Bagh-e-Bedil

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.


Qawwali

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.

33 thoughts on “Bagh-e-Bedil”

  1. Dear Sohail,

    This is fascinating and would love to attend. By the way, the mazaar pictured above, that is called Bedil’s, it turns out, is actually certainly not his. A couple of years ago, we ran an article by Syed Naqvi:

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?234195

    Which led to these blogs, which I am sure would be of interest to you:

    http://blogs.outlookindia.com/posts.aspx?ddm=8&kid=102132&kname=Bagh-e-Bedil

    (please read in reverse order from the one they appear on the page)

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  2. Sundeep,

    Sohail is travelling and has asked me to post this as a response (promising a bloody mary as a eward just to post this!):

    **

    While going through the out look article that your friend has quoted i came across this bit

    “Dargah Quli Khan mentions Bedil’s tomb in “Muraqqa’-i Dehli”, but gives no specifics other than it being located in “old Delhi” (dilli-yi kuhna). See Khaliq Anjum’s printed edition: persian text, p.57, urdu trans, p.122-3, and editor’s note on pp. 198-9. In the editor’s note Anjum, like Naim Sahib, points out that Bedil was buried in his house.”

    Dargah Quli Khan, travelled to Delhi after Nadir Shah’s sacking of the city, and his account of the life in Delhi at the time has come to be taken seriously in recent years, since an Urdu and English translation have become available.

    In His days the Old Delhi of today was known as Shahjehanabad or simply Sheher. Dilli-e-Kuhna in his time would perhaps refer to the Delhi of Sher Shah and Humayun and not to Shahjahanabad. The Name with which the old fort was known at that time and continued to be known for long was Quila-e-Kuhna to distinguish it from Quila-e-Mualla (the Red Fort) the sher shahi mosque inside the purana quila is even today referred to in the ASI tablet out side the mosque as Masjid Quila-e-Kuhna.

    What i am suggessting is that the reference in Dargah Quli Khan, could in fact referto the city of Sher Shah and not to Shahjehanabad at all, this would therefore support the claim of the present grave to be a little more valid than your friend would give it credit for.

    xxx

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  3. Sohail,

    In fact, Prof CM Naim very carefully went over this very possibility a couple of years ago about what the reference to Old Delhi then might have meant — as it would certainly include the area around the Old Fort, Zoo, Pragati Maidan et al. And also that in old accounts Bedil’s house is mentioned to be close to the river

    The reason it is still fascinating is because all that we need to establish is the exact location of Bedil’s house, and the earlier course of the river Jamuna, as from all extant accounts he was buried in his house which was, as Shamsur Rahman Faruqi also reports, washed away by the Jamuna in one of her mighty course-changes.

    From what CM Naim himself mentions, the claims about what now is being called the location of Bedil’s tomb actually surfaced only post 1941 when Hasan Nizami saheb translated Dargah Quli Khan’s book into Urdu, and it is pretty much based on, as he Nizami saheb describes in a letter to Dr Abdul Ghani, on one Maulana Shah Sulaiman Sahib [of] Phulwari’s response to his query in his magazine.

    What concerns me more, however, is what Prof Nayanjyot Lahiri reported, viz: “Maulvi Zafar Hasan’s ‘Monuments of Delhi – Delhi Zail’ describes it as an unknown tomb (p. 55, No. 88). Also, that volume mentions that ‘there is no trace of any grave within’ — whereas today, there is a grave!”

    History seems to be getting made all the time, it would seem, but I certainly wish that at least various versions of this history should co-exist till we have more definitive information rather than one version that is clearly disputed by various respected scholars, including Prof Shamsur Rahman Faruqi.

    Prof Narayani Gupta had the best answer when I queried her on it, as she pointed out that the controversy seemed as inconclusive as: “Who is buried in Lal Gumbad in Malviya Nagar? Where is Mohd Tughlaq buried? I do not think you should look for a conclusive answer, but relate this story of the uncertainty, typical of so much in our city’s history!”

    Would love to learn, and read up, more about this

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  4. Dilli sachmuch door ast! Haay! I cannot be in Delhi on 25th Feb. I know of Bedil courtesy Ghalib:

    Asad har jā suḳhan ne t̤arḥ-e bāġh-e tāzah ḍālī hai
    Mujhe rang-e bahār-ījādī-e Bedil pasand āyā

    Mujhe rāh-e suḳhan meñ ḳhauf-e gumrāhī nahīñ Ghālib
    ʿAṣā-e ḳhiẓr-e ṣaḥrā-e suḳhan hai ḳhāmah Bedil kā

    But I know only a handful of Bedil’s shers. This is, of course, quite popular:

    Bedil az kulfat-e-shikast mun’aal
    Bazm-e-hasti dukaan-e-shisagar ast

    (Ghalib wrote a similar sher but I can’t recall it.)

