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Life of Amir Khusrau

Ab’ul Hasan Yamin al-Din Khusrau, better known as Amir Khusrau Dehlavi, is one of the greatest poets of India. He was born in 1253 in Patiyali, Uttar Pradesh to a Turkish father an Indian mother. He went on to influence the entire political, cultural, and literary panorama of his times he became one of the brightest stars of Persian language and literature. His dynamic personality had many facets - an eminent poet, a celebrated historian, a proven astrologer, a noted musician, a great scholar, a trusted statesman, and a revered mystic.

His father was a slave from the Lachin tribe of Turkistan from where he got his name - Saifuddin Lachin. Later, under the service of Sultan Iltutmish (1211-36 AD) as a police officer, he came to be known as Saifuddin Shamsi. He married the daughter of Imad ul Mulk, an Indian Muslim.

He was seven when his father expired. He then came to Delhi for higher education under the guardianship of his maternal grandfather, Imad-ul-Mulk. Under his fostering care, Khusrau became well versed with Persian language and politics. With Sultani as his pen name, Khusrau started writing poetry early in his life. He received the name Sultani from Khwaja ‘Izzuddin in front of whom he composed, when challenged, some couplets on some unrelated words - hair, egg, arrow and melon!

After the death of Imad-ul-Mulk in 1273 AD, he started working with Malik Chhajju as a poet, under Sultan Balban’s rule. The rise of Khilji dynasty in 1290 AD and the revolutionary changes during that time brought out the best in Khusrau as a writer. In the service of nobles and rulers, he travelled across the subcontinent as part of military campaigns and as required by his masters.

Although later he spent a few years at his birthplace, Patiyali, while serving in the military, he, was very unhappy there. By then he had adopted Delhi as his home town, which had become a cradle of Persianate civilization. Khusrau’s works cover a broad continuum of genres, from poetry to prose to riddles, to creating the world’s earliest known dictionary in 1320 AD in both Persian and Hindavi. He worked as a poet, writer, and courtier with more than seven Sultans of Delhi, from Ghiyasuddin Balban to Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. Amir Khusrau Dehlavi, wrote poetry primarily in Persian, but there is lot of Hindavi poetry attributed to him.

A contemporary of Amir Khusrau. Ziauddin Barni, remarks in his famous Tarikh-i-Ferozshahi (1375 AD),that there were poets in the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khilji “such as had never existed before and have never appeared since. The incomparable Amir Khusrau stands unequalled for the volume of his writings and the originality of his ideals; for, while other great masters of prose and verse have excelled in one or two branches, Amir Khusrau was conspicuous in every department of letters. A man with such mastery over all the forms of poetry has never existed in the past and may perhaps not come into existence before the Day of Judgment…”

Maulana Shibli remarks in Shi‘rul Ajam, “...To take poetry alone, Khusrau’s mastery over all its forms is marvelous. Firdausi, Sa‘di, Anwari, Hafiz, ‘Urfi and Naziri are kings in the realm of verse, but the sway of each of them was confined to one section of it only, Firdausi could not advance beyond the masnavi, Sadi could not write qasidas, Anwari had no power over the ghazal or the masnavi, while Hafiz, ‘Urfi and Naziri were unable to step outside the circle of the ghazal. But Khusrau’s comprehensive genius takes the ghazal as well as the masnavi, qasida, and rubai within its all-embracing fold… For sheer quantity no one can equal him. Firdausi’s couplets amount to about seventy thousand, Saib has been responsible for over a hundred thousand, but Amir Khusrau’s couplets number several lacs...” In addition to this, Auhadi remarks in the Tazkira-i-Urfat that Khusrau’s work in Brij Bhasha (Hindi) was as extensive as his work in Persian.

