24-doosra banbaas-shahed

For word meanings and explanatory discussion in English click on the “Roman” or “Notes” tab.  The “Introduction” tab offers a 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.

 

دوسرا بنباس ۔ شاہد

۱

کس واصطے عتاب ہے مجھ پر اے رگھوبر

داسی کی طرح بن کو چلی دھرم سمجھ کر

۲

کیا یاد نہیں تاروں بھری رات میں سونا

آکاش کی اوڑھن تھی، تھا دھرتی کا بچھونا

۳

وہ باغ میں گؤری کا وہ مندر بھی ہے اب یاد

چھپ چھپ کے دعا کی تھی مانگا تھا اشِرواد

۴

توڑی تھی کماں تم نے جو خود آ کے جنکپور

کیا صرف دکھانے کو کہ جوہر ہے یہ بھر پور

۵

لنکا بھی کیا فتح تو مان اپنی دکھانے

مجھ کو دیا دھتکار فقط نام بچانے

۶

میں آگ سے گزری کہ یہ سب جگ کو دکھا دوں

تم نے جو لگایا تھا کلنک اُس کو مِٹا دوں

۷

اب کوکھ بھری ہے یہ تمہارا ہی ہے بچّہ

دنیا یہ سمجھ لے گی کہ اب کون ہے سچّہ

۸

دھوبی کا کہا اگنی پرِکشا سے ہے برتر

میں دوسرے بنباس کو جاتی ہوں سمجھ کر

۹

سیتائنا کا جو بھی کبھی پاٹھ پڑھے گا

منصف ہے اگر تو اِسے انیاے کہے گا

दूसरा बनबास – शाहेद

किस वास्ते इताब है मुझ पर अए रघुबर

दासी की तरह बन को चली धर्म समझ कर

क्या याद नहीं तारौं भरी रात में सोना

आकाश कि औढ़न थी, था धर्ती का बिछोना

वो बाग़ में गौरी का वो मंदिर भी है अब याद

छुप छुप के दुआ की थी, मांगा था अशिर्वाद

तोढी थी कमां तुम ने जो ख़ुद आ के जनकपूर

क्या सिर्फ़ दिखाने को के जौहर है ये भरपूर

लंका भी किया फ़तह तो मान अपनी दिखाने

मुझ को दिया धुतकार फ़क़त नाम बचाने

मैं आग से गुज़्री के ये सब जग को दिखा दूं

तुम ने जो लगाया था कलंक उस को मिटा दूं

अब कोख भरी है ये तुम्हारा हि है बच्चा

दुनिया ये समझ लेगी के अब कौन है सच्चा

धोबी का कहा अग्नी परिक्शा से है बरतर

मैं दूसरे बनबास को जाती हुं समझ कर

सीतायना का जो भी कभी पाठ पढ़ेगा

मुन्सिफ़ है अगर तो इसे अन्याय

 

Click here for background and on any passage for word meanings and explanatory discussion. shahed (1944-living) creator and manager of this website. This short piece is drawn from non-standard versions of the ramayan which are considered later additions. Be that as it may, it is a story widely accepted and tells of the second exile of sita while she was pregnant because a washerman refused to accept his runaway wife who had come back suggesting that he was not like raam. That blot on his reputation caused the exile. The point of this composition is to show the thousands of years of male-centric views in all traditions.
1
kis vaaste1 itaab2 hai mujh par aye raghubar3
daasi4 ki tarah ban5 ko chali dharm6 samajh kar
1.for 2.anger 3.another name of raam 4.maid 5.jungle 6.duty
For what are you angry with me, O, raam. I went you like a maid, to the forest, considering it my duty.

2
kya yaad nahiN taarauN bhari raat meN sona
aakaash1 ki oRhan thi, tha dharti2 ka bichhona  
1.sky 2.earth
Do you even remember that sleeping out under starry skies. The sky was our blanket, the earth our bed.

3
vo baaGh meN gauri1 ka vo mandir bhi hai ab yaad
chhup chhup ke dua ki thi maaNga tha ashirvaad2    
1.godess whose blessing granted a good spouse 2.blessing
Do you even remember the temple of gauri in the garden (of janakpur) where hiding behind bushes you saw me and we both prayed to gauri and asked for her blessing.

4
toRi thi kamaaN1 tum ne jo Khud aa ke janakpur
kya sirf2 dikhaane ko ke jauhar3 hai ye bharpur    
1.bow, the enchanted bow of shiv upon breaking which any contestant could win the hand of sita 2.only 3.abilities, power
You had come to janakpur of your own volition to lift/break the bow. Was it only to show your full power.

