A History of Indo-Persian Literature (Part I)

 

Turkish Conquest

The study of Indian literature focuses all too often on Sanskrit literature and modern Indian vernacular languages like Urdu and Bengali. The contribution of languages like Persian to Indian literature is neglected if not entirely ignored. Given the long history of Persian as a literary language in India and given the ongoing Hinduization of Indian history, the understanding of Indo-Persian literature is necessary more than ever.

 

THE TURKISH CONQUEST

The north-west of India has been subject to invasions since ancient times. Beginning in the second millennium BCE until the 10th century, north-west India experienced invasions at the hands of Aryans, Iranians, Greeks, Parthians, Scythians, Kushans and Huns.

In 962, Alptigin (901-963), a Turkic general in the Samanid Empire (819-999) abandoned the court at Bukhara and established a semi-independent state with its capital in Ghazni (present-day Afghanistan).[1] He was succeeded by his son, Abu Mansur Sabuktigin (942-997), who in 986 launched an attack on Kabul and Punjab. Sabuktigin died in Balkh in 997 and was succeeded by his son Mahmud (971-1030).[2]

Ghaznavid Empire

Between 1001 and 1017, Mahmud launched a series of raids into northern India from Ghazni. In 1008, he conquered and annexed Punjab. By the time of his death in 1030, his empire spanned Khorasan, Samarkand, Afghanistan and Punjab.

 

EARLY INDO-PERSIAN LITERATURE

The Turkish conquest of north-western coincided with what the British historian E.G. Browne has called the “Persian Renaissance.”[1] Beginning under the Samanid Empire in Bukhara, which saw the completion of the Shahnama (‘Book of Kings’), Persian literature flourished in courts across Central Asia and Iran.

Mahmud’s court at Ghazni became a centre of Persian literature. Mahmud brought scholars, merchants, artists and Sufis with new ideas in art, architecture, literature and religion to India. Mahmud’s court attracted the scholar Al-Biruni (whose work on the history of India included an assessment of scientific works in Sanskrit and Hindu philosophies and religion) and Firdowsi, author of the Persian epic, Shahnama.

The Ghaznavid Empire in Khorasan was repeatedly invaded by the Seljuq Turks until it was lost in 1040. In 1163, the Ghaznavid Sultans moved their capital from Ghazni to Lahore where they would rule from until 1186.

It was in Lahore where the first Indo-Persian literature appeared. ‘Ali Hujviri’s (d. 1071) Kashf-ul Mahjub (‘Veiling the Unveiled’) was the first Persian treatise on Sufism. It set out such themes as the love of God, the importance of contemplation and the stages of the mystical path:  

Man’s love toward God is a quality which manifests itself in the heart of the pious believer, in the form of veneration and magnification, so that he seeks to satisfy his Beloved and becomes impatient and restless in his for vision of Him, and cannot rest with anyone except Him, and grows familiar with the remembrance of Him, and abjures the remembrance of everything besides.[2]

Early Indo-Persian poets like Abu al-Faraj (d. c. 1102) continued the Persian tradition of panegyric poetry (qasida) at court as well as the Persian poetic tradition of contrasting metaphors such as moth and flame, rose and nightingale and lover and beloved.

 

MAS’UD SA’D SALMAN (1046-1121)

Mas’ud Sa’d Salman’s poetry was especially important to the development of early Indo-Persian poetry. While Mas’ud continued to write in the tradition of Persian court poetry, his verse also showed openness and sensitivity to the new Indian poetic landscape.

Born in Lahore, Mas’ud was of Iranian ancestry. His father, Sa’di Salman, had come to Lahore as an accountant in the entourage of Prince Majdud who had been sent by Sultan Mahmud to garrison Lahore in 1035-36.[3]

Mas’ud spent much of his professional life as a poet between the courts of his patrons and in prison for reasons which are not clear. It was in prison, however, that he pioneered the habsiyat (prison) genre of poetry, a genre that would appear in the later Urdu poetry of Ghalib and Faiz Ahmad Faiz.[4]

Mas’ud often wrote on the pain of his separation from his beloved city of Lahore:

O Ravi, if paradise is to be found, it is you,
If there is a kingdom fully equipped, it is you
Water in which is the lofty heaven is you
A Spring in which there are a thousand rivers is you.[5]

He also introduced the Indian genre of the baramasa to Indo-Persian poetry:

O beauty whose arrows are aloft on the day of Tir
Rise and give me wine with a high melody
Sing of love in the mode of love
Call forth the delightful melodies of nature[6]

 

THE GHURID INVASION

In 1186, Lahore was conquered by Muhammad of Ghur, one of vassals of the Ghaznavid Empire. Like the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghurid Sultanate encompassed much of Central Asia, Iran and northern India. In 1192, Muhammad defeated Prithviraj Chauhan at Tarain (present-day Haryana) from where he conquered the political centres of north India.

