Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dakhni—a detour to Bijapur

Dakhni—a detour to Bijapur
By Narendra Luther

In my last article (10.1.99), I had called the Golconda period (1518-1687) the ‘golden age’ of Dakhni. It was not as if the language prospered only in Golconda. Simultaneously, in the neighbouring Bijapur sultanate we witness the last flicker of its flame – and of the language. Incidentally, Bijapur fell to the Mughals in 1686- only a year before the fall of Golconda. We will therefore make a detour to Bijapur before we resume our journey on the highway.

Earlier, we noted how Ibrahim Ali Adil Shah II of Bijapur made his contribution not only to Dakhni but also to the classical Indian music by composing 59 songs in 17 ragas and raginis. His grandson, Ali Adil Shah II (1656-72) who was the eighth ruler of the dynasty became the Sultan at the age of 19. He was a poet and sported the pen name of ‘Shahi’. He wrote extensively in various genres of poetry. He composed 21 songs in 21 ragas and raginis. His compositions exhibit a strong influence of the ‘Prem margi’ school of Hindi poetry. A number of his poems are as from a woman pining for her lover. The long poem ‘Birhani Mukhammas’ is perhaps the best example of that. Its refrain is:

Koi jao kaho muj sajan sat; Main neha bandhi toon keeta ghat

(Go, tell my lover, that while I deeply loved him, he betrayed me)

Prof. Zeenat Sajida, a former head of the Urdu Department of the Osmania University and a leading authority on the Dakhni edited an anthology of Ali Adil Shah II: ‘Kalam-e- Shahi ’ in 1962. According to her, this poem became so popular that many others wrote similar poems, which causes some confusion regarding the identity of their authors.

This and other poems of his describe most graphically the condition of woman burning in the fire of separation (Birha in Hindi). Note her burning desire:

Main chhaon hoon piya sang lagi rahun dayam; Yak til juda na hona vaslat ise Kate hain

(I’ll always be my lover’s shadow; then I will not separate from him.)

In a song in Bhairvi raga he gives a vivid description of Shiva. His masterpiece is perhaps his raga named ‘Chouda Ratan’ (Fourteen Ratnas or gems) in raga Kanra. In that he shows his complete knowledge of the story of Amrit Manthan (the churning of sea) from the Puranas. According to this very interesting story the churning was done jointly by gods and the demons at the instance of Vishnu. It yielded fourteen gems including the Moon, the Iravadi elephant, and the water of eternal life- amrit. They were divided amongst various gods. This raga of his shows a surprisingly high degree of knowledge of the Hindu mythology and the intricacies of the Indian classical music. It is easier to read this song in Devanagri because its language and vocabulary is Sanskritic. Whether his topic is secular or religious -- including Islamic -- his vocabulary, and the figures of speech are Hindi out and out.

Just as his grand father Ibrahim was called ‘jagat guru’, Ali was called ‘ustad-e-alam’. It means the same thing in Persian.


It was his court poet Mohd. Nusrat ‘Nusrati’ who gave him this title. The latter chronicled the history of his patron’s struggle against the Mughals and the Marathas in his ‘Ali Nama’. Thus the poet doubles as an historian. There are seven ‘qasidas’ (odes) in his long poetic chronicle. They alone would assure him a place in the hall of fame. Nusrati is very proud of his work and claims that he combined in it the best of ‘Hindi’ and Persian. He himself proclaims that it is the ‘Shahnama’ of the Deccan. (The original ‘Shahnama’ was the great poem, which Firdausi wrote at the instance of Mahmood Ghaznavi and for which he was not paid the promised amount).

In his own words:

Kata hoon sukhan mukhtasar be-guman, keh yoon Shahnama Deccan ka hai jan

(In short, doubtless it should be taken as the Shahnama of the Deccan)

Describing the din of battle, he says that the clanging of swords was so loud that the mountains started trembling.

His masterpiece is the long poem: ‘Gulshan-e-ishq’ (The Garden of Love) which is the love story of Kunwar Manohar and Madhumalati. In this Nusrati is considered at his descriptive best. There is a liberal use of similes and metaphors in the description of the beauty of Madhu Malati, and of palaces, landscapes, and ceremonies.

In this work his imagery is exquisite. To wit: when the moon rose in the west, Sun stepped back and stayed on to see the spectacle.

The boat in the river is mercury floating on a plate!

Nusrati is credited with initiating the transformation of the Dakhni into Urdu by introducing Persian and Arabic vocabulary into it.


Nusrati’s contemporary was a blind poet called Syed Miran Miyan Khan ‘Hashimi’. Because of his disability, he had free access to the royal harem. That enabled him to write the peculiar genre of the language called ‘Rekhti’. In this form the feminine sentiments are expressed in the idiom peculiar to women particularly of the Deccan.

He takes pride in that distinction and says that he has ‘ given a place of honour to the language of ‘oui’. (’Oui’, even today is the exclamation used by girls when they are surprised or horrified).

Thus Hashimi became the precursor of the subsequent ‘Rekhti’ writers of the North. It is surprising that in spite of his blindness, he is very good at description not only of scenes but also of the social conditions of his times. His major work is the narrative love poem: ‘Yusuf Zuleikha’. His vivid descriptions remind one of the blind contemporary Indian writer, Ved Mehta.

That about completes the story of Bijapur’s contribution to Dakhni. Now we can return to Golconda again to go on to the next part of our story.


1 comment:

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