AMĪR ḴOSROW DEHLAVĪ, NĀṢER-AL-DĪN ABU’L-ḤASAN (651-725/1253-1325), the “Parrot of India,” the greatest Persian-writing poet of medieval India. Son of Amir Sayf-al-dīn Maḥmūd, a Turkish officer, and an Indian mother, he was born in Patiali and early displayed his poetical talent, encouraged by his maternal grandfather, ʿEmād-al-molk. His master in poetry was Šehāb-al-dīn Maḥmera Badāʾūnī, who had written religious and panegyric verse. Ḵosrow took service with Sultan Balban’s family, accompanying his son Boḡrā Khan to Bengal and later his eldest son to Multan. There the prince was killed by the Mongols in 683/1284 and the poet captured. Afterwards he went with the governor Ḥātem Khan to Oudh and returned to Delhi in 688/1289. He was a favorite of Sultan Jalāl-al-dīn Ḵalǰī (689-95/1290-96) and of his assassin ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḵalǰī (695-715/1296-1315), under whom he wrote most of his works. After enjoying the favor of Qoṭb-al-dīn Mobārakšāh (716-20/1316-20), Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn Toḡloq (720-25/1320-25), and for a short time Moḥammad Toḡloq, Ḵosrow died in 725/1325. One should not blame him for his shifting allegiances in a confused political situation; this was the normal practice of medieval poets.

The ease with which Amīr Ḵosrow wrote enabled him to turn his pen to ever new subjects. Musician and scholar, he was as prolific in tender lyrics as in highly involved prose and could easily try to emulate all styles of poetry which had developed in Iran, from Ḵāqānī’s forceful qaṣīdas to Neẓāmī’s Ḵamsa. His contribution to the development of the ḡazal, hitherto little used in India, is particularly significant. The young poet collected his first dīvān, Toḥfat al-ṣeḡār, verses written up to his 19th year, in ca. 672/1273; about 683/1284 the Wasṭ al-ḥayāt was collected, and around 693/1293-94 the Ḡorrat al-kamāl, poems written between his 34th and 43rd years. Like his other dīvāns, this one contains a prose introduction which is particularly important because of autobiographical details. In 716/1316 Ḵosrow collected the Baqīya-ye naqīya, and shortly before his death the Nehāyat al-kamāl. All of these contain qaṣīdas, tarǰīʿs, and other forms of poetry.

Amīr Ḵosrow’s knowledge of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hindi enabled him to produce exotic puns, wordplays, and stunning literary tricks so that W. Berthels with full right speaks of his “powdered style.” This peculiarity is visible not only in his lyrics and panegyrics but also in his numerous epics. Between 698/1298 and 701/1301 he wrote with great ease an imitation of Neẓāmī’s Ḵamsa, which comprises Maṭlaʿ al-anwār, Maǰnūn o Laylā, Šīrīn o Ḵosrow, Āʾīna-ye Sekandarī, and Hašt behešt. The work was often illustrated in later times, but in spite of its artistry lacks the flavor of Neẓāmī’s work. More important is Ḵosrow’s contribution to a new genre of poetry, the historical epic. In 688/ 1289 he poetically elaborated the meeting of Boḡrā Khan with his estranged son Kayqobād in Oudh (Qerān al-saʿdayn); two years later he described four major victories of Jalāl-al-dīn Ḵalǰī in Meftāḥ al-fotūḥ (part of Ḡorrat al-kamāl). Perhaps the most famous epic of this group is Dowalrānī Ḵażer Ḵān, the ʿAšīqa, which tells the love story of Ḵeżr (Ḵażer) Khan, ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḵalǰī’s son, and a Rajput princess and was enlarged after Ḵeżr Khan’s tragic end in Gwalior (715/1315). In 718/1318 the poet produced a particularly artistic work, Noh sepehr, where the nine spheres are represented in nine different meters; its descriptions of Indian culture, customs, languages, and festivals are an excellent source for our knowledge of medieval India, though all of Ḵosrow’s works bear traces of Indian influence, whether in form (e.g., the “rain song”) or vocabulary. In 720/1320 the Toḡloq-nāma was written to celebrate Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn Toḡloq’s achievements. Amīr Ḵosrow also composed remarkable prose works. The Ḵazāʾen al-fotūḥ (711/1311), sometimes referred to as Tārīḵ-e ʿAlāʾī, describes ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḵalǰī’s conquests. More interesting is the Eʿǰāz-e Ḵosravī, a work on epistolography, the first four parts of which were collected in 692/1292; completed in 719/1319, it displays the author’s immense philological talent and gives a good picture of Indian life to the patient decipherer.

Ḵosrow is praised as having invented Hindustani music; he may have done so, but none of his works in this field has been preserved. In any case the musical flow of some of his ḡazals has made them favorites of musicians up to our day. He is also credited with poetry in Hindi, but discussion about the authenticity of the fragments ascribed to him is continuing. He uses Hindi with perfect ease and plays with them; the riddles and conundrums under his name may well be his. He is noted for his versatility and his remarkable rhetorical skill. He had a keen eye and ear, as is understood from his descriptions of the peculiarities of his homeland.

