A glimpse of 5 centuries of Amir Khusraw’s poetry


The British Library has one of many largest collections of manuscripts of the Persian works of Amir Khusraw of Delhi (who died in 1325). There are round 50 manuscripts, listed within the Ethé, Rieu, and Ross and Brown catalogues, in addition to just a few within the Delhi Persian Assortment, courting from the Fifteenth century to the Nineteenth century, together with some early compilations of his collected poetry (kulliyat), choices of ghazals, and lengthy narrative poems (masnavis).

An eclectic vary of codices from luxurious royal copies to pedestrian books might be discovered right here, many with seals and inscriptions by house owners, and colophons by numerous calligraphers, and illustrations from numerous faculties of portray. This wealthy assortment highlights, on the one hand, the large corpus of the poet’s works in many alternative kinds and literary genres, and then again, the daunting drawback of compiling customary and full editions of his poems.

Amir Khusraw, a medieval Persian poet who was a lot admired and skim in Persianate societies, is usually written out of the classical canon in our instances. A grasp of each current poetic type, the poet notably distinguished himself in his mastery of courtly and devotional panegyric and love lyrics. His output was prolific in these kinds, and in accordance with Dawlatshah writing within the late Fifteenth-century in his biographical dictionary, Tazkirat al-shu‘ara, bibliophiles on the Timurid court docket gave up making an attempt to gather all his verses. This continues to be the destiny of modern-day students who work on the Amir Khusraw’s poetry.

There are a selection of manuscripts of Amir Khusraw’s works courting from the second half of the Fifteenth century to the very starting of the seventeenth within the type of kulliyat, i.e. his complete corpus of poems that was obtainable at particular locations and moments of time. A number of the manuscripts on this group, together with others described beneath, share a number of codicological options and most of the copies have been produced in Herat.

The writing in them is small, metres of particular person poems are recognized in some circumstances, and the margins comprise poems with the intention to maximize each little bit of house. Certainly one of these (IO Islamic 338), which was copied in Delhi ca. 1603, was as soon as a part of the library of Tipu Sultan – who by the way had not less than six different copies of works by Amir Khusraw in his assortment.

The opening to Baqiyah-i naqiyah, Amir Khusraw’s fourth Divan on this copy of his collected works. Credit score: British Library IO Islamic 338, f. 337v

The earliest kulliyat manuscripts additionally included his narrative poems, since Amir Khusraw was additionally celebrated for his quintet (Khamsah) modelled on Nizami’s personal set of verse romances of the identical title. No slavish imitator of his predecessor, Amir Khusraw modified the plots of well-known romances resembling Layla and Majnun, Khusraw and Shirin, and Hasht Bihisht. Dawlatshah additionally mentions that the Timurd prince Baysunghur (1397-1433) used to choose the Khamsah of Amir Khusraw to Nizami’s.

In evaluating Khusraw’s Khamsah comprising 18,000 verses to Nizami’s comprising 28,000, Dawlatshah writes, “It’s superb how in some expressions [Khusraw] is long-winded and in some concise; the conciseness, rhetoric, and eloquence are charming.” Whereas Baysunghur’s brother, the amir Ulugh Beg, most popular Nizami’s Khamsah, the 2 would argue and examine particular person verses within the two works.

Dawlatshah provides, “The particular meanings and subtleties of Amir Khusraw’s thrilling poetry kindles a hearth in folks’s minds and shakes the muse of the fortitude of lovers.” On this Timurid milieu, an unillustrated Khamsah (Add. 24983) was copied in Herat by the grasp calligrapher Muhammad ‘Ali Samarqandi for the library of Sultan Husayn Bahadur Khan Bayqara (who died in 1506), which subsequently belonged to the Mughal Imperial Library.

Dedication to Sultan Husayn Bayqara within the centre with a listing of the contents spherical the sting. By the point the manuscript was accomplished in 1511, the Sultan had been useless for six years. Credit score: British Library Add. 24983, f. 2r

One of many kulliyat manuscripts, dated 923/1517 (Add. 21104) is furnished with 17 illustrations, a few of which have been added or touched up later. BW Robinson tentatively steered that as a result of not so “simply recognisable fashion” of the work, it was one in all a bunch of illustrated quintets in all probability originating in Transoxiana or Khurasan.

Lovers in a backyard, from Amir Khusraw’s Divan Ghurrat al-kamal. Credit score: British Library Add.21104, f.251r)

The earliest manuscript of Amir Khusraw’s Khamsah dated 1421 (Or.13802) was truly copied within the margins of Nizami’s quintet, indicating that the texts have been typically learn collectively. It bears the Gujarati inscription of a later Parsi proprietor and is barely partially preserved.

Khusraw and Shirin enthroned. Credit score: British Library Or. 13802, f. 119v

One other such illustrated manuscript (IO Islamic 387) the place each quintets seem collectively is believed so far from the late Fifteenth or early sixteenth century and is in a lot better situation. In Amir Khusraw’s model of the Alexander romance, A’inah-ʼi Iskandari, Nizami’s philosopher-king is reworked into an intrepid explorer and scientist.

