Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lal Ded: Shiv Chuy Thali Thali Rozan

Lal Ded, Lal Didi, or Lalleshwari (1320–1392) was a Kashmiri Saivite mystic, whose mystic poetry (called vatsun or vakhs, i.e. that which flows, or speech, the Aryan name for the Oxus, the original Saraswati) constitute some of the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language.

Born in Pandrethan (the ancient Puranadhisthana), now engulfed by Srinagar, in a Kashmiri Pandit family, Lal Ded was married off at the age of twelve; the marriage proved unhappy, she left home at twenty-four to take sanyas as a disciple of the Saivite mystic Siddha Srikantha (Sed Bayu.) The mystic tradition of Saivism in Kashmir (known as Trika) had a tremendous impact on Kashmiri Sufism. One of the greatest of popular Kashmiri Sufi figures, Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali, the patron Sufi of Kashmiriyat, also known as Nooruddin Rishi or Nunda Rishi, was influenced by Lal Ded; the folk tradition holds that as a baby Nunda Rishi refused to be breast-fed by his mother and it was Lal Ded who breast-fed him, metaphorically locating in the sustenance of Kashmiri Sufism in the earlier tradition of Saivite mysticism.

Some vakhs of Lal Ded below.

Shiv chuy thali thali rozan
Mo zan Hindu ta Musalman
Truk ay chuk pan panun prazanav,
Soy chay sahibas zaniy zan.

Shiv lives in every, every place;
do not divide Hindu from Musalman.
Use thy sense, recognize thyself;
That's the true way to find the Lord.

Ami pana so'dras naavi ches lamaan
Kati bozi Day myon meyti diyi taar
Ameyn taakeyn poniy zan shemaan
Zuv chum bramaan gara gatshaha.

With rope of loose-spun thread I tow my boat
Would that God heard me and brought me across
Like water in cup of unbaked clay I run to waste.
Would that God helped me reach my home!

Kyaah kara paantsan dahan ta kaahan,
Vakhshun yath leyji jivak-shun karith gay
Saoriy samahan yeythi razi lamahan
Atma raavhe kaahan gaav?

Ah me! the Five (bhutas)  and the Ten (indriyas)
And the Eleventh (their lord the mind) scraped this pot and went away
Had all together pulled on the rope,
Why should the Eleventh have lost the cow ?
(Why should the soul have gone astray?)

(The five bhutas or elements are Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Quintessence or Space. The ten indriyas or mental faculties consist of the five "importers" seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching; and the five "exporters" moving, speaking, grasping, reproducing, eliminating. The notion of pot here is the Saivite metaphor for the material body.)

After his travels in Kashmir where he was exposed to Lal Ded's folklore, Swami Vivekananda wrote that he envisioned a future India arising from the present strife with Vedanta for its mind and Islam for its body. (For those of you who propose a subcontinental Butter Chicken XI consisting of Pakistani bowlers and Indian batsmen, you have an illustrious pedigree.)

A bibliography and collection of Lal Ded's vakhs is here.

शिव चुय थलि थलि रोज़ान, मो ज़ान हिंदू ता मुसलमान |

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sauda: Wo Soorat-e-Ilahi

Mirza Muhammad Rafi 'Sauda' (Urdu: مرزا محمد رفیع سودا ) was one of the best known poets of Urdu, and is still considered the best qasida poet of the language. His satire and ghazals, too, were acclaimed in his lifetime, though more recently he has been eclipsed in the latter department by Ghalib and Daagh. Sauda lived at the time of the decline of the Mughals - 1713 to 1781 -  the time of Muhammad Shah Rangeela, the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah, the reign, and deposition, of Ahmad Shah Bahadur; as well as the subsequent rise of Rohilkhand and Awadh.

Abida Parveen renders Sauda here:

वह सूरत-ए-इलाही किस देस बस्तियाँ हैं ?
अब जिनके देखनेको आँखे तरस्तियाँ हैं ।

That visage divine, what land does it inhabit?
My eyes are in thirst, to catch but a glimpse of it.

