Baba Sheikh Farid Ji

sheikh-faridFarid was to Punjabi what Chaucer was to English. He made Punjabi poetry and poetry Punjabi. Later when Adi Granth (Sikh scripture) was compiled by the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, Farid’s ‘slokas’ (sacred couplets) were given the place of honour along with those of Kabir, Ramdev and Guru Ravidas. “Farid return thou good for evil; In thy heart bear no revenge.
Thus thy body will be free of maladies, And thy life have all blessings.” Baba Sheikh Farid Ji was a great Sufi saint, very sweet of tongue and who lived an austere life. He asked for only one blessing from God….a life of prayer and meditation. His following insight forms the subject of the painting above- “Sweet are candy, sugar, honey, and buffalo’s milk. Yea, sweet are these but sweeter by far is God.”


The year was 1398. Timur was returning home after ransacking Delhi -light of mind but laden with gold, trampling corn, killing men and cattle alike.It was a typical Punjab winter and the air in the fields mingled with the blood of the innocents.

On the banks of the river Sutlej at a place called Pak Pattan, his horses suddenly stopped. The horsement whipped their animals. The stallions started bleeding but refused to move further. There was panic among the soldiers, hysteria among the officers, total confusion in the army. There was consternation and alarm writ large on every face. Not used to such unscheduled halts, the Turk chief leapt forward, roared like a lion and demanded answers.Nobody replied. He shouted again. Everyone remained totally speechless. At last an old man came forward and said, “Your honour, this place is sanctified”.


“By one saint whose ancestors had migrated from Iran to escape death at the hands of your ancestors”, the old man replied. Everyone looked at everyone else. The general’s hands reached for his sword but before they could go any further, a miracle happened. As goes the legend, a voice came from somewhere and called, “Baba Farid, the King of Kings”. Every tongue felt that it had an ear on it. A vision came to the advancing marauder. He felt elated. The armies were ordered to spare the town.

Timur bowed low in the ‘Khanqah’, heard the Sufi hymns, spent the night in the ‘dargah’. He ate the same austere food, which the Devotees ate, slept on the same mat and pledged not to kill any more innocents, only to break the pledge later.

Acknowledged by every literary authority as the first major poet of the Punjabi language, Farid was to Punjabi what Chaucer was to English. He made Punjabi poetry and poetry Punjabi. Later when Adi Granth (Sikh scripture) was compiled by the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjun Dev, Farid’s ‘slokas’ (sacred couplets) were given the place of honour along with those of Kabir, Ramdev and Guru Ravidas. They all sang in the people’s dialect about the glory of India’s culture, the greatness of Indian values and the supremacy of Indian thought.


Among the many social and religious movements in India of the last two thousand years, the Bhakti movement of the middle ages from the 13th to the 17th centuries was the most pronounced, as it cut across all distinctions of high and low birth, the learned and the unlettered, men and women and opened the doors of spiritual realization and salvation to one and all. Besides, it provided a base for common socio-religious culture in India.

One great characteristic of the Indian civilization is that more than its kings and warriors and generals, it is the Saints and the Sufis who realized the goals of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The cyclic tales recited by the lute players of ancient India, the songs of the wandering minstrels, the ba!lads and the ‘kathaks’ (storytellers) of medieval times provided a framework for the evolution and growth of the composite culture of India. They integrated the diverse elements of Indian society and knit them in a unified cultural necklace. It is these saints and sufis who bestowed a sense of Indianness on Indians down the ages. Baba Farid occupies a very high place in this cultural anthology.

Baba Farid lived in Punjab in the 13th century and composed hymns in Punjabi, the likes of which are yet to be composed. There was something in his poetry akin to prayer. He spoke of his people in the people’s dialect and asked them to use Punjabi for religious purposes. He started a ‘silsilah at Pak Pattan and established a mystic organization, a ‘Khanqah’ (Monastery) on the lines of a European seminary upholding the rule of mind over matter in the ultimate analysis of human affairs.


Baba Sheikh Farid had been in the 12th & 13th centuries, a great intellectual, unique renunciat, perfect ascetic and committed devotee of the Timeless Lord who communicated to the common folk the revealed divine message through the medium of sweet, soothing Punjabi language. Farid lived a householder’s life marked with contentment and perseverance. One of the greatest virtues of his life was his love and sympathy for entire mankind. His heart felt pain of oppression perpetuated by the Muslim invaders in the name of religion. He tried to put balm on the hurt psyche of the people through the medium of sweet, soothing words so that the adverse impact caused by excesses of the orthodox Muslims to the image of Islam could be neutralised. Such an act on the part of someone was required for the revival of the feeling of fraternity amongst mankind. The unique humanitarian values of compassion, love, sympathy, mutual understanding and appreciation are clothed in the hymns of Farid as fragrance is in flowers. For his sweet words, sweet ideals and sweet behaviour, Farid became known as an epitome of Sweetness (Shakarganj); his full name was Sheikh Farid ud-din Maund Ganj-I-Shakar.