    Here is a terrific Bedil sher with a not-so-terrific translation:

    Fareb-i-ma’rifate Khvurdah buud Bedil-i-maa
    Cho vaa-rasiid yaqiin-haa hamah gumaanii buud

    (Deluded Bedil fondly believed that he apprehended the Truth!
    When the veils were lifted, he found all truths to be mere conjectures.)

    This seems to be apt for the controversy here about Bedil’s tomb. But I never knew that the mysterious structure I stopped often by on Mathura Road was Bagh-e-Bedil! I will visit it the first thing when I am in Delhi. Thank you Sohail.

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  5. The diacritics-heavy Ghalib shers I copy-pasted have certain letters missing. Here are the corrected ones:

    Asad har jā sukḳhan ne t̤arhḥ-e bāġh-e tāzah dḍālī hai
    Mujhe rang-e bahār-ījādī-e Bedil pasand āyā

    Mujhe rāh-e sukhan meñ ḳhauf-e gumrāhī nahīñ Ghālib
    ʿAṣā-e ḳhiẓr-e ṣaḥrā-e sukhan hai khāmah Bedil kā

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  6. The possibility of Bedil’s tomb being where it is referred today may not be entirely rejected or accepted, because largely the contemporary references also suggest in affirmation as also mentioned here. The course of river Yamuna was close to the same location and Red Fort was on the bank of Yamuna, but now it is shifted away. The interesting aspect of the location of Bedil’s tomb is described by fellow Afghan scholars. I remember when Afghan minister and poet-scholar Hanif Balkhi tried to convince me that Bedil’s tomb is in Balkh (Afghanistan); certainly out of his and his fellow Bedil lover’s fanatic obsession.

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  7. Given the various traditions about the location of Bedil’s Mausoleum and given the fact that an event has already been announced at the location that is currently known as the Grave of Bedil, all we can possibly do now is to state at the event that this is popularly believed to be the grave of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, though historians and several other scholars have raised doubts about the claims and that we are not trying to support or oppose this or that position.

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  8. Sohail,

    My purpose of writing to you was not to suggest that something be announced at this celebratory event. When I read your post announcing this event, I was reminded of the controversy and thought it might interest you and some of your readers as well.

    Akhlaq,

    I too have come across references that Bedil’s body was taken to Khwaja Rawash in Kabul and many claim that’s where the real Baagh-e-Bedil is — Ustad Sarahang apparently wanted to be buried there. Why, there are some claims for a grave in Patna as well! So we have not one, but three claims, and it is fitting for it to be at several points in time and space simultaneously…

    I believe that in Jerusalem all the Stations of the Cross and other famous places were “detected” by a later pious queen who went there and just intuited where they were, and had big things built there, and people adopted them gratefully, and that was that…

    The Afghans, however, do have a special love for Bedil. I remember coming across an account of a war of words between two Bedil poetry socities run by Afghan cab drivers in Washington:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06191/704786-42.stm

    The contemporary Indian references are more interesting and I recently corresponded with Prof CM Naim again on this and he confirms pretty much what I wrote earlier that what we do know about Bedil’s mazaar for sure is only the following:

    Bedil was reportedly buried inside the house where he had lived.

    That he did not own the house — it was gifted to him.

    That his grave was well-known for a while, and annual gatherings were held there.

    That the house was not within the walled city, but not very far from it either.

    That it was destroyed by a flood and a change in Jamuna’s course.

    That the Old City (Shahr-i-Kuhna) was as thriving as Shahjahanabad or the New City (Shahr-i-Nau) only until 1753. The importance of Dargah Quli Khan’s account lies in showing us how little had changed, after Nadir’s plunder in 1739, in the life of the rich and the poor of the twin cities. Between 1753 and 1772, the two cities were repeatedly plundered by various invaders, Afghans, Rohillas, Jats, and Marathas, the worst happening in January 1760, when the Afghans and Rohillas burned down the Old City. In 1847, Syed Ahmad Khan wrote: “Old Delhi used to be to the west of this fort [the Old Fort], but now is entirely in ruin. Even ruins don’t exist any longer. Just the piles of a few building and some broken down gateways.”

