Volume - 2 : Issue - 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2003

Group : Language


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Linguistic and Literary Interaction
between Persian and Sindhi
with special reference to Sufism

By Dr. Baldev B. Matlani

A well-known Sindhi writer, Bherumal Mehrchand Advani, in his book ‘Qadeem Sindh’, says, “Ancestors of Persians are pure Aryans and they originally hailed from Sapta-Sindhu” (Sapta-Sindhu implies Sindhu Valley, extending from Mansarovar Lake in Tibet and ending with the numerous mouths of Indus at Southern Sindh), whereas R. Levy, in his book ‘Persian Literature’, terms Iranian as people belonging to Indo-European origin.

The language of ‘Rig Veda’ and ancient Persian book ‘Zind Avesta’, is similar in many respects. There are many common words with minute difference in pronunciation, employed in both the books, which lead us to believe that both the nations had one common language. The vowels of Persian and Sindhi are smiliar. Both make ‘Aa’ from Í + Í, ‘Ee’ from I + I, and ‘Oo’ from I + I. The popular cloth of Sindh, ‘Bafto’ is related to Persian infinitive ‘Baftan’. The cloth lasts long, therefore it is named as Bafto. Prof. Wilson, translator of ‘Rig Veda’, proved that early inhabitants of Sindh were experts in commerce and trade, and they used to have business relationships with Persian Gulf countries, along with China, Ceylon, Egypt and many other countries of West Asia.

From 519 to 486 B.C., Sindh was annexed to the Persian Empire by emperor, Darius Hystaspes, and it remained a Persian province until Alexandra the great, passed through the country in 325 B.C. Barring few intervals of 300 years, from 8th to 11th century A.D., Persian had remained the official language of Sindh, until it was overwhelmed by Britishers in 1843 A.D., who declared Sindhi as official language of Sindh in 1848 A.D. Myan Nur Mohd. Kalhoro ruled Sindh in 1740 A.D., as Subedar of Persian ruler Nadir Shah Durani, and paid tribute for the same. From 3rd to 8th century A.D., Sindh remained under political supremacy of Sassanid Persia. The founder of the Sassanian Dynasty of Persia was Ardashir Babaqan, who ruled from 226 A.D. to 241 A.D. There is some evidence that the Abhiras living in the East of the lower valley of the Indus during this period, acknowledged the sway of the Sassanians. When Shapur II besieged Tigris in 360 A.D., he had the aid of Indian-elephants and of Kushan troops. According to Persian traditions, Sindh was actually ceded by its Indian overlord to Bahram V, better known as Bahram Gur, who ruled Persia from 420 to 440 A.D. The study of Persian language not only reveals the religious beliefs, but throws light on the gradual change of the mindset of the nations. The worship of Lord Indra created rift between Iranians and Sindhis, resulting in Iranian’s use of the word ‘Dev’ for ghosts and jins. Arabs defeated Iran in 635 A.D., leading to migration of many Iranians into India.

Many instances bear a long term impressions on the history of nations. The migration of literary people is one such link in this respect. From time to time many, godly people, scholars and poets have migrated from Iran to Sindh, enriching the fine arts and literature of Sindh in a big way. Though after conquest of Sindh by Mohd. Bin Qasim in 712 A.D., Arabic became the official language of Sindh, then too the medium of learning in madrassahs of Sindh was Persian, which worked as a link between Sindhi and Arabic. The advent of Islam into Sindh, brought many Muslim scholars from Iran alongwith it. During Soomra and Samma rule on Sindh, many Ismaili missionaries came to Sindh from Iran, prominent among them are Pir Shamsuddin (1201-1267 A.D.), Pir Nuruddin and Pir Saddruddin (1209-1290 A.D.). Though we cannot say with certainty, but there is a school of thought, which believes that the teacher of Bayezid Bistami (d. 874 A.D.), Abu Ali as Sindhi was indeed from Sindh and not rather from a village nearby Bistam, in North-Western Iran, ( ‘Pearls from the Indus’: Annemarie Schimmel – p.12 ).

Live languages mutate themselves with the passage of time and add to their treasure many new words from different languages they come into contact with.

