21-agni pariksha-mohammed imtiazuddin

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.

 

اگنی پریکشا ۔ محمّد امتیازالدین خاں

۱

جس نے راون کو کیا تھا تیر سے اپنے ہلاک

ہو گیا تھا اُس کا سینہ اِک غمِ پنہاں سے چاک

مل گئی سیتا مگر ہوتی نہ تھی دل کو خوشی

ایک کانٹے کی طرح رہ رہ کے وہ چبھنے لگی

۲

ایک مجمع میں کہا سیتا سے آخر بار بار

تیری صورت دیکھنا بھی اب ہے مجھ کو ناگوار

گود میں تجھ کو بٹھا کر لے گیا وہ راکشس

تجھ کو اب رکھنے میں مجھ کو ہو رہا ہے پیش و پس

۳

ہائے سیتا قید میں تیرا لُٹا ہوگا سہاگ

تیرے آنسو بھی بجھا سکتے نہیں ہیں دل کی آگ

تجھ کو میں رکھ لوں تو آنچ آتی ہے کُل کے نام پر

طعنہ زن ہوں گے زمین و آسماں بھی رام پر

۴

میری غیرت نے لیا راون سے جا کر اِنتقام

موت کے منھ میں ڈھکیلے دیو کتنے صبح و شام

میری غیرت نے دلائی قید سے تجھ کو نجات

کہہ نہیں سکتا مگر میں زہر کو آبِ حیات

۵

میرا دل ترکِ تعلق کے لئے مجبور ہے

تم چلی جاؤ جہاں چاہو مجھے منظور ہے

سر جھکایا اور پھر بولیں بہ صد رنج و محن

آگ فوراً لاؤ میرے سامنے تم اے لکھن

۶

میں دہکتی آگ میں ہو جاؤں گی فوراً فنا

جان سے پیاری ہے ناری کے لئے شرم و حیا

تھی چتا تیّار سیتا کو جلانے کے لئے

آسماں سے ابرِ رحمت تھا بچانے کے لئے

۷

پھول سے چہرے پہ ہرگز آنچ آ سکتی نہ تھی

آگ بھی پاکیزہ سیتا کو جلا سکتی نہ تھی

رام نے رو کر کہا بے شک ہے تو پرہیزگار

ہائے تیرا اِمتحاں کر کے ہوا ہوں شرمسار

अग्नी परीक्शा – महम्मद इम्तियाज़ुद्दीन ख़ां

जिस ने रावन को किया था तीर से अपने हलाक

हो गया था उस का सीना एक ग़म-ए पिन्हां से चाक

मिल गई सीता मगर होती न थी दिल को ख़ुशी

एक कांटे की तरह रह रह के वो चुभने लगी

एक मज्मे में कहा सीता से आख़र बार बार

तेरी सूरत देखना भी अब है मुझ को नागवार

गोद में तुझ को बिठा कर ले गया वो राक्शस

तुझ को अब रखने में मुझ को हो रहा है पेश ओ पस

हाए सीता क़ैद में तेरा लुटा होगा सुहाग

तेरे आंसू भी बुझा सकते नहीं हैं दिल की आग

तुझ को मैं रख लूं तो आंच आती है कुल के नाम पर

ता’ना ज़न होंगे ज़मीन ओ आस्मां भी राम पर

मेरी ग़ैरत ने लिया रावन से जा कर इन्तेक़ाम

मौत के मुंह में ढकेले देव कितने सुबह ओ शाम

मेरी ग़ैरत ने दिलाई क़ैद से तुझ को नजात

कह नहीं सकता मगर मैं ज़हर को आब-ए हयात

मेरा दिल तर्क-ए ता’अलुक़ के लिये मज्बूर है

तुम चली जाऔ जहां चाहो मुझे मंज़ूर है

सर झुकाया और फिर बोलीं ब सद रंज ओ मेहन

आग फ़ौरन लाऔ मेरे सामने तुम अए लखन

मैं दहक्ती आग में हो जाऊंगी फ़ौरन फ़ना

जान से प्यारी है नारी के लिये शर्म ओ हया

थी चिता तय्यार सीता को जलाने के लिये

आस्मां से अब्र-ए रहमत था बचाने के लिये

फूल से चेहरे पे हरगिज़ आंच आ सक्ती न थी

आग भी पाकीज़ा सीता को जला सक्ती न थी

राम ने रो कर कहा बेशक है तू परहेज़गार

हाए तेरा इम्तहां कर के हुआ हूं शर्मसार

 

