SAFINA-ye ḴOŠGU, an important Indo-Persian taḏkera (collection of biographical notices of poets with anthologies of their verse) of the 18th century, by Bindrāban Dās Ḵošgu. The author was probably born in the Krishnaite holy city of Mathura (Ḵošgu, p. 311; Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 63), though some other centers like Delhi and Varanasi have been variously mentioned as his birthplace (Ṣabā, p. 206; Sprenger, p. 131; see also Naqavi, p. 240). He was a Hindu belonging to the vaisya (bays or baʾis in the Indo-Persian texts) caste (Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 63; Hendi, p. 67).

The date of his birth is unknown, but an autobiographical reference in his Safina quite clearly suggests that he was born between 1667-8 and 1677-8 (Ḵošgu p. 118; Naqavi p. 240; this chronology is accepted in Dāneš-nāma, p. 1093). Belonging to a family of imperial employees (his ancestors were attached to the court of Dārā Šokuh [See DĀRĀ ŠOKŌH], and his father served in Awrangzēb’s army; Ḵošgu, pp. 92, 184), he lived mostly in Delhi, where he frequented some of the most important Indo-Persian literary circles of 18th century northern India, such as those led by Mirzā Afżal Sarḵoš (d. 1715), Mirzā ʿAbd-al-Qāder ‘Bidel’ (d. 1720), Shah Saʿd-Allāh Golšan Borhānpuri (d. 1727), and Serāj-al-Din ʿAli Khan ‘Ārzu’ (q.v.; d. 1756; Ḵošgu, pp. 72-75, 117-24, 167-68, 312-13, 320; Ārzu, pp. 45-46; Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 65; Ḵalil, p. 56). Ḵošgu himself writes that he got his own taḵalloṣ from Sarḵoš, whom he considered as a father figure (Ḵošgu, p. 75), that he visited the house of Bidel more than a thousand times during his life (Ḵošgu, p. 117), and that Shah Golšan held him in special favor (Ḵošgu, p. 167); however, Ḵošgu’s deepest and most mature intellectual relationship was probably with the great philologist Ārzu, who around 1748 wrote that their friendship was 25 years old (Ārzu, p. 46). He also had his own disciples, among whom Bhagvān Dās Hendi mentions Nur-al-ʿAyn Wāqef (Hendi, p. 67). Some taḏkeras, perhaps following a literary topos often related to Hindu writers of Persian (compare the well-known case of Čandra Bhān Barahman), insist on the fact that at a certain point, after having served the governor of the district of Allahabad (Ārzu, p. 46), he left mundane affairs choosing the way of the wandering ascetics (foqarāʾ), living on the holy banks of the Ganges between Varanasi, Allahabad and ʿAẓimābād (Patna) (Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 65). According to the taḏkera-yegol-e raʿnā, he died in ʿAẓimābād in 1757 (Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 65; see also ʿAbd-Allah, pp. 208-209 and Naqavi, p. 243).

No collection of his poetical works, nor his Malfuẓāt-e Bidel (see Ḵošgu, p. 112), have survived (on another untraceable work attributed to him, a moraqqaʿ, see Naqavi, p. 243 and Golčin-e Maʿāni, p. 722); excluding some scattered verses preserved in taḏkeraliterature, the Safina-ye Ḵošgu, by far his most important literary achievement, is Ḵošgu’s only extant work. As it can be inferred from two chronograms, the taḏkera was composed between 1724 and 1735 (Sprenger, p. 130; Naqavi, p. 244; Golčin-e Maʿāni, p. 713; Storey p. 826). According to Sprenger, Ḵošgu was forced to leave Delhi by Nāder Shah’s invasion and could not edit a fair copy of his draft until his return in 1742-43, when he presented it to Ārzu who added a preface and some glosses, thus completing it (Sprenger, p. 130). The work was dedicated to ʿOmdat-al-Molk Amir Khan Anjām, the author’s patron (Ārzu, p. 46; Šafiq Awrangābādi, p. 65). The book is divided into three daftars, each internally arranged on a chronological basis: the first, consecrated to the ‘ancient’ (motaqaddem) writers, contains the notices of 362 poets from Rudaki to Kāfi Ẓafar Hamadāni; the second (studied and edited by Aṣḡar, 2002), about ‘intermediate’ and ‘recent’ (motawaṣṣeṭ and motaʾaḵḵer) authors, deals with the lives and/or verses of 811 poets from Jāmi to Šoguni (d. after 1650); the third is dedicated to 245 contemporary (moʿāṣer) poets, from Nāṣer ‘ʿAli’ Serhendi to Sarab Sukh ‘Ḵākestar’ (d. after 1742).

Among the most important manuscripts are those held in the British Library (first daftar: I.O. 4023, not listed in the Ethé catalogue), in the Bodleian Library (second daftar: see Sachau-Ethé, p. 211), and in the Khudabakhsh Library (third daftar: see Abdul Muqtadir, pp. 83-115; this is probably the only extant copy); for further information on Safina manuscripts see Ḵošgu (pp. ii-x), Naqavi (pp. 254-55), Storey (p. 826), and Golčin-e Maʿāni (pp. 715-18). An alphabetically ordered compendium dealing with 1,111 poets, known as the ābāvard “recension,” was completed in 1825 by the Iranian Dorri Šuštari (Golčin-e Maʿāni, pp. 713-15). Golčin-e Maʿāni suggests that the Safina-ye Ḵošgu was originally divided into four daftars (Golčin-e Maʿāni, p. 713), but the arguments produced, though suggestive, are not conclusive. The style of the Safina is usually relatively simple (Naqavi, p. 248). Particularly interesting from the stylistic-linguistic point of view, are the passages containing dialogues in the third daftar (e.g., Ḵošgu, pp. 72-73), perhaps reflecting the form of Persian used by northern Indