to the animal tales of Panchtantra, fables, legends and romances but short story as a literary genre emerged in Punjabi and other Indian languages in the nineteen thirties. Short story is rightly called Kahani in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. Though short story is the youngest but most developed genre in Punjabi.

All the fiction writers beginning from Nanak Singh also wrote short stories but Charan Singh Shaheed is the pioneer of the short story that was being written in the first decade of the twentieth century. Gurbaksh Singh was a prose writer (1895-1971) but he wrote ten volumes of short stories. His stories gradually move from romantic idealism to socialist way of thinking. Bhabi Maina is one of his typical and best known short story where he depicts a Hindi widow sublimating her desire by showering affection on her husband's younger brother who is just ten years of age.

Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir

Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir who was deeply involved in the freedom movement is better known as poet of the masses but he wrote some of the best stories of Punjabi literature. Musafir was a conscious writer, always in touch with contemporary writings and his stories are well constructed, subtle and suggestive and lyrical as poetry. With his vast experience of life, he wrote stories like Sab Aachha (All is Well), which deals with the appalling conditions in Jails for he has been to jail during the freedom movement. In another well-known short story, Baghi di Dhi (Daughter of a Freedom fighter), Musafir deals with the condition of a freedom fighter's daughter, all alone on her deathbed in the hospital. Though Musafir was very conscious about the art and the form of short story but his strength is in the message, the thought-content of his short stories. He wrote stories about the freedom movement, Partition and the problems of the Refugees, Hindu-Muslim relation social problems and about the failure of the government in power.

Sujan Singh

Under the dominant influence of Progressive writers movement, Sujan singh and Kartar Singh Duggal appear on the literary scene to establish short story in the western form, as a distinct genre of Punjabi literature. Sujan Singh with the publication of his first collection, Dukh Sukh (Woe and Happiness) in 1941 emerges as the pioneer of Punjabi short story. Raslila, in this collection, deals with the predicament of a young Bengali woman married to an aged Punjabi contractor who can never fulfill the woman in her. She develops a very intimate relationship with a schoolboy in his early teens. With superb art and skill, image and symbol, Sujan Singh build up the relationship within the archetypal pattern of Radha-Krishna. The game of playing Krishna with the boy culminates in her offering him a flute on which the plays like the legendry Krishna. She dresses herself as Radha, dances before him in mad abandon; and she is so moved that she just fall by his side. The boy lifts her up in his arms like a grown-up man and kisses her profusely. In his second collection, Dukh Sukh Ton Pichhon (After Woe and Happiness), Pathan Di Dhi (Daughter of a Pathan) is another one of the finest stories of Punjabi language. Sujan Singh three stories Kulfi (Cream Cone) Garam Kot (Woolen Jacket) and Razai (Quilt) included in his collection Narakan de Devte (The Gods of Hell) published in 1965 are extremely popular in the Punjab. He wrote three more collection of short stories Manukh te Pashu (Man and Beast), Sawal Jawab (Quition te Answer) and the last Shehar te Gran (The City and the Village) in 1986.

Sant Singh Sekhon

Sant Singh Sekhon published large number of short stories and novels but he is basically a literary critic. Sekhon was a product of the progressive movement, which was organised by writers with leftist ideology. Sekhon was a committed Marxist all his life who proclaimed that he wanted to convey class division as the dominant phenomena in all social and individual conduct. In his short stories and novels his characters are just mouthpiece of his ideas. But he has written some very good short stories like his famous story Pamie de Niane, which deals with the psychological state of mind of small kids passing through the cremation ground at mid-night.

Kartar Singh Duggal

Kartar Singh Duggal, author of 500 short stories published in 21 collections, beginning from the emergence of short story in Punjabi literature to the present times, is one of the top short story writers. It is mainly Sujan Singh, Kartar Singh Duggal and Kulwant Singh Virk, who are responsible for making short story as the most developed genre of Punjabi literature. Sujan Singh established the tradition of social realism, where as Duggal, under the influence of Freudian psycho-analysis and deep knowledge of contemporary world literature, made short story a powerful mode for the exploration of the bundle of urges and desires, sulking in the depth of human conscious, Kartar Singh Duggal has published a selection of his short stories under the title Merian Sresht Kahaniyan (My Best Short Stories).