Click here for background and on any passage for word meanings and explanatory discussion. mohammed imtiazuddin KhaaN, a lawyer practicing in pratapgaRh, composed this ramayan and an accompanying composition on krishn and sudaama. It was published in 1984. In the foreword, he writes that he was deeply influenced by chakbast’s telling of ramayan (posted as a part of this series) and goes on to list a few other urdu translations of both the valmiki and tulsidas versions that I could not find. The dignified response of sita in this selection is worth noting. raam’s rejection of sita, in public, is glossed over by many translations (including tulsidas), but I cross checked the original valmiki and found it to be true. Specific references are given in appropriate verses.
1
jis ne raavan ko kiya tha tiir se apne halaak1
ho gaya tha us ka seena ek Gham-e pihnaaN2 se chaak3
mil gayii sita magar hoti na thi dil ko Khushi
ek kaaNTe ki tarah rah rah ke vo chubhne lagi   
1.dead 2.hidden 3.torn, rent
He who had killed raavan with his arrow, his own bosom was torn with a hidden pain. He got sita but his heart was not happy. Her return pricked it again and again like a thorn.

2
ek majme1 meN kaha sita se aaKhir baar baar
teri surat dekhna bhi ab hai mujh ko naagavaar2
god meN tujh ko biTha kar le gaya vo raakshas3
tujh ko ab rakhne meN mujh ko ho raha hai pesh-o-pas4   
1.crowd 2.unbearable 3.demon 4.hesitation
In front of a crowd he at last said to sita again and again. I can no longer bear to see your face. That demon must have set you in his lap to take you away. I now hesitate to take you back.

3
haaye sita qaid meN tera luTa hoga suhaag
tere aaNsu bhi bujha sakte nahiN haiN dil ki aag
tujh ko maiN rakh luN to aaNch aati hai kul1 ke naam par
t’aana-zan2 hoNge zamin o aasmaaN bhi raam par   
1.family 2.sarcastic
O sita, in captivity you surely must have lost your virtue. Your tears now cannot put out that fire (in my heart). If I take you back, my family’s reputation/honour will be maligned. The earth and heavens will heap sarcasms on my name.

4
meri Ghairat1 ne liya raavan se jaa kar inteqaam2
maut ke muNh meN Dhakele dev3 kitne subah o shaam
meri Ghairat ne dilaaii qaid se tujh ko najaat4
kah nahiN sakta magar maiN zahr ko aab-e-hayaat5    
1.honour, dignity 2.revenge 3.demons 4.deliverance 5.elixir of life
It was to save my honour/dignity that I took revenge on raavan even though I was pushed to the brink of death by demons, night and day. It was my honour that delivered you from captivity. But I cannot consider poison to be elixir of life. yuddh kaanD, chapter 115, verses 16-17 – “Let it be known to you that this endeavor in the shape of war, which has been successfully carried through, due to the strength of my friends was not undertaken for your sake. Let there be prosperity to you! This was done by me in order to keep up my good conduct and to wipe off the evil-speaking from all sides as well as the insinuation on my own illustrious dynasty. O Seetha! That is why, I am permitting you now. Go wherever you like. All these ten directions are open to you, my dear lady! There is no work to be done to me, by you”.

5
mera dil tark1-e ta’aluq2 ke liye majboor3 hai
tum chali jaao jahaaN chaaho mujhe manzoor4 hai
sar jhukaaya aur phir boliiN ba-sad5 ranj-o-mehan6
aag fauran7 laao mere saamne tum aye lakhan8    
1.quit, break 2.relationship 3.forced, bound 4.acceptable, agreement 5.with a hundred 6.sorrow and lamentation 7.immediately 8.lakshman
My heart is forced to break off relationship with you. You can go wherever you like, it is acceptable to me. She bowed her head and with great sorrow and lamentation said, ‘O, lakshman, light a fire before me immediately’.

6
maiN dahakti1 aag meN ho jaauNgi fauran2 fana3
jaan se pyaari hai naari4 ke liye sharm o haya
thi chita5 tayyaar sita ko jalaane ke liye
aasmaaN se abr-e rahmat6 tha bachaane ke liye    
1.burning, roaring 2.immediately 3.annihilated 4.woman 5.funeral pyre 6.benevolence, blessing
I will jump into and be annihilated in a roaring fire immediately. Honour and dignity is more dear to a woman than her life. The funeral pyre was ready to burn sita, but heavens were ready with a cloud of blessings to save her.

7
phool se chehre pe hargiz1 aaNch aa sakti na thi
aag bhi paakiiza2 sita ko jala sakti na thi
raam ne ro kar kaha beshak3 hai tu parhezgaar4
haye tera imtehaaN5 kar ke hua huN sharmsaar6   
1.under no circumstances 2.virtuous 3.undoubtedly 4.abstinent, observant, virtuous 5.test 6.ashamed
Under no circumstances could fire burn that beautiful/virtuous face. Even fire could not burn the noble sita. raam wept and said, ‘surely you are virtuous. I am ashamed for having doubted/tested you’.