 

THE FOUNDING OF THE DELHI SULTANATE

 

 

In 1192, Muhammad of Ghur ordered his Turkic slave, Qutb al-Din Aibek (1150-1210), to push further east.[7] This resulted in the conquest of Delhi which, along with Lahore, Muhammad placed under Aibek’s governorship.

In 1206, Muhammad was assassinated. A civil war broke out between his slave commanders with Aibek emerging the victor.[8] Aibek established his own empire with Delhi as his capital, thus founding the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526).

… to be continued.

 

NOTES

[1] Richard Eaton, India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 (University of California Press: Oakland, CA: 2019, 13), 30.

[2] Ibid., 30.

[3] Sunil Sharma, Persian Poetry at the Indian Frontier (Permanent Black: New Delhi, 2010), 19.

[4] Annemarie Schimmel, Islamic Literatures of India (Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1973), 11: https://archive.org/details/IslamicLiteraturesOfIndia-AnnemarieSchimmel/page/n3/mode/2up

[5] Sunil Sharma, Persian Poetry at the Indian Frontier, citing Diwan, 391.

[6] Sunil Sharma, Persian Poetry at the Indian Frontier, citing Diwan, 947-8.

[7] Richard Eaton, India in the Persianate Age, 42.

[8] Ibid., 44.

17th Annual International Mother Language Day – Surrey BC – February 23

PLEA cordially invites everyone
to come and be part of the annual celebration of
our mother tongue Punjabi.

17th Annual International Mother Language Day

Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020
Time: 1:30 to 4:00 pm

Spruce Building Atrium
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU)
(12666 72 Avenue, Surrey)

Discussions on Ongoing efforts to promote Punjabi Language education in BC
Young Punjabi learners will share poetry, songs and stories
PLEA will honour individuals for their role in promoting Punjabi language education.

Free Event. Refreshments.

PUNJABI LANGUAGE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION (PLEA)
In partnership with
DEEPAK BINNING FOUNDATION
and
KWANTLEN POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY (KPU)

For more information Please contact
Balwant Sanghera – 604-836-8976
Sadhu Binning – 778 – 773 – 1886
Paul Binning – 778-889-8255
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਲੈਂਗੂਏਜ ਐਜੂਕੇਸ਼ਨ ਅਸੋਸੀਏਸ਼ਨ (ਪਲੀ)
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Call for Papers: Baisakhi 2020 & International Conference – The Future of Punjab Culture: Awaken or Perish!


Call for Papers
Institute for Art & Culture
Baisakhi 2020: International Conference
The Future of Punjab Culture: Awaken or Perish!

The Institute for Art and Culture (IAC) will be holding a conference on Punjab culture on April 10-11, 2020 and Baisakhi Mela on April 12, 2020. Please review the attached conference brochure in order to acquaint yourself with the motive, philosophy, and goals of the conference. The conference seeks high quality papers on Punjab’s history, culture, arts, politics, and heritage which could be part of the following sessions of our conference program:

Contemporary Topics in Punjab’s Art & Culture
Punjab’s Cultural Heritage: Politics & Politicians
Punjab: Historical Perspectives/Narratives 2500 B.C.E—Present
Punjab Culture & Art: Future Prospects & Strategies
Keynote Speaker: Mushtaq Soofi

The conference is open to academics, artists, writers, activists, intellectuals, politicians, students and media and legal professionals—anyone interested in contributing towards the dialogue on Punjab’s culture and art. Please note that no paper will be considered without the submission of a paper abstract (300-350 words).

