Tariq Amhed Siddiqui is an independent writer and translator. His writings can be accessed at www.derayat.com
Here is an audio rendering of his poem “miyaaN TiyaaN”
Tariq Amhed Siddiqui is an independent writer and translator. His writings can be accessed at www.derayat.com
Here is an audio rendering of his poem “miyaaN TiyaaN”
A film produced by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
‘Scent is the food of the soul, and the soul is the vehicle of the faculties of man.’ –Hadith attributed to the Prophet of Islam
One has heard of literary history, social history, to some extent even economic history culled from literary sources but seldom a horticultural study based on literary texts. Ali Akbar Husain, an architect and a teacher of architectural studies undertakes this novel venture. The result is a delightful pot pourrie of disciplines: history, architecture, landscaping, poetry, horticulture and, given the context, Islam. Scent in an Islamic Garden: A Study of Literary Sources in Persian and Urdu is a remarkable book for another reason, too. It focuses scholarly attention on a largely neglected part of Islamic India: the Deccan.
William Dalrymple, writing the Introduction to the book, rightly notes:
‘By any standard, anywhere in the world, the Deccani civilisation that reached its most remarkable flowering in sixteenth century Hyderabad was rich and remarkable. Yet it remains astonishingly little studied. So dominant are the Mughals in the historical memory of India, that the different Deccani sultanates have been almost completely forgotten outside a small group of specialists and scholars. Almost all visitors to India visit the Taj Mahal and learn about Shah Jahan, but few visit Bijapur, Bidar, or even Golconda, and fewer still read of the no less remarkable doings of Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi sultans.’
In setting out to correct an old wrong, Ali Akbar Husain not merely brings to life the architecture, culture and contribution of the Deccani sultans but also places before us the significance of the garden in the current of Islamic thought. An earthly analogue for the life in paradise that awaits the Momin, the garden is a recurring image in the Holy Quran. The Paradisal Garden, the promised abode of the true believer, known by different names such as Iram, Firdaus, Jannah, is none other than the primordial garden that Man lost through sin but whose image is recoverable from the anima mundi. Descriptions of fair maidens, immortal youths, gushing fountains of cool waters, trees laden with fruit, gentle hills beneath which rivers flow – evoke not only images of plenitude and freedom from want but also of shade and rest and reward.
Over time, these images acquired near-mythic proportions and found reflection in different art forms in different parts of the Islamic world. The gated gardens of Cordova and Moorish Spain, the funerary gardens centred round a tomb or mausoleum of the Mughals, the classic formalism of the chaar bagh (the four waterways representing milk, honey, wine and water) and the intricately-worked pavilions and fountains of Andalusia – each has sought to replicate an imagined space, each has introduced local elements be it in the choice of plants or the demands of topography and landscaping.
In the crucible of the Deccan, we find a strange experiment taking place. An intermingling of Hindu elements with Islamic motifs, an admixture of Hindu art with Islamic architecture, an overlay of a Persian mizaj over an intrinsically Indian design sensibility combined to create an exuberant Indo-Islamic atelier. The forts, tombs, palaces and pavilions dotted across Hyderabad, Golconda, Bijapur, Bidar, etc. bear ample testimony to this synergistic flowering. And the gardens surrounding this built heritage were splendid examples of private and public spaces. Since most of these gardens have disappeared in the maw of urbanisation, what remains are references to them in Persian and Urdu literary sources. Husain’s perusal of Deccani masnawis to extract nuggets of information is, therefore, a singular contribution.
The choice of plants, trees, shrubs and herbiage – both indigenous and naturalised – as also the medicinal and aromatic properties of each are spelt out in detail. Flowering trees like kesu, amaltas, kadamb, nagkesar; fruit-bearing ones such as jamun, mango, amla, banana, kathal, shahtoot as well as pomegranate, citron, orange, lime, shaddock, fig, grape, phalsa; scented flowers such as rose, tuberose, chandni, mogra, chameli vie for space in these scented Islamic gardens of the Deccan with medicinal plants such as kafur, sandal, firanjmushk, etc. Two major seventeenth-century Deccani masnawis, Mulla Nasrati’s Gulshan-e-Ishq and Abdul Dehalvi’s Ibrahim Nama, further the analogy between the garden and the world. The fragrance from these scented gardens lingers in lines such as these:
Nazr ke rang dene kun har yek gul rang ka kasa
Muatr mann ke karne kun kali har huqqa parmal ka
(To brighten the eye, each (flower) was a cup colourful
To perfume the heart, each bud was a box of parmal fragrance)