Kulwant Singh Virk

Kulwant Singh, combining social realism with Fredian psychoanalysis in his out-look, with perfect command over his well-chiseled language, has written one of the finest stories of Punjabi language. In the first three collections of his stories, Virk depicts the life in his own village and the surrounding villages so superbly that the traditional village life where the rich peasants, artisan and the scheduled caste constituted one integrated community. Against these idealistic depiction of the traditional village community, Virk, with his keen concern for the life of a common man, could see the economic changes taking place as in Turi di Pand (A Bundle of Chaff), where a young peasant with a small holding is forced to ply a tonga for his living. In his latter writings, Virk swings more and more towards Freudian psychoanalysis, as, in his typical story Papan (The Sinner), Virk explores how a middle-aged woman tries to seduce a teenage boy with her overtly motherly care.

Continuing in the tradition of social realism, under the all-pervading influence of the progressive writers movement, Santokh Singh Dheer and Navtej Singh also wrote some good short stories. Dheer has published four collection of short stories, Sittian de Chhan (The Shades of the Ears of Corn), Saver Hon Tak (Until the Morning), Sanjhi Kandh (The Common Wall) and Shraab da Glass (The Glass of Liquor). Navtej Singh, a committed Marxist, who played a significant role in changing the outlook of his scholar father Gurbakhsh Singh, has written some fine stories dealing with the life a common man. Ram Sarup Ankhi is another important writer who has published large number of stories dealing with the life of the people in the Malwa region. He became famous for his novel Kothe Khadak Singh but he is basically short story writer.

Ajeet Cour

During the last three decades, Ajeet Cour and Dalip Kaur Tiwana have emerged as the leading woman writers in the field of short story. Ajeet Cour has published four collections of short stories beginning from Gulbano, Mahak di Maut (The Death of a Fragrance), Dhup Wala Shahr (The Sunny Town) and Savian Chirian (Green Sparrows). Ajeet Cour's stories are structured around the exploration of man-woman relationship but she is free from the limits of the traditional morality in Indian society. There is no disjunction between sex and love in Ajeet Cour. In Faltu Aurat (An Extra Woman), one of her best-known stories, the heroine tells her sex-hungry lover that she needs a friend, a lover and comrade, her co-traveler to the end. A woman cannot find such a man, neither in marriage nor out side in any kind of relationship ----- is the thematic concern in Ajeet Cour's short stories.

Dalip Kaur Tiwana

Dalip Kaur Tiwana, a University Professor, with kind intentions for the well being of woman in her writings, has emerged as one of the leading women writers on the contemporary scene. She has published more than 100 stories in various collections which, she have been now published in a volume entitled Merian Sarian Khanian (All My Stories). Over the years, Dalip Kaur Tiwana has mastered the art of story writing and her stories are well constructed and finally crafted in form. Tiwana's literary universe is peopled with helpless women at the mercy of their cruel husbands, childless women, widows, orphaned girls and young girls aspiring for love and affection. Throughout her writing, Tiwana has been highlighting the oppression on women in Punjabi society.


There was a very strong and powerful tradition of drama and literary writings and philosophical speculation in ancient India. Punjabi among the modern Indian languages that emerged in the tenth or the eleventh century did not care for drama for various social and cultural reasons. It is interesting that we find a similar decline in drama and theatre in the Europe during the dark period of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance of the arts gave birth to the revival of drama but such a thing did not happen at least, in north India. But the tradition of folk theatre performed by professional entertainers, groups of wandering actors and bards, continued uninterrupted in villages and small towns.

It was towards the end of the nineteenth century that theatrical activity developed mainly in big cities like Calcutta and Bombay. In Bombay, it was largely patronised by the Parsi community and the plays were mostly adaptations of the popular European plays.

Bawa Budh Singh and Brij Lal Shashtri

In Punjabi Bawa Budh Singh and Brij Lal Shashtri did pioneering work in this field. Brij Lal Shashtri dramatised folk narratives and popular Puranic legends, which had become integral part of the oral traditions of the region. Brij Lal's dramatisation of the legend of Kunal in which the queen of Emperor Ashoka seduces her stepson Kunal and the legend of Puran Bhagat, in which Luna seduces her stepson Puran, are fascinating works of art. Bawa Budh Singh's Mundri Chhal (The Trick of the Ring) published in 1908 is considered to be the first original play written in Punjab. He wrote four more plays satirizing young men and women who were getting westernized. He wrote a very important play about the problems of the backward tribes in India. A number of writers, prominent among then, include Bhai Vir Singh, Gurbaksh Singh and Kirpa Sagar also published plays.