During the rule of Arghun (1520-1555 A.D.) and Turkhan-Mughals’ earlier period (1556-1590A.D.), Persian spread throughout the length and breadth of India, including Sindh. The period saw Persian’s use as official language in administration, communication, education, literature and poetry widely. As compared to other languages of India, Sindhi had already established itself as a developed language on historical as well as evolutionary grounds. Its interaction with Persian enriched it, but at the same time Sindhi preserved its individuality and utility also. It is a natural phenomenon. Likewise Sindhi language has gained many words from other languages. Many words of Persian have been introduced into Sindhi. Though puritans emphasized the need of use of original pronunciation, then too the evolution of a language, being a natural phenomenon does not subscribe to such principles. Thus many Persian words have changed their shape when they became part and parcel of Sindhi language.

Original Persian Word   Sindhi Pronunciation
Sh­agün                   Sugun
Bech­ãrã                  Vechãro
Pairhan                   Pahryãn
Deedãh Dãnistã         Deena Dãsti
Marham                   Malam

Many Sindhi nouns are derived from Persian adjectives, with just addition of ‘Ye’, just as ‘Aqalmandi’, ‘Bahaduri’, ‘Badkari’, ‘Bekari’ from ‘Aqalmand ‘Bahadur’, ‘Badkar’ and ‘Bekar’ respectively. Many Persian infinitives are outrightly sindhized, like ‘Azmainu’, ‘Farmainu’ and ‘Kharidinu’ are taken from ‘Azmudan’, ‘Farmudan’ and ‘Kharidan’. Persian adverbs, like ‘Aksar’, ‘Akhir’, ‘Baghair’ and ‘Hargiz’; Persian conjunctions, like ‘Agar’, ‘Magar’, ‘Albat’ and ‘Lekin’; Persian signs of exclamation, like ‘Bus’, ‘Khabardar’, ‘Khair’ and ‘Shahbash’; Persian prepositions, like  ‘Dar Asul’ and ‘Dar Haqeeqat’ are used in Sindhi as well. Persian prefixes, like ‘Dar’, ‘Bar’, ‘Ba’, ‘Bad’, ‘Be’ and ‘Na’; Persian suffixes, like ‘Baz’, ‘Ban’, ‘Dan’, ‘Dar’, ‘Gar’, ‘Gir’, ‘Var’, ‘Saz’, ‘Kar’, ‘Andaz’, ‘Band’, ‘Aviz’, ‘Mand’, ‘Khor and ‘Posh’ are also used in Sindhi. Some of the examples of it are: ‘Dar Asul’, ‘Bar waqt’, ‘Bawafa’, ‘Badnam’, ‘Bekar’, ‘Nadan’, ‘Dagha baz’, ‘Darban’, ‘Roshandan’, ‘Zamindar’, ‘Khidmatgar’, ‘Saudagar’, ‘Dadagir’, ‘Silslevar’, ‘Gharee Saz’, ‘Mukhtiar Kar’, ‘Teer Andaz’, ‘Nazarband’, ‘Dil Aveez’, ‘Sihatmand’, ‘Muft Khor’ and ‘Mez Posh’ etc.

In early 13th century, Upper Sindh had fallen into the hands of Muizuddin Ibn Sam, whose Governor, Qabacha was a great patron of learning, it was under him that the ‘Chach Nama’, the oldest chronicle of Sindh, was translated from Arabic into Persian, and literary men, like Muhammad ‘Aufi’ found shelter at his court.

Abu-al-Fazal and Mulla Faizi, two jewels of Nav-Ratnas of Akbar the great, hailed from Sindh and they are credited with many Persian books. Persian translation of ‘Gita’ by Abu-al-Fazal, is one such example. Shah Abdul Karim, Bulriwaro, was first Sindhi poet to have been inspired by the poetry of Maulana Rumi:

Pani a Mathe Jhupra, Murkh Unja Maran.
‘Shah Karim’
(Dwelling near water, the foolish die of thirst)

The Sindhis rapidly acquired complete grasp over the language, and Persian became a meritorious vehicle of expression for their thoughts and emotions. Almost all the histories of Sindh e.g., ‘Tarikh-i-Tahiri’, ‘Tarikh-i-Sindh’, ‘Beglar Nama’ etc. were written in that language, and a few Diwans of ghazals were also produced. The general tendency of the poets was to write didactic poems and love-lyrics. Of the different forms of Persian poetry, then in vogue, mathnawi was favoured the most. Romantic tale of Lila and Chanesar, ‘Chanesar Nama’ was versified by Idraki Beglari. A start was made by Mirza Ghazi Beg in the direction of the form of composition styled ‘Saqi Nama’. Masum Shah took to Na’tiya Kalam, besides composing a quintet on the analogy of Nizami’s ‘Panj-Ganj’ and Mir Ghururi cut a new ground by composing verse of the type of Haj’w.

