Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Today is Shiv Kumar Batalvi‘s 33rd death anniversary. The Bohemian Punjabi poet died at the age of 36 on this day 1973. It would not be incorrect to say that there has been no comparable romantic poet in Punjabi after him.

In the Bohemian aspects of his personality, he brings to mind the urdu poet Majaz who too died young. Shiv has often been termed the Keats of Punjabi poetry.He is a somewhat incongrous personality- a Punjabi poet of Brahmin origins who reached his pinnacle when Punjabi language was becoming the bone of contention in Punjab with Punjabi increasingly identified as a language of the Sikhs in the state and the Hindus called upon by the Jana Sangh, the ancestor of today’s BJP, to disown Punjabi language.

Shiv’s poetry is characterised by longing and desolation, a melancholy that also surrounded Sahir Ludhianvi. One wonders if this has something to do with the times, partition and the confusion of ideas and identities that reigned.

The most important poets in Punjabi after Shiv have been Paash and Surjit Singh Pattar. Both were influenced, at some time during their career by Leftwing political ideas- Paash was killed by Khalistani terrorists while on a short trip from UK (where he migrated after the violent State repression following the failure of “Spring Thunder over India”) to India in the eighties.

Paash’s poetry was overshadowed by his political commitment. Pattar’s poetry is more sophisticated and tends towards a philosophical reflection on the human condition without disowning his political commitment.

In this context, it is an engima that Shiv’s poetry, except some of his very late poems, did not show the impact of the Progressive Writer’s Movement or the Naxalite upsurge of the late 1960s and early 1970s that had a major impact on the youth in Punjab.

A very lyrical poet, Shiv has been sung, and popularized by Jagjit Singh’s album based on his poetry. Mahendra Kapoor has also sung some of Shiv’s poetry very well. Apnaorg has some renditions available online, though I could not get them to play on my computer. Bhupinder and Mitali have sung Loona, the poem that won him the Sahitya Akademi Award. Along with the Sufi poet Bulle Shah, Batalvi is a must sing for any major singer in Punjabi.

The language that Shiv employs is notable for its idiomatic usage of small- town Punjabi and also by his effusive usage of words of Persian origin, a trend that has over the years been discouraged just as Hindi has tended to borrow more heavily from Sanskrit than Persian and Arabic vocabulary. Sikh symbols are strikingly missing even as he brings the usage of urban Hindu rituals and symbols in his characteristic poetry.

Some of his poems are available, in Gurmuki, here. Another good article on Shiv with a critical commentary on some of his poems here.

My own favourites are many, but certainly those that first come to mind are Shikra, Maye ni maye mere geetan de naina vich, Ghamaan dee raat lami hai, Ae mera geet kisey na gaunan. All of these have been sung by Jagjit Singh.

I may end with a warning to anyone envisaging an overdose of Shiv: he can be terribly Wagnerian- effusively dark and deeply sombre.

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28 thoughts on “Shiv Kumar Batalvi

  1. Thanks for this informative post. I wasn’t aware of this poet, even though I have heard about and read a bit of Paash (translated, of course).

    Thanks also for visiting my blog. I have added you to my links. Hope to see you drop by often 🙂

  2. This is really nice.. i used to like his poetry, but knew next to nothing about him.. and my personal opinion is that neither mahendra nor Jagjit Singh have been able to do justice to the dard in his words.. its too effusive for their voices..
    Thank you again!

  3. Thank you for producing this blog.
    What is amazing and said about Shiv is that for a vast number Punjabis, not to say Indians, he remains so unknown.
    I think he would be the greatest lyrical poet of this century in any Indian language: perhaps its time to bring him into schoolbooks.
    Bhupinder, the apanorg site uses Realplayer and works very well, you should really listen to his own recitation: I have been familiar with Shiv since a child (through family-friends connection) but heairng him adds so much more meaning to already familiar poems. None of the singers have done him justice, th closest is Jagjit Singh, but the style is totally differnt to what Batalvi had in mind when he wrote.

  4. I have not been able to listen, for some reason I have some glitch with the realplayer audios.

    I am sure Shiv is there is schoolbooks- if not, its a pity.

  5. oh my god! what a voice the guy had.. and what a musical sense. jis tarannum meiN Shiv Kumar Batalvi ne apni ghazleiN aur nazmeiN sunaayii thii.. it was a treat to listen to his poems in his voice. Bhupinder, you should check out what’s wrong with your real player and try to listen to him. Currently playing Sikar dopahar sar te mera Dhal chaliya parchhaaNv .. thanks to your article and the comments on it.

