ČAHĀR ONṢOR (Four elements), an autobiographical work in prose by the poet and Sufi Abu’l-Maʿānī Mīrzā ʿAbd-al-Qāder Bīdel (1054-1138/1644-1720), who probably began work on it in 1094/1682 and completed it, according to the concluding chronogram, in 1116/1704 (Kollīyāt, pp. 301, 588). The book consists of a short preface and four chapters (onṣors), each with a conclusion (ḵātema). Although throughout the entire work autobiography is mingled with descriptions of Bīdel’s mystical and metaphysical experiences and with approximately 18,000 of his verses (Gol-e raʿnā, fol. 106), each chapter is focused in a general way on an aspect of his life. In the first he describes meetings with a number of Sufis and dervishes during his youth; in the second he deals with his own poetry and the art of poetry in general; in the third he discusses a number of metaphysical, theosophical, philosophical, and Sufi topics; and in the fourth he recounts the wonders of his time and events of his own life. What emerges is the self-portrait of an extraordinary person, gifted since boyhood with unusual spiritual power.
Čahār onṣor is the most reliable source on Bīdel’s career and helps to clear up much of the confusion about his life in accounts by contemporary and later biographers. It contains an intimate picture of his family, as well as details of his early life, his extensive travels in India, and his contacts with the Sufis who shaped his career: in particular, Shah Molūk of Benares, Mawlānā Sayyed Maḥmūd (d. 830/1435), Shaikh Kamāl, Shah Kābolī, Shah Yaktā Āzād, Shah Fāżel and Shah Abu’l-Qāsem. References to contemporary events (e.g., the power struggle among the sons of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān and its consequences) and personalities (e.g., the contemporary painter Anup Čatr) lend the work additional value as a historical document. The prose style is extremely difficult and ornate. A few years later a pupil of Bīdel, Lālā Seo Rām Dās Hayā (d. 1144/1731), wrote Golgašt-e bahār-e eram after the model of Čahāronṣor (Ḵᵛošgū, p. 183).
ʿAbd-al-Moqtader, A Catalogue of the Persian and Arabic Mss. in the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library III, Calcutta, 1933, pp. 194-95.
A. Bausani, “Bēdil as a Narrator,” Yádnáme-ye Jan Rypka. Collection of Articles on Persian and Tajik Literature, Prague, the Hague, and Paris, 1967, pp. 227-35.
ʿE. Aḵtar, Bīdel kī šāʿerī, Lahore, 1952, pp. 6-85.
Ḡolām-ʿAlī Āzād Belgrāmī, Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera II, Kanpur, 1900, p. 152.
Idem, Sarv-e āzād, Hyderabad, p. 148.
Idem, Yad-e bayżāʾ, ms. in Āzād Library, Aligarh Muslim University. Mīrzā ʿAbd-al-Qāder Bīdel, Kollīyāt, Kanpur, 1292/1875, pp. 301, 588; 4 vols., Kabul, 1341-44 Š./1962-65.
R. Hedāyat, “Rīāż al-ʿārefīn,” Maʿāref (Azamgarh, UP) 58/2, August 1946, pp. 85-95.
B. B. D. Ḵᵛošgū, Safīna-ye Ḵᵛošgū, ed. Shah ʿAlī-al-Raḥmān Kākavī, Patna, 1959, pp. 104,183.
Mīrzā Moḥammad-Ṭāher Naṣrābādī, Taḏkera-ye Naṣrābādī, ed. W. Dastgerdī, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938, p. 45.
Qodrat-Allāh Qāsem, Majmūʿa-ye naḡz I, Lahore, 1933, p. 115.
Lačhmī Narāyan Šafīq Awrangābādī, Gol-e raʿna, ms. Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Bankipur (Patna), no. 234, fols. 57, 106.
Ṣalāḥ-al-Dīn Saljūqī, Naqd-e Bīdel [Kabul?], 1343 Š./1964, pp. 456-58.
(Sharif Husain Qasemi)
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 623-624