13-ayodhya ka shok-brij narain chakbast

For word meanings and explanatory discussion in English click on the “Roman” or “Notes” tab.  The “Introduction” tab offers a background of the whole series of posts that constitute a patchy reconstruction of the ramayan.

The ramayan has fascinated minds in India and worldwide for millennia, for the beauty of its literary composition, for its fascinating story content as well as for faith and reverence.  It is not surprising then that the Ramayan has been translated not only into all major languages, but also into unexpected ones like Polish, Norwegian and Swedish.  What is surprising is that there are more than twice as many poetic translations/trans-compositions of the ramayan in urdu as there are of the qur’aan and that the ramayan was translated into urdu even before the qur’aan was.

A book “urdu meN hindu dharm” (Hindu Religion in Urdu), Ajai Malviya,  written in Urdu, catalogues in detail urdu translations of the vedas (66), ramayan (103), mahabharat (38), bhagwad gita (83), puranas (44), manu smriti (4), biography of vashisht (14) and miscellaneous other religious compositions (472) spanning about 200 years of publications.

Why has this significant piece of literature been relegated to a neglected and ignored heap of disdain?  This needs to be corrected.  The sheer number and the high poetic and linguistic quality of this literature surprised me as I worked to string together representative parts of urdu nazm/poems of ramayan by different poets, like pearls strung in a necklace, into a near complete story.

A close reading of urdu ramayan translations offers some fascinating lessons about mingling of cultures in India, the origins and “ownership” of Urdu language, the power of the pen across languages and cultures and the universality of basic human emotions.  One is struck deeply by the acceptance and seamless adoption of multiple religious traditions as indicated by the observation that many ramayan renderings (even some by hindu poets) start with “bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim” and a “hamd” (an ode and/or expression of gratitude to god).  Since god, like language, has no religion, these odes/hamd/vandana are entirely secular/universal. 

It is highly contentious to say that urdu is a muslim language (as if a language has religion) or even to say that urdu is a language of muslims.  There are large numbers of muslims (Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) who do not know/speak urdu.  One of the important reasons that East Pakistan separated and declared baNgladesh was that it did not want urdu to be imposed on it in preference to its own language, beNgali.

Of the 100 or so translations/re-compositions of the ramayan in urdu more than 80 were written/composed by hindu writers/poets.  In most, if not all cases the poets were orthodox, believing, practicing hindus.  Why were they writing the ramayan in urdu?  I speculate that there must have been a large section of literate hindu population who considered Urdu their primary language, not because of political favours but because it was naturally their language.  Some of the poets who re-composed tulsidas’ ramcharitmanas suggest that because it was written in “bhaaka or bhaasha” and not easily available to everyone.  Therefore, they translated/re-composed it in urdu, perhaps implying that this is more comprehensible than “bhaaka/bhaasha”.  Apparently by the 1800s neither avadhi nor braj bhaasha were considered a common language.  To show the role urdu played in devotional traditions of north Indian hindus, I paraphrase from a book by bishweshwar parshad munavvar, himself a poet and son of dwaarka parshad ufaq (another poet of renown, who composed a full urdu ramayan).  He writes that, because of the effort of munshi jagannath Khushtar (1809-1864) and munshi shankar dayal farhat (1843-1904) in translating hindu religious texts into urdu, the teachings of the ramayan saved the hindu religion from further decline.  Before we run away with the image of an alien force coming down to “save” hinduism, it might be useful put this quote in perspective.  We have to make an effort to understand that what he might have meant is that there was a substantial community of hindus to whom religious texts were not comprehensible because they were written either in sanskrit or avadhi while their primary language of learning was urdu.  Thus, these translations made religious texts available to them.

Surely these poets, most of whom were believing and observant hindus must have had an audience/readership of similarly devout believers, who revered the composition itself and must have had the linguistic finesse to enjoy its literary excellence.  It draws a picture of a large section of literate hindu population who considered urdu their primary language, not because of political favours but because it was naturally their language.  We do not have any data taken by ‘pollsters’ to show that this was the case.  But we can make some speculative estimates by numbers of publications and the content of those publications.  I am unable to compile a scholarly accounting of such magazines and the numerous contributions of urdu writers.  Suffice it to present to you names of some daily, weekly or monthly publications, “sanaatan dharm pracharak”, “tej”, “aarya veer”, “veer India”, “arya Gazette”, “bande maataram”, “jain sansaar”, “sher-e hind”, “raajput Gazette” and even “agarwal hiteshi” that were published in urdu, some as late as the 1940s.  All had editors and contributors who were hindu (at least by name).