Amir Khusrau collected his own poems at various stages in his life. With an extraordinary genius for poetry, he combined an almost supernatural energy and an indefatigable capacity for work. He was able to ensure that all his works are duly organized. All his five diwans are preceded by prefaces and introductions, which, in some cases are very long and full. However, his diwan never got illustrated but they formed, and continue to form a part of living culture and arts. They got inscribed on goblets and bowls, and till today are heard in musical traditions throughout the Persian speaking world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

It is true that there is no evidence in his writings, or of his contemporaries of his music innovations and inventions. However, he has credited himself with a detailed knowledge of music and that he himself is a very gifted musician. In the realm of Sufiana music, it is believed that Amir Khusrau invented qawwali as we know it today. His kalaams continue to be recited by the qawwals in the sama’ mehfils of the dargahs of Sufis.

Devoted as he was to his poetry, Khusrau was a mystic at heart and a beloved disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, to whom he dedicated all of his later works. He was in awe of the Sufi’s spiritual grandeur. In his later masnavis, he bestowed and showered his Sheikh with praise even more beautiful than the Sultans. In the ambitious path to immortalize himself through his poetry, he learnt from his pir that the richness of the spirit was of far more importance. He met his spiritual mentor, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya at his grandfather’s house early in his life. The friendship between the Shiekh and Khusrau grew later and various accounts tell us that he was the Sheikh’s most favourite disciple. However, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya never made him his khalifa, and Khusrau remained in the service of the royal courts till the end of his life. Grief stricken by the death of his Sheikh, who died on 3 April 1325 AD, Amir Khusrau died six months later on 27 September 1325. The mazaar of Amir Khusrau lies in the dargah compound of the Sufi saint, where he is venerated as the beloved of Mehbub-e-illahi (beloved of the divine) and as a mystic in his own right.

Expeditions of Amir Khusrau

amir-khusrau
Amir Khusrau, as part of his employment, was required to travel with the sultan. He documented the history of the reigns of several Sultans’ recording in poetry and prose the events of social and political importance as witnessed by him. Amir Khusrau, as part of his employment, was required to travel with the Sultans and armies to various battle expeditions and outposts of Delhi Sultanate. He never liked leaving Delhi and was always very eager to return back. However, his records of the places he travelled were of great importance for the study of the medieval politics, culture and urban histories.

AWADH: Amir Khusrau at the age or 33 went to Awadh in 1286 AD on a royal assignment and served there under his munificent admirer Khan-i-Jahan Amir Ali who acted as the governor of the place. He wrote a masnavi “Firaaq Nama”. This masnavi described the city of Awadh and its residents, their professions and a list of agricultural products grown there.The theme of the Masnavi is, ostensibly, a friendly address to an unforgettable one at home : namely Tajuddin Zahid ; but it soon reveals itself that the poet thereby aimed at describing Awadh (i.e Ayodhya) not only to the friend but to every reader of his. Khusrau stayed here for two long years, more on account of being overwhelmed by Hatim Khan’s lavish attentions and loving presents. In this period, he seems to have developed a poignant yearning for home. That is how this Firaq-Nama came into being. He revisited to accompany Ghyasuddin Tughlaq in 1324 AD.

DEVGIRI: In Khazayan-ul-futuh Khusrau describes that he accompanied Malik Kafur. Amir Khusrau wrote a Mathnawi “Sahifat-ul-ausaf” in which he described the natural scenic beauty of Devgiri and there around.

CHITTOR: Amir Khusrau accompanied Alauddin Khilji when the king himself laid siege for the conquest of Chittor Fort.

LAKHNAUTI: Amir Khusrau accompanied Sultan Balban and his younger brother Bughra Khan on the military expedition to LakhnautiBalban appointed his son Bughra Khan as the governor of Lakhnauti and Bengal. Bughra Khan was appointed Khusrau as his advisor. Khusrau stayed there for some time but finally he returned to Delhi. . Amir Khusrau joined royal court of Prince Bughra Khan in 1273 in Samana.

DELHI: After his father's death Amir Khusrau came to Delhi with his grandfather at the age of eight.His first patron was Malik Chhajju. Khusrau joined 7 royal courts of Delhi.