Farid occupies a place of pre-eminence among the Punjabi poets. During his lifetime, wherever he went, whomever he conversed with, could not but be influenced by the high, pious and divine ideas of Farid. So much do that Raja Gokul Dev changed the name of his capital town to Faridkot in honour of this great Sufi saint. Faridkot is today one of the important towns of the Punjab state. Sheikh Farid was a disciple of Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki, the disciple & spiritual successor of Hazrat Ali who had received spiritual training from Hasan Basri; a known saint of Chishti traditon. Baba ji was born in 1173AD at Khetwal, now known as Chawli Mashaikh, a village in the Multan district (Pakistan). His mother’s name was Mariam, also called Kursum by some. It is said that after birth, he didn’t suck milk for breatfeeding until night because he observed Roza (fast) at the time of his birth. This simplicity and austerity in the manner of his diet was to remain a life-long habit. The writer of ‘Life and Times of Sheikh Farid’ says that half a tumbler of Sherbat (sweetened water), few raisins and half a loaf of bread, prepared of the millet flour generally comprised his daily meal.


Farid’s mother was very wise & noble, and wished for her son to acquire the best education so that he could comprehend the Truth. His father, Sheikh Jala ud-din Suleman, was descendant of the second Calipha of Islam. According to a historian, Farid was related to the Royal family of emporer Farakhshal of Kabul, but the family was uprooted due to the invasions by Changez. Farid deeply impressed his spiritual mentor, Kaki, with his varied virtues. Thus, Kaki had a high respect for this disciple whom he used to call the most important bead in the rosary of Dharma.
In an absolutely impressive manner, Sheikh Farid realised this manifest world, the reality of God. He advises us to overcome worldly temptations & remain devoted to God, the creator of the whole universe. He cautions us against the false attractions of the world through his Bani which is deeply sensitive to the feeling of Empathy, Inevitable death & the waste of human life due to man’s indifference to God & goodness. He continued preaching his message throughout his life, and at last breathed his last in AD 1266 at Pak Patan, earliar known by the name Ajodhan. He was succeeded on his spiritual throne by his son, Diwan Badrud-din Suleman.

The essence of the hymns of Farid can be stated as follows:
· Never forget Death under any circumstances.
· Avoid all quarrelling & polemics.
· Non-violence is the most beautiful ornament of Peaceful life.

Baba Farid ji exhorts mankind to cultivate these & all such virtues. He states that Contentment resides in the heart purified of all traces of Ego & Greed. Talking of a Faqir (hermit) he states that any new cloth is like a coffin for him. According to him, the dtached person is also the wisest. He is the greatest who can face both pleasure & pain with Equanimity. The richest person is the one with the most content heart. He who has given up contentment is the worst dependent. Farid ji preached Ideology reflecting the reality of life. That is perhaps why he has been known as the best poet of old age & death.


According to Farid, self-realisation or liberation from self is the other name for God-realisation.. One who is subject to desires of senses, is the meanest of all because such a man fails to control his mind, and the endless desires emanating from mind make him a tool in the hands of the devil who makes him dance to his tune. Farid not only preached detachment and austerity but also made these the guiding principles of his life. It is said that at the time of Farid’s death even a small piece of cloth to serve as coffin for his body could not be found in his house. For the tomb over his grave, the bricks were taken by pulling down a portion of one of the walls of his house.


The hymns of Sheikh Farid are available at 3 different places in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (SGGS):
· 2 hymns under Asa musical measures.
· 2 hymns under Suhi measure
· 112 slokas toward end of Scripture


Farid’s ‘Bani’ (religious text) is small in volume but has moved mankind over the last eight centuries. The lyrical content and haunting melody of these ‘slokas’ has been so great that every visitor to Punjab has stopped to pay homage to the soul, which conceived them. In the true Sufi tradition, Farid employed sensual imagery to convey mystical meaning. Regarding God as eternal beauty, the Sufi poets, both in Persia and India, had set new trends in poetry. Its special quality lay in the fact that unless one knows the intentions of the poet, one cannot distinguish whether it is an ode to human love or a hymn addressed to a deity. Take for example this love song of the Baba.

“The alleyway is muddy, O Farid, The Beloved’s House is distance, if I go I would drench my cloak, And break my bond if I stay. It’s the Creator’s ordinance, this deluge;
Go I will to my Beloved to strengthen
The links of love, and let my woollen sheet
Be drenched with downpour.”