  6. Realplayer conflicts with norton anti virus, and apparently I cannot unistall the anti virus.

    I havent heard Shiv, but my mother heard him during her college days when he was little known… and she remembers it still.

    There was reason enough for him to have the audacity to launch a diatribe on his audience in Bombay and tell them that none of the poets present there knew what poetry is, and then recite his own.

    To a pindrop enthralled silence.

  7. I met Great Shiv in 1967, he had come to attend world punjabi conference in Bombay abd was staying at Khalsa college where I was studying, I had rare chance of serving him Breakfast, lunch and dinner at venue and I have lost all his music,if any dear person can email me, I WILL BE GREATFULL.

  8. You can listen to some of his poetry in his own words at the apnaorg site linked in this post. His qalam is also available at the site.

  9. lately Rabbi Shergill has also sung Ikk Kudi Jeehda naam mohabbat in a different way.. but like someone has mentioned above no singer can do justice to Shiv’s work (Jagjit has come the closest)
    I wonder if Ghulam Ali has sung his work other than ki puchhde ho haal fakeeran da (which i had pleasure to listen to live and was AWESOME)

  10. The Shiv Batalvi is still a legend in the Punjabi Poetry.
    When I was in school I had little interet in poetry when I read his poem in my syllabus book It highly influenced me. Till then his poems become my best firend whenever I feel alone. To write anything about him is beyond the limits of the words.

  11. I have been a real fan of Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Its really requires a deep mentality to write such poems. Its not an easy task to write the poems but Shiv did that in a very short period of time. He will ever remain a shining star in Punjabi history. No one[except GOD] cannot even think according to his thinking. He might be having any deep sorrow which no one knows. “Koi idda hi shayar nahi ban janda, jado tak koi satt dil te na vajji hove” [SANDY SAYS]

  12. shiv give me a new life because when i was thinking about suicide i found or felt that some one other is more sad than me and he was shiv i mean a God

  13. hi

    i am not a computer peson but some how i happen to be raeding these comments
    not my surprise but its a graet felling to know that people do talk about SHIV , so wrightly he deserves
    some how i know that over the years we as punjabi`s have not given him the full respect that he deserves,
    any how i am a great a lover of his poetry,

    i am one of very few people who had the oppotunity to listen to various unknown singers and how they have sung shiv can not descibe , will leave leading singers miles behind.
    if you need to know more about it please contact me on email , uk

    all the best


  14. hello all…
    well i got acquainted to Shiv sahab’s poems through the work of jagjeet singh, through his album BIRAHA DA SULTAAN…

    I have not yet listened to Shiv sahab’s own recitations and i agree that definitely it is possible that no singer, not evern Jagjeet Singh might have been able to do justice to his feelings behind these poems.. But still I feel thankful to Jagjeet Singh through which i could be aware of such a Master of words.. I have never ever listened to such great poetry… No one seems to be comparable to Shiv sahab…I used to think the same for Guljaar sahab before i heard Shiv sahab’s poems Through the Jagjeet Singh’s album.. And for that i feel so very thankful to him for introducing me to this dimension of romantic poetry.

    My personal favorite is “Eh mera geet kise na gaana” which is sung by Jagjeet Singh in that album too… And my fav line is “Changa hoya tu paraya ho gaya, mukk gayi chinta tennu apnaun di”…

    Shiv sahab was just the Best! It would have been a big regret of my life, had i not heard his poems…
    So, all my thanks to Jagjeet ji…

  15. ****kai rog ishq wich lag jande ishq samundran ch
    dubiya nu na labda kinara a sajjan ta de gaye dhokha sharaab da sahar a hun sharaab da sahara a……..
    **** kujh muk gaye tere vichoreyan ch baki muka dena teriyan yadan ne chad “karan” eh zindgi avien he lang jani gham diyan barsan ch

  16. This is great to read about Shiv kumar Batalvi. I am student of Science but i have a great interest in poets written by Shiv kumar Batalvi. I don’t know why?

    I am very much thankful to you for enhence my knowledge………..

  17. i want to read his poems(original), not translated in hindi or english. can u help me to get to his collection as i dont know punjabi. 😦

    em unable to get what is written by him.

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