MULTAN: In 1281 AD when Prince Mohammad the eldest son of Balban came to Delhi, he listened to Khusrau’s Kalaam in the court. Prince Mohmmad requested him to accompany him to Multan. Khusrau spent about four years in the court of the prince.

Khusrau participated in the war against Taimur Khan. Unfortunately the price killed in battle and Amir Khusrau was captured by the enemy's army.

Timeline

time-line
1253-66

1253 Birth of Amir Khusrau inPatiali where his father Amir Saifuddin Sultani is posted as a military officer since the time of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish.

1264 Death of Khusrau’s father. His arrival in Delhi for higher education under the guardianship of his maternal Grandfather Imad-ul-Mulk who was the Amir-i-Ariz (paymaster General of the Army).

1266-87

1271-72 Approximate date of death of Imad-ul- Mulk. Entry of Amir Khusrau in the service of Malik Chhajju as a court poet. Khusrau compiles his first diwan of poetry, Tuhfat-us-Sighr. 35 Qasidas, these Qasidas are in praise of Sultan Giyasuddin Balban and his son prince Prince Muhammad Khan Nasiruddin, the Martyr Prince. Some are also on the nobles of Balban’s court like Amir Ali surnamed Hatam Khan, Ikhityaruddin Kishlu Khan, Shamsuddin, Qiwamulmulk Azizuddin etc. A very interesting poem (dirge) on the demise of two birds, pets of the poet. It also has a short masnavi - Siqaayat Naama Mominpur urf Patiyali (the place of his birth) - describing his unpleasant experience and dislike of the place.

1274-75 Approximate date of Amir Khusrau’s joining the circle of murids of Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya.

1276 Amir Khusrau joins the service of Prince Bughra Khan, the second son of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban and the Governor of the territorial unit of Samana.

1277 Khusrau accompanies Bughra Khan on his Bengal expedition. But soon returns to Delhi.

1280 Joins court of Sultan Mohammad (Balban's eldest son) and travels with him to Multan.

1283 Amir Khusrau compiles his second diwaan, Wasat-ul-hayat. 58 Qasidas, 8 Tarji’s Qasidas are in praise of God, the Prophet, Nizamuddin Auliya, others on Balban, Kaiqobad, Bughra Khan, Ikhtiyaruddin Kishli Khan, Shamsuddin Dabir, Tajuddin Alp bin Azhdar, Jajaluddin Firuz Shah Khilji etc

1285 In the battle fought against the Mongols, Khusrau is taken a prisoner but is able to escape and return to Delhi. In Delhi he composes his famous marsia poem on the untimely fall of Prince Mohammad Khan, now called Khan-e-Shaheed.

1287-90

1287-88 Khusrau joins the service of Hatim Khan the Governor of Awadh and is an eye-witness to the meeting between Sultan Kaiqubaad and his father Bughra Khan. Khusrau stays with him in Awadh for two years and then returns to Delhi.

1289 Khusrau gets invited by Kaiqubad and is made a Courtier. He is asked to write the history of his reign in verses with special references to the meeting between the Sultan and his father, hence Khusro completes his first historical masnawi Qiraan-us-sadain.

In Qiraan-us-sadain, Khusrau describes the cultural role of Delhi, its magnificent buildings and the gardens. He then describes the events of the reign of Kaiqubad, the peace that prevailed in Delhi till the news of the march of Sultan’s father Bughra Khan from Lakhnauti and their meeting at Awadh. Qiraanus-sadain also tells us that he had profound knowledge of Astronomy . He has eloquently described the planets, stars, zodiacs, lunar mansions astrological aspects as much as permitted by rhyme, rhythm and meter.

1290-96

1290 Amir Khusrau favoured with the title of Nadim and also appointed as mashafdar.

1292 Amir Khusrau composes the second historical masnawi, Miftah-ul-fatuh.

MIftah-ul-futuh is a detailed account of the accession of Jalaluddin Khilji and of his military achievements. Khusrau explaines the early career of his hero before his arrival in India. His work is free of flattery and describes the events as they occured. Khusrau accompanied the Sultan on his expedition, he describes the topography of the region, the rivers, the barren deserts and beauty of Jhain’s palace. Khusrau’s verse inspite of its rhyme and metre doesn’t lack simplicity.