बरसात का तो मौसम कब का निकल गया पर
मिज़्श्गाँ की ये घटायें अब तक बरस्तियाँ हैं ।

The season of rains has been long gone, still
Mine eyelash-clouds haven't stopped raining yet.

क्यों करना हो यह ज़ख्मी शीशा सा दिल हमारा ?
उस शौक की निगाहें पत्थर में धस्तियाँ हैं ।

Why so much labor to wound this glass-heart of mine ?
Thy glances made e'en in sport, crack any stone they hit.

कीमत में उनकी गो हम दो जुग को दे चुके हैं
उस यार की निगाहें इस पर भी सस्तियाँ हैं ।

In recompense for what, I have paid with two ages
That Beloved's glances, at that price are cheap yet.

जब मैं कहा यह उसे सौदा को अपने मिलके
इस साल तू है साकी और मैं परस्तियाँ हैं ।

Thus I said,  upon meeting Thy friend Trade (Sauda)
This year wine-girl Thee, and in worship will I sit.

(The notion of the wine-girl who pours the drink is extensible here to that of  a Divine Muse.)

In 1754, Ahmad Shah Bahadur was deposed due to the fracture lines between Turani, Irani and Afghani. In 1757, Sauda, a shi'i,  left Delhi at the age of 66 for Farrukhabad with the Khagzai (Rohilla) Nawab Bangash, and lived there to 1770. In 1771–72 he moved to court of the Nawab of Awadh (then housed in Faizabad.) When Lucknow became the state capital of Awadh, he moved there and won the khitab (title) of Malk-us-Shu'ara (Lord of Poets.) Nawab Āṣif ud-Daulah awarded him an annual pension of Rs. 6000, as much a recognition of Sauda's eminence as it was emblematic of Awadh's generosity as patron.

कीमत में उनकी गो हम दो जुग को दे चुके हैं
उस यार की निगाहें इस पर भी सस्तियाँ हैं ।

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nashid: Madad Madad

A nashid (Arabic: نشيد , plural أناشيد Anāshīd ) meaning "chant" is Islamic vocal music that is either sung a cappella or accompanied by the daf, typically in praise of the prophet Muhammad. It is a precursor to the Urdu Naat.

Here is the nashid Madad Madad, performed by the Burdah Ensemble, a Naqshbandi Sufi music troupe.

Qullul qulub
Qullul qulubi
ilal habibi tamilu

Every heart
Every heart melts
in the rapture of the beloved

Wa ma'ibi zalika shaahidun,
shaahidun wa dalilu:

And for that love I have a witness,
a witness and a proof:

Ammad dalilu iza zakhartu

Regarding that proof, if I make mention
Of Muhammad

Sarath dumu'ul ashikin

The eyes of the lovers
will be overrun with tears

Haza Rasulullah,
Haza Rasulullah,
Haza li Rabbil-alamina khalilu

He is the Messenger of  God
He is the Messenger of  God
He is the Chosen One,
He is, to the Lord, a most trusted friend

al-Madad, al-Madad, al-Madad
al-Madad! Ya Rasul Allah!
al-Madad, al-Madad, al-Madad
al-Madad! Ya Habib Allah!

Aid us, Help us, Aid us
Support us oh God's Messenger!
Aid us, Help us, Aid us
Support us oh Most Beloved of God!

Rabbi wa j'al moujtama'na,
ghayatouh housnou al khitam
Wa akrimi alarwaha mina,
bilka khayri alanam.

Oh Lord, grant our gathering
a joyous purpose and conclusion
and bless all souls among us
to meet the Pearl of Your Creation.

... see here for a full translation.