The compositions and publications of urdu ramayan cover roughly 1825-1980.  These poets also wrote secular/romantic Ghazal, nazm as well as other devotional pieces to krishn, lakshmi and many others.  The question needs to be asked, but remains unanswered because of lack of documentary evidence, whether these poets, steeped in urdu poetic culture, also recited parts of the ramayan in the mushaa’era that they participated in.  What was the composition of the audience?  They also composed bhajans in urdu.  Were these bhajans sung in religious gatherings.  We know that bhajans composed by syed ibrahim ras Khan (1548-1628) in braj bhaasha, proto-urdu, are sung to this day in prayer meetings.  There is every reason to believe that urdu compositions of ramayan were also recited, heard and enjoyed in public gatherings whether they may be called mushaa’era or not.

Well over twenty samples from urdu ramayan composed by different poets over nearly two centuries have been selected in story sequence and strung together like the beads of a tasbiih/jap-mala.  This study of the urdu ramayan shows the versatility, beauty and power of urdu, its ownership by a wide range of communities of India, and the easy and seamless acceptance, adoption and cross pollination of one another’s traditions by all faith systems.  Alas, somewhere along the way, we have lost this unique syncretic tradition.  It is my fervent hope that such studies will contribute a little to its revival.

نا مکمّل رامائن ۔ برج نارائن چکبست

بنباس ہونے پر ایودھیا نگری کی حالت

۱

ہے آج راگ رنگ کے بدلے نیا سماں

گھڑیال کی صدا ہے نہ ہے وید کا بیاں

بازار میں نہ پھل ہیں نہ پھولوں کی ڈالیاں

دریا پہ گُل فروش نے کھولی نہیں دُکاں

لب پر برہمنوں کے دعائے صحر نہیں

پٹ مندروں کے بند پڑے ہیں خبر نہیں

۲

یوں مجمعِ کثیر میں جنبش ہوئی عیاں

جیسے ہوا سے ہلتی ہیں جنگل کی پتیاں

اللہ رے انتظار کا وہ آخری سماں

کھنچ آئی تن سے کان کے پردے کے پاس جاں

سر اُٹھ گئے تڑپ کے نظر سوئے در گئی

سینے میں سانس آنکھ میں پُتلی ٹھہر گئی

۳

ہلچل میں اِس سفر کے ہے سیتا پہ یہ گماں

گویا کمل کا پھول ہے لہروں کے درمیاں

معصوم دِل ہے رنج اُٹھانے سے شادماں

تن پہ ذرا لِباسِ فقیری نہیں گراں

نیچی نِگاہ آنکھ زمیں سے لڑی ہوئی

سر میں فقط سہاگ کی لالی پڑی ہوئی

ना-मुकम्मिल रामायन – ब्रिज नारायन चकबस्त

बन-बास होने पर अयोध्या नगरी की हालत

है आज राग रंग के बदले नया समां

घड़ियाल की सदा है ना है वेद का बयां

बाज़ार में ना फल हैं ना फूलौं की डालियां

दरया पे गुल-फ़रोश ने खोली नहीं दुकां

लब पर बरहमनौं के दुआ-ए सहर नहीं

पट मन्दिरौं के बन्द पड़े हैं ख़बर नहीं

युं मजमा-ए कसीर में जुम्बिश हुई अयां

जैसे हवा से हिलती हैं जंगल की पत्तियां

अल्लाह रे इंतेज़ार का वो आख़री समां

खिंच आई तन से कान के पर्दे के पास जां

सर उठ गये तड़प के नज़र सू-ए दर गई

सीने में सांस आंख में पुतली ठहर गई

हलचल में इस सफ़र के है सीता पे ये गुमां

गोया कमाल का फूल है लहरौं के दरमियां

मासूम दिल है रंज उठाने से शादमां

तन पे ज़रा लिबास-ए फ़क़ीरी नहीं गरां

नीची निगाह, आंख ज़मीं से लड़ी हुई

सर में फ़क़त सुहाग की लाली पड़ी हुई

 

Click here for background and on any passage for word meanings and explanatory discussion. panDit brij narain chakbast (1882-1926), of kashmiri panDit heritage, grew up in lukhnow, where he was a practicing lawyer. He was politically active and strongly supported the independence movement. He had plans to compose a versified version of ramayan in urdu, much influenced by the style of mir anis. He even uses the same format “musaddas”, as anis. Only a few fragments of this work were completed. These fragments are re-organized and blended into this patchy ramayan narrative of many different poets.
1
hai aaj raag raNg ke badle naya samaaN
ghaRiaal ki sada1 hai na hai ved ka bayaaN2
bazaar meN na phal haiN na phoolauN ki DaaliyaaN
darya pe gul-farosh3 ne kholi nahiN dukaaN
lab par barahmanoN ke dua-e-sahr4 nahiN
paT5 mandirauN ke bund paRe haiN Khabar6 nahiN   
1.sound 2.recitation, chanting 3.flower seller 4.dawn prayer 5.doors 6.news
Instead of the usual colourful song and dance (joy) there is a new mood in the air. There is no gong announcing time, no sound of chanting of the ved. Flower and fruit vendors are absent from the market. The vendors by the river have not opened their shops. Brahmans are not reciting dawn prayers. Temple doors are closed. There is no proclamation of what is going on.

