Bai Budhai

Syed Ruknuddin, the son of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin had a daughter, called Bibi Jeval or Bibi Jivan Khatoon. She married to Pir Hasan Kabiruddin and had five sons and a daughter, called Bai Budhai. The biography of Bai Budhai is not found in early or later sources. We have very brief scrap of the traditions. She is referred simply as the daughter of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin or the sister of Syed Imam Shah (d. 926/1520) and nothing else. Syed Imam Shah was the younger son of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin through Bibi Hurmat Khatoon, and the meager detail of Bai Budhai makes little concern connected with him. She is brought on historical record after the death of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin in 853/1449. Whatever is known about her is derived from her dialogues with Syed Imam Shah in the treatise comprised of 71 ginans, entitled Syed Imam Shah tatha Bai Budhai’no Samvad, in which it infers that she complained to Syed Imam Shah their parents died during their small ages (47:5). The age of Syed Imam Shah was about 19 years during the death of his father in 853/1449. It suggests that Bai Budhai’s age would have been 16 to 17 years, and as such she was born most possibly in 835/1432 or 836/1433. Summing up the fragments of the ginans, it appears that the name Budhai was her pen name. It is said that her marriage took place with a rich cotton merchant of Syed family. She led a prosperous life, but did not adhere to the path of her forefathers.

Pir Hasan Kabiruddin died in 853/1449 in Uchh Sharif, where Bai Budhai came and stayed with her step brother, Syed Imam Shah for about six months. She sought chance to discuss with her brother on the faith of her forefathers. Syed Imam Shah answered to her every question, and their dialogues are preserved in the ginan, known as Syed Imam Shah tatha Bai Budhai’no Samvad, which is the only source of information to know about her.

Bai Budhai was neither a preacher nor a composer of the ginans. It infers from her dialogues that she passed whole day in worldly affair and slept whole night (11:1). She even did not cook food at home, but got it by her house servant (21:2). Syed Imam Shah was dissatisfied with her life and daily routines (15:7) and advised her to make a balance. It also appears that during her stay in Uchh for six months, she continued to commemorate the death ceremony of her father (51:9) with her brother. They cooked rice and pulses (da’l) in pure ghee (51:4), arranged cold drinks (51:3) and invited the townsfolk (49:10) including family members and other Syeds, especially Qadi Muhammad Shah of Uchh (51:7).

She is known to have been neglected in the ritual in the house of her father-in-law and also her leaning toward the faith they followed. There is no clear indication of the faith being practiced in her husband’s house. Syed Imam Shah however pointed out that the Koran was much followed in her husband’s house same as his own house, but in esoteric form secretly, and if it was divulged, the Muslims would kill them (34:6-8). This narrative indicates that Bai Budhai married to that family, where exoteric teaching was observed. It cannot be ascertained from the dialogues whether her husband was a Sunni or a Shi’a? This question is solved in the Janatpuri (92-93) of Syed Imam Shah, which reads: “Consider Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as Guru Bhirma. He had 18 sons and 5 wives. He had one daughter, whose name was Bai Budhai. Her religion was Jafari of Imam Jafar Sadik.”

The term “Jafari” explicitly denotes the doctrine of Ithna Asharis. It means that she followed Ithna Ashrism after her marriage. When she arrived in Uchh after her father’s death, Syed Imam Shah rebuked her. She poured down many questions and her brother convinced her. She seems to have satisfied and promised her brother to revert to the faith of her ancestor under strict taqiya.

The tradition has it that the name “Budhai” is not her original name, but a pen name, which came to be known after her discussion with her brother. She was convinced means she “gained the knowledge” i.e., budh a’ai (knowledge revealed), which became the term Budhai. If this tradition is genuine, the question arises, what was her real name? We are helpless to solve it due to lack of information. Edlji Dhanji Kaba quoted the above stanzas of Janatpuri (92-3) in his Khoja Panth Darpann (Amerali, 1913, p. 90), and also derived information from an old manuscript, where the name Budhai is written as Budbadi. This also cannot solve the question of her real name.

The dialogues between Syed Imam Shah and Bai Budhai are given in the 71 ginans under the title of Syed Imam Shah tatha Bai Budhai’no Samvad. From 1st to 6th ginan, Syed Imam Shah makes his introductory address to her, using the term jir’e bai. Then, Bai Budhai is brought to ask from 7th ginan, using the term jir’e bhai and then Syed Imam proceeds from 8th ginan to reply her and vice versa. This discussion is continued upto 41st ginan, where a break takes place. The 42nd ginan is attributed to Hajar Beg or Hyder Beg, the servant of Syed Imam Shah, who also joins to impart her, using the term ar’e beti’re, and then in 43rd ginan, Bai Budhai turns to reply to Hajar Beg, using the term ar’e bawa’re. Then, once again the dialogue between Syed Imam Shah and Bai Budhai resumes from 44th to 71st ginan. In sum, she addresses to her brother in 32 ginans and once to Hajar Beg, indicating 32 ginans to her credit out of 71 ginans, while Syed Imam Shah exhorted her in 37 ginans out of 71 ginans, and one 43rd ginan is attributed to Hajar Beg.

The above ginans of dialogue cannot be reckoned an original version. It is possible that the dialogues would had been composed by someone from Imam Shahi sect in Nawsari. The 56th and 70th ginans clearly reflect the concept of the Imam Shahis. The entire scene of the dialogues seems to have been brought into the poetry forms much after the death of Syed Imam Shah (d. 926/1520)). It is curious enough to point out that these dialogues contain the words rupee (34:9) and paisa (54:10). In fact, the currency of rupee introduced in India much after the period of Syed Imam Shah. According to New Encyclopaedia Britannica (10: 242), “In the late 16th century in central and northern India, the Mughals established the silver rupee, divided into 16 annas. In 1082/1671, the British East India Company minted coins copied from local types, using the rupee as the basic unit of account.” Thus, the rupee became the standard unit of currency much long after the death of Syed Imam Shah, and the composer seems to have brought the dialogues down to his period. If so, it suggests that it would have been versified after second half of the 17th century.

Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj (1842-1930) published the above collection of dialogues on June 26, 1921, entitled Syed Imam Shah tatha Bai Budhai’no Samvad from his The Khoja Sindhi Chhapakhana, Bombay. It was never since reprinted.

Bai Budhai is reported to have left Uchh soon after the arrival of a certain Devasi Chandan in 854/1450, who brought a letter of Imam Muhammad bin Islam Shah (d. 868/1463) for Syed Imam Shah to visit Kahek. Henceforward, nothing is known about Bai Budhai. It seems that she had returned to her home and practiced Ismaili faith during the rest of her life in secrecy and made a will to bury her in Uchh. The date of her death is also not accessible. Mia’n Momin Nur Muhammad however writes in Ismaili Moman kom’no Itihas (Bombay, 1936) that the tomb of Bai Budhai is situated in Uchh, but does not exist at present.