mohammed imtiazuddin KhaaN, a lawyer practicing in pratapgaRh, composed this ramayan and an accompanying composition on krishn and sudaama.  It was published in 1984.  In the foreword, he writes that he was deeply influenced by chakbast’s telling of ramayan (posted as a part of this series) and goes on to list a few other urdu translations of both the valmiki and tulsidas versions that I could not find.  The dignified response of sita in this selection is worth noting.  raam’s rejection of sita, in public, is glossed over by many translations (including tulsidas), but I cross checked the original valmiki and found it to be true.  Specific references are given in appropriate verses.
1
jis ne raavan ko kiya tha tiir se apne halaak1
ho gaya tha us ka seena ek Gham-e pihnaaN2 se chaak3
mil gayii sita magar hoti na thi dil ko Khushi
ek kaaNTe ki tarah rah rah ke vo chubhne lagi

1.dead 2.hidden 3.torn, rent

He who had killed raavan with his arrow, his own bosom was torn with a hidden pain.  He got sita but his heart was not happy.  Her return pricked it again and again like a thorn.
2
ek majme1 meN kaha sita se aaKhir baar baar
teri surat dekhna bhi ab hai mujh ko naagavaar2
god meN tujh ko biTha kar le gaya vo raakshas3
tujh ko ab rakhne meN mujh ko ho raha hai pesh-o-pas4

1.crowd 2.unbearable 3.demon 4.hesitation

In front of a crowd he at last said to sita again and again.  I can no longer bear to see your face.  That demon must have set you in his lap to take you away.  I now hesitate to take you back.
3
haaye sita qaid meN tera luTa hoga suhaag
tere aaNsu bhi bujha sakte nahiN haiN dil ki aag
tujh ko maiN rakh luN to aaNch aati hai kul1 ke naam par
t’aana-zan2 hoNge zamin o aasmaaN bhi raam par

1.family 2.sarcastic

O sita, in captivity you surely must have lost your virtue.  Your tears now cannot put out that fire (in my heart).  If I take you back, my family’s reputation/honour will be maligned.  The earth and heavens will heap sarcasms on my name.
4
meri Ghairat1 ne liya raavan se jaa kar inteqaam2
maut ke muNh meN Dhakele dev3 kitne subah o shaam
meri Ghairat ne dilaaii qaid se tujh ko najaat4
kah nahiN sakta magar maiN zahr ko aab-e-hayaat5

1.honour, dignity 2.revenge 3.demons 4.deliverance 5.elixir of life

It was to save my honour/dignity that I took revenge on raavan even though I was pushed to the brink of death by demons, night and day.  It was my honour that delivered you from captivity.  But I cannot consider poison to be elixir of life.  yuddh kaanD, chapter 115, verses 16-17 – “Let it be known to you that this endeavor in the shape of war, which has been successfully carried through, due to the strength of my friends was not undertaken for your sake. Let there be prosperity to you! This was done by me in order to keep up my good conduct and to wipe off the evil-speaking from all sides as well as the insinuation on my own illustrious dynasty.  O Seetha! That is why, I am permitting you now. Go wherever you like. All these ten directions are open to you, my dear lady! There is no work to be done to me, by you”.
5
mera dil tark1-e ta’aluq2 ke liye majboor3 hai
tum chali jaao jahaaN chaaho mujhe manzoor4 hai
sar jhukaaya aur phir boliiN ba-sad5 ranj-o-mehan6
aag fauran7 laao mere saamne tum aye lakhan8

1.quit, break 2.relationship 3.forced, bound 4.acceptable, agreement 5.with a hundred 6.sorrow and lamentation 7.immediately 8.lakshman

My heart is forced to break off relationship with you.  You can go wherever you like, it is acceptable to me.  She bowed her head and with great sorrow and lamentation said, ‘O, lakshman, light a fire before me immediately’.
6
maiN dahakti1 aag meN ho jaauNgi fauran2 fana3
jaan se pyaari hai naari4 ke liye sharm o haya
thi chita5 tayyaar sita ko jalaane ke liye
aasmaaN se abr-e rahmat6 tha bachaane ke liye

1.burning, roaring 2.immediately 3.annihilated 4.woman 5.funeral pyre 6.benevolence, blessing

I will jump into and be annihilated in a roaring fire immediately.  Honour and dignity is more dear to a woman than her life.  The funeral pyre was ready to burn sita, but heavens were ready with a cloud of blessings to save her.
7
phool se chehre pe hargiz1 aaNch aa sakti na thi
aag bhi paakiiza2 sita ko jala sakti na thi
raam ne ro kar kaha beshak3 hai tu parhezgaar4
haye tera imtehaaN5 kar ke hua huN sharmsaar6

1.under no circumstances 2.virtuous 3.undoubtedly 4.abstinent, observant, virtuous 5.test 6.ashamed

Under no circumstances could fire burn that beautiful/virtuous face.  Even fire could not burn the noble sita.  raam wept and said, ‘surely you are virtuous.  I am ashamed for having doubted/tested you’.

 

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