Depiction of Imam Mahdi in Sindhi poetry of Sindh (Pakistan)

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Islamabad, Pakistan

Volume 7, Number 3, 2015 I Full Text PDF


This paper discusses the themes that Persian poets introduced in Sindh during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventh centuries and how they were incorporated in Sindhi poetry by Sindhi poets. The main themes during these centuries borrowed from Persian poets were the veneration of Imam Ali and the tragedy of Karbala. These two themes were main topics for Sindhi poets. Secondly, when direct relationships were established in the 18th and 19th centuries with Iran, Persian poets came directly from Iran and introduced another theme of Imam Mahdi in both Sindhi and Persian poetry of Sindh. This theme of Imam Mahdi became a predominant theme for later period poets. I have also described and discussed the names of those who have composed poetry about Imam Mahdi. Lastly, I have also discussed how this theme of Imam Mahdi in Sindhi poetry became agents of change thus converting many to Shai faith.

Keywords: Sindhi language, Sindhi literature, Shayda Isfahani, Imam MahdiIntroduction

Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan, remained under the Persian rule for many centuries. Right from the Achaemenians, Sassanians, Parthians to Nadir Shah’s time, Persian art and culture influenced the Sindhi society to a great extent. Much before the foray of Nadir Shah into Sindh, during the Ghaznavid dynasty Persian scholars made its way into Sindh. Later in the Samma period (the rulers of Sindh) (1350-1520), learning the Persian language was greatly valued in Sindh and the Persian scholars acquired higher status in Sindhi society. However, it was during the Soomra period (1055-1350) that the earliest Persian poetry by foreign settlers is traced. The interaction of Sindhi scholars with Persian scholars opened the new vistas in the spheres of poetry and history. The Persian poets also flourished during the reigns of Arghuns (1520-1555), Tarkhans (1555-1590) and the Mughals (1590-1700) rulers of Sindh. However, it was during the reigns of the Kalhoras (1700-1783) and Talpurs (1783-1843) when the Persian poetry attained its height. During these periods, direct relationship was established with the rulers of Iran and many poets came and became the court poets of Sindhi kings. When Nadir Shah invaded India and Sindh, he took along with him three Kalhora princes of Sindh to Mashhad, Iran. During their stay in Iran, they were influenced by Iranian culture and religion. When they came back to Sindh, one of the princes Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro who later on became ruler of Sindh encouraged Persian scholars and fixed stipends for them. Later on, his son Mian Sarfraz became the new king of Sindh. He also encouraged Persian poets and many Persian poets from Isfahan and Shiraz came to become his court poets. Mian Sarfraz was a great Persian poet himself. He composed many marsia (elegies), rubais, qasidas (monody) etc. The Talpur rulers were all followers of the Shia faith. Many rulers were poets of great repute themselves.

The earliest period in the history of Sindh in which some compositions in Persian poetry by the foreign settlers in this province can be traced, is the thirteenth century- the period of the Soomra Kings. Some of these pieces are by Ali bin Hamid Kufi, the well known writer of the Chach Nama who arrived and settled in the province of Sindh in 1216 and the rest are by Shaikh Uthman-i-Marwandi, popularly known as Lal Shahbaz. The earliest Persian poets of Sindh, according to extant annals, are the indigenous writers Jam Juna, Shaikh Hammad Jamali, Shaikh Isa Langoti, Jam Nindo all of whom belong to the Samma period (1350-1520) (Laghari 1999; Sadarangani 1987:2).

The rulers of succeeding dynasties of Arghuns and Tarkhans were also men of literary learnings. They opened several schools for the study of Persians and attracted to their court from Persia many poets and scholars like Hashimi Kirmani, Nimatuallh “Wasli”, Mulla Asad Qissa-Khwan, Hakim Faghfur-i-Gilani, Mulla Murshid Burujirdi, Talib Amuli and Shayda Isfahani. Later on Sindh was annexed to the Mughal Empire and came to be directly governed by the agents appointed by the Emperor of Delhi. Many Mughal agents or governor too for instance Nawab Amir Khan Abu Nusart Khan, Mir Lutaf Ali Khan etc were poets and patrons of learning. Thatta, the capital of Sindh during the reigns of Sammas, Arghuns, Tarkhans and Mughals, was at its height of its renown and the cradle of Islamic culture and learning. During these periods, one gets the names of Idraki, Beglari and Haji Muhammad Redai who made an original contribution to the Mathnawi form by versifying the native tragedies of Lila wa Chanesar and Ziba wa Nigar (alias Sasui-wa-Punhun) respectively. Mir Masum Shah “Nami” wrote five Mathnawis in imitation of Nizami’s Punj Gunj. He also composed Diwan (Sadarangani 1987:4).

The eighteenth century is the “most barren” period in the Persian poetry in India. There was hardly a poet of eminence during this period, most notable, however, being Shaikh Muhammad Ali “Hazin”, Syed Ahmed “Hatif” of Isfahan. During the reign of Prince Aurangzeb, there was a little scope for Persian poetry. Moreover, the emergence of Urdu which had been in the process of development for a long time, gave the death blow to the Persian literature. A few solitary luminaries, however, continued a ray of light in the field of Persian literature in India ( Baloch 2004, Sadarangani 1987).

Paradoxically, however, this was the golden age of Persian poetry in the remote, incalculable province of Sindh. During the major part of the eighteenth century Sindh was governed by the Kalhoras (1700-1783), first as a tributary of Mughal Empire in Delhi and then as independent monarchs. In India more and more attention came to be given to Urdu and Persian poetry was almost completely neglected. It is difficult to name even a single great poet in this period (Laghari 1999; Sadarangani 1987; Junejo 1994).

Sindh by this time had passed from the hands of the Kalhoras to the Talpurs (1783-1843). Shia by faith, Talpurs established relationships with the Shah of Persia and many Persian scholars came to Sindh. With the fall of Talpur dynasty and the advent of British (1843-1947) the Persian literature received a setback. However, as a result of strenuous efforts of some old scholars to keep Persian alive in the province, many poems were composed in Persian language.Full Text PDF

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