1. Ebba Koch, The Complete Taj Mahal and the Riverfront Gardens of Agra, London: Thames and Hudson 2006.
2. D. F. Ruggles, Islamic Gardens and Landscapes, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007
3. Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, London: Heinemann
This review first appeared in The Herald, Karachi, July 2012. Jalil blogs at http://hindustaniawaaz-rakhshanda.blogspot.com
dekhna ai “Zauq” honge aaj phir laakhoN ke khooN
phir jamaaya us ne laal-e-lab pe laakha paan kaa
Paan is almost as old as India itself. Ameer Khusro in his book “ijaaz-e-khusravi” gives some qualities of paan.
1. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has informed about its benefit.
2. It gets the root of the teeth fortified and this thing is known by experience that the teeth of the inhabitants of other lands fall because of eating fruits while the Indians who use it excessively do not fall.
3. It removes the pus in teeth, which is a source of abhorrence, and it, brightens teeth.
4. Removes the foul smell of the mouth.
5 . When it is chewed it produces good smell, which gets the mind of those present fragrant.
6. It removes phlegm.
7. Makes heart cheerful.
8. All fats are source of redness, and this leaf removes redness.
9. For the healing of wound of arrow or sword, it is tied on the wound.
10. It prevents vomit and exhilarates heart burning.
11. For the satiated it increases appetite.
12. It is a source of satiety in hunger.
13. It brings a little intoxication (exhilaration).
14. Of nine tastes, it has three perfect ones – bitter, salty & sweet, and tasteless pungent.
15. Six fruits have six different tastes while this leaf tastes as if it is all the six fruits.
16. Of the seven colors, it has five perfect ones – red, green, white, blackish like aloe wood and yellow.
17. Not without companions- areca nut, lime, and color.
18. Everywhere fruits are eaten and not the leaf but here the leaf is taken as a fruit.
19. Monarchs never keep any food in the robe except this and that too with great honor.
20. Eating anything in a market is regarded a bad habit but this food is a sign of greatness.
21. It is used on the occasion of entertainment, it is always kept away from mourning and grief.
22. It is fit for hospitality.
23. All the leaves separated from the branch do not survive beyond one day, while this leaf is fresh even after six months.
24. it is fresh with water and also is fresh without water.
25. By taking the betel the beauty of the handsome person increases.
26. It turns the pearl like teeth into the sun-faced Indian(women) gem.
27. It decorates the assembly of the companions.
28. The gifts that are exchanged between the lover and the beloved, none is better than this.
29. Its taste is ecstatical and not sensual.
30. Its external form is admirable.
[From the translation published by The Islamic Thought and Science Institute, USA]
There are some expressions that have become part of our language, so much so that very few of us know the origin or even the full couplet where they come from. Muhammad Ramzan Abdul Shakoor has made it easy for us to find those ashaar by compiling them all in one book.
Here are some samples:
Gul phenke hain aalam ki taraf balke samar bhi
ai khana bar andaaz-e-chaman kuchh to idhar bhi — Sauda
mat sahal hamein jano phirta hai falak barsoN
tab khaak ke parde se insaan nikalte hain — Meer
na chherh ai nikhat baad-e-bahari, rah tak apni
tujhe aTkheliyaaN soojhti haiN ham bezaar baithe haiN — Inshaullah Khan Insha
“Jaan hai to jahaan hai pyaare” is from a Meer sher. A tempo in Delhi in 2011 displays a slightly modified line. [Photo: TwoCircles.net]
baja kahiye jisse aalam, usse baja samjho
zabaan-e-khalq ko naqaara-e-khuda samjho — Zauq
ye kahaaN ki dosti hai ke bane haiN dost naaseh
koi charah-saaz hota, koi gham-gusaar hota — Ghalib
panchviN pusht hai shabbir ki maddahi meiN
umr guzri hai iss dasht ki sayyahi meiN — Meer Anees
iss ghairat-e-nahid ki har taan hai deepak
sho’la sa lapak jaaye hai aawaz to dekho – Momin
ham aah bhi karte haiN to ho jaate haiN badnaam
wo qatl bhi karte hain to charcha nahi hota — Akbar Ilahabadi
vai-e-nakaami mataa-e-karvaaN jata raha
karvaaN ke dil se ehsas-e-ziyaaN jata raha — Allama Iqbal
khird ka naam junooN parh gaya, junooN ka khird
jo chaahe aap ka husn-e-karishma saaz kare – Hasrat Mohani
dil ki basti purani dilli hai
jo bhi guzra hai ussne loota hai — Basheer Badr
qatl-e-hussain asl meiN marg-e-yazeed hai
islam zinda hota hai har karbala ke baad — Muhammad Ali Jauhar
Book: She’ri jawaharaat aur zarbul misaal
Price : Rs. 50
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Sultana’s Dream a science-fiction was first published in 1905 making it probably the first Indian sci-fi work. It is a short story written by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. Begum Roquia was born in 1880 at Rangpur which is now in Bangladesh.
