By Sanjay Godbole
Prior to the partition of India, the ‘Siraiki’ language was mainly spoken in undivided Punjab. After the partition, many’ Siraiki’ speaking people migrated to India, but in Pakistan this Siraiki language was developed to a great extent.
In India, too, programmes are arranged under the auspices of Siraiki Sahitya Sangam’ of Delhi, for the development of Siraiki. In this connection a gathering of poets of Siraiki was being arranged on 12th of March 2006 at Delhi.
I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Jagdishchandra Batra, the president of Siraiki Sahitya Sammelan’, and to know his views about the history of Siraiki language.
Dr. Batra explained me that Siraiki is like Sanskrit and other Indian languages, having an ancient history and tradition. This language was spoken principally at Multan, hence it is also called as ‘Multani’. At present where there are centres of Siraiki’ there are centres of Indus Valley culture also.
The great formulator of ‘ Yogic Sciences Patanjali and the famous grammarian ‘Panini’ were experts of the Siraiki language. Today the prominent centres where Siraiki language is spoken in Pakistan are ‘ Muzaffergarh, Dera Gazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Zang, Miyanwali, Kohat, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Jacobabad, Sarvar and Larkhana’.
The number of people who have settled India after partition and those who speak Siraiki is 20 million or even more.
Even as on today, the Siraiki speaking people during their various festivals, Sing Multani songs, folklores, and special music in the forms called ‘Dohade, Tappe, Mahiye & Dhalle; this way they have retained the Siraiki culture. The Christian missionaries, who arrived in India, translated the Holy Bible, first in Siraiki language only.
In the 19th century, Mr. Oberine, the then British commissioner of Multan, was highly impressed by the Siraiki Language as spoken in Multan and he published a book elaborating the richness of that language. Mr. Pearson, a British scholar has mentioned that the Siraiki language was spoken on both the banks of river Sindhu in the North side.
This language is also known as ‘Sindhavi’ and Lehenda’. Originally, the Siraiki language had its own script. It was also known as ‘Lehenda Script. In Pakistan, the ‘Siraiki’ ‘Language is written in Persian script only, in India, however, many senior citizens can read and write the ‘Lehenda’ script.
The famous linguist. Dr. Vazir Aga, opines that the language, the gypsies of Europe speak is originated from Siraiki. Perhaps, these Gypsies have migrated to Europe in the 11th century from the province, where Siraiki was spoken and this could be the result of it. The chasht-e-Punjabi as spoken these days is a dialect of Siraiki only.
An expert and an authority on the ‘Siraiki’ language, Dr. Shaukat Mughal of Pakistan is of the opinion that the language, referred to; by Abul Fazal in ‘ Ain-e-Akabari’ and which was spoken in the valley of River Sindhu in Multan is none other than Siraiki. According to Dr. Batra, the Siraiki spoken around Lahore has a great influence of Sanskrit and the Punjabi, spoken there has influence of Persian. The rules of grammar of Siraiki are similar to that of Sanskrit. But now that in Pakistan, Siraiki is only spoken, but not written, the school textbooks are not in Siraiki.
In India, about 20 million people speak Siraiki. The no of Siraiki speaking people is even more beyond the borders.
All these Siraiki speaking people have forged an United Front and have put forward a demand for independent ‘ Siraikistan’. They have also proposed that the National language of Pakistan must be ‘Siraiki’. In India, tlie programmes in Siraiki are regularly broadcast from Jalandhar and Suratgarh centres of all India Radio.
Some Baloch from Baluchistan speak Siraiki. Similarly in the North West of Sindh also, Siraiki. is widely-spoken. Dr. Jagdishchandra Batra hails originally from Muzaffergarh in Pakistan. He mentions mat ‘Basant Panchami’ was the festival of Siraiki speaking people. Today ‘Basant Panchami’ has become the National Festival of Pakistan. Some of the prominent Sirnames of Siraiki speaking people are ‘ Bhatiya, Aroda, Narang, Batra, Chawla, Nagpal etc.
Siraiki language has a rich tradition of literature, says Dr. Batra. He further mentions that Damodar authored an epic ‘Heer Ranza’ in Siraiki in the 12th century. Siraiki boasts of a long tradition of talented and gifted literateurs Baba Farid and Shah Hussein have given some beautiful compositions in Siraiki. Following is an excellent specimen of the poetry of Shah Hussein.
Even as on today also, in, Pakistan, a lot is being written in ‘ Siryaki’ many new compositions and poems are being creatively generated for example, please look at the ode of Uinmid Multani. Like in India, there are also patrons of’ Siraiki’ language and culture in Pakistan. Numerous journals, periodicals are published in ‘Siraiki’ language and interactions between literary circles are being promoted. The Sindhi Academy is also doing constructive work for the promotion of’ Siraiki’ language. Mr. Batra is confident, when he asserts that the Siraiki language will be a major contributory factor as far as the mutual intimacy and a close rapport between India and Pakistan, in near future, is desirably woven.
(The author is a noted archaeologist, based in Pune).