    In other words, by 1770s, what was not flooded outside the walled city was burned down and demolished in other ways. How could there exist in that rubble any exact memory in the 1900s of a simple grave inside a modest house, whose owner, according to Dargah Quli Khan, was less interested in poetry and much more in selling aphrodisiacs reportedly created by Bedil?

    I’m actually glad that a ‘grave’ was claimed to have been found and if nothing else it allows us to mark a space for the great poet in the city he lived in. But I would be happier if it is also in some way made clear to visitors to this “mazaar” that it is an imagined approximation of the site. It could well have been “reconstructed” almost anywhere in the Shahr-i-Kuhna of the 18th century, depending upon land availability, with the same results.

    The story of how this site itself was “found” (reclaimed?) and the “mazaar” (re) constructed would by itself be a story worth narrating to visitors to the mazaar. If there are more definitive indicators other than those above, they could of course be mentioned and I am sure that by itself would prompt many to look up those sources and lead to an increased interest.

    I have been meaning to also look up Bashiruddin’s Waqayaat-e-dar-ul-hukoomat-e-Dehli, 1919, republished by the Urdu Academy but do not have access to it and will be grateful to anyone who does.

    My happiness would be perfect if someone brought out in India decently priced and suitably done editions of Bedil’s writings. At least of his ghazals. If nothing else, inexpensive reprints of what the Iranians, Tajiks, and Afghans have already produced.

    All the best to Sohail for this event and I look forward to possibly attending it.

    Sundeep

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  9. Waqeyat-e-Daar ul Hukoomat Dehli has been reprinted and should be available,

    It would be great if this event could trigger an interest in Bedil.

    a recent book on Bedil with translation in Urdu of a selection of his poetry has been published recently and will be released on the 25th.

    so hopefully there will be some movement in this direction as well.

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    1. Dear Sohail
      ASAK
      I want to purchase the the book on Bedil with Urdu translation. Will you please let me know the name of the book, author and publisher. I would be thankful
      to you for this help.
      With love
      rahmath

      Like

  10. Sundeep,
    I agree with your view and what CM Naim has written, more precisely as you say: “I’m actually glad that a ‘grave’ was claimed to have been found and if nothing else it allows us to mark a space for the great poet in the city he lived in.”

    Indeed, most important is to rediscover Bedil’s genious as a poet and philosopher, and to publish his works lying in manuscript form.

    The ‘re-discovery’ and reconstruction of present mazar was done in haste by Khwaja Hasan Nizami in early 50s on the arrival of Afghanistan’s king Zahir Shah.

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    1. Akhlaque Ahan Ansari,
      The ‘re-discovery’ and reconstruction of present mazar , Though it was in haste, but the reconstruction of Bedil’s Mazar has provided a historical sense amongst the lovers of Bedil. His poetry need to be published and made popular with actual deliberation. Publication should not be for the sake of Publication only, as you had been doing. Your recent publication on Bedil in nothing but the reprint of Prof. Nabi Hadi’s works. How would you defend reprinting his original works in your name and writing an introduction to it. You must understand the writings of Prof. Hadi Hasan and the poetry of Bedil.
      you are really mistaken by your ability! Read and do some original works. Copy and pasting will damage you more than the damage you had been doing to the Persian Literature. Do some original works if you are interested in Bedil!

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  11. Is it indeed proven that Bedil’s body was shifted to Khwaja Rawash in Kabul where his real grave lies?!

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    1. @manash
      You say ” where his real grave lies”.
      If it is already accepted as the “real grave:
      there would really be no need to prove
      if and when Bedil’s bodybe was shifted to Khwaja Rawash
      because without Bedil’s body in it,
      the grave can not have become the “real Grave”.

      in other words what is your question?

      Like

  12. Oops!! Okay Sohail, I am simply asking is it true the body was shifted to Khwaja Rawash? Or does he lie in the grave in Delhi? I hope I haven’t made a blunder this time :)

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  13. @Manash

    what i have been able to gather from the many, rather informative comments on this post is the following.

    According to Dargah Quli Khan, (someone who visited Delhi twice, once before and once sometime after Nadir Shah’s sacking of Delhi) Bedil was buried in his own house, in shehr-e-kuhna ( old city)- the then name of Humayun and Sher shah’s Delhi.

    According to Dargah Quli Khan the house and the grave were washed away when the river changed its course, the house and the grave would, therefore, have been not too far away from the river.

    The present grave, it has been said,was identified as the grave of Bedil by Khwaja Hasan Nizami, based on a letter he recieved from Maulana Shah Sulaiman Saheb from Phulvari.