1296-1316

1298 Birth of Khusrau’s son ‘Ain Uddin’.

1299 Death of Khusrau’s mother and younger brother Mubarak Qutlugh in close succession. The same year, Khusrau’s Masnavis (romance) Matla-ul-anwar, Shirinwa Khusrau and Majnun-wa-Laila get completed.

Shirinwa Khusrau: The work narrates the romance between Prince Khusrau Parvez, emperor of Iran, and Princess Shirin.

Majnu-wa-Laila tale comes from Arabia.Khusrau’s verses have greater effect on the senses. For instance, in his depiction of the parents of Layla &Majnun, Khusrau excels Nizami in portraying the real condition of a woman and a man, of the mother and the father.

1302 Birth ofAmir Khusrau’s daughter Afifa. The same year, he completes the masnavis Aina-i-Sikandari and Hasht Bihisht. Amir Khusrau accompanies the King on his Ranthambor campaign.

Hasht Bahisht: It narrates the romantic life of Bahram Gur, the old Persian king famous for his hunting exploits.

Aina-e-Sikandari: It is a masnavi about warfare. Khusrau have depicted the battles fought between Darius, the emperor of Iran & Alexander, the king of Greece.

1303 Amir Khusrau accompanies the king on his Chittor campaign.

1312 Amir Khusrau completes Khazain-ul-Futuh. It is a detail history of the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khalji.

1313 Amir Khusrau requested by the crown prince Khizr Khan to write in verse the story of his love with Dewal Rani. Dewal rani wa-khizr khan written at the instance of his friend and disciple of Hzt Nizamuddin Auliya, Prince Khizr Khan, eldest son of Sultan Alauddin Khalji.

1316-1320

1316 Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah comes to power. In the same year, Khusrau compiles the diwan, Baqiyya Naqiyya. He describes the four orders of poetry which he likens to the four elements, i.e. earth, water, air and fire, and of which the one resembling fire, he says, is the noblest and most sublime. Some of these poems are evidently imitations of older masters but most of them are original in style and are perfect specimens of Khusro’s highest art. Among them are 2 poems one written in the month of Ramzan & other on the occasion of Id & nothing can excel them in the quaintness of analogies, the beauty of imageries & the smoothness of rhythm.

1317 Amir Khusrau requested by Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah to write the history of his reign in verse resulting in the composition of his fourth historical masnavi, Nuh Sipihr.

Nuh Siphir written at the instance of Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khilji. Khusrau says “Had India not been paradise, peacock, the Bird of paradise would have adopted some other garden as its home.

1319 Completion of the prose work Ijaz-i- Khusrawi in five volumes. The ‘Ijaz-i-Khusravi not only sheds light on Amir Khusrau’s erudition and command over Arabic and Persian languages but also provides insights into the life and culture of the Sultanate of Delhi. This is a work written by Amir Khusrau in Persian prose. He dedicates a whole section giving a detailed account of his knowledge of music and musical instrument of that time.

1320-1325

1321 Revision of the masnavi, Dewal Rani – Khizr Khan and addition of the description of the tragic circumstances in which Khizr Khan gets blinded and killed.

1322 Khusrau completes the masnavi, Tughluqnama. It contains the detail about the events and military campaigns of the short reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq Shah. Khusrau was also proven astrologer. In Tughlaqnama he described the planetary positions on the occasion of the coronation of King Ghyasuddin Tughlaq.

1323-24 Amir Khusrau accompanies Prince Ulagh khan on his Deogiri campaign. Accompanies Sultan on his Lakhnauti and Awadh campaign also.

1325 The deaths of Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusrau. Khusrau’s fifth Diwan Nihayat-ulkamal compiled.

Nihayat-ul-kamal: The fifth and the last collection of Khusrau’s poems was made by him about the close of his life after the death of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and the ascension to the throne of his son Muhammad Tughlaq.