5
laNka bhi kiya fatah1 to maan2 apni dikhaane
mujh ko diya dhutkaar3 faqat4 naam bachaane
1.conquer 2.respect, pride, reputation 3.reject 4.only
Did you conquered laNka only to show/prove your pride/status. You rejected me only to save your reputation.

6
maiN aag se guzri1 ke ye sub jug2 ko dikha duN
tum ne jo lagaaya tha kalaNk3 us ko miTa duN   
1.passed through 2.world 3.dis-repute, black mark
I passed through fire to demonstrate to the whole world. I wanted to erase the dark mark/malign accusation that you had placed on me.

7
ab kokh1 bhari hai, ye tumhaara hi hai bachcha
duniya ye samajh le gi ke ab kaun hai sachcha    
1.womb
Now my womb is full, it is your child. The world will know the truth.

8
dhobi ka kaha agni-pariksha1 se hai bartar2
maiN doosre banbaas ko jaati huN samajh kar   
1.trial by fire 2.superior
A washerman in raam’s reign refused to take back his runaway wife accusing her of infidelity and said that he was not like raam to take her back, implying a similar accusation of sita. Thus … you (raam) consider whatever the washerman said to be superior to the trial by fire that I went through. I depart for a second banbaas/exile knowing this.

9
sitaayana1 ka jo bhi kabhi paaTh2 paRhega
munsif3 ha agar to ise anyaay4 kahega    
1.ramayana from sita’s viewpoint 2.recitation, tilaavat 3.just 4.injustice
Now anyone who ever recites the sitayana, if they are just, will consider this injustice.

shahed (1944-living) creator and manager of this website.  This short piece is drawn from non-standard versions of the ramayan which are considered later additions.  Be that as it may, it is a story widely accepted and tells of the second exile of sita while she was pregnant because a washerman refused to accept his runaway wife who had come back suggesting that he was not like raam.  That blot on his reputation caused the exile.  The point of this composition is to show the thousands of years of male-centric views in all traditions.
1
kis vaaste1 itaab2 hai mujh par aye raghubar3
daasi4 ki tarah ban5 ko chali dharm6 samajh kar

1.for 2.anger 3.another name of raam 4.maid 5.jungle 6.duty

For what are you angry with me, O, raam.  I went you like a maid, to the forest, considering it my duty.
2
kya yaad nahiN taarauN bhari raat meN sona
aakaash1 ki oRhan thi, tha dharti2 ka bichhona

1.sky 2.earth

Do you even remember that sleeping out under starry skies.  The sky was our blanket, the earth our bed.
3
vo baaGh meN gauri1 ka vo mandir bhi hai ab yaad
chhup chhup ke dua ki thi maaNga tha ashirvaad2

1.godess whose blessing granted a good spouse 2.blessing

Do you even remember the temple of gauri in the garden (of janakpur) where hiding behind bushes you saw me and we both prayed to gauri and asked for her blessing.
4
toRi thi kamaaN1 tum ne jo Khud aa ke janakpur
kya sirf2 dikhaane ko ke jauhar3 hai ye bharpur

1.bow, the enchanted bow of shiv upon breaking which any contestant could win the hand of sita 2.only 3.abilities, power

You had come to janakpur of your own volition to lift/break the bow.  Was it only to show your full power.
5
laNka bhi kiya fatah1 to maan2 apni dikhaane
mujh ko diya dhutkaar3 faqat4 naam bachaane

1.conquer 2.respect, pride, reputation 3.reject 4.only

Did you conquered laNka only to show/prove your pride/status.  You rejected me only to save your reputation.
6
maiN aag se guzri1 ke ye sub jug2 ko dikha duN
tum ne jo lagaaya tha kalaNk3 us ko miTa duN

1.passed through 2.world 3.dis-repute, black mark

I passed through fire to demonstrate to the whole world.  I wanted to erase the dark mark/malign accusation that you had placed on me.
7
ab kokh1 bhari hai, ye tumhaara hi hai bachcha
duniya ye samajh le gi ke ab kaun hai sachcha

1.womb

Now my womb is full, it is your child.  The world will know the truth.
8
dhobi ka kaha agni-pariksha1 se hai bartar2
maiN doosre banbaas ko jaati huN samajh kar

1.trial by fire 2.superior

A washerman in raam’s reign refused to take back his runaway wife accusing her of infidelity and said that he was not like raam to take her back, implying a similar accusation of sita.  Thus … you (raam) consider whatever the washerman said to be superior to the trial by fire that I went through.  I depart for a second banbaas/exile knowing this.
9
sitayana1 ka jo bhi kabhi paaTh2 paRhega
munsif3 ha agar to ise anyaay4 kahega

1.ramayana from sita’s viewpoint 2.recitation, tilaavat 3.just 4.injustice

Now anyone who ever recites the sitaayana, if they are just, will consider this injustice.

Key Search Words:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *