In this article we will discuss about the rise of Persian literature in India during the medieval period.
During the Medieval period Persian was the most popular language and it replaced Sanskrit at least in those parts where the Muslim ruled.
Prof. Sherwani has observed that, “Persian slowly but surely took the place of Sanskrit as the cementing force of the country, and held its own till it had become effete and was given a violent jerk by the English language. During the Medieval Period, Hindus and Muslims, whose mother tongue was not Persian, vied with each other to learn this language of culture, and India produced Persian literature in all its branches, which compared well with the literature of Persia. Persian was saturated so much in the rising languages of the country that it contributed thousands of words to vocabulary not merely of Hindi and Urdu but also of Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati and even now the attempt to eradicate these words from our language has not met with success.”
Though Persian language flourished maximum under the Mughals, it continued to receive encouragement during the Turko-Afghan times also. The Turko-Afghan rulers encouraged the Persian scholars, writers, poets and philosophers to produce monumental works.
According to Prof. Aziz Ahmad, “two factors seem to have deeply affected the course of Persian literature in India; the stream of refugee elite, fleeing before the Mongol onslaught in Transoxiana and Khurasan; and the stabilization of Muslim military and political centres in the Indian sub continent.”
One of the earliest Persian scholars in Medieval India was Abu Abd Allah Jafar Ibu Muhammad. He lived at the court of Samanid Amir Nasr Ibn Ahmed. He wrote in simple and direct style and gave expressions to sincere feelings.
He is said to have composed six idylls and versified well known Kalila wa-Dimna of Ibnal Muqffa. He also wrote three historical romances, of which best known is the Wamak and Azra. Another prominent poet at the Samanid court was Daqiqi, who symbolizes the patronage of Persian at court. Daqiqi started writing Shahnama but it could not be completed because of his early murder.
The most outstanding work of this time was Shahnama by Mansur ibu Hasan called Firdausi. In his monumental work Firdausi has recorded the legends of pre-Islamic Iran. He deals with the lives of fifty kings and records their heroic adventures.
The reputation of Firdausi as a poet mainly rests on this work. According to A J. Arberry, “Firdausi’s Shahnama, considered with quantatively and qualitatively, is the greatest work in Persian literature and poetry; indeed one can say that its one of the world’s literary masterpieces. If it weren’t that I always follow the safer course and don’t wish to sound extravagant, I would cast all caution aside and assert that the Shahnama is the grandest movement in the literature of mankind.”
Mahmud Ghaznavi, who was an orthodox Sunni, did not accord full recognition to the works of Firdausi because he favoured the use of Arabic. As a result during his time Persian was loaded with Arabic words However, certain works were produced in Persian during his time.
Abul-Hasan Ali Ibu Uthman wrote Kashfal mahjub, a treatise on mysticism. Another work written by him was Highway of Religion. Similarly, Abu Ismail Abd Allah Ibn Muhammad al-Ansari compiled Tabaqat al-Sufiya a dictionary of saints and mystics in Persian. Another prominent work of the same author is Manjat.
It was only with the setting up of the slave dynasty that Persian language received special patronage. Qutubuddin is well known for his liberal patronage for which he has been given the title of Lakh Bakhash. Altutinish was also a great patron of poets.
Some of the prominent poets and writers of Persian who adorned his court were Khawaja Abu Nasr (whose pen name was Nasiri), Abu Bakr bin Muhammad Ruhani of Samarqand, Taj-ud-Dabir and Nur- ud-Din Muhammad Awfi. The last named scholar was the author of Lubab-ul-Albab and Jawani-ul-Hikavai wa-Lauxini-ur-Riwayat.
Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah also patronized literary figures. Some of the prominent literary figures were Fakhr-ud-Din Nunki, also known as Amid, the famous historian Minhaj-ud-Din Siraj, who wrote the famous chronicle, Tabaqat-i-Nariri, a general history from the earliest times to 1260.
Balban, the next ruler was also a great patron of culture and attracted scholars not only from India but also from abroad. A number of Muslim scholars, who were compelled to leave their countries due to Mongol invasions, took refuge at Balban’s court.
As a result, a new epic in the history of Persian literature in India started under Balban. Balban’s eldest son Muhammad (also known as Khan i-Shahid) was also a at patron of learning and many eminent poets lived at his court, e famous Persian poets Amir Khusrau and Mir Hassan Dehlvi started their poetic career under him. Amir Khusrau was not merely an outstanding poet but also a great historian.