Iskandar crossing the ocean in a ship of European sort, from Aʼinah-ʼi Iskandari. Credit score: BL IO Islamic 387, f.466r

This work additionally exists in a stand-alone copy (Add. 24,054) apparently dated 885/1479. Different poems from the quintet have been additionally copied on their very own with none work, resembling two copies of Matla‘ al-anvar and 4 copies of Hasht Bihisht. Three of Amir Khusraw’s versified romances on modern themes, which aren’t a part of his quintet, additionally had a readership.

Together with an 18th-century copy of the Nuh Sipihr there are seven copies of the Qiran al-Sa‘dayn, one in all which, dated 921/1515 at Herat (Add. 7753), was copied by the well-known calligrapher Sultan Muhammad Khandan, whereas a number of others are 18th- or Nineteenth-century humbler manuscripts that have been clearly learn by non-elite readers.

The opening of Amir Khusraw’s Qiran al-saʻdayn, copied at Herat in 1515 by the well-known calligrapher Sultan Muhammad Khandan. Credit score: British Library Add. 7753, f. 1v)

There are additionally three copies of the favored Indo-Persian romance, Khizr Khan va Duvalrani, also called ‘Ashiqah, one in all which (Or.335) has some uncommon illustrations, such because the uncommon depiction of the beheading of the prince on the finish of the story.

Prince Khizr Khan murdered on order of the Delhi Sultan Qutb al-Din Mubarak. From Khizr Khan va Duvalrani, dated 982/1574. Credit score: British Library Or.335, f.142v)

Makes an attempt to gather and produce massive copies of Amir Khusraw’s poetry ceased for probably the most half within the Safavid and Mughal intervals when extra copies of choices of his non-narrative poems have been made, particularly of the 5 Divans that marked the totally different levels of his growth as a poet.

Presently the ghazal had turn into the privileged poetic type, which solely elevated the recognition of Amir Khusraw’s love lyrics. Among the many hottest of a dozen or so copies of poems from his Divans is the Ghurrat al-Kamal that features a lengthy partly autobiographical preface adopted by copies of his Vasat-i Hayat. A very nice Timurid copy of his Divan (IO Islamic 512) additionally consists of the poems of Hasan Sijzi and Jami within the margins.

The colophon of the Divan of Amir Khusraw within the centre, and poems of Jami within the margins. Credit score: British Library IO Islamic 512, ff. 618v-619r)

The big selection on this group of manuscripts is because of the truth that some have been ready for Mughal patrons resembling Bayram Khan, others circulated amongst Ottoman Turkish readers. One other belonged to the library of a Qadiriya Sufi order in Bijapur, and not less than one (IO Islamic 2470) was ready for Robert Watherston, a British officer in India.

The ultimate web page and colophon of a variety from Amir Khusraw’s divans commissioned by Robert Watherston in 1790. Credit score: British Library IO Islamic 2470, f.91r)

Along with his poetry, an instance of Amir Khusraw’s prose exists in a single voluminous assortment of epistolographic writings, I’jaz-i Khusravi. The manuscript dated 1697-8 (IO Islamic 4714) was calligraphed by Anup Rai and has the seal of 1 Qutbuddin Bahadur Jang.

In lieu of a whole bibliography or database of the manuscripts of Amir Khusraw, the British Library assortment is a wonderful sampling that gives a wealthy historical past of the copying and readership of the poet’s collected and particular person works throughout 5 centuries. The manuscripts have been produced and circulated within the Persianate world, the inscriptions and seals exhibiting their sojourn in essential centres of inventive manufacturing resembling Herat, Shiraz, Istanbul, and Delhi, in addition to provincial Indian cities resembling Ramnagar in Uttar Pradesh and Rohinkhed in Maharashtra.

At instances, the archives additionally reveal an thrilling historical past of use of a few of these manuscripts within the early twentieth century by famend students resembling M Wahid Mirza, whose pioneering scholarship on Amir Khusraw which was initially his PhD thesis on the College of London remains to be the authoritative e book on the topic. Primarily based on the borrowing slip pasted into the again of IO Islamic 51, which dates from 866-7/1462, the manuscript was even checked out and despatched to Aligarh in 1935.

A number of different libraries within the UK have smaller collections of Amir Khusraw manuscripts which can be listed within the FIHRIST catalogue. A number of the poet’s verses are additionally present in quite a few anthologies of poetry by a number of poets that have been compiled throughout the identical centuries.

It is usually noteworthy that there isn’t a proof of his Hindavi poems on this assortment, which belies the state of affairs in modern South Asia the place he’s celebrated for these verses that have been in all probability transmitted in an oral custom or are apocryphal. With respect to his Persian physique of labor, the philological drawback shouldn’t be of traces or complete poems being added by later poets, as within the case with Firdawsi’s Shahnamah or Hafiz’s Divan, however it’s that Amir Khusraw simply composed a substantial amount of poetry.

This text first appeared on the British Library’s Asian and African Research weblog.


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