Amir Khusrau

Nizamuddin had once said that if religion allowed it, Khusrau and he should be buried together.
They lie meters apart.

A Divine Celebration

About 16 days after Id-ul-fitr, people in and around Delhi take part in another festive occasion they call the Satrahvin Sharif – literally Holy Seventeenth. This is the Urs or death anniversary of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the favourite companion of 12th century Saint Nizamuddin Auliya. Thousands of people throng the twin Dargah (tomb) and offer their nazrana (of flowers, chadurs and sweets), say the fatehas (oblation), tie threads of mannat (vow) on the tomb’s jali, or just sit there listening to ecstatic Qawwalis. There is also Charaghan (illumination with lamps) inside the tomb, and outside, everyone makes merry in a colourful fete, which goes on for three to four days.

Khusrau darya prem ka, ulti wa ki dhaar
Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar

Oh Khusrau, the river of love

Runs in strange directions.

One who jumps into it drowns,

And one who drowns, gets across.

Hazrat Amir Khusrau and Nizam Auliya

(The greatest love story ever told)

Hazrat Amir Khusrau also mentioned as “The parrot of India” was a classical poet known to be associated with more than seven royal courts of rulers of Delhi Sultanate was born as Abul Hasan Yameenuddin in Patiyali village of modern-day Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh in 1253, to Amir Saifuddin Turk Lachin  Mahmood, a Turkish soldier from Balkh, and an Indian woman. At the age of eight, Abdul accompanied his father to the khanqah (place for Sufi gatherings) of Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. At the door of which, the young boy composed :

Tu an Shah-e-ke bar aiwan-e-qasrat

Kabutar gar nashinad baz garded

Gharib-e mustanande baradar amad

Be ayat andar un ya baz gardad

You are such a mighty King

that if a pigeon sits in your palace, it turns into a hawk.

An outsider and a man of need has reached your doorstep,

please let him know whether he should come in, or go away.

Nizamuddin Auliya, who is known to have supernatural powers then sent him a verse as response, via a disciple:

Biya yet andarun marde haqiqat

Kibama yak nafas hamraz gardad

Agar ablah buwad an mard nadan

Azan rahe ki amad baz gardad

The person who knows the truth may come inside

so that we may exchange divine secrets for a moment.

If this person is ignorant, he should return

on the same path he has come from

After this famous spiritual exchange, the saint accepted him as his mureed — his seeker. Gradually, the two became inseparable.

The Khanqah, where Nizam Auliya lived, was the home of faith The nobleman and the courtier would seek peace here. The court poet of  sultans, Amir Khusro, would come to this khanqah to visit his soul:  Nizamuddin Auliya. Master and disciple would sit together for hours on  the banks of the Labia that flowed past the khanqah, lost in  conversation. The khanqah is still the home of hope, the home of faith. Nizamuddin Auliya was Amir Khusro’s soul. They shared a relationship which was par excellence. They were together in this world and are together forever.

(Hazrat Amir Khusrau in the comfort of his master)

Hazrat Khusrau is remembered throughout the Persian, Urdu and Hindustani speaking world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia as a most beloved poet. His works continue to form a part of living culture and arts, and his compositions are heard in musical traditions across half the globe. He is also venerated as a highly loved and revered saint. Hence the title ‘Hazrat’ attached to his name.

Khusrau and his master Nizamuddin Auliya

Invention of Sitar

(Seh: three, tar: strings)

Amir Khusrau is also credited for being the inventor of the classic musical instrument sitar. The legend goes that the times of Khiljis was marked by tremendous political unrest nationwide. Due to continuous on going fights for the successor to the throne, Khusrau felt the need to modify the ancient Veena (which was difficult to carry) to a more portable alternative.

Although its exact origins is still a matter of dispute among historians, it is believed that sitar originates from the Persian word “seh” meaning three and “taar” meaning strings. Also some of the specialised musical terms for different sitar techniques and styles tend to be words from the Persian language, pointing to a possible Persianised adaptation of an earlier Indian lute.