2
yuN majma1-e kaseer2 meN jumbish3 hui ayaaN4
jaise hava se hilti haiN jaNgal ki pattiyaaN
allah re intezaar5 ka vo aaKhri samaaN6
khinch aaii tan se kaan ke parde ke paas jaaN
sar uTh gaye taRap ke nazar soo7-e dar8 gayee
seene meN saaNs aaNkh meN putli9 Thahr gayee   
1.crowd 2.plentiful, big 3.movement 4.apparent 5.waiting, anticipation 6.scene 7.towards 8.door 9.eyeball
It is thought that life/soul leaves the body by way of the ear-drum. Eyeball becoming still is a sign of death. The huge crowd surged and fell back as leaves flutter in the wind. O, the anticipation of the final scene. It was as if life was drawn to the ear drum, about to leave the body. All eyes were raised and turned towards the door (of the palace). It was as if breath stopped and eyeballs were still.

3
halchal meN is safar1 ke hai seeta pe ye gumaaN2
goya3 kamal ka phool hai lahrauN ke darmiyaaN4
maasoom5 dil hai ranj uThaane se shaadmaaN6
tan pe zara libaas-e-faqiri7 nahiN garaaN8
neechi nigaah, aaNkh zamiN se laRi hui
sar meN faqat9 suhaag ki laali paRi hui
1.journey 2.impression 3.as if 4.between, among 5.innocent, simple 6.happy 7.mendicant’s dress 8.heavy, inappropriate 9.only
In all the confusion of this journey, seeta alone is calm, giving the impression of a lotus flower, floating serenly among waves. Her simple heart happy to bear the coming sorrow. Mendicant’s garb on her body (instead of the usual royal cloak) appears quite appropriate. Her eyes lowered to the ground, no other adornment except vermillion in her hair.

panDit brij narain chakbast (1882-1926), of kashmiri panDit heritage, grew up in lukhnow, where he was a practicing lawyer.  He was politically active and strongly supported the independence movement.  He had plans to compose a versified version of ramayan in urdu, much influenced by the style of mir anis.  He even uses the same format “musaddas”, as anis.  Only a few fragments of this work were completed.  These fragments are re-organized and blended into this patchy ramayan narrative of many different poets.
1
hai aaj raag raNg ke badle naya samaaN
ghaRiaal ki sada1 hai na hai ved ka bayaaN2
bazaar meN na phal haiN na phoolauN ki DaaliyaaN
darya pe gul-farosh3 ne kholi nahiN dukaaN
lab par barahmanoN ke dua-e-sahr4 nahiN
paT5 mandirauN ke bund paRe haiN Khabar6 nahiN

1.sound 2.recitation, chanting 3.flower seller 4.dawn prayer 5.doors 6.news

Instead of the usual colourful song and dance (joy) there is a new mood in the air.  There is no gong announcing time, no sound of chanting of the ved.  Flower and fruit vendors are absent from the market.  The vendors by the river have not opened their shops.  Brahmans are not reciting dawn prayers.  Temple doors are closed.  There is no proclamation of what is going on.
2
yuN majma1-e kaseer2 meN jumbish3 hui ayaaN4
jaise hava se hilti haiN jaNgal ki pattiyaaN
allah re intezaar5 ka vo aaKhri samaaN6
khinch aaii tan se kaan ke parde ke paas jaaN
sar uTh gaye taRap ke nazar soo7-e dar8 gayee
seene meN saaNs aaNkh meN putli9 Thahr gayee

1.crowd 2.plentiful, big 3.movement 4.apparent 5.waiting, anticipation 6.scene 7.towards 8.door 9.eyeball

It is thought that life/soul leaves the body by way of the ear-drum.  Eyeball becoming still is a sign of death.  The huge crowd surged and fell back as leaves flutter in the wind.  O, the anticipation of the final scene.  It was as if life was drawn to the ear drum, about to leave the body.  All eyes were raised and turned towards the door (of the palace).  It was as if breath stopped and eyeballs were still.
3
halchal meN is safar1 ke hai seeta pe ye gumaaN2
goya3 kamal ka phool hai lahrauN ke darmiyaaN4
maasoom5 dil hai ranj uThaane se shaadmaaN6
tan pe zara libaas-e-faqiri7 nahiN garaaN8
neechi nigaah, aaNkh zamiN se laRi hui
sar meN faqat9 suhaag ki laali paRi hui

1.journey 2.impression 3.as if 4.between, among 5.innocent, simple 6.happy 7.mendicant’s dress 8.heavy, inappropriate 9.only

In all the confusion of this journey, seeta alone is calm, giving the impression of a lotus flower, floating serenly among waves.  Her simple heart happy to bear the coming sorrow.  Mendicant’s garb on her body (instead of the usual royal cloak) appears quite appropriate.  Her eyes lowered to the ground, no other adornment except vermillion in her hair.

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