Besides being an elegant courtier, Amīr Ḵosrow was also interested in Sufism; from 671/1272 onward he was attached to Neẓām-al-dīn Awlīāʾ, the great Češtī saint of Delhi, who lovingly called him Torkallāh. He devoted a number of poems to Neẓām-al-dīn, though otherwise a Sufi flavor is difficult to detect in his writings. A small collection, Afżal al-fawāʾed (719/1319), is said to contain sayings of Neẓām-al-dīn collected by Amīr Ḵosrow. Ḵosrow died shortly after his master and was buried close to him; his tomb in its present shape was finished in 1014/1605 and is still visited by large numbers of people. In honor of his 700th anniversary (a number chosen casually) India, Pakistan, and the USSR convened national and international congresses in late 1975.



Works by Amīr Ḵosrow: (1) Kollīyat-e ʿanāṣer-e davāvīn-e Ḵosrow (four dīvāns in one), Cawnpore, 1134/1916.

Dīvān-e kāmel, odes 1-60, text, tr. and notes by A. O. Qorayšī, Bombay, 1316/1901.

Dīvān-e Ḵosrow, Cawnpore, 1288/1871. Dīvān-e kāmel, ed. M. Darvīš, foreword by S. Nafīsī, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

Dībāča-ye dīvān-e ḡorrat al-kamāl, ed. S. W. ʿAbdī, Lahore, 1975.

(2) Maṭlaʿ al-anwār, with commentary by M. A. Moltānī, Delhi, 1293/1876; Lucknow, 1884; Aligarh, 1926.

(3) Maǰnūn o Laylā, Lucknow, 1880; ed.

Ḥabīb-al-Raḥmān Khan, Aligarh, 1917; ed.

G. A. Mahramov, Moscow, 1964.

Cf. M. J. Maḥǰūb, “Laylā o Maǰnūn-e Neẓāmī va Maǰnūn o Laylā-ye Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī,” Soḵan 14, 1342 Š./1963, pp. 620-37.

(4) Šīrīn o Ḵosrow, ed. H. ʿA. Aḥmad Khan, Aligarh, 1927; ed.

G. Alijef, Moscow, 1961.

(5) Āʾīna-ye Sekandarī, ed.

M. S. A. Fārūqī, Aligarh, 1917.

Ḵamsa, matn-e enteqādī, maṯnawī-e čahārom, Āʾīna-ye Eskandarī, ed. with intro.

J. Mirsaidov, Moscow, 1977.

(6) Hašt behešt, Lucknow, 1918; ed.

M. S. Ašraf, Aligarh, 1918; ed.

J. Efteḵār, Moscow, 1972; Russian verse tr.

G. Alijef, Moscow, 1975.

(7) Qerān al-saʿdayn, Lucknow, 1885; ed.

Mawlawī M. Esmāʿīl, Aligarh, 1918; Nūr al-ʿayn, šarḥ-e Qerān al-saʿdayn, Qāżī Nūr-al-ḥaqq (d. 1073/1663), Lahore, 1975.

(8) Meftāḥ al-fotūḥ, ed.

Y. Nīāzī, Oriental College Magazine 12-13, 1936-37, Lahore.

(9) Dowalrānī Ḵażer Ḵān, ed.

R. A. Salīm, Aligarh, 1917; Lahore, 1975.

(10) Noh sepehr, ed. W. Mīrzā, Calcutta, 1949. (11) Toḡloq-nāma, ed.

S. Hāšemī Farīdābādī, Aurangabad, 1933.

(12) Ḵazāʾen al-fotūḥ, ed.

M. Ḥabīb, Aligarh, 1927; ed.

W. Mīrzā, Calcutta, 1953; tr.

M. Ḥabīb, The Campaigns of Alāʾ ud-dīn Khaljī, Madras, 1931; tr.

W. Mīrzā, Lahore, 1975.

(13) Rasāʾel al-eʿǰāz, Lucknow, 1876; cf.

S. H. ʿAskarī, “Rasāʾil ul-iʿjāz of Amir Khusrau, an Appraisal,” Zakir Husain Commemoration Volume, Delhi, 1967.

See also Storey, I, pp. 495-505.

Works about Amīr Ḵosrow: H. Elliot, History of India III, pp. 524-66.

M. Habib, Hazrat Amir Khusro of Delhi, Bombay, 1927; repr. in K. A. Nezami, ed., Politics and Society During the Early Medieval Period (The Collected Works of Professor Mohammad Habib I), Delhi, 1974, pp. 291-355.

W. Mīrzā, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrow, Calcutta, 1935; Allahabad, 1949; Lahore, 1962; repr. Delhi, 1975.

N. M. Khan Ḵorǰavī, Ḥayāt-e Ḵosrow, Karachi, 1956.

Amir Khusrau, Critical Studies, National Committee for 700th anniversary of Amir Khusrau 1975, Lahore.

H. Ethé, “Neupersische Literatur,” in Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil., pp. 244ff.

Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 257ff.

EI2 I, pp. 444-45.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt III, pp. 771-97.

M. J. Maḥǰūb, “Hašt behešt va Haft peykar,” Iran Nameh 1/3, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 346-87.

N. A. Ahmad, “Two Works Attributed to Amir Khusraw—Some Reflections on their Authenticity,” Hamdard Islamicus 5/3, 1982.

For illustrations see J. Stchoukine, B. Flemming, P. Luft, H. Sohrweide, Illuminierte Islamische Handschriften, Wiesbaden, 1971, nos. 27, 61.

Almost every book on Persian and Mughal painting gives examples.

(A. Schimmel)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: August 3, 2011

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Vol. I, Fasc. 9, pp. 963-965