    Prof Nayanjyot Lahiri has pointed out that “Maulvi Zafar Hasan’s ‘Monuments of Delhi identifies the structure as an unknown tomb without any grave.

    The grave therefore is a later addition
    there is a tradition according to which bedil was buried in Azeemabad (Patna)
    still another tradition claims that bedil’s remains were exhumed and taken to afghanistan to be buried there.

    So based on all this one can perhaps say that

    If Dargah Quli Khan is right, there would be no trace of his house or his grave left now and it could have been located almost anywhere in the capital of Humayun and Sher Shah. At the site that is claimed by some to be his grave or anywhere near the old fort, perhaps more to its east.

    All this, however, is conjucture.
    what is known is that after the 1941 authentication by Khwaja Hasan Nizami and after the ministry of External affairs asking a visiting dignitary from Tajikistan to put a Plaque outside the structure, this monument has acquired official sanction.

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  14. I ,being a student of urdu poetry ,especially ghazals, am one of the admirers of Ghalib & Iqbal.while I have been looking for urdu translation of Ghalib’s persian ghazals , i am also keen to look for Bedil’s urdu tranlation .Can someone pls help /guide me as to how I can manage this?

    Like

    1. @ zamir Hussain try contacting Dr Akhlaq Ahmad at

      akhlaq.ahan@gmail.com

      he might be able to help you, he has just edited a volume on Mirza Bedil, I don;t really know of any Urdu translations of Bedil in circulation

      Like

  15. yak sukhan niist kih khaamoshi azaan bihtar niist
    niist ‘ilmey kih faraamoshi azaan bihtar niist

    @ satyanarayana, please translate as well, my knowledge of Persian is less than iffy.

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    1. This is a sh’er by ‘Urfii Shiraazii; I’ve given it here because of it’s resonance with Bedil and the mazmuun of silence echoing throughout his works:

      There’s no word better than silence
      there’s no knowledge better than forgetting

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  16. For a long time Mehrauli was called shahr-i Kuhna (old city) by people living in Shahjahanabad and other Delhi locations.

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    1. Yes, Mehrauli was the first city and al the subsequent locations were new in comparison, in fact, shahjahanabad was refered to as Shehr-e-nau for quite a while, and the shehr-e-kuhna that Dargah Haider Quli khan talks about, in the 18th Century, most certainly referes to city that Sher Shah and Humayun had built and not the old Delhi of today, for the Old Delhi of today was the “Sheher” or Shahjahanabad during Haider Quli’s time.

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  17. @ Ahmad Ali Ansari

    I do not think that Dr. Akhlaque Ahmad Aahan has ever made a claim that he has authored the book on Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, in fact the book itself very clearly ascribes authorship to profrssor Ali Hadi and Dr Ahan’s name appears as muratab (editor, compiler)

    These are rather grand charges that you are leveling against Dr. Akhlaque. I do not think any individual, no matter how talented, much less Dr Akhlaque, who according to you specialises in plagarism, has the capacity to destory or do serious harm to a literature as rich and diverse as persian literature.

    I would also be a little careful in claiming that all his work is a cut and paste job. I think you should be ready to substantiate your claims if asked to do so or desist from using Kafila for making such unsubstantiated claims.

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  18. @Ahmad Ali Ansari
    I have never heard your name and I am really not aware of you. Are you a Persian faculty or student? Apparantly you seem to be a fraud or impostor with fictitious identity. Since, You have made grave charges against me, you should divulge your identity and address as my council is desperately looking forward to serve you legal notice, which will subsequently provide you the chance to substantiate your allegations in the court of law.

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  19. Most famous couplet of Bedil hirs qane neest bedil varna der kar e hayat, har ke ma darkar darem aksarash darkar neest. Aurangzeb asked his sons to follow this couplet.

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  20. @ Shivam

    I had already forwarded the couplet to Dr Akhlaque Ahmad “Ahan” for his help in translating the couplet but after your “please translate” I thought of calling him up and asking for a translation.

    The gist of what I have understood is as follows

    “Bedil” our greed to for material posessions has no end, though the needs of life

    have scant use for most of these accouterments

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    1. thanks for publishing this work in so many volumes.. I will star the journey with volume 1, since I was only a student of persian for 1 year, and can appreciate the persian language used by bedil. This book will be perfect for my use.

      I am about to purchase vol 1.. i am very intrigued by Bedil since I learned that Ghalib was influenced by him, and your book is the answer to my intrigue

      Like

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