The period of direct Mughal rule over Sindh was particularly conspicuous for the advancement of art and literature. Akbar’s policy made it compulsory for provincial administrators, to correspond and maintain all State-records in Persian. This led aspirants for govt. posts and royal favours to acquire proficiency in this language.
Nawabs Amir Khan, Abu Nusrat Khan, Hifzullah Khan, Amin-ul-Din Khan, Ahmed Yar Khan, Muhabat Khan, Saifullah Khan, Diler Dil Khan and Mir Lutf Ali Khan, who occupied the high rank of Governors of Thatta (Sindh), during the Mughal rule, were great scholars of their time.  Haji Mohd. ‘Redai’, Mir Abdul Makarim ‘Shuhud’ and Mulla Abdul Hakim ‘Ata’ were the best poets of Mughal rule in Sindh. The novel feature of Mughal period is however, the appearance of Hindu poets and Muslim poetesses of whom Mehta Chanderbhan ‘Ajiz’ and his son Shewakram ‘Mukhlis’, ‘Ismat’ and Chimni Khanum etc. are noteworthy.

The Kalhora period in Sindh (1737-1782 A.D.), though full of anarchy and bloodshed, is the most fruitful in production of literature, specially in poetry. The stoical way in which the people bore the blows of cruel fate marked the emergence of Sufism, which thence forward influenced their literature and way of life. The Sayyids of Bulri, who were inimical to Shah Inayat, the great Sufi of his time, could not bear to see the spectacle of their disciples deserting them and joining the enemy camp. They therefore incited Nawab A’zam Khan, the Mughal Emperor’s Agent at Thatta, to apprise his lord Farrukh Siyar, that the growing influence of the Sufi was a potential source of danger to very existence of the empire, and that the sooner it was crushed, the better it would be. In this move, they were assisted by the Palija Zamindars and some Shaikhs and Pirs of lesser repute. Soon a royal mandate was issued, directing Miyan Yar Mohd. Kalhora to proceed to Miranpur (Jhok Sharif), the renowned centre of Sufism in Sindh, and completely destroy the Sufis and their cult. Accordingly the Kalhora launched a severe attack. The siege went on for full four months until, at last, finding it difficult to win, the Kalhora chief made peace with the Sufi and under the guise of friendship, got hold of Shah Inayat and had him treacherously murdered.

Among the ruling princes of Kalhora dynasty, Miyan Nur Mohd., Ghulam Shah and Mohd. Sarfaraz deserve special mention as patrons of learning and literature. It was the patronage of Miyan Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, that inspired Mir Ali Sher Qani’ to write the History of Kalhora period. The last Kalhora ruler, Miyan Sarfaraz Khan, was himself a poet of scholarly habits and a friend of poets, like Ghulam Ali and Sabit Ali Shah. Of the foreign poets, who visited Sindh, Shaykh Mohd. Ali ‘Hazin’, Mohd. Karim ‘Ashiq’ Isfahani and Mohd. Reda ‘Nuk’hat’ are of considerable literary repute.

The Kalhora period, may be characterized as the golden age of Persian poetry in Sindh. Sindh produced a galaxy of poets, but the more notable of them are Mohd. Muhsin, who introduced Marthiya (monody) in Sindh, Ali Sher Qani’ remains unrivalled in the art of chronogram and can easily be taken as one of the great masters of Persian prosody, and Mir Janullah, however, excels all the poets of Sindh in his unique grasp of spiritual philosophy and soulful diction.

Faith and doubt can not co-exist, like light and darkness. The poet, Mir Hyderuddin Abu Turab ‘Kamil’ (d. 1751 A.D.) therefore, advises complete faith, for then alone can one come into possession of the unalloyed manifestation of Allah in the human heart.

Mir Ali Sher “Qani’ ” (1727-1789 A.D.) was a versatile writer and a court poet of Miyan Nur Mohd. and Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. He is the author of 30 books, such as ‘Maqalat-ul-Shu’ra’, ‘Tuhfat-ul-Kiram’ and ‘Diwan-i-Qani’’ etc. His poetical works alone contain over 30,000 couplets. He says, that from the very beginning of  Creation, suffering has been the heritage of man; he is cautioned to bear it patiently, for then alone can he be spiritually free.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai was himself greatly inspired from Persian poetry, and it is said that he used to keep a copy of Maulana Rumi’s Mathnawi, always with him.