He has recorded in his works most the incidents which took place during his times and can be considered as the eye witness of those events. Khusrau has been credited with the authorship of ninety-nine books but all his works are not available.
Some of the prominent works written by him include, Panch Ganj, Matla-ul-Anwar, Shirin wa Khuarav, Laila wa Majnun, the Aina-i-Sikandari and the Hasht Bihisht. He also wrote the romance of Khizar Khan and Dewil Rani, the masnavi, Qiran-us-Sadain, the Taj-ul-Futuh, the Nuh sipihir, the Rasail Ijaz, the Tughlaq-nama, the Miftah-ul-Futuh, ihe Afzal-ul-Fawaid, the Tarik-i-Dilhi and the Khazain- ul- Futuh, According to Ziauddin Barani, “the incomparable Amir Khusrau stands unequalled for the volume of his writings and the originality of his ideas; 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 not come into existence before the day of Judgment. Dr. Ishwari Prasad has also written the following words in praise of Khusrau, “He was a gifted bard and singer, whose flights of fancy command over the instrument of language, the variety of subjects and the marvelous ease and grace with which he describes human passions and emotions and the scenes of love and war place him among the greatest poets of all time.”
The most outstanding feature of the writings of Amir Khusrau was that he for the first time made use of Hindi words and idioms and wrote on Indian themes. His language, particularly in his Pahelian (riddles) is a mixture of Persian and Hindi words. Similarly in his ghazals he employed alternate hemstitches in Persian and Hindi.
Khawaja Najm-ud-Din Hasan was another prominent Persian poet of Medieval India. He lived at the court of Ala-ud-Din Khilji and is also popularly known as Mir Hasan Dihlvi. He is particularly known for his lucid and charming Persian ghazals which earned for him the title of Sadi of Hindustan.
Khawaja Najm-ud-Din Hasan was a disciple of Nizam-ud-Din Aulia and has recorded his conversation with the great saint in his book Fawaid-ul-Faud. This work is also considered to be a valuable document on Sufi philosophy because it contains the discourses of Nizam- ud-Din Aulia in chronological order.
Certain other prominent poets of Persian also flourished at the court of Ala-ud-din Khilji. The prominent among them were, Sadr-ud-Din Ali, Fakhr-ud-Din, Hamid-ud-Din Raja, Maulana Arif, Abdul Hakim and Shahab- ud-Din Sadr-Nishin.
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was not only a learned ruler but also a liberal patron of learning. His love for scholars and liberal attitude attracted large number of scholars and literary figures to his court. The famous historian Zia-ud-din Barani enjoyed the patronage of the Sultan for almost seventeen years.
Some of the works of Barani include, Sanai-Muhammadi, Salat-i- Kabir, Inayat- Nama-i-Illahi, Massir-i-Saadat, and Hasrat-Nama, besides his well known historical works named Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi and Fatawa-i- Jahandari. Barani, however fell out with Firoz Tughlaq and had to spend last years of his life in poverty. He was a disciple of Nizam-ud-Din Auliya and was buried near his shrine.
Another outstanding Persian scholar and poet who lived at the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq was Badr-ud Din Muhammad of Chach. He was a court poet of the Sultan for a number of years and composed a number of poems in his praise. He composed Diwan consisting of qasidas, ghazals, qitas and rubais and the Shahnama.
Firoz Tughlaq, the next ruler, was also a great patron of learning. He used to give 36 lakhs of tankas to learned men and poets. A number of scholars adorned his court, the most outstanding amongst them being Shams-i-Siraj Afif.
Firoz Tughlaq was greatly fond of history and wrote an account of his reign in Futuhat-i-Firozshahi, in which he recorded the edict and ordinances issued by him, as well as the various works of public utility undertaken during his reign.
Shams-i-Siraj Afif wrote Tarikh- e-Firoz Shahi in five parts. In this voluminous work he wrote the history of the reign of Firoz Tughlaq. Thus he begins where Zia-ud-din Barani’s work comes to an end. Another outstanding work of history produced during his reign was Sirat-i-Firoz-Shahi.
The name of the author of this work is not known but he must have received patronage from Firoz Tughlaq. Another outstanding work produced during the reign of Firoz Tughlaq was Tarikh-i- Muhammad written by Muhammed Bihamad Khan, which deals with the history from the times of Prophet Muhammad to 1439.
During the later Tughlaq period also certain prominent literary works in Persian were produced. These include Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi by Yahya bin Ahmad of Sirhind. This work is probably the only contemporary work which gives us an insight into the reign of the rulers of Sayyid dynasty.