Amir Khusrau


    One of the literary innovations credited to Amir Khusrau is his use of historical events and his own contemporaries, instead of stories and legendary characters from the past, as the subjects of his epic and romantic masnavis. Furthermore, it seems culturally anachronistic for a poet who was renowned for his devotion to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya to produce a prodigious amount of dynastic history in verse that mainly deals with the power, struggles, and conquests of the various Khilji and Tughlaq sultans of medieval Delhi. Both the Sultan and the Sufi master are dedicatees in many of Amir Khusrau’s works, pointing to the overlapping spheres of their influence on the society of the time. Written in the masnavi form, chiefly used for mythological and romantic tales, the subject matter of his courtly narrative verse was ostensibly current or fairly recent historical episodes that were connected with the patron of the work and that the poet had witnessed himself. Even though Amir Khusrau’s works provide a wealth of information for historians of the Sultanate period, they tend to be neglected by literary critics because they defy all the established typologies of the form and genre in classical Persian literature.
  1. Qiran-us-Sa’dain

    (Meeting of two auspicious stars)

    1288 AD

  2. Qiran-us-Sa’dain was the first long historical poem in masnavi form by Khusrau. It was written at the request of Kaiqubad after his return from Oudh where he stayed for two years. Completed in 688AH/1289 AD, it contains 3944 lines counted by Khusrau himself to ensure that “careless scribes” match his quantification.

    The masnavi, is based on the reconciliation meeting of Sultan Kaiqubad of Delhi and his father Sultan Bughra Khan of Bengal on the banks of the river Saryu. Khusrau being an eye witness was commissioned by Sultan Kaiqubad to capture this historical episode. Qiran-us-Sadain occupies a unique position in the landscape of Persian literature. Through it, Khusrau adopted a unique way of historical writing through verses in which he included social and cultural life of that time.

    The components of Qiran-us-Sadain are brilliant aesthetically and important historically. The description of Delhi, punishment of the Mongols, triumphal arches, singing girls, musical instruments, gifts exchanged between Bughra Khan and Kaiqubad, elaborate dishes on the royal table and the different kinds of boats used, are some of the illustrious components of the creation. From textiles and the beautiful autumn season of Delhi, to the reference of ‘paan’ in various modes and similes, Qiranus- Sadain is a rich description of the societal and cultural tapestry. Qiran-us-Sadain also establishes Khusrau as a knowledgeable astrologer with his references of planets and the heavenly bodies at various places.

    He has artistically introduced astrological principles, terms, allusions, beliefs, traditions, and even complete horoscopes in his poetry. He can easily be credited for inventing this new genre of poetry, through the use of horoscopes, Hundreds of years later, Ghalib adopted this same style of poetry.
    Details of image: Incipit illuminated titlepage, Qiran-us-Sa’dain. Courtesy: Walters Art Museum. Ms. W623; Folio: 212b

    1290 AD

  4. The second of Khusrau’s historical masnavis was completed in 690AH/1292AD and describes four victories achieved by Jalaluddin Khilji within the course of one year. The poem, comparatively a small one, forms a part of the poet’s third diwan, Ghurrat-ul-Kamal. The style of the masnavi is extremely

    simple and is written in a matter-of-fact style giving an account of factual details in poetic form. Khusrau concludes the poem saying that he had three things in mind when he wrote the poem – to show his gratefulness to the beneficent monarch, to leave behind a lasting relic, and, through the everlasting name of the king, earn an immortality for himself.
    Details of image: Painting showing the conquest of Ranthambhor fort from Akbarnama. It compliments the beauty and terrain of the region as described by Khusrau in Miftah-ul-Futuh.

    (715 AH/1315 AD)

  6. The Ishqiya as it is sometimes called is the third masnavi composed by Amir Khusrau and it was completed in 715 AH/1315. It contains a total of 4519 lines written in two batches. The central theme of the long poem is the romantic love and the tragic fate of Khizr Khan, son of Sultan Allauddin Khilji and the beautiful princess Dewal Devi, daughter of Raja Karan of Gujarat. Dewal Rani Khizr Khan was Amir Khusrau’s need to create an Indian epic love story in response to the prevailing Persian and Arabic classic romances – Farhad o Shirin and Layla O Majnun. Here he wove current historical events as intriguingly as mythical tale. He first completed the masnavi with the marriage of the young Muslim prince with the Hindu princess in spite of his mother’s rejection of their love. He brings together the symbolic union of two civilizations – Hindu and Muslim. Due to the unfortunate death of prince Khizr Khan as a prisoner of his brother, Sultan Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah Khilji,he later updated the masnavi with a tragic end. By the time he wrote the masnavi, he had already completed the Khamsa and acquired proficiency in the style. The romance is unique in Persian literature in more than one respect – it has for its theme a contemporary event, it belongs to the domain of history and not mythology, it describes India in stunning detail and contains small tales within the narrative which are original and instructive.
    Details of image: Masnavi Duval Rani Khizr Khan, National Museum, New Delhi. Masnuscript dated 1568 AD. The illustration displays the marriage of the Hindu princess Duval Rani with the Muslim ruler Khizr Khan, which the angels have come to bless. Source: Welch, India: Art and Culture.

    1318 AD

  8. In Nuh Sipihr, Khusrau chronicled all the conquests and achievements that Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khilji had made in the early years of his reign. Khusrau has presented many aspects of Indian culture, philosophy, sciences along with that of music and horoscopes of his son in this masnavi. It also celebrates the poets love for India. Amir Khusrau goes into poetic details of his motherland, describing it as a heaven on earth where Adam was sent by God and where the peacocks - the birds of paradise live. He writes gloriously about its culture, language, climate, flowers, fruits, animals and of course, its people praising the Brahmans and the ways of the Hindus. Containing 4500 hemistiches, the poem is divided into nine parts titled as the Nine Skies (Nuh Sipihr) of unequal lengths each being one of the nine heavenly bodies. The introduction contains beautiful verses dedicated to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The masnavi is a great masterpiece and is replete with things of immense historical and sociological interest.
    Details of image: Mubarak Shah returns to his court in India. Nuh Sipihr, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. W623_000478_300

    1321 AD

  10. Khusrau is reputed to have written this historical masnavi in 721AH/1322AD detailing the events of the short reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. The poem describes the heroic efforts of the ruler to rescue the throne of Delhi from the usurper Khusrau Khan who deposed Sultan Mubarak Shah and became the ruler for a few months. Khusrau wrote this last masnavi Tughlaq Nama, in which he chronicled all expeditions which had led to the murder of king Qutbuddin Khilji by Khusrau Khan. It also deals with the short-lived period of Khusrau Khan's rule in Delhi. It describes that the great war that was fought between the army of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and Khusrau Khan, near Delhi, in which the army of Khusrau Khan was routed and Khusrau Khan was subsequently killed. For a long time, it was believed that this work was lost to posterity but it was later found by Maulvi Rashid Ahmed of Aligarh in Maulvi Habib-ur-Rahman Sherwani’s private library, under the title Jahangir Namah. At the desire of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the lost fragments of the masnavi were compiled with a preface and conclusion by Hayati. So far it is the only copy of the manuscript which has survived. Recently it was edited and published by Syed Hashimy.

    In his masnavi Tughlaq Namah, Khusrau has described the planetary positions on the occasion of the coronation of King Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. The exact time of the Coronation was selected and predetermined astrologically by Amir Khusrau himself.
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