[photo from Wikipedia]
Sultana’s Dream was first published in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine. Fortunately, the text of the story has survived. It reads like a feminist vision of the future. But it is not just a feminist vision but also a wonderfully written sci-fi story. It is a vision where women rule the country and men are holed up in “zanana” which is now called “mardana.” Since women are ruling there is peace everywhere and through the use of science all work is done efficiently and smartly.
Some snippets from the story:
Why men should be locked-up:
And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?’
‘Of course not!’ said I laughing lightly.
‘As a matter of fact, in your country this very thing is done! Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women, shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?’
‘Since the “Mardana” system has been established, there has been no more crime or sin; therefore we do not require a policeman to find out a culprit, nor do we want a magistrate to try a criminal case.’
Harnessing solar power:
The kitchen was situated in a beautiful vegetable garden. Every creeper, every tomato plant was itself an ornament. I found no smoke, nor any chimney either in the kitchen — it was clean and bright; the windows were decorated with flower gardens. There was no sign of coal or fire.
‘How do you cook?’ I asked.
‘With solar heat,’ she said, at the same time showing me the pipe, through which passed the concentrated sunlight and heat. And she cooked something then and there to show me the process.
Vehicle of the future:
Then she screwed a couple of seats onto a square piece of plank. To this plank she attached two smooth and well-polished balls. When I asked her what the balls were for, she said they were hydrogen balls and they were used to overcome the force of gravity. The balls were of different capacities to be used according to the different weights desired to be overcome. She then fastened to the air-car two wing-like blades, which, she said, were worked by electricity. After we were comfortably seated she touched a knob and the blades began to whirl, moving faster and faster every moment. At first we were raised to the height of about six or seven feet and then off we flew. And before I could realize that we had commenced moving, we reached the garden of the Queen.
My friend lowered the air-car by reversing the action of the machine, and when the car touched the ground the machine was stopped and we got out.
Urdu has an identity crisis in India -is it an Indian language or just a Muslim language? Liberals will claim that it is a secular language and list names of non-Muslim writers and poets who are still counted among the legends of Urdu. But if it is a secular language and belongs as much to non-Muslims as Muslims of India then “where are the non-Muslim writers, poets, and intellectuals who love Urdu language and literature and have made teaching Urdu a mission of their lives?” asks Arif Iqbal, editor of Urdu Book Review in the Apri-June 2011 issue of the magazine.
Urdu Bazar Road sign in Delhi, but where is Urdu? [Photo: TwoCircles.net]
But then is it right to say Urdu is a Muslim language? Iqbal asks how many Darul Ulooms have separate departments of Urdu established? and “what are their contributions in collecting and protecting Urdu’s knowledge capital?”
We have been busy discussing in futile debates like what should be Urdu’s script or whether this language should be linked to employment.
There haven been some sensible suggestions e.g. instead of asking for Urdu-medium schools rather ask Urdu to be made an elective subject in school, colleges, and universities. But then Arif Iqbal asks “who will start this struggle?”
Read more about Arif Iqbal and Urdu Book Review here.