The end of Kalhora’s era signaled the advent of Talpur’s rule. Talpurs had friendly relations with the monarchs of Iran. They patronized Persian language upto the hilt. It was famous for their times in Sindh, that ‘Farsi Ghode Charhsi’, which means, “to achieve really big in life, one has to learn Persian”.

After the defeat of Kalhoras, Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur was confirmed to the throne of Sindh by a Sanad (patent) from Timur Shah, the king of Afghanistan (1783 A.D.). The Mir assigned Khairpur to his uncle, Mir Sohrab Khan; and Mirpur Khas to his cousin, Mir Tharo Khan. He kept the major portion of territory for himself  and his younger brothers, Mir Ghulam Ali Khan, Karam Ali Khan and Murad Ali Khan. He made Hyderabad, the capital. These four rulers were popular as ‘Char Yar’ (Four Friends). The last of first four, viz., Murad Ali Khan died in 1833 A.D. and second batch of four joint rulers – Mirs Nur Mohd. Khan, Mohd. Nasir Khan, Mohd. Khan and Sobdar Khan succeeded to the throne. In 1839 A.D. the British troops took military possession of Karachi, without much resistance from the Amirs. In 1843 A.D. the battles of Miyani and Dabo (near Hyderabad, Sindh) were fought and won by the British and the Sindh was annexed to the rest of Her Majesty’s Indian Empire.

There  is a testimony of Mr. Nathan Crowe, the British Resident in Sindh (1799 A.D.) that the Amirs maintained a number of court poets. In order to acquire a thorough knowledge of Persian, the language of literature, ceremony, office and epistolary correspondence, the Government encouraged Mullas to open the schools. The volume of Persian poetry produced in this period, however, shows that never before in the history of Sindh did such a large number of ruling princes take to the composition of verse as in the Talpur regime. All the Talpurs, with the solitary exception of Mir Sobdar Khan, were of the Shi’a sect and so, a large number of poems were written by both the Sunni and the Shi’a poets in praise of Hazrat-Ali and the martyred Imams. The Talpurs, being of martial race, encouraged the ‘Epic’. A’zim had written ‘Fat’h Nama’, and on the same lines, Mir Sobdar Khan wrote Mathnawis, of which ‘Judai-Nama’ and ‘Sayf’ul Muluk’ are his master pieces. Mir Nasir Khan composed a Diwan of ghazals and few mathnawis. Abdul Wahab and Dalpat contributed to the growth of mystic element in poetry.

When the devotee attains self-realization, all the phenomenal differences disappear like the mist before the sun. The eternal truth alone subsists; the devotee is unable to distinguish the Master from the Servant, the Creator from His Creation.

Sayyid Sabit Ali Shah (1740-1810 A.D.) was a Shi’a by faith, and the first poet to compose Sindhi marthiyas. He has been styled ‘Anis of Sindh’ for his popular elegies.

Abdul Wahab alias ‘Sachal’ and ‘Sachu’ (1739-1826 A.D.), son of Salahuddin, lost his father in infancy, traces his descent to Hazrat Umar Faruq. He was brought up by his uncle, Abdul Haq. He acquired proficiency in Persian and Arabic through regular studies and soon committed to memorize the Holy Quran. As his daring expressions show, he said whatever he felt and did not care about adverse public opinion. That is why some of his utterances breathe the spirit of the Sufi martyr Mansur, who had exclaimed, ‘Ana-al-Haq’ (Truth, I am).

He is the author of six Persian works : ‘Diwan-i-Ashkara’, ‘Rahbar Nama’, ‘Raz Nama’, ‘Gudaz Nama’, ‘Ishq Nama’ and ‘Tar Nama’. The devotee loses all perception of difference, when he realizes the Deity within himself; he then becomes one with the Supreme.

He refers to the four commonly known stages of human evolution, to wit, Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut and Lahut. The devotee sees nothing, but only God in Lahut, and he traces the fall of man from this stage to Nasut. He further explains the gradual progress of man from egoistic existence in Nasut to the glorious pinnacle of Super human in Lahut.

Bhai Dalpatram (1769-1842 A.D.) was a Sufi darwish. For sometime he served as a ‘Kardar’ under the Talpur government, but abruptly left his job, to spend the remainder of his life in quest of spiritual enlightenment. The turning point came through his contact at Bubak with a Hindu saint, Bhai Asardas, who was the disciple of Salamullah Shah Sufi of Jhok.

