20 June 2010

Amir Khusro

Here's an excellent account of the beginnings of Urdu poetry, from an article by Zoya Zaidi in SikhSpectrum Quarterly:

"Urdu poetry started to develop in the Indian subcontinent in the thirteenth century AD.  The famous Urdu poet, Amir Khusro, made a great contribution to its evolution. A disciple of the Sufi saint Nizam Uddin Aulia, he was a one of the wandering dervishes. To spread their message far and wide, the dervishes used the instrument of music and sang their verses in the language of the people, often using the colloquial language to gain popularity. Persian being the official or the established language of verse at that time was not followed (understood) by the sundry masses; therefore in order to gain popularity Khusro started mixing Persian verse with colloquial lines of verses.

"One of his early poems was an amalgam of Persian and local colloquy, like Brij Bhasha and Bhojpuri language: One line of pure Persian was often followed by a line of pure Brij Bhasha.  For example the following couplet from the famous Sufi Ghazal goes like this:

"Z-e-hal-e miskin makun taghaaful, varaaye naina banaaye batiyaan
Ke taab-e- hijraan n’daaram e jaan, na leho kaahe lagaaye chatiyaan
(Look! What your aversion of eyes, excuses and negligence has done to me!
Why don’t you embrace me, my love, and relieve me off the agony of separation?)

"The last line is in pure colloquy, while the first three are in pure Persian. Or, this other couplet of the same poem:

Shabaan-e- hijraan daraaz chun zulf o roz –e–vaslat, chun umar kohtaah
Sakhi, piya ko jo main na dekhoon, to kaise katoon andheri ratiyan
(The nights of separation are long as the dark tresses of my beloved,
While the day of rendezvous is as short as the life itself, /
How can I, O’ Sakhi (female friend), spend the dark and desolate night without seeing my beloved.)

"Here again the first line is pure Persian, the second pure colloquy. Amir Khusro was greatly revered in the court of Ghayas Uddin Balban. Khusro can be called the father of Urdu language."

We think of the great pioneers such as Khusro, Chaucer, and Dante, and we realize that multilingualism was the root of today's major languages.  Most, if not all, our languages today evolved from other languages.  Since (as the New Critics never tired of pointing out) all words carry with them the entire histories of their meanings, poems necessarily must carry inside them all sorts of languages.  This is the theoretical basis of multilingual literary criticism.

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