Pir Shams composed Ginans whose lyrics were set to dance

Pir_Shams's_MausoleumGinans are a vast collection consisting of several hundred Ginans which have been a central part of the religious life of the Nizari Ismaili community of the Indian Subcontinent that today resides in many countries around the world. The Nizari Ismailis of the Indian Subcontinent used the term to designate a special type of poetic composition: a composition whose authorship is attributed to Ismaili Pirs and Sayyids, or preachers, who came to the region as early as the eleventh century to teach the Ismaili interpretation of Islam.

The earliest Pir to have preached in the subcontinent is Satgur Nur (or Nur Satgur). He is believed to have lived between the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century. Traditions in the community trace the ancestry of Pir Satgur Nur to the Shi‘a Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (d. 765).

The mausoleum of Pir Shams at Multan, Pakistan
Image: The Ismailis An Illustrated History

Pir Shams, who seems to have lived in the middle of the fourteenth century, composed many Ginans in Punjabi. A community of followers in Punjab called Shamsis, who had been practicing their faith in secret, came out as Ismailis in the twentieth century. Elsewhere a cycle of Ginans called garbis, lyrics set to dance, commemorates Pir Shams’s conversion of Hindu villagers in Gujarat, where he is said to have joined in their dance during the festival of navratri, and substituted his own words for theirs, thus teaching them the Ismaili interpretation of Islam.

Pir Shams, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Dr Farhad Daftary, Dr Zulfikar Hirji, The Ismailis An Illustrated History, Azimuth Editions

Research by Nimira Dewji

The Pir Series:

Ginans: Rendition & Expression:

Qasidas: Rendition & Expression:

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