Author: Nasser Boladai
The ancient Baluchi poets have inherited Baluch history, ancient customs and narratives and then passed them on to us. Through these ancient treasures, we find out what the lives of Baluch predecessors looked like and how they faced various life issues and challenges.
In the ancient poems, Baluch women appear in various forms: Banali, the Swordswoman, Hani, the beloved, Gohar, the wealthy, the pious Mahnaz, the kind mothers of Duda and Mir Kanbar. Through the stories in the ancient ballads, Baluch poets have actually sought to bring specific messages and ideas to readers and listeners.
Through these poems, poets have shown that Baluch women walked shoulder to shoulder with men in order to preserve Baluchi culture and customs. They left the house and, like men, engaged in daily life affairs. In agriculture and animal husbandry, they have not only accompanied men, but they have also proved them to be better.
In this article, I will try to show how the ancient Baluchi poets mentioned Baluch women in their poems and what value Baluch woman had in ancient social life.
In the ancient times when Baluchistan was a lush region and mountains and plains and every corner of it was enchanting, Baluch men who rode horses and did war exercises, it was part of their lives to take pleasure from the hunting, they would go with their horses to the mountains and plains and would carry out war exercises and indulge in hunting and upon their return they were filled with joy, and their wives would greet them with smiles and happiness. Their life partners would leave the gates of homes and welcome them. For example, in the Poem of Goharam’s Sarcasm, the poet says on his behalf:
The Rinds came back from hunting
With the skin of wild sheep
As a precious offering to ladies
Their beautiful beloved waiting faithfully
In another verse the poet says on behalf of Mahnaz:
I came waiting on your way
You came back from your joyous hunting trip
You came back with a group of bravest men
Or when Mulla Fazil mentions that era in the Aleppo’s poetry:
“A great feast was organised by the ladies.”
Every day, they raised a thousand pretty girls and brave boys. Nevertheless, they (the women) have shown their art in the form of beautiful roles of embroidery and needlework. These roles gave special status to Baluch women in the society.
In a poem, Mullah Fazil says:
Wise men if we are in dark period
But our women are unique and respected
Another aspect of Baluchi identity is the personal freedom. Just as Baluch men valued their independent nature, there has been a strong and living tradition among Baluch women not to compromise on their personal freedom. What is clear in these poems is that the Baluch woman does not go under the burden of force. Hani Dinar is the best example in this regard that she does not bow to Mir Chakar’s wealth, pressure or the status as the tribal chieftain.
When Mir Chakar’s messenger, Sazain, goes to the Hani’s neighborhood to investigate, she discovers that Hani is the Murid’s fiancée. Hani’s parents also decline Mir Chakar’s offer. Then Sazain pleas to Hani herself to accept Mir Chakar’s offer. The poet has made the Hani-Sazain dialogue a theology in this way:
Hani Dinar was committed to Murid
They have already accepted the (engagement) gifts
I (Hani) was told so by the enchanter Sazaine
Leave Murid and be with Chaker
He is the leader and head an army of forty thousands men
So answered the beautiful lady
This is unbecoming of my grace
It would bring bad names to our customs
And facilitate taunts and jeers among nation
In the last bit, the poet narrates of Hani’s promise that if she leaves Murid and takes Mir Chakar as a husband, this will not only be a great cruelty to them (Hani and Murid), but will also be a stain on the forehead of the Baluch nation. Because Chakar is not an ordinary man but is the greatest commander of the Baluch nation, and his this deed would discredit the whole Baluch nation and create heresies.
Hani was married to Mir Chakar’s against her will. But she could not forget Murid and did not allow Mir Chakar to be close to her. The marriage was never consummated. Hani showed that she was true to her own heart, who was in love with the Murid. With her expression and then with her behavior, Hani proved that she was not only the guardian of Baluchi culture and freedom, but also defended her human rights and women’s rights against men.
In the Shahdad and Mahnaz’s romantic story, the poet speaks of love, hatred, jealousy and audacity in the common life of men and women and creates a beautiful tragic story. Apart from its literary value, this story mirrors the full view of a Baluch’s life and identity.
Shahdad’s first wife deceives him and defames and slanders Mahnaz. Shahdad forms a grudge and becomes unkind to Mahnaz. Mahnaz brings out a ring to prove her innocence in a Baluch traditional assembly by putting her hand in a boiling pot to prove her innocence. The poet narrates on Mahnaz’s behalf:
A pot filled with boiling oil was brought
A ring of precious gemstones put inside it
And I rolled-up my sleeves
And took the ring out gallantly
In the end, Mahnaz proves her innocence. The poet expresses the freedom and power of a Baluch woman’s authority in the form of poetry through Mahnaz’s chastity:
I am like a fig tree with plain blade
That has grown on mountain top
I am grown over inaccessible heights
Never have been shaken by the wind
Nor my stem has been watered by unseasonal rain
The story of Bibi Gohar comes from word of mouth. After having issues with Goharam, Bibi Gohar takes refuge in Mir Chakar. This makes Goharam very upset. He has not had a good relationship with Mir Chakar before who is the greatest commander of the Baluch tribes. In a poem known as “Rind and Lashar”, one of the best epic poems of Baluchi language, the poet says:
Gohar with her conspiracies should burn
And disappear in the river
She has put the tribe into trouble
These few bits have been misrepresented by some that a woman named Gohar has ignited the fire of the war between Rind and Lashar. They say that it’s always a woman behind the most deadly wars in the history. But this Baluchi proverb provides a very good counter narrative:
The cause (of war) is something else
But Gohar’s camels used as an excuse
The war was because of long enmity
That is, the war was already unavoidable but they have used the baby camels of Gohar as an excuse to initiate the war.