Ishwar Chander Nanda

The modern period of Punjabi drama begins with the publication of Ishwar Chander Nanda's (1892-1961) Subhadra in 1922 dealing with the theme of widow remarriage, which was forbidden in those days. An Irish woman, Norah Richards, wife of a visiting professor Edward Richards at Dyal Singh College, Lahore, played a very crucial role by organising drama competitions, and patronising and encouraging Nanda to write and stage plays. Nanda's first one-act play Suhag (Wedding) won the first position in the drama competition in 1913. The play deals with the situation of a very young girl, a child of ten years of age, substituted as bride in the wedding, being solemnized for her elder sister who refuses to marry an elderly man and runs away from home. This play was later on published as Dulhan (The Bride). Subhadra deals with the tragic plight of a young widow, without any child, badly treated by her cruel mother-in-law. In those days, re-marriage was forbidden in Hindu society but Subhadhra's brother, a college student inspired by new ideas, of course from western education, plans and manages to marry his sister with one of his class-fellows.

Committed to social reform, Nanda wrote another play Lily dea Viah (Finding a Husband for Lily) in 1928, when progressive movement in literature was fast developing under the influence of socialist ideas. The play moves around the relationship between a poor private tutor and the daughter of a rich barrister of one of the London Courts of Law. To condemn usury, for the moneylenders were exploiting the peasants, Nanda wrote Shamu Shah, a beautiful adaptation of William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. In terms of form and technique, there is a very strong influence of Shakespeare but Nanda, gradually, comes under the influence of Ibsen, especially Ibsen's unflinching commitment to social reform. Nanda wrote number of plays about the superstitious belief of the people like Bebe Ram Bhajani and Jinn (Ghost). He wrote plays on social evils and economic exploitation of the working class by the employees. With a large number of plays in three collections, Jhalkara (Reflections), Lishkara (Flashes) and Chamkare (Shines) Nanda established the foundations of drama of social commitment in Punjabi language.

Sant Singh Sekhon

Sant Singh Sekhon published his first collection of Six one-act plays Chhe Ghar (Six Houses) in 1941. In this collection, Baba Bohar (The Banayan Tree) is an interesting presentation of Sikh history from the time of guru Gobind Singh to the Independence of India in 1947 narrated by the Banayan tree who, has been a mute witness to all the happenings. Sekhon published his full-length play Kalakar (Artist) in 1945 focusing on the nude, with a discussion on the ancient Indian and Italian painting. Sekhon published eight more full-length plays mainly dealing with legend and history. Sant Singh Sekhon one of the leading scholars of literary criticism, produced number of plays dealing with Sikh history and legend, but he had no control over drama as a literary genre.

Gurdial Singh Phul

Gurdial Singh Phul is perhaps the most prolific dramatist in Punjabi who wrote more than 30 full-length plays and large number of one-act plays. In his plays, he deals with the economic and social problems of the common man. He wrote plays on Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Nanak during the Centenary celebrations in 1965 and in 1969 respectively. In his plays, after the centenary celebrations, he started writing plays dealing with the life of the Sikhs Gurus and Sikh history.

G.S. Khosla

G.S. Khosla is another playwright who produced large number of full-length plays and one-act plays, which have been produced on stage. In one of his known plays Buhe Baithi Dhi (Marriage Daughter), he deals with the changes that are taking place in the institution of marriage. He was associated with the Little Theatre Group in Lahore before 1947 and contributed to the development of Punjabi theatre in Delhi.

Harcharan Singh

Dr. Harcharan Singh carries forward the dramatic tradition established by Ishwar Chand Nanda of writing plays of social concern dealing with the problems in the life of a common man. Dr. Harcharan Singh, professor and Chairman of the Department of Punjabi at Punjabi University, Patiala for a long span of time, made significant contribution in the development of theatre, among other things, by getting a department of drama and theatre established at the University Campus at Patiala. He published his first collection of seven one-act plays in 1940. After one-act plays, Harcharan Singh moves ahead to write full length plays like Kamla Kumari, Raja Porus and Dosh etc. Raja Porus is one of his well-known historical plays, which deal with the battle between Alexander the Great, and Raja Porus, projecting Porus as a great Punjabi hero. In Dosh (Crime) Harcharan exposes how a sadhu exploits a woman and her daughter. In Harcharan Singh, we find a gradual development in his out-look for he wrote plays on communal harmony, tenant struggle of the sixties in the Malwa region and on other contemporary issues. Like many Punjabi plays wrights he wrote plays on the life and the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. In one of his widely known plays Ajj, Kal Te Bhallak (Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow), he deals with moral corruption in religious places.

Balwant Gargi

Balwant Gargi, well versed in Western literature, with perfect command over the medium, strategies and techniques of modern drama, has emerged as the top-ranking dramatist of Punjab. Born and raised in the Malwa region of the Punjab, his use of Malwai dialect, the language of his plays, images and symbols drawn from village life are simply superb. As a committed writer and leading figure in the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), he played a significant role in the development of drama and theatre in the Punjab. Some of the one-act plays like Pattan di Beri (The Boat at the Ford) and Bebe (Mother) are extremely fine works of art. Bebe is the tragic story of a woman, whose sons leave her one by one, alone in the world.