In an age that needs 'positive images' of Islam, and hopes that mystical Islam will help stem extremism, the Naqshbandiyaa of North America are poster-children; in fact the recently-departed Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani, who last carried the Golden Chain (the spiritual lineage that runs from Jilani through Rumi to the present day)  of the Naqshbandi Sufis, praised George W Bush and Tony Blair as modern day Islamic saints for "fighting tyrants and evils and devils."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Daagh: Mere Qaboo Mein Na

Daagh Dehlvi (Urdu: داغ دہلوی‎, Hindi: दाग़ देहलवी) born Nawab Mirza Khan (1831 – 1905) was the only ghazal writer of the old Delhi school who could hold a candle to his mentor, Ghalib. Daagh wrote sensuous ghazals in the simple Urdu of the mohalla, minimizing, unlike Ghalib, the usage of opaque Persianate words, and laying emphasis on everyday idiom, though his work was usually paid for by royal courts.

Daagh was considered swarthy and unattractive according to the court standards of the day, so he chose for himself the takahallus "Stain." Compared to the elitism of Ghalib (who gave him lessons), Daagh's  'khayal bandi' was often labeled pedestrian by his rivals, but the simple playfulness of his verse found resonance with people in all walks of life. 

To understand Daagh's darting tongue and pen we have to start with his mother, Wazir - a dusky painter's daughter of questionable morals, whose life and times have been exquisitely brought to life in Shamsur Rahman Faruqi's Mirror of Beauty.  'Suitor after suitor flings himself on the beauty of Wazir Khanum, but she tries to fend off the unworthy, reserving her charms for the love of the noble (or the noble of purse.) When William Fraser, the Political Resident of East India Company in Delhi, tries to force his entourage into Wazir Khanum's residence, he is blocked by cudgel bearers deployed by Nawab Shamsuddin Ahmed Khan, who Wazir professes to love. One of Fraser's horsemen rides up, and demands of a mace-man: "Hey You! You pecker-poker of your own mother! Have you lost your limbs? Do you dare not give way to the Sahib Bahadur's Elephant?" The cudgel-bearer, a true Mewati, tall, muscular and hardened ... spoke in cold, measured tones, "Telanga sahib, do put a bit of rein on your tongue, and also on your ancient pony a bit. If you hustle it further by a hand's length, the point of this staff will sink into its jaded liver." The word 'Telanga' was a deliberate insult, for it was used for the comparatively short-statured, dark soldiers from the south who were reputed to be uncouth, and somewhat cowardly."'

Alas, after the fall of Delhi and Oudh in 1857,  Wazir Khanum's son had to find refuge with the selfsame Telangas in Hyderabad, where he lived till the end of his days (1905) and where he is buried. 

Here is Iqbal Bano rendering Daagh.

मेरे क़ाबू में न पेहरों दिल-ए-नाशाद आया
वो मेरा भूलने वाला जो मुझे याद आया

I could not calm my unhappy heart for hours
When I remembered the one who forgot me.

दिल-ए-वीराँ से रक़ीबों ने मुरादें पाईं
काम किस किस के मेरा ख़िर्मन-ए-बर्बाद आया

From my desolate heart the rivals garnered their wishes
O the use they made of the spoils from that store.

लीजिये सुनिये अब अफ़साना-ए-फ़ुर्क़त मुझ से
आप ने याद दिलाया तो मुझे याद आया

Now listen to a fable of separation
I remember it now that you remind me:

दी मु'अज़्ज़िन ने अज़ाँ वस्ल की शब पिछले पहर
हाये कमबख़्त को किस वक़्त ख़ुदा याद आया

The muezzin called to prayer just when we were to meet
Ah, the hour the fool chose to remember the Lord.

बज़्म में उन के सभी कुछ है मगर "दाग़" नहीं
मुझ को वो ख़ाना-ख़राब आज बहुत याद आया

In her embrace where there's all but Daagh (the Stain)
O how I remember that bespoilt bosom today.

The playful quotidian aspect of Daagh's verse continues to keep him a peoples' poet, the last of the great Urdu poets before Jigar, Faiz and Insha-ji of whom that can be said.

दी मु'अज़्ज़िन ने अज़ाँ वस्ल की शब पिछले पहर
हाये कमबख़्त को किस वक़्त ख़ुदा याद आया |