Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam was born in Guhranwala, in modern-day Pakistan, but moved to Delhi at the time of partition, and is widely considered to be the best Punjabi poet of the 20th century. She published her first collection of verse at 16 and is best remembered for her poem Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu on the partition of British India. The poem speaks of the violence of partition and is directed at 18th century poet Waris Shah, calling on him to speak out from his grave. She is popular on both sides of the India-Pakistan border and is seen by many as the voice of the Punjabi people, believing in panjabiat, the deep consciousness of being a Punjabi, irrespective of religion and caste.

Waris Shah By Aqib.awan
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Amrita Pritam’s poem Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu, ‘A call to Waris Shah’ is a message to poet Waris Shah (above)

Below is an extract from Amrita’s poem, Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu, ‘A call to Waris Shah’, translated from Punjabi by Nirupama Dutt. Dutt’s full translation of the poem can be found here:

Waris Shah I call out to you today to rise from your grave

Rise and open a new page of the immortal book of love

A daughter of Punjab had wept and you wrote many a dirge

A million daughters weep today and look at you for solace

Rise o beloved of the aggrieved, just look at your Punjab

Today corpses haunt the woods, Chenab overflows with blood

Someone has blended poison in the five rivers of Punjab