Amir’s love for his sitar is predominant as a lot of travel records of the era show a musician holding his sitar in his hand throughout. It is also evident from the fact that a lot of his qawwalis have a strong sitar base and are said to be best accompanied by the sitar overtones.

Qual and Qawwali

(a devotional music form of the Sufis in the Indian subcontinent)

Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay

Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay

Prem bhatee ka madhva pilaikay

You’ve taken away my looks, my identity, by just a glance.

By making me drink the wine of love-potion,

You’ve intoxicated me by just a glance

Many new genres of music have evolved in our contemporary times, and have captivated music lovers. With the young generation preferring these new forms of music, there is talk of the qawwalis being left behind. The assumption is misguided. The qawwali is an unrivaled realm of music, uniquely deep and soulful. It cannot be compared with the forms of modern music, whether Western or Eastern. The qawwali is a spiritual practice, a divine art. It will always find a passionate audience. The qawwali, when rendered in its full glory, tugs at our soul. It is a medium of meditation. It is a medium to go into trance. Such is the power of a qawwali. It has the power to raise the self.

Main to piya say naina lada aayi ray

Ghar naari kanwari kahay so karay

Main to piya say naina lada aayi ray

Hey, I’ve just had an affair with my darling,

Don’t care what the neighbourhood girls say;

Just had an affair with my darling.

The genre of the qawwali goes back 700 years.

In the realm of Sufiana music, it is believed that Hazrat Amir Khusrau invented the qawwali as we know it today. His kalaams continue to be recited by the qawwals in the ‘sama’ mehfils of the dargahs of Sufis. The ‘sama’ refers to the environment of devotional ascendency created by the qawwals, where all those who are present experience a lifting of the spirit unto the Divine. From his spiritual mentor, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Hazrat Khusrau learnt that the richness of the spirit was of far greater importance.

Saturated in his reverence for Hazrat Nizamuddeen Auliya, Hazrat Khusrau once wrote a ‘kasida’ in the praise of his Pir.

Legend has it that the highly loved Sufi Pir was so overjoyed on  listening to this, that he asked Hazrat Amir Khusru to ask for anything  he wanted. Hazrat Khusrau is therefore also regarded as the “Father of Qawwali ”.

Some of the verses from his famous qawwali (zeehal-e-miskeen) are-

Zehaal-e-miskeen makun taghaful

Duraye naina banaye batiyan

Do not overlook my misery,

by blandishing your eyes and weaving tales,

Ke taab-e-hijran nadaram ay jaan

Na leho kahe lagaye chatiyan

My patience has over-brimmed, O sweetheart!

why do you not take me to your bosom.

Shaban-e-hijran daraz chun zulf

Wa roz-e-waslat cho umer kotah

 Long like curls in the night of separation

short like life on the day of our union.

Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun

To kaise kaTun andheri ratiyan

My dear, how will I pass the dark dungeon night

without your face before.

Yakayak az dil do chashm-e-jadu

Basad farebam baburd taskin

Suddenly, using a thousand tricks

the enchanting eyes robbed me of my tranquil mind.

Kisay pari hai jo ja sunave

Piyare pi ko hamari batiyan

Who would care to go and report

this matter to my darling.

Cho shama sozan cho zaraa hairan

Hamesha giryan be ishq an meh

Tossed and bewildered, like a flickering candle,

I roam about in the fire of love.

Na nind naina na ang chaina

Na aap aaven na bhejen patiyan

Sleepless eyes, restless body,

neither comes she, nor any message.


Ke daad mara gharib Khusro

In honor of the day I meet my beloved

who has lured me so long, O Khusro!

Sapet man ke varaye rakhun

Jo jaye pauN piya ke khatiyan

I shall keep my heart suppressed

if ever I get a chance to get to her trick.

YouTube videos of some of his famous creations-

Concept and text : Satyam Srivastava and Sanskar Jhajharia

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