Jangnama Singhan te Firangian
Jangnama Singhan te Frangian is a celebrated composition by Shah Mohammad who has been acclaimed as the national poet of the Punjab in the nineteenth century. Though he is said to have composed a kissa, i.e. a narrative poem of love as well, he is best known for this celebrated composition. With the subject-matter drawn from the first Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846) its past significance lies in the multiple treatment given to the decline of the Sikh kingdom after Maharaja Ranjit Singh's death in 1839.
Its present meaning accrues from its treatment of the uncertainty gripping the sovereign identity of the Punjab. Since this uncertainty has continued with the passage of time, this composition acquires future value in the eyes of many.
Structurally this composition comprises two parts. The first part running into fifty octaves (eight-lined stanzas) narrates the War of Succession. Originating from the court it relentlessly takes the whole polity into its ambit. One after the other, the successors meet with death at the hands of legions organised for the purpose. As a result anarchy spreads around, even those courtiers who are not in the line of succession find themselves in mortal danger.
The passionate intensity of plunder percolates to the level of the Sikh soldiery. For the young mother of the ruler in his teens, it is an act of survival to manipulate a war between the Sikh soldiery and the English army. He is successful in his design and the second part of the composition, running into as many octaves and five more, is taken up with the description of various battles fought between two contending sides.
The defeat of the Sikhs elicits full empathy from Shah Mohammad who not only declares it a war between the rest of India and the Punjab but also draws a poignant picture of the lamenting mothers, sisters, wives and relatives of the dead.
The narration, description, stylistic devices and formal strategies employed go to prove that Mohammed's impulse drew from his deep alignment with the land, culture, life and ethos of the Punjab. As a result, he seems a national poet of the Punjab not only in retrospect but in prospect as well.