Important Dates
Abstract Submission Deadline: February 15, 2020
Full Paper Submission Deadline: March 15, 2020

Please email the abstract to naveed.alam@iac.edu.pk We shall inform you about the selection of your abstract by March 1, 2020. The paper can be read in English or Punjabi.

Conference Patron
Prof. Sajida Haider Vandal
Vice Chancellor, Institute for Art & Culture
Conference Convener
Prof. Pervaiz Vandal
Pro Vice Chancellor, Institute for Art & Culture
Conference Secretary
Prof. Naveed Alam
School of Culture & Languages (SCL), Institute for Art & Culture

Contact Us
Naveed Alam
naveed.alam@iac.edu.pk
Bilal Mushtaq
bilal.mushtaq@iac.edu.pk
0323-417-3363
Noor-ul-Huda
noori_huda@hotmail.com

Download PDF Files
Baisakhi 2020 call for papers
flyer english and punjabi
gurmukhi-flyer

..

Uddari Weblog operates from the
unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
..

2019 Dhahan Prize Awards Ceremony – Vancouver November 2nd

‘Kon’ Who, novelette by Mudassar Bashir

Saturday November 2, 2019
Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, University of British Columbia
Doors open at 6:00, ceremony begins at 7:00
Followed by a catered reception
Download PDF Poster

 

First prize : Jatinder Singh Haans
(Aloona Tola, Punjab, India), short story collection, title in translation ‘Jyona satch, Baqi Jhoot’ Living is Truth, All Else is a Lie.
Finalist, Shahmukhi : Mudassar Bashir
(Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan), novelette, ‘KonWho.
Finalist, Gurmukhi : Gurdev Singh
(Rupana, Punjab, India), short story collection, title in translation ‘Aam Khaas’ Ordinary Extraordinary‘.

‘In 2014, the Dhahan Prize took flight, and in 2019 we return to recognize the achievements of Punjabi writers at our 6th annual event. For work in the Punjabi scripts of Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi, this prize recognizes one outstanding writer with a $25,000 award, as well as two finalists with awards of $10,000. Forging meaningful relationships with writers, community organizations and educational institutions in Pakistan, India and the diaspora, the Dhahan Prize is the world’s signature prize for Punjabi literary works.’

The Keynote Speaker is Balli Kaur Jaswal, an award-winning author of four novels, including ‘Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows’.

Tickets can be purchased at
https://dhahanprize2019awardsceremony.eventbrite.com

More information
The Dhahan Prize
1058–2560 Shell Road
Richmond, BC V6X 0B8 Canada
contact@dhahanprize.com
..

Classical Indian Literature: The Southern (Tamil) Tradition

tamil love poem

Like the classical Western tradition, the classical Indian tradition has two classical languages: Sanskrit and Tamil. Most histories of classical Indian civilization, however, focus on the Sanskrit literary tradition to Tamil’s neglect.

Both traditions, I argue, are integral to our understanding of classical Indian literature. The Tamil tradition is classical not only in the sense that it is ancient (dating its earliest poetry back to the 100 BCE to 200 CE), but in that it constitutes the foundation of an entire tradition that continues without a break to the present.

Early classical Tamil literature was written in a society that recalls Italy during the Renaissance. Southern India during the turn of the Christian era was a confederation of states (the Pandya, the Cheras and the Cholas) which were continually warring and trading with one another.

The Tamil states grew wealthy from sea trade routes that connected India to the West (including the Roman Empire which sought peppers, indigo, cotton and pearls from South India) and South East Asia. Classical Tamil poetry tells the stories of wealthy merchants, warehouses bulging with goods and ships from many different countries meeting at palm lined ports along the east coast.

Classical Tamil poetry is said to have been composed in academies or assembles called the Sangam during which time the principles of poetics, rhetoric and prosody were outlined in the Tolkapiyyam, the first grammar of the Tamil language.

Classical Tamil poetry can be classed broadly into poems on the interior landscape (love, emotions) and poems on the exterior landscape (war and heroic poetry).

Landscapes and emotions are carefully interwoven in classical Tamil poetry and each poem is assigned a tinai (‘place,’ ‘region,’ ‘site’) in which the five particular landscapes or regions of the Tamil country with their accompanying seasons, flowers, waters, inhabitants, wild life and time of day correspond to the emotions of the lovers in the poems:[1]

  1. Mountains: union (clandestine); kurunji flower; midnight; winter; waterfall;
  2. Forest: expectancy; jasmine; evening; late summer; rivers;
  3. Fields: irritation; marudam; before sunrise; late spring; ponds;
  4. Seashore: separation; water lily; sunset; early summer; sea;
  5. Desert: impatience; noon; summer; dry wells or stagnant water.

