Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pioneers of the Dakhni

Pioneers of the Dakhni
By Narendra Luther

In my last article I gave a summary of the origin and development of the Dakhni language and its decline to a mere dialect.

This time I would like to acquaint the readers with some of the pioneers of the language.

European Researchers

Before that it is good to acknowledge that Europeans uncovered much of what we know about this language in the 17th century. According to Prof. Rafia Sultana, Otto Pirsperson ‘detected’ the Dakhni language in the south. His work was carried further by scholars like Springer, Blumehart, and Ethe who made use of the libraries of rulers of Avadh. Bengal and Deccan. Beams, Hornley, and Jules Bloch showed that Dakhni was widely prevalent in the South. Their interest is evidenced by the establishment of the Royal Asiatic Society. Even before the establishment of the Fort William College in Calcutta in 1800, The Fort St. George at Chennai was imparting the knowledge of Indian language to the officers of the East India Company.

Of these, special mention must be made of Garcon deTassy, a Frenchman who edited a volume of Wali Dakkani’s anthology and translated it into French in 1823. He also delivered a series of lectures on the subject in France between 1850 and 1859. In his ‘History of Indian Literature’ he mentions about the existence of 200 writers of Dakhni. Graham Bailey wrote the first History of Urdu literature in English. In his slim volume he also translated some leading Dakhni poets into English.

Work in Hyderabad

The pioneering work of the Europeans which established the separate identity of Dakhni and also its status as the ‘ancestor’ of Urdu was taken up in early 20th century by a group of scholars from Hyderabad viz., Moulvi Abdul Haq, Shamshullah Quadri, Mohiuddin Quadri Zor, Sarwari and Naseeruddin Hashmi. Their researches contradicted some of the earlier theories and give Dakhni its due place of pride.

In the beginning Dakhni was called Hindi or Hindavi. Ferishta the historian says that the official language of the southern sultanates was Hindi—meaning Dakhni.

The rise and development of Dakhni can be divided into two periods i.e. is the Bahmani (14th-15th Centuries), and Bijapur- Golconda Sultanates (16th-17th Centuries). The post-Golconda period was of a mere survival of the language for some time.

Sufism and Dakhni

Dakhni was used originally as a vehicle for the propagation of Sufism in the South. That tradition started with Khaja Bande Nawaz Gesu Daraz whose Miraj-ul-Ashaqeen was a prose treatise on mysticism. However, he had come from Delhi in 1390 AD at the age of 80 and so cannot fairly be credited with making a contribution to Dakhni at that age. Nizami who is considered the first major poet of Dakhni, wrote his epic poem called ‘Kadam Rao Padam Rao’ around 1460. By that time the language had developed a great deal. It is interesting to note that his vocabulary is full of Sanskritic words. Shah Miranji Shamshul Ushaq of Bijapur is another mystic poet. He wrote two long poems- Khush-nama and Khush-naghz are full of pathos. Their main character, a young girl has an inquiring soul whose spiritual thirst remains unquenched despite the soothing advice of her spiritual mentor. Miranji’s son Shah Burhanuddin Janam also wrote long mystical poems. He calls his language Gujri not Hindi or Hindavi which was the name given to Dakhni by others. His language too is full of Sanskrit diction both ‘tatsams (original Sanskrit words in unaltered form) and ‘tatbhavs’ (in slightly changed form). Talking of the control of the senses, Janam uses the allegory of ‘five animals in the body’:

‘Sight is kite; Ear is snake; Nose is peacock; Tongue is dog; Lust is scorpion’. (Here the nature of different animals is compared to the senses. For example, the kite snatches, and the snake’s sense of hearing, and peacock’s sense of smell is said to be very strong). He advises that one should ‘tie them up’ in order to get absorbed in the contemplation of God.

He further says that there are five thieves, which one should beware:

Anger is the thief of wisdom; Arrogance the thief of knowledge; Lassitude the thief of the prayer; Hunger the thief of fasting, and Greed the thief of holy discourse. He adds that it does not matter whether the devotee sits in a mosque or a temple so long as he is absorbed in the contemplation of God because both these places radiate His presence.

Nizami Bidri produced the first literary work in Dakhni about the year 1460 and another writer Qureshi Bidri translated the ‘Kok Shashtra’ into Dakhni under the title of ‘Bhog Bal’ in 1520 AD.

Bijapur School

After the Bahmanis, Bijapur and Golconda emerged as the two contemporary centres of Dakhni. Both had rulers which not only patronnised letters but also who are writers and poets themselves. Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1626) was perhaps the most prominent Bijapuri ruler in that regard. He was interested in classical Indian music and wrote Nauras Nama when he was not yet 30. It has 59 songs in different ragas. It is interesting to note that he starts his work with an invocation to Saraswati. He calls himself the son of Saraswati who is the goddess of learning, and Ganesh the god of all beginnings. One of his songs says:

‘Sarada Ganesh Mata Pita, Tum mano nirmal beeb spatik sisi taas
Ibrahim Gupt ghesu ab nawaj parghat keeno dhani meri raas’

(Saraswati and Ganesh -- my mother and my father! You are two transparent crystals. Ibrahim was lying in oblivion. It was by your grace that he became famous. He is therefore proud of his good luck).

One of the great poets of Dakhni was Abdul, the court poet of Ibrahim Adil Shah himself. His literary work is called ‘Ibrahim Nama’. The book is about the life and grandeur of the court of his patron. He discusses the relationship of words and their meanings with a through background of Indian aesthetics.

After this synoptic view of Dakhni under the Bahmanis and in the Bijapur, we will move on to Golconda, which represented the high point of the development of the Dakhni both in prose, and in poetry.

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