Favorite Punjabi Poem by Amrita Pritam “Today I Invoke Waris Shah”

English: Noted poet, Amrita Pritam (1919 – 200...

Notable Poet, Amrita Pritam (1919 – 2005) in 1948. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amrita Pritam was born as Amrita Kaur. She was a great Punjabi writer and poet, and has been considered as the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist, and the leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language. Interestingly, Amrita Pritam is equally loved on both the sides of the India-Pakistan border. With her career spanning over six decades, she had produced over 100 books that include: poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography that were translated into several Indian and foreign languages.

Amrita Pritam.

Amrita Pritam.

Amrita Pritam is most remembered for her most noted work, the novel Pinjar (The Skeleton) (1950). In Pinjar, Amrita created her memorable character, Puro, an epitome of violence against women, loss of humanity and ultimate surrender to existential fate. This novel was turned into an award-winning film with the same name, Pinjar in 2003.

Great Punjabi Writer: Amrita Pritam.

Great Punjabi Writer: Amrita Pritam.

Today I am sharing this greatest and powerful creation by Amrita Pritam – a poignant poem, Aj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu (Today I invoke Waris Shah – “Ode to Waris Shah“). This poem is essentially an elegy to the 18th-century Punjabi poet, Waris Shah, and offers the strong expression of Amrita’s anguish over massacres during the partition of India in 1947.

Hope that you will find this poetry as interesting as I do.

Sat Shri Akal!


Sunday Morning, June 23, 2013.

Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate.

Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate.


Cover of "Pinjar"

Today I Invoke Waris Shah

– Ode To Waris Shah.

I say to Waris Shah today, speak from your grave

And add a new page to your book of love

Once one daughter of Punjab wept, and you wrote your long saga;

Today thousands weep, calling to you Waris Shah:

Arise, o friend of the afflicted; arise and see the state of Punjab,

Corpses strewn on fields, and the Chenaab flowing with much blood.

Someone filled the five rivers with poison,

And this same water now irrigates our soil.

Where was lost the flute, where the songs of love sounded?

And all Ranjha‘s brothers forgotten to play the flute.

Blood has rained on the soil, graves are oozing with blood,

The princesses of love cry their hearts out in the graveyards.

Today all the Quaido’ns have become the thieves of love and beauty,

Where can we find another one like Waris Shah?

Waris Shah! I say to you, speak from your grave

And add a new page to your book of love.

Excerpt from Original Punjabi Poem:
ਅੱਜ ਆਖਾਂ ਵਾਰਸ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਤੋਂ ਕਬਰਾਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਬੋਲ।
ਅੱਜ ਆਖਾਂ ਵਾਰਸ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਤੋਂ ਕਬਰਾਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਬੋਲ।
ਤੇ ਅੱਜ ਕਿਤਾਬੇ ਇਸ਼ਕ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਅਗਲਾ ਵਰਕਾ ਫੋਲ।
ਇਕ ਰੋਈ ਸੀ ਧੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਤੂ ਲਿਖ ਲਿਖ ਮਾਰੇ ਵੈਣ
ਅਜ ਲੱਖਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਰੌਂਦੀਆਂ ਤੈਨੂ ਵਾਰਸਸ਼ਾਹ ਨੂੰ ਕਹਿਣ:
ਵੇ ਦਰਦਮੰਦਾਂ ਦਿਆ ਦਰਦੀਆ ਉੱਠ ਤੱਕ ਆਪਣਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ।
ਅਜ ਬੇਲੇ ਲਾਸ਼ਾਂ ਵਿਛੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਲਹੂ ਦੀ ਭਰੀ ਚਨਾਬ
Poem Written in English Script:
Aj aakhan Waris Shah nun
Aj aakhan Waris Shah nun kiton kabraan vichchon bol,
Te aj kitab-e-ishq daa koi agla varka phol..
Ik roi si dhi Punjab di tun likh likh maare vaen,
Aj lakhaan dhian rondian tainun Waris Shah nun kehn..
Uth dardmandaan dia dardia uth takk apna Punjab,
Aj bele lashaan bichhiaan te lahu di bhari Chenab..
Kise ne panjaan paaniyan wich ditti zehar ralla,
Te unna paaniya dhar ton ditta pani laa..
Iss zarkhe zamin de loon loon phuteya zehar,
Gith gith chadiyan laliyan foot foot chadeya zehar..
Aj aakhan Waris Shah nun, kiton kabraan vichchon bol,
Te aj kitab-e-ishq daa koi agla varka phol..
Weho walissi waah fer wan wan waggi jaa,
Unne har ik wans di wanjhali ditti naag bana..
Naagaan keelle log muuh,bas fer dang hi dang,
Pallo palli punjab de neele pai gye aang..
Galeyon tutte geet fer, trakleyon tutti tand,
Tarinjneyon tutiyan saheliyan, chrekhre kookar band..
Sane sej de bediyan,luddan ditiyan rod,
Sane daliyan peengh ajj, peeplan ditti tod..
Jitthe vajdi si kook pyar di, oh vanjali gayi guwach,
Ranjhe de sab veer ajj bhul gye usdi jaach..
Dharti te lau vaseya, kabran paiyyan chon,
Preet diyan sehzadiyan ajj vich mazaaraan ron..
Ajj sabbe kaidon ban gaye, husan ishq de chor,
Ajj kithon le aaiye labh ke waris shah ik hor..
Aj aakhan Waris Shah nun, kiton kabraan vichchon bol,
Te aj kitab-e-ishq daa koi agla varka phol..
Amrita Pritam.
English: Montage of various Punjab images.