Even the illiterate could understand and enjoy Farid’s metaphors and imagery – rooted as they were in the soil.

The high reputation Farid obtained in Delhi soon became irksome to him. He therefore made his way to Hansi, where he remained for some time. Meanwhile Khwaja Qutub-ud- Bakhtiar Kaki died at Delhi and Baba Farid paid a second visit to that city, and assumed the mantle of his late spiritual guide. He ultimately left it in the keeping of Jamal-ud-Din of Hansi and thence proceeded to Ajodhan, the present Pak Pattan. The manner in which the name of Ajodhan changed to Pak Pattan was that a canal which derived its water from the Sutlej passed near the town. It was usual for all who visited Baba Farid to wash their hands and feet there. The place then became known as Baba Sahib ji da Pak Pattan, or Farid’s cleansing ferry.


Sheikh Farid ji made Pak Pattan a great center of Sufi thoughts. People from all over India and Middle-east would come to see him. He always used his language, that is, Punjabi spoken by common people, even though he was highly learned and educated in Arabic, Persian, etc. His all couplets are written in Punjabi, in Persian script. He generally rejected offerings of money, but would accept gifts of food, etc for public kitchen. Baba Farid went to Delhi again and was received with a most hospitable reception. Emperor Nasir-ud-Din Balban introduced him to his family. Hazabra, the Emperor’s daughter, was married to Baba Sheikh Farid, but only after Emperor Balban promised not to give any costly gifts. Baba ji distributed all her jewels, etc. to the poor.

Once seven hundred holy men were sitting together. An inquirer put them four questions to which Baba Farid ji replied :
Q.1 Who is the wisest of men?
A.1 He who refraineth from Sin.
Q.2 Who is the most intelligent?
A.1 He who is not disconcerted at anything.
Q.3 Who is most independent?
A.3 He who practise the contentment.
Q.4 Who is the most needy?
A.4 He who practise the it not.


A Student asked Baba Farid if singing was lawful and proper. He replied that, according to Islam, it was certainly unlawful, but its propriety was still a matter of discussion. Nizam-ud-Dauliya told Nasir-ud-din, a disciple of his, that one day when he went to visit Baba Farid he stood at his door, and saw him dancing as he sang the following :

I wish ever to live in Thy love, O God
If I become the dust under Thy feet, I shall live
I thy slave desire none but Thee in both worlds;
For Thee I will live and for Thee I will die.


The following couplet was a favorite of Baba Farid’s Not every heart is capable of finding the secret of God’s love. There are not pearls in every sea; there is not gold in every mine.

Baba Farid visited a city called Mokhalpur, it is now called Faridkot in honor of the Baba Farid, and is in the Indian part of Punjab. Then he turned towards the Punjabi mountains where he converted a tribe. Baba Farid remained there for six months and then he locked up the house in which he had dwelt, saying that his successor would open it, and then returned to Pak Pattan. As his successor, Diwan Taj-ud-Din, was returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina, he happened to visit that part of the country. He asked people their tribe name, they said they were descendents of Qutub-ul-Alam Baba Farid Shakarganj. And thus Taj-ud-din opened the door of Baba Farid’s hut hundreds of years later.

Baba Farid died of Pneumonia on the fifth day of the month of Muharram, CE 1266. The date of Baba Farid’s death is commemorated by chronograms (a) Farid Asari (b) Auliye Khudai. He was unique, a saint of God. Baba Farid was buried outside the town of Pak Pattan at a place called Martyr’s Grave. His torch of Sufi thoughts was carried by his successor and subsequently several others such as Bhagat Kabir, Guru Nanak, etc. were influenced by the teachings of the great Saint. Guru Nanak’s contemporary was a Baba Sheikh Farid Sani, or the second Sheikh Farid, 6th in succession of Baba Farid Shaikh Shakarganj. Thus, Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj can be truly called the founder of Punjabi literature, making Punjabi literature older than Hindi, Urdu, etc. It was much after Baba Farid’s use of Punjabi that Tulsidas, Mira Bai, etc started using Hindi as the language for writing religious literature. Baba Sheikh Farid can truely be called the founder of the Punjabi literary tradition.


Sikh Bhagats

Baba Sheikh Farid Ji
Bhagat Kabir Ji
Bhagat Ravidas Ji
Bhagat Beni Ji
Bhagat Namdev ji
Bhagat Sadhana ji
Bhagat Bhikhan Ji
Bhagat Parmanand ji
Bhagat Sain ji
Bhagat Dhanna Ji
Bhagat Pipa ji
Bhagat Surdas ji
Bhagat Jaidev ji
Bhagat Ramanand Ji
Bhagat Trilochan ji