At the Centre of Gargi's plays, we find highly sensitive and passionate women who fail to realise their love in a feudal setup based on the suppression of human desire. His first full length Kasero is centred around, a young woman, left alone by her husband, who learns reading and writing and sewing to become economically independent to live with dignity and respect. Kanak di Balli (Ear of Wheat) is a tragic play with Taro, daughter of the water-carrier caste, as the heroine who commits suicide by jumping into a well rather than surrender herself to a landlord. Gargi's Loha Kut (The Iron-Beater) is one of the best plays that Punjabi language has produced. The plays is structured around Kaku, the black smith and his wife Santi who sacrificed her love for Gajjan according to the wishes of her father. The action of the play takes place when Santi is mother of a son and a grown up daughter of twenty years in age in love with a son of a land- owner and retired army officer. As the daughter runs away with her lover, the suppressed passion in the mother rises like a fury and she elopes with the man who has been in love with her all these long years.

From the very beginning, there has been a blend of social realism and Freudian psycho-analysis in Gargi but, gradually, in his later lays he moves more and more towards the exploration of sexual perversions in the life of men and women. In Dhuni di Agg (The Smouldering Fire) one of his well-written plays, an Indian studying in England, marries an English girl Linda; deserting her, comes to India and marries another Indian girl. On reaching India, the English girl comes to know that he is living with another woman. The suppressed passion in Linda rises like a fury that she strangles him to death. He wrote a fascinating play on Razia Sultana, the great woman who occupied the throne of Delhi, for her father, Iltutmush decided that his two sons were incompetent to rule the kingdom. A highly well-read, widely traveled scholar Gargi has written an excellent book on Indian drama and, as a professor of drama in Punjab University, Chandigarh, he has been, instrumental for introducing western drama to the Punjabi audience.

Kartar Singh Duggal, well-known short story writer also wrote a large number of Radio and T.V. plays and full-length plays, but could not make any impact as a playwright. Paritosh Gargi has been writing a large number of plays since 1953 but he has failed to make any kind of contribution to the field of drama. Gurcharan Singh Jasuja is another playwright who has been writing large number of plays, devoid of any literary significance.

Kapur Singh Ghuman

After Harcharan Singh, Kapur Ghuman (1927-1986) is another playwright who has contributed to the development of drama and theatre in Punjab. In the beginning of his career, Ghuman wrote plays like Zaildar and Anhoni (The Unnatural), which are realistic in nature. Very soon, he started writing plays like Jinodi Lash (The Living Corpse) symbolic in nature. Like Sekhon's Kalakar and Gargi's Sail Pathar, it deals with the theme of painting the nude. In his Atit de Parchanve (Shadows of the Past), there is no division of scene and locale. In Pagal Lok (The Insane) written on Brechtian lines, the mad characters in a lunatic asylum including a writer, a political leader and a student who expose the in humanity and madness of the so called civilized normal society. It goes to the credit of Ghuman that his plays are produced successfully on the stage.

Surjit Singh Sethi

Dr. Surjit Singh Sethi, Professor in the department of Drama and Theatre at Punjabi University, Patiala, with a doctorate on Ibsen influence on Punjabi drama, has written large number of plays dealing with modernist experimentation. In the beginning, he wrote some plays in the tradition style but he moved to the theatre of the absurd very soon. In Bhari Bhari Sakhna Sakhna (Full to the Brim and Empty Never the less) all the characters are looking for some excitement to make their boring life interesting. His King Mirza and Sapera is real theatre of the absurd where all the characters find no meaning in life but they do not have the courage to commit suicide. In his hotly discussed play Mard Mard Nahin, Tivin Tivin Nahin (Man is not Man, Woman is not Woman), Sethi presents hollow men and women who have lost their moorings. He wrote number of plays in the same vein but could not make any lasting impact on Punjabi drama and theatre.

Beginning with Ishwar Chand Nanda, Punjabi drama finds its finest culmination in the well-constructed plays of Balwant Gargi, written in Chaste Punjabi as spoken in the Malwa region of the Punjab. During the last three decades, the credit for building up a theatre movement in the Punjab goes to Gursharan Singh, the doyen of Punjabi theatre, who has really obliterated the dividing line between theatre and life. Gursharan Singh takes up characters from common life and performs his plays rights in the streets in the villages and small towns, with thousands of people watching and becoming part of the performance.


Copyright CIIL-India Mysore