As part of the Festival of Spiritual Music being organised in February 2010, we are trying to rekindle interest in Mirza Abdul Qadir “Bedil’ one of the most significant poet of Persian from India. In fact Khusrau, Bedil and Ghalib are rated very highly in persian speaking countries. Khusrau and Ghalib need no introduction but Bedil has almost totally been forgotten in the Land of His Birth. Mirza Bedil is buried roughly opposite the dargah of Matka Peer, that all of you must be familiar with because of Bundoo biryaani wala.
We have got one of the finest qawwals of Delhi, Chand Nizami, and his group to specially prepare a few ghazals of Mirza Bedil and they will be presented in a qawwali mehfil at the shrine of Mirza Bedil on Feb 25,at 6.30 pm.
Mirza Bedil is rarely sung or recited in India and this will be a rare occassion, to the best of our knowledge, but for a few of his ghazals and despite the very deep influence of Sufi thought on his poetry, he is almost never sung even by qawwals. So even this is going to be a first. If this mehfil of qawwali is successful, we will also succeed in introducing this great poet to the families of qawwals and through them hope to revive interest in Bedil.
English translation of the text being sung will be provided at the concert. Do come and bring some money with you to present to the qawwals – Shadab Faridi Nizami, Sohrab Faridi Nizami and party. Our resources are limited we have made some arrangements for fees to the qawwals but they are inadequate and so this request. Come listen and if you like the music and the singing the customary method to express your appreciation is by placing some money in front of the lead singer.
I am sure you will join us in this initiative to rediscover the genius of Bedil about whom Ghalib said:
tarz-e-Bedil mein Rekhta Kehna
Asad Ullah Khan Qayamat hai
(Roughly meaning, to compose poetry in the style of Bedil is a Herculean task.)
The event will be preceded by the release of “Mirza Bedil”, the recently published work on the life and work of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, authored by Professor Nabi Hadi, with a preface by Dr Akhlaq Ahmad ‘Aahan’, who has also edited the volume. Given below is a selection of text by Dr Aahan, translated into English by him and me.
Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil
From the late 13th century, with the great Sufi poet Yamin-ud-Din Khusrau Persian began to replace Turkic. And by the middle of the 16th century, became the first language of the Mughal court and the educated elite. The next century saw the rise of some of the finest writers of Persian verse that the sub continent had seen, the tallest among them undoubtedly was Bedil.
Mirza Abdul Qadir “Bedil” (1644-1720) was the unquestioned king of Sabk-e-Hindi (The Indian style of writing Persian). Bedil’s impact on Rekhta was acknowledged by the great poets who came into prominence during the next two centuries, inluding Ghalib and Iqbal and both tried to follow his footsteps.
Bedil, Ghalib and the great Master Amir Khusrau, (credited with developing the Qawwali ) continue to be rated highly in Persian speaking areas, specially Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Bedil’s father and uncles were officers in the Mughal Army and suffered the consequences of siding with prince Shuja against Aurangzeb after the death of Shahjahan. Bedil’s family was uprooted and he was to eventually settle down in Delhi where he died at age 74, far away from his birth place Patna
Through his uncle Bedil had come in touch with prominent Sufis of the times and lived like one himself. Despite a large body of followers from among the courtiers and the elite of Delhi he kept his distance from the Mughal Court.
He wrote more than a 100,000 couplets including Ghazals, panegyrics, quatrains and close to 4000 Rubais and several Masnavis aside from several texts in prose.
Qaul (Arabic) is an “utterance”. The practice of chanting qauls at a Mehfil-e-Sama’a where only daf (tambourine) could be played to keep the beat, gradually developed into the Qawwali.
Qawwâli is essentially a form of Sufi devotional music popular across the Indian subcontinent, with a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines it has gained mainstream popularity.
The qawwali singers, known as qawwals consist normally of a group of two or three rhythmists, a lead singer, a second and/or a third lead and others who clap vigourously in time with the beat.
Some authorities credit Khusrau with the invention of the form, while others believe that it evolved gradually from the Qaul through three generations of Chishti Sufis. Qutub-ud-Din Bakhteyaar Kaaki, Baba Fareed Ganj-e-Shakar and Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Auliya.
It is Nizam-ud-din’s disciple Amir Khusrau who is credited with the text and musical compositions that qawwal’s usually sing, especially at Sufi Shrines. Khusrau is believed also to have fused Persian influences with Indian musical traditions in the late 13th century to create Qawwali as we know it today.
The poetry is implicitly understood to be spiritual in its meaning, even though the lyrics can sometimes sound secular or even hedonistic. The central themes of qawwali are love, devotion and longing (of man for the Divine).
One of the least known Dargahs of Delhi is the Bagh-e-Bedil in the heart of New Delhi. Situated adjacent to the National Stadium opposite Pragati Maidan on Mathura Road it is a beautiful, simple shrine surrounded by an unkempt forest, even its ‘urs’ being largely overshadowed by that of other Sufi saints of Delhi, notably those of Nizammudin Auliya and Amir Khusrau.
The songs which constitute the qawwali repertoire are mostly in Urdu and Punjabi but this evening in a unique collaborative experiment with Dr Akhlaque Ahmad ‘Aahan’ , Sohail Hashmi, the conceptualiser of this event and Ustad Chand Nizami and his group, who have specially learned these verses in Persian we bring you possibly the first ever recitation and singing of Bedils poetry in the Qawwali form.