In classical Tamil poetry, nature and landscape symbolize the various moods and experiences of lovers. For instance, a love poem may follow the kurinici convention where the theme is the surreptitious meeting at night of an unmarried woman and her lover in the mountains.

tamil nadu mountain.jpg

The puram poems also have their thematic situations which deal with the warfare and exploits of kings as well as ethical instruction in the form of lyrics, panegyrics and hymns. The puram poems of classical Tamil poetry tell us about the kings, chieftains, battles, political and social life of ancient Tamil kingdoms.

The secular, sensual and naturalistic tone of the early Tamil poetry makes for a refreshing change to the religious and mythological tone of much of classical Sanskrit poetry. Here are some English translations of classical Tamil poetry by A.K. Ramanujan.

 

Sources:

Ancient Indian Literature: An Anthology (Volume Three), New Delhi : Sahitya Akademi, 2000.

Encyclopedia of Indian Literature (Volume 5), New Delhi : Sahitya Akademi, 1987-1992.

The Four Hundred Songs of War and Wisdom: An Anthology of Poems from Classical Tamil (New York : Columbia University Press, 1999), Translated by George L. Hart and Hank Heifetz.

Poems of Love and War from the Eight Anthologies, and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil (selected and translated by A.K. Ramanujan).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangam_landscape#Poetic_Attrib

Gurmukhi edition of novel ‘Skeena’ now available in India and Canada

Sangam Publications, Patiala 2019

Novel ‘Skeena’ by Fauzia Rafique has been published in Gurmukhi by Sangam Publications in Patiala, India, and it is now available at India Bookworld in Surrey’s Payal Centre. Script conversion from Shahmukhi to Gurmukhi has been performed by Harbans Singh Dhiman.

ISBN 978-93-5231-317-4
India Bookworld, $15
604-593-5967
info@indiabookworld.ca
Sangam Publications, India
sangam541@gmail.com
01764-501934

Punjabi novel ‘Skeena’ was first published in Shahmukhi by Sanjh Publications in 2007 in Lahore, where to date, it is Pakistan’s most sold Punjabi novel. Its English edition and a limited Gurmukhi edition came out in 2011 with Libros Libertad in White Rock. The Shahmukhi to Gurmukhi conversion and editing was done by poet/author/translator Surjeet Kalsey in consultation with Fauzia Rafique. The novel has also been recognized as one of the ‘100 Must Read Books by Punjabi Authors’ in ‘Legacies of the Homeland’ (Notion Press, Chennai 2018).

Visit Skeena web page
novelskeena.wordpress.com
Read reviews on ‘Skeena’
novelskeena.wordpress.com/reviews

Uddari Weblog operates on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
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Welcome Author/Publisher Parveen Malik to Vancouver – Dhahan Prize 2018 Events

This year, as part of the celebrations of Dhahan Prize for Punjabi literature, Pakistan’s renowned author, poet and publisher Parveen Malik will be visiting Vancouver. ‘Parveen Malik is a writer of fiction, teleplays and radio programs; a known literary personality on radio and TV; and, a highly respected publisher of Urdu and Punjabi literary books.’ More about Parveen is here: parveen-malik-punjabi-maanboli-writer

Parveen will participate in ‘Afternoon with Winners and Finalists’ on Sunday October 21st at Crossroads United Church in Surrey.
View the details in the poster below.

The main Dhahan Prize 2018 Awards Ceremony will take place on:
Saturday October 20th
6:00 PM – 9:30 PM, at:
Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre
UBC, 6163 University Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
More information:
eventbrite.com/e/dhahan-prize-2018-awards-ceremony

Uddari congratulates the 2018 Dhahan Prize winners:
Baldev Singh Sadaknama for ‘Sooraj Dee Akh’ (Sun’s Eye), historical fiction.
Nasir Baloch for ‘Jootha Sacha Koi Na’ (Anything Goes), short story collection.
Harpreet Sekha for ‘Prism’, short story collection.
..