The poet, Sholan does justice to the story. According to him, Gohar actually tried to extinguish the fire of war. When Goharam’s son Ramin returns from the Sibi, he becomes upset with the Rinds and encounters a herd of camels on his way. He kills the camels and tortures the calves.
Mir Chakar who returned from the Sibi Spring Festival, tours his areas for Eid visits. Bibi Gohar has settled in an area called Kachero. When Mir Chakar comes to Kachero, he notices that milk flows from the breasts of Bibi Gohar’s camels. He doubts and inquires Bibi Gohar in this regard. The poet has narrated the dialogue between Mir Chakar and Bibi Gohar in this way:
The Prince Chaker said
To the beautiful lady Gohar
Why are the camels restless?
Milk is dripping from their breasts
Then the lady replied
As she lied to through her teeth
Camels are missing the Jagin (her native town)
The Prince Chaker said
To the beautiful lady Gohar
Lady you ask your shepherd!
Gohar instructed the shepherd through her eyes
Dig the matter deep under the rug
To avoid starting a war between tribes
Rinds become skeptical that the restlessness of the camels has another cause. Miran admonishes the shepherds then they tell the truth. The poet narrates like this:
The Lasharis came the day before yesterday
Riding horses and shawls on their shoulders
They grounded the (camels’) calves
And slaughtered them with sharp knives
With these words, Bibi Gohar fails to achieve his goal of preventing the flames of war.
In fact, the battles of Mir Chakar and Goharam were over the lush areas of Gandag and Kechi, which they say lasted thirty years.
Duda’s mother sends her young and Mayar Jali son to rescue the herd of Sammis cows that the Beebagr’s army had wounded. She knows that her child may die in the scuffle, but for her Baluchi values of protecting a helpless woman in their shelter is more important, she tells her friends:
The kind mother said
Praise to my son
He will achieve big
Either sacrifices his life
Or bring back cows
Duda goes to war with his companions against the powerful Beebagr. He takes the cows back and returns, but Balach’s fearless brother Duda eventually gets killed.
Mir Kanbar’s mother also sends her brave son to the battlefield to free innocent Baluch captives from the shackles of the Mehrab and return them to their families. The poet has narrated the dialogue between Mir Kanbar and his mother in this way:
My honourable and respectable mother
Give me blessings
As I go to fight
I’m unsure on my return
The mother replied
My blessings are with you son
Take your sword and fight bravely
To honour your ancestors
On the way to free the captives, Mir Kanbar loses his life but defeats the forces of Mehrab.
In the history of Baluchistan, there are many examples of strong women, but the last praise should be given to the lady Banali, who have always been fearless in the battlefield. She was the daughter of Shayhaque, the sister of swordsman Mir Chakar and the kind mother of Malik Miran.
In aleppo poetry, Mullah Fazil praises the Rinds and calls for unity. He admires their human dignity and his advice to them is that your prosperity lies in unity. The example advances efforts and courage, and from the 40,000-strong army, he anthology Mir Chaker Banlai and says:
Mullah Fazil in the Aleppo’s poetry praises Rinds and calls for unity. He admires their human dignity and his advice to them is that your prosperity lies in unity. The example advances efforts and courage, and from the Mir Chakar’s forty thousands strong army, he chooses the Banli and says:
Banali takes the charge courageously
Like a great lady, she stands tall
As she conquers Delhi for Chaker
At the time when Mir Chakar was the chieftain, Baluch army desires to get to Delhi. On the way to Delhi, they storm a fortress. The defenders of the castle force them to retreat. Mir Chaker brings together his broken forces. They inform Mir Chakar that Banali is not with the army. Mir Chakar becomes restless. The poet describes Mir Chakar’s restlessness as follows:
So said the dignified Chakar
We will go back to lodges in Sibi
Shari will come with her friends
In her distinguished feminine walk
Will take the rein of my horse
Her first question would be about Banali
Chakar wonders what to do now without Banali. He commands another attack. First of all, he sends Malik Miran to bring Banali’s body. Malik Miran finds out that Banali was not attacked by a sword or killed. The poet completes the story like this:
Banali took her sword out
Started fiercely attacking the King
The surprised King said to Banali
You are a woman, get out of my way
So answered Banali, the princess
I am a woman indeed but I’m fearless
The ancient Baluch poets have written and sung very highly of Baluch women. The Baluch women was not only confined to homes but took parts in various social matters outside their homes and native towns.