160 Kafis

اک سو سٹھ کافیاں / ਇਕ ਸੌ ਸਠ ਕਾਫ਼ੀਆਂ Translated by: Anshu Malhotra. Original language: Panjabi


d. 1872
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KAFIS 14-31

Turaks[1] (I)[2] left have come wheedling, they who stay aggrieved[3]

Scared they don’t come near (you), they roam about in discord

Piro (says) in guru’s court power of none will matter

What shall (I) say of others, even kings stutter

Petrified they (Turaks) come and cry before the guru

Wearing their scarves round their necks they stand with folded hands. {14}


Accept our supplication maharaj, [4] to your door we’ve come

Piro is our daughter-sister, we ask for her gift

Henceforth she will not hunger for any material gain

No one will refuse her, over all she will reign

She’s come (to you) taking off her fine clothes and jewels

What does she want maharaj; you ask her that. {15}


Piro says satguru these unripe[5] (ones) roam abroad

I wish for your feet, the true one in this world

The riches of fourteen worlds,[6] I find a falsehood

Seeing the ways of this world I have become detached[7]

The master of Turaks and Hindus I desire Him

Ask them satguru why/where have they come? {16}


A page from Piro’s Ik Sau Sath Kafian (160 Kafis)



What will they give me who themselves are dying

Like fish in little water they thirst without you

Sit away O unripe ones, did you not feel shame?

Snipping your moustaches and penis what status have you gained?

Muslims snip the penis, is that not lunacy?

A woman (then) is not a Muslim, so why do they look for me? {17}



Piro says satguru they’ve become blind

One indivisible master, they divide in two

Hindus study the Veda, these Turaks the Quran

One limitless master, they bring within limits

The Turaks they pray to someone else and Hindus to quite another

They do not Name the One;[8] they’re both crazy. {18}


Piro says satguru you are All-Knowing

Hindus are blind master and these Turaks one-eyed

The master of Turaks and Hindus you are my lord

Turaks and Hindus, we all are your disciples

I’ve come to the feet of the true master

These Turaks trouble you, what do these unripe say? {19}


Piro says satguru you are nonchalant

They do not respect you; the renegades have come

Send (me) with them; be benevolent

I’ll come back abandoning them if you give me refuge

Now I’ll go for sure, leaving this beautiful retreat

If I have good fate, I’ll come back to your feet. {20}


Piro says satguru I’m going to a prison[9]

All-alike the Turaks have come, and your slave is alone

Will (they) chain my feet or throw me in a dungeon

(Or) lock me in a high palace and submit me to their will

(I’ll) suffer all this on my own since I’ll be in their custody

Will I be troubled till I acquiesce to the Sara [?][10]  {21}


Piro says satguru they love the Sara

They tried to drown Kabir without giving it a thought[11]

They hung Mansur skinning him

What more suffering shall I relate?

Even if they flay my hide, (I’ll) not bow to them

(I’m) their sister according to Sara, I’ll beat them with a sandal [?] {22}


Piro says satguru you are the true master

(I’ll) come breaking the chains what will these unripe ones do

Even if they push me in a dirty jail

Throwing dust in their eyes I’ll come blinding them

Putting her head on (guru’s) feet, (she) stood with folded hands

Give me leave satguru, saying this she cried. {23}


Piro says satguru I’m your slave

(Whether) here or there satguru, you are my honour

Very angry she goes sitting among the vile

All the Turaks came to see (her)

They congratulate each other on their (easy) success

Call the mulanas she’s given up her religion. {24}


Tucking their books under their arms the mulvanas came

All seeing the mulanas stood and bowed their heads

Piro sitting on a bedstead refused to bow her head

Seeing this the mulanas burnt up and felt bad

How she sits obdurately on a spread bedstead

(She) has not greeted (them) though mullahs have come to the house. {25}


Say the mulanas O infidel why have you lost your faith

Who has spoilt you and made you eat pig

Remember your kalma and praise your creed

Then you will be purified from impurity, O satanic illegitimate (woman)

Piro says O unripe ones, you don’t feel shame?

My faith is clear; you are crazy. {26}


Piro was purified from impurity on meeting her master

On whom will you beget the kalma, say unripe qazi

He’s the master of Turaks and Hindus whom the qazi insults

What would you know of Gnostics, greedy hypocrites?

