NAWʿI

MOḤAMMAD-REŻĀ ḴABUŠĀNI (1563-1610),  Persian poet in India, best known for his long maṯnawi, Suz o godāza romance centered on a suttee (sati) heroine.

 

NAWʿI, MOḤAMMAD-REŻĀ ḴABUŠĀNI (b. Ḵabušān ca. 970/1563; d. Borhānpur, 1019/1610),  Persian poet, who moved from his hometown Qučān  (Ḵabušān) in Khorasan to India and enjoyed the patronage of the Mughals.  He was descended from the mystic Shaikh Ḥāji Moḥammad Ḵabušāni.  Modern scholars have questioned the statement in some taḏkeras that he lived for a while in Kashan, where he became a disciple of the great Safavid poet Moḥtašam Kāšāni (d. 1587).  It seems more likely that he left for India at the age of seventeen and only returned to Iran for a few years before permanently moving to the subcontinent (Golčin-e Māʿāni, pp. 1478-79).  At the beginning of his career in India he was in the company of Mirzā Yusof Khan Mašhadi, a patron of the arts who served as a military commander and governor of Kashmir under Jalāl-al-din Akbar Shah (Golčin-e Maʿāni, II, pp. 1556-57) Later he enjoyed the patronage of the emperor Akbar’s third and youngest son, Dāniāl, and after the prince’s death in 1604, the patronage of the Mughal general and statesman ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Ḵān-e Ḵānān, who was Prince Dāniāl's father-in-law and a patron of the arts and poetry. 

The published divān of Nawʿi contains poems in all of the major forms: ḡazal, robāʿi, maṯnawi, qaṣida (lyrics, quatrains, rhymed couplets, odes), tarjiʿband, and tarkibband (forms of stanzaic poetry); however, the large part of it is ḡazals and maṯnawis.  In the ḡazal Nawʿi was inspired by the master poets Hafez and Moḥtašam Kāšāni. His panegyric poems are addressed to Prince Dāniāl, the prophet Moḥammad, and Shiʿite Imams.  One of the short maṯnawis is a sāqi-nāma (quoted by Faḵr-al-Zamāni, pp. 262-79), a popular genre among Safavid and Mughal poets, which was dedicated to the Ḵān-e Ḵānān.  Another short maṯnawi is about his imprisonment, but the particulars of this episode in the poet’s life are not known to us (Divān, pp. 283-86). 

Nawʿi is best known for his long maṯnawi, Suz o godāz, which consists of 492 distiches (bayt) in baḥr-e hazaj meter.  It was probably written around 1604, just before Dāniāl’s death.  This work, in the form of a conventional romance in the tradition of Layli o Majnun and Ḵosrow o Širin, is centered on a suttee (sati) heroine.  The whole narrative is described as a simple event witnessed by the poet, perhaps deliberately to add an ethnographic flavor to the work.  The story is about two childhood sweethearts, not named in the text, who are going to be married.  On the day of their wedding, part of a building falls on the groom and kills him.  During the cremation ceremony of the lover by his family, the beloved insists on burning herself on the funeral pyre as a display of her eternal love.  Everyone tries to dissuade her but to no avail.  Eventually the matter is taken up to Prince Dāniāl, and then even the emperor Akbar attempts to stop her (Figure 1).  In the end, however, as a gesture of sensitivity to her cultural tradition, they sanction the deed (Figure 2).  The poem ends with a debate (monāẓara) on the topic of love between a fish and a salamander.   

The production of this work would seem to be part of the larger interest in stories of Indian origin at the Mughal court and can be compared to the Nal o Daman, a versified romance by the poet laureate Fayzi (d. 1004/1595).  The language of the poem is extremely rhetorical and replete with fire imagery, but it cannot be considered a mystical work, as has been done by some (e.g., Coomaraswamy).  Based on the political aspect of the poem, it has been suggested that it was composed to promote Dāniāl’s low standing in the emperor’s eyes (Sharma, pp. 262-63).  The work later inspired a number of sati-nāmas of a non-courtly nature (Ḵazānadārlu, pp. 96-99).  There are several illustrated manuscripts of Nawʿi’s romance, some in the Safavid style, indicating that the work must have gained a modicum of popularity (Ṣafā, pp. 881-82).  The art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (in Dawud and Coomaraswamy, pp. 3-4) introduced the manuscripts of this work in the British Library (Rieu, II, p. 674; for manuscripts, see also Monzawi) and co-authored a partial translation of the poem.

Bibliography:

Mirza Yuhanna Dawud and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, trs., Burning and Melting: Being the Suz-u-Gudaz of Muhammad Riza Nauʿī of Khabushan, London, 1912.  

ʿAbd-al-Nabi Faḵr-al-Zamāni Qazvini, Taḏkera-ye meyḵāna, ed. Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tehran, 1961, pp. 258-79.  

Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʻāni, Kārvān-e Hend, 2 vols., Mashad, 1990, II, pp. 1471-87. 

Moḥammad-ʿAli Ḵazānadārlu, ed., Manẓumahā-ye fārsi: qarn-e 9 tā 12, Tehran, 1969, pp. 96-99, 595-97.  

Aḥmad Monzawi, Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi IV, Tehran, 1970, pp. 2924-27.  

Idem, Fehrest-e moštarak: nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi-e Pākestān: A Comprehensive Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in Pakistan, VII: Manẓumahā, Islamabad, 1986, pp. 780-81.  

Saʿid Nafisi, Tāriḵ-e naẓm o naṯr dar Irān wa dar zabān-e fārsi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1965, pp. 434, 824-25.  

Moḥammad-Reżā Nawʿi, Suz-o godāz, ed. Amir Ḥasan ʿĀbedi, Tehran, 1969; tr. Dawud and Coomaraswamy, 1912

Idem, Divān-e Mollā Nawʿi Ḵabušāni, ed. Amir Ḥosayn Ḏākerzāda, Tehran, 1995. 

Charles Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 3 vols., Oxford, repr., 1966. 

Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān, 5 vols. in 8, Tehran, 1959-92, V/2, pp. 883-92.  

Sunil Sharma, “Novelty, Tradition and Mughal Politics in Nauʿī’s Suz u Gudāz,” in Franklin Lewis and Sunil Sharma, eds., The Necklace of the Pleiades: Studies in Persian Literature Presented to Heshmat Moayyad on His 80th Birthday, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 251-65.

 

(Sunil Sharma)

Last Updated: February 21, 2014