ĀZĀD BELGRĀMĪ, MĪR ḠOLĀM-ʿALĪ B. MOḤAMMAD NŪḤ ḤOSAYNĪ WĀSEṬĪ, major eighteenth century Indo-Muslim poet, biographer, and composer of chronograms, also known as Ḥassān-al-Hend (fl. 1116-1200/1704-86). Born into a family of scholars in Belgrām, he studied with his maternal grandfather, Mīr ʿAbd-al-Jalīl Belgrāmī, a noted scholar and poet of Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Hindi, and his maternal uncle, Mīr Moḥammad Belgrāmī.
In 1142/1730 Āzād left for Sehwan in Sind where his uncle Mīr Moḥammad was mīr baḵsī and waqāʾeʿ-negār. He worked in Sehwan for four years as a deputy (nāʾeb) to his uncle. In 1150/1737 he set out on a pilgrimage to the Ḥejāz and remained there for the next two years, studying the Ṣaḥīḥ of Boḵārī under Moḥammad Ḥayāt Sindī (d. 1750). On his return from the Ḥejāz in 1152/1739 he went to Aurangabad and spent the next seven years of his life in total seclusion at the tomb of Shah Mosāfer Ḡojdovānī. Soon after emerging from seclusion, he met Nawab Neẓām-al-dawla Nāṣer Jang, the second son of Neẓām-al-molk Āṣafjāh and the future nizam. They became fast friends. It is likely that Āzād received stipendiary support from the nizam, but he never accepted any service at court. Neither did he ever compose panegyrics for the king of Deccani nobility; he reserved this kind of poetry for the praises of the prophet and saints, which in fact earned him the title Ḥassān-al-Hend (after Ḥassān b. Ṯābet, the panegyrist of the prophet).
Āzād also had a very close friendship with the prime minister of Hyderabad, Ṣamṣām-al-dawla Shah Navāz Khan. When in 1170/1757 Ṣamṣām-al-dawla fell from grace, it was Āzād who took an active role in restoring him to favor, and it was Āzād again who recovered most of the unfinished manuscript of Ṣamṣām-al-dawla’s Maʾāṯer al-omarāʾ, after he had been assassinated and his house plundered. Āzād later published this work, though in a fragmentary form. He died in 1200/1786, and was buried at Rawża (or Ḵoldabad) near Dawlatabad (See T. W. Haig, Historic Landmarks of the Deccan, Allahabad, 1907, pp. 56-58).
Āzād wrote in Arabic, Persian, and reportedly Urdu. His Arabic writings comprise a commentary on the Ṣaḥīḥ of Boḵārī, an Arabic dīvān consisting of more than 3,000 couplets, a Sufi maṯnawī titled Maḵzan al-barakāt, a commentary on Motanabbī’s poetry, and the Sobḥat al-marjān fī āṯār Hendostān, a compilation of three books originally written as independent works and later put together as the four chapters of Sobḥat al-marjān. Later, Āzād made a Persian translation of the fourth chapter under the title Ḡezlān al-Hend. The first and second chapters were also later translated into Persian by Shah Wāreṯ ʿAlī Ḥasanī Ḥosaynī Banārasī at the request of the Raja of Benares, Mahārāj Īšarī Paršād (Storey, I/2, p. 860).
Āzād’s Persian writings include, besides the above mentioned Ḡezlān al-Hend, a dīvān, a few taḏkeras (see below), two rather long maṯnawīs (Maṯnawī be-jawāb-e maṯnawī-e Mīr ʿAbd-al-Jalīl Belgrāmī and Maṯnawī-e sarāpā-ye maʿšūq), and some letters written in a simple elegant style. His Persian dīvān is a good specimen of the eighteenth-century post-Bidelian (see Bīdel) style of Indo-Persian poetry; Āzād makes skillful use of rhetorical devices and employs traditional images in a highly broken and intellectualized fashion—a trend common to all Indo-Persian poets of the eighteenth century and later; it was transferred to Urdu poetry as part of the enduring legacy of Bīdel. In the Persian dīvān of Āzād one comes across many images and expressions borrowed from Bīdel whom Āzād knew personally.
His biographical works include: Maʾāṯeral-kerām tārīḵ-e Belgrām, a book divided into two chapters dealing with the lives of about 150 saints, mystics, and savants connected in some remote sense with Belgrām. Sarv-e āzād, considered as the second volume of the Maʾāṯer, likewise consists of two chapters and is principally devoted to the lives of 143 poets who were born in India or visited India after 1000/1591-1592, including some from Belgrām. Chapter two of Sarv-e āzād provides an account of eight rēḵta (Urdu) poets. Yad-e bayżāʾ, the most protracted of Āzād’s Persian taḏkeras, contains the lives of 532 ancient and modern poets, arranged in alphabetical sequence. Originally begun at Sehwan in 1145/1732 when Āzād was working for his uncle, it was later enlarged twice, first in Allahabad in 1148/1735 and then again after his return from Mecca in 1152/1739.
By far the best known and most valuable taḏkera of Āzād, from a literary, historical, cultural, or sociological perspective, is Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera. Written in 1176/1762-63, it contains alphabetically arranged notices on about 135 ancient and modern poets. But the major importance of Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera rests on the preliminary section of the book where Āzād details the biographies of Āṣafjāh together with his sons, Nāṣer Jang and Moẓaffar Jang, and then gives an historical overview of Āṣafjāh, Aḥmad Shah Dorrānī, and the Marathas. The result is a uniquely valuable historical document for the study of eighteenth-century south India, especially since Āzād personally knew the people about whom he talks in the book, and was an eyewitness to many of the pivotal events he narrates. Also included among Āzād’s Persian works are two relatively short taḏkeras: Šajara-ye ṭayyeba, a brief account of the pedigrees and lives of the shaikhs of Belgrām, and Rawżat al-awlīāʾ, a recapitulation of the lives of ten saints buried at Rawża (Ḵoldābād).
Āzād lived at a time when Urdu was rapidly displacing Persian as the major literary vehicle for Indo-Muslim culture, and he is said to have authored a book in Urdu, which has not survived.
Āzād Belgrāmī, Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera, Cawnpore, 1871, 1900 (with several translated extracts; Storey, I/2, p. 865).
Maʾāṯeral-kerām, Hyderabad, 1910.
Sarv-e āzād, Lahore, 1913. Sobḥat al-marjān, Bombay, 1886.
Rawżat al-awlīāʾ, Aurangabad, 1892-93. Storey, I/2, pp. 855-66.
Z. Aḥmad, Contribution of Indo-Pakistan to Arabic Literature, repr. Lahore, 1968, see index.
A. Schimmel, Islamic Literatures of India, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 45-46.
W. Chambers, Asiatick Miscellany I, Calcutta, 1785, pp. 496-97.
Sayyed Wajahat Ḥosayn, “Āzād Bilgrāmī,” JRASB, 3rd ser., Letters, 2, 1936, pp. 119-30.
Maqbūl Aḥmad Ṣamdānnī, Ḥayāt-e Jalīl Belgrāmī (Urdu) II, Allahabad, 1929, pp. 163-77.
Šamsallāh Qāderī, Qāmūs al-aʿlām (Urdu), pt. 1, Hyderabad, 1935, cols. 32-35.
Moḥyī-al-dīn Qāderī Zor, Ḡolām-ʿAlī Āzād Belgrāmī (Urdu), Hyderabad, n.d. EI2 I, p. 808.
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 18, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 171-173