Besides Sindhi kalams, he is the author of a Persian Diwan and a mathnawi, entitiled ‘Jang-Nama’, which deals with martyrdom of Shah Inayat of Jhok and the different phases of spiritual aspirant’s struggle for the eradication of ‘Nafs Amarah’, which in Tassawuf is characterized as ‘Jihad-i-Akbar’. In the realm of divine love, physical form including name, colour and creed are of no consequence. The spiritual eye alone can perceive the beloved’s beauty.

In 1843 A.D., Sindh was annexed to British India. Sir Charles Napier, the victor of Miyani battle, the first Commissioner of Sindh, strove hard to establish  peace in the province. He had many schemes for improvement of the province, but he left Sindh in 1847 A.D., and Sindh became a part of Bombay Presidency. In 1851 A.D., Bartle Frere came to Sindh. He aimed to give official status to the language of the people and he succeeded in it by compelling the Civil Servants to study Sindhi, if they would value their promotions.

Yet the Persian language was the vehicle for conveying the spiritual message of some of the great mystic poets of Sindh. Faqir Qadir Bakhsh ‘Bedil’ and Bahauddin ‘Bahai’ were of outstanding merit. ‘Bedil’ was essentially a Sufi, absorbed in thoughts of the Divine, while ‘Bahai’ was a great scholar, who tried his hand on all forms of Persian poetry-ghazal, qasida, qita’, mathnawi, ruba’i etc. Mir Shahdad Khan ‘Hydari’, Mir Hussain Ali Khan ‘Hussain’, Nawab Allahadad Khan ‘Sufi’, Quazi Ghulam Ali ‘Ja’fri’, Pir Hizbullah Shah ‘Miskin’, Sayyid Janullah Shah ‘Ashiq’ and Makhdum Ibrahim ‘Khalil’ were each Sahib-e-Diwan.

Dr. Ernst Trumpp, who had written and published ‘Shah Jo Risalo’ in 1866 A.D., in the German city of Lepzig, and compiled his wonderful ‘Grammer of Sindhi Language’ in 1872 A.D., has described ‘Tassawuf’ or ‘Sufism’ as interpreted by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, the greatest Sindhi poet of all times, through his poetry, as under:

“the close affinity to, and very probably the derivation of, Sufism from the Vedantic system of India is now conceded all hands. In order to understand the Risalo correctly, the reader should devote particular attention to the Sufic doctrine that the human soul is a particle of the Divine breath.., that immortality is derived from its immateriality, and that for this very reason  immortality without beginning (azaliyat) and immortality without end (abadiyat) are assigned to it. The human soul, whilst in the body, is in a state of bondage from which it should be liberated by a system of penance (Riyazat)… Annihilation of the body is to the soul, the greatest boon as it will thereby be united with its original source from which it has sprung by a system of emanation. That the idea of personal immortality has no place in such a system is natural enough, neither is the notion of sin or of a sinful state of soul reconcilable with it, sin being nothing but an illusion of the human mind. The Sufi is, therefore either an ascetic, absorbed in the contemplation of the divine love, or, more commonly, an abundant debauchee...”

Dr. Ernst Trumpp’s main source of knowledge about ‘Sufism’ was his deep study of the parts of Maulana Rumi’s Mathnawi, Shabistari’s ‘Gulshan-i-Raz’, Attar’s ‘Tadkhkirat-al-Auliya’, some small works by Jami, a little bit of Ghazzali, Isfara’ini, Suyuti, Ibn Khallikan, and a Turkish translation of Nasafi’s Al-maqsad al-Aqsa.

As such even during British rule, Persian remained at high pedestal in Sindhi literary circle. 1947 A.D. saw partition of India on religious grounds, and Sindh was made part of Pakistan. The large scale migration of Sindhi-Hindus from Sindh to India, and Urdu speaking Muslims from India to Sindh, resulted in continuous interaction of Sindhi people with Urdu speaking Indian migrants. This interaction laid to assimilation of many Persian words into Sindhi, en route Urdu. Sindhi Hindus were scattered throughout length and breadth of India, and they had to concentrate on their very survival, leaving very little scope for literary activities. This resulted in deceleration of Sindhi language into India. Then too Indian Sindhi literary circle has got high regards for Persian language, till today.