You sing praises of the creed after doing a satanic deed

You ignorant (ones) make the unlawful lawful, to feed your greed. {27}


Piro says qazis you have squandered this birth

The Supreme one is close to you and you can’t see the truth

Oblivious of the Name of lord, you infidel qazis

You eat in every home, like the destitute of this world

You are the dogs of faith, can you refute?

The master is without caste; you are stuck in (worldly) attributes. {28}


Piro says crying out, listen O unripe qazi

The merciful Das Gulab is my true master

On whose awakening all doubts vanish

He’s beyond limits, limitless, where none can reach

Like a seed spread as a tree [?], he is in the universe

Truth[12] is everywhere; you’ll meet it wherever you see. {29}


Piro says calling out listen qazi to this

I’m neither a Hindu nor a Musalman, how will you know?

Why are you asleep in the sleep of attachment, go to the guru’s feet

We will be fulfilled when you awake from your slumber [?]

You call out Allah but do not recognize a murshid

Say and affirm anal haq the true kalma. {30}


Mullah says crying out we have no power

We say but a word, she makes us hear lakhs[13]

Having met her perfect murshid, she does not listen to us

She councils us and makes us question our own intellect

Call the benevolence of your murshid, give him our salutations

Tucking their books under their arms the qazis went to their homes. {31}




[1] Turaks – or Turks, may in its medieval usage in India refer to an ethnic group among other possible connotations. In nineteenth century Punjab the reference is to Muslims generally.

[2] As written in Punjabi the reference to self – “I” is sometimes assumed. In all such cases where the reference to the self or another is assumed I have put the required pronoun in parenthesis. Within the space of a single kafi, Piro could switch from her own voice, as for instance “Piro says,” to addressing her guru, or relating a conversation or a happening. Thus the switch from the first to the second and third person occurs insistently.

[3] Piro is referring here to her having left her Muslim clan when coming to Gulab Das.

[4]Maharaj” is an honorific referring most commonly to the exalted status of a king. However the term is used quite frequently for religious figures as well, as here. Indeed quite like kings religious figures had their own territories of spiritual influence, and their religious gathering was often called a court (darbar).

[5] Kacha or unripe literally means something raw or immature. Piro uses the term almost as an abuse signifying the deficient nature of those who’d take her back and reconvert her.

[6] This is a reference to the fourteen worlds of Hindu mythology, seven higher ones, the seventh one being Earth, and seven lower ones.

[7] Piro is stating her spiritual quest here rejecting the material attractions offered to her.

[8] The bhakti path offered a simple formula of repeating the Name of god on the path to spiritual fulfillment.

[9] In this kafi Piro anticipates what she relates as her story subsequently – her being forcibly taken away, abducted and kept in a prison. A retrospective autobiographical text allows this temporal and spatial movement, sometimes presenting the tale in the tone of predicting events and at others ostensibly relating what had occurred.

[10] Sara or Shara was the colloquial term for Shariah or Islamic law. On the use of the term see Malhotra, “Panths and Piety.” Where the meaning of a line is not entirely clear I have put a [?] to indicate as such to the reader.

[11] In this kafi Piro refers to holy figures tortured for their refusal to follow the Shariah. Kabir was the fifteenth century bhakti saint brought up a Muslim, but who ridiculed many Islamic rites. He was said to be tortured by authorities. Mansur-al-Hallaj was the Sufi from Baghdad flayed and hung for his heretic pronouncement “anal haq” or “I am the absolute truth.” The Gulabdasis used “anal haq” as an aspect of their advaita beliefs. See Malhotra, “Panths and Piety.”

[12] The term for truth here is “haq” and can refer to “anal haq,” as she clearly states in the next kafi.

[13] A lakh is 100,000. Piro underscores her argumentative verbosity – the power of her speech that makes the traditional keepers of the word and those who pontificate to others speechless.






Further Reading

Arnold, David and Stuart Blackburn (eds), Telling Lives in India: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004).

Malhotra, Anshu, “Panths and Piety in the Nineteenth Century: The Gulabdasis of Punjab,” in Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir (eds.), Reconsidering Punjab: History, Culture and Practice (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2012.

Malhotra, Anshu, “Telling her Tale? Unravelling a Life in Conflict in Peero’s Ik Sau Sath Kafian (one hundred and sixty kafis),” The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. XLVI, No.4, 2009, pp. 541-578.