Montage of various Punjab images. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Harimandir Sahib, commonly known as the Go...

The Holy Harimandir Sahib, commonly known as the Holy Golden Temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the former British India was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947, Amrita Pritam migrated from Lahore, to India, though she remained equally popular in Pakistan throughout her life, as compared to her contemporaries like Mohan Singh and Shiv Kumar Batalvi.


Known as the most important voice for the women in Punjabi literature, in 1956, she became the first woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for her magnum opus, a long poem, Sunehe (Messages), later she received the Bhartiya Jnanpith, one of India’s highest literary awards, in 1982 for Kagaz Te Canvas (The Paper and the Canvas). The Padma Shri came her way in 1969 and finally, Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, in 2004, and in the same year she was honored with India’s highest literary award, given by the Sahitya Akademi (India’s Academy of Letters), the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship given to the “immortals of literature” for lifetime achievement. In my view, Amrita Pritam was one of the most powerful writers from India, among Men and Women writers alike, who deserved all of these awards and recognitions for her awesome contributions to Indian literature.

Our respectful salute to Amrita Pritam!


Massachusetts, Thursday, October 10, 2013.

ਦੇਵਾਦਾਤ੍ਤਾ ਵਿਨਾਯਕ ਸ਼ੇਨੈ-ਖਾਤ੍ਖਾਤੇ. (Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate.)

ਦੇਵਾਦਾਤ੍ਤਾ ਵਿਨਾਯਕ ਸ਼ੇਨੈ-ਖਾਤ੍ਖਾਤੇ. (Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate.)


Amrita Pritam with her Domestic Partner Imroz,

Amrita Pritam with her Domestic Partner Imroz,

amrita pritam bio

Great Punjabi Writer: Amrita Pritam.

One of the Greatest Punjabi Writers: Amrita Pritam.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Favorite Punjabi Poem by Amrita Pritam “Today I Invoke Waris Shah” | Deo Gratias
  2. Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 03:17:07

    Reblogged this on Deo Volente.


  3. Sharmishtha Basu
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 11:31:30

    it truly is an amazing poem Deo, I wonder how much more fabulous the original must be! I have seen that the translation of tagore’s works are barely half as amazing as the original… Punjabi is a very sweet language.


    • Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate
      Oct 11, 2013 @ 12:20:53

      Thanks a lot, for your kind and positive feedback. I do agree that the beauty and deep philosophical meaning in Rabindranath Tagore’s amazing poems are seldom transferred in their translations. Rabindranath’s poems have been evergreen and refreshing despite their age, even today.

      Make a great day!


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