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Urdu Book Review
New Kohinoor Hotel
New Delhi 110 002
Khugar nahin kuch yun hi hum Rekhta-goi kay
Mashooq jo apna tha, bashinda-e-Dakhan tha
[It isn’t casually that I began dabbling in Urdu
I picked it from my lover, a native of the Deccan]
Sample some of his ashaar:
mujh par na karo zulm tum, aik laila-e-khoobaN
majnooN hooN, tere gham kooN biyabaaN se kahoonga
dil-e-ishaaq kyuN na huay raushan
jab khyaal-e-sanam chiragh hua
aik qibla-roo hamesha mehrab meiN bhawaaN ki
karti haiN teri palkaaN mil kar namaaz goya
kar gaya hooN sawal kuchh ka kuchh
ai wali uss be-wafa ki meharbani par na bhool
dil ka dushman hai, magar karta hai baateiN pyaar ki
Here is a documentary about Wali’s life:
Hamida Chopra talking about Wali:
and some ghazals of Wali:
jisse ishq ka teer kari lage by Iqbal Bano:
Tujh lab ki sifat by Abida Parveen:
Gulab aahista aahista by Mallika Pukhraj:
Wali’s dargah was destroyed during 2002 anti-Muslim violence of Gujarat and a road built over it overnight. There is a facebook page demanding rebuilding of the dargah.
A single string of “ektara” and powerful words Baul singers for hundreds of years have spread the message of love and spirituality in Bengal.
A Baul singer, photo by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak
1 ‘Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawaan shaheed hon’ from the Dilip Kumar starrer Shaheed (1948). Qamar Jalalabadi lyrics, sung by Mohd Rafi, to Ghulam Haider’s tune is popular even after 64 years of the film’s release.
2 ‘Ye desh hai veer jawano ka’ from the movie Naya Daur (1957). Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics sung by Rafi.
3 ‘Desh ka pyara’ from the lesser known movie Masoom (1960). Raja Mehdi Ali Khan wrote the lyrics of this lovable children song.
4 ‘Sare jahan se achha’ by Allama Iqbal. The immortal Urdu poem has been sung by many singers over the years, including a duet by Rafi and Asha Bhosle for Dharamputra (1961).
5 ‘Insaaf ki dagar pe’ from the movie Ganga Jamuna. The 1961 classic had this gem penned by Shakeel Badayuni with music by Naushad.
6 ‘Nanha munna rahi hoon’ from Mehboob’s Son of India (1962). The duo of Naushad and Shakeel again behind this endearing effort.
7 ‘Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyon’ from the National Award winning movie Haqeeqat (1964), which remains the most definite account of war portrayal on the Indian screen. The moving lyrics by Kaifi Azmi were given a soulful rendition by Mohd Rafi. A timeless classic.
8 ‘Apni aazaadi ko hum’ from the movie Leader (1964). Rafi, Shakeel and Naushad teams up for this winner. Dilip Kumar adds his aura to the on screen portrayal.
9 ‘Aye watan aye watan’ from the Manoj Kumar starrer Shaheed (1965). A brilliant song by the inimitable Rafi. A personal favourite.
10 ‘Sandese aate hain’ from Border (1997). Anu Malik provided the music for the song written by Javed Akhtar.
11 ‘Maa tujhe salam’ from the 1997 studio album Vande Mataram by A.R. Rahman. Rahman composed the tune for Mehboob’s lyrics, and then sang it with passion. It remains the most influential patriotic song of the modern era. The album sold 1.5 million copies in the releasing year in India alone. Till date it’s the largest selling non-film album in India.
12 ‘Zindagi maut na ban jaaye’ from Sarfarosh (1999). The immensely popular number from the critically acclaimed Amir Khan starrer was written by Israr Ansari.
13 ‘Ye jo des hai tera’ from the Shahrukh Khan starrer Swades (2004). A beautifully sung and composed number by Rahman with lyrics from Javed Akhtar.
14 ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna’ by the freedom fighter Ram Prasad Bismil. The revolutionary Urdu masterpiece was brought to life by Rafi, Dey and Rajendra Mehta in Shaheed (1965). A.R. Rahman gave his touch to the lyrics, first in The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) and backed it with a powerful rendition by Amir Khan in the cult classic Rang De Basanti (2006).
15 ‘Rang de basanti’ from the movie Rang De Basanti. A peppy and relevant number for the youth of today. Naturally it was Rahman’s music.