Asiatic Society of Pakistan


Asiatic Society of Pakistan

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    Belief in Paanch Pir is a universal phenomenon all over Northern Indo-Pak sub-continent. It forms a cult known as ‘PAANCH PIRIYA,’ which neither orthodox Islam nor orthodox Hinduism claims as its own. Yet the belief is widely prevalent among the adherents of both the religions. In fact, uneducated Muslims pay homage to and low-caste Hindus worship ‘Paanch Pir in a prescribed esoteric form, which we shall be noticing soon.

    The cult of ‘Paanch Pir’ or the Paanch Piriya belief does not consist of a faith in any one of the Firs of the quintette ;—it is a faith in the set taken as a whole. Although every Pir forming the quintette is believed to have possessed occult powers of his own. he loses his own powers, when he is identified with the members of the quintette to which a number of occult powers, mostly un associated with the individuals, are ascribed.

    Terminology Explained :—

    The quintette is known as ‘Paanch Pir.’ in Bengal, Bihar and United Provinces (modem Uttar Pradesh) and ‘Paanch Pir in N. W. F. Province and the Punjab. The term consists of two words only, first one being ‘Paanch or ‘Panj’ and the second one. ‘Pir’. Obviously the first word is the phonological variation of the Aryan word ‘Pancha’ as has been preserved in Sanskrit, the language of Indian branch of the Aryans. Even if the form ‘Panj’ is considered to be a Persian word, possibility of its derivation from Iranian branch of the main Aryan language is not precluded.

    In all probability, the phrase Paanch. Pir or Panj Pir was coined by the Indian Muslims to indicate a quintette of their own, formed on ,the analogy of the Iranian quintette ‘Panj-Tan’, introduced by the Arab Muslims of Iran to India, substituting the word ‘Tan’ or body by the word ‘Pir’ or saint. Former province of North Western Frontier and the Panjab, receiving the first and strongest impact of Iranian Muslim culture for a pretty long period, might have retained the Iranian form of the Aryan ‘Pancha’ in the domain of their phonological development as they had done in the case of the word ‘Panjab’, a combination of two Indo-Aryan words, ‘Panch’ (five) plus ‘Aab’ (water), meaning ‘the land of five waters.

    The second word ‘Pir’ is Persian, which is common to both the phrases ‘Paanch Pir’ or ‘Panji Pir’. Although it primarily means ‘old’ or an ‘old man’, it secondarily connotes a ‘holy man’ or a ‘saint’. it can be very favourably compared to the Pith word ‘Them’ meaning an ‘old man’, because the Pali word ‘Thera’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sthavira’ meaning ‘old’ or an ‘aged man’. it is, therefore, very likely that the Persian word Pir has its origin in the main Aryan word ‘Sthavira’, and as the phonological change took place in the form of the main word, it underwent a semantic change too, due to a notion prevailing among the early people that a man growing in years. grows in wisdom too and such a man must be embalmed and entombed, so that in times of necessity he might be consulted and his blessings might be sought. In fact, this is the origin of the Buddhist monuments known as the ‘Chaityas’ built on the tombs of the ‘Thera’-s and of the Muslim mausoleums, erected on the graves of the ‘Pir’.

    Personnel of the Quintette :—

    It is very difficult to determine the personnel of the ‘Paanch Piriya’ cult with any precision ; because. the lists of the Pirs differ from group to group of their votaries and from place to place of their popularity, they gained with the adherents of their cult.

    ‘Thus, in the Panjab the it sometimes consists of the saints Khwaja Qutbuddin ( 1142-1236 A. D. ), Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer ( 1144-1235 A. D. ), Sheikh Nizimuddin Auliya of Delhi (1236.1325 A. D. ), Nasiruddin Abul Khair( d. 1356 A. A.), and Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud (1246-1266 A. D. ). A second list gives their names : Bahauddin Zakraiya of Multan ( 1169-1260 A. o.), Shah Rukn e Aalam Hazrat, Shah Shams-i-Tabrez of Multan ( d. 643 A. H. 1245 A. D. ), Shah Jalaal Makhdoom Jahaniyan Jahangasht of Uchcha (1307-1384 A. D.) and Baba Faridduddin Shakarganj of Paakpattan (1176-1269 A. D.).”

    Besides these two, there are other lists of ‘Paanch Pir’ in the Panjab. These lists not only contain the names of famous historical saints and persons as noted above, but also embody names of legendary personages like Sakhi Sarwar Sultan, Ghazi Miyan and others.

    Sakhi Sarwar appears to be an entirely mythical saint, about whom fictitious narratives, unworthy of being recounted here, are available. The place of his association in the Indus Valley has been named after him as ‘Sakhi Sarwar’ which “represents the centre of ancient cult of the earth and its fertility, and is the object of to the Sultani sect”

    Allthough Ghazi Miyan, better known as Salar Masood , has almost become a legendary figure in the whole of Northern India, he was a historical person. His Indian exploits have been described