CHAṬṬHIĀṄ DĪ VĀR is a Punjabi ballad describing the battle between Mahāṅ Siṅgh, father of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Singh and Ghulām Muhammad Chaṭṭhā, a Muslim chieftain of the Chaṭṭhā clan of the Jaṭṭs. The poet is some Pīr Muhammad, whose name appears in some verses of the poem. The Vār was first published in Persian script by Qāzī Fazal Haq, a teacher at Government College, Lahore. According to his statement, Pīr Muhammad, the poet, was a resident of Gujrāt district, and he composed this ballad in the early years of the British occupation of the Punjab. No evidence is available in the text to support this statement. Nevertheless, the details of the events provided, and the casual way in which the poet has introduced different personalities as if everybody knew about them, indicate that he was an eye-witness to the happenings he has described.
The events of the strife are spread over a period of a few years but no dates are given. Ghulām Muhammad became the chief of the Chaṭṭhās, after the death of his father, Pīr Muhammad (not to be confused with the author of the poem), probably in 1785. His adversary, Mahāṅ Siṅgh, died in 1'792. As such the events narrated in the Vār took place between 1785 and 1792.
The Sikh sardārs had occupied large portions of the Punjab by 1780, but some Muslim chiefs, who had created independent states for themselves in the wake of the downfall of Mughal authority, were holding out in certain areas. The Chaṭṭhās had their stronghold in the Wazīrābād and Hāfizābād parganahs where they were masters of 78 villages. They formed their own state under their leader, Nūr Muhammad, grandfather of Ghulām Muhammad, and had sufficiently strengthened their position by the time the latter became the chief. They had common boundary with Sardār Mahāṅ Siṅgh, and were always a source of trouble to the Sikh chieftain. Quite frequently they raided his territory and looted and plundered the villages. Mahāṅ Siṅgh was forced to retaliate. The Chaṭṭhās offered stubborn resistance to him from the fort of Manchar, which they were forced to evacuate after a long siege and considerable loss of life.
It is a lengthy Vār, with 91 pauṛīs (stanzas) available and published. But it remains incomplete, and nobody knows how many stanzas the poem originally contained. After the 91st stanza, one verse from 92nd stanza has been given in the text. The first verse is in praise of the Creator. Thereafter two full stanzas describe events from the lives of mythological and historical figures - prophets, kings, great men - from Semitic traditions. The poet comes to the subject in the fourth stanza. His description of events is sketchy though he does not lack poetic fancy and imagination. He is at his best when depicting a battle scene.
Unlike most other Muslim poets he has no prejudice against words from Hindu or Sikh sources, nor is he excessively given to pedantic vocabulary of Perso-Arabic origin. He belonged to Gujrāt district and used the dialect of that region, which is a mixture of central Punjabi and Lahndī.
Shamsher Siṅgh Ashok