I studied in Punjab and hence studied Punjabi as a subject till my graduation. While doing my course work, I had gone through many poems written by a renowned poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Agony is the most distinct feature of Batalvi’s work and you feel an instant pain in your heart whenever you read the poems of this legend. All of Batalvi’s poetry is the result of his life’s unsuccessful love story. Because of such remarkable poetry on love, separation and death, the tag birhaa daa sultan (“king of sorrow”) was added to the poet’s name.
Shiv Kumar Batalvi lived the life of a legend. The poet had written numerous love poems, but was not successful in his own love life. He couldn’t get married to the woman he loved and died by the age of 36 due to excessive drinking. All Batalvi’s poems and work reflects a lover’s agony and a wish to die young.
It was Batalvi’s immortal but unsuccessful love for the daughter of Punjabi writer Gurbaksh Singh Preetladi, that brought a big change in his life. After his lover’s marriage to someone else, Shiv Kumar Balatvi turned to alcohol for support. It was during these times of grief and sorrow that he wrote one of his most popular poems “Ajj Din Chhayeda Tere Rang Varga”. Eventually, Batalvi got married to Aruna, a Brahmin girl, in 1967 and had two daughters with her, but he was unable to forget his first love.
Shiv Kumar Batalvi was born on 23rd July 1936 in Bara Pind Lohtian, Punjab (now in Pakistan) in a Saraswat Brahmin family. His father, Pandit Krishan Gopal was a Patwari by profession and their whole family left Pakistan at the time of partition and moved to Batala. Since childhood he was a very dreamy child and after completing his matriculation in 1953, he left his studies.
Batalvi was not an ordinary man and was truly gifted by God. The first collection of his poems got published in 1960 under the title, Piran da Paraga (The Scarf of Sorrows). Batalvi used to recite his own poems, thus making them even more popular. He was also a great writer and wrote a masterpiece play, Loona (1965) for which he received the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the youngest recipient of this award.
Gradually, Batalvi’s alcoholism caught up with him and he died on 7th May 1973 of liver cirrhosis at his father-in-law’s residence.
Batalvi’s work and charisma will always remain and many renowned singers have sung his poems and the list includes renowned singers like, Jagjit Singh-Chitra Singh, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rabbi Shergill, Deedar Singh Pardesi, Surinder Kaur and many more. He will be remembered forever for his great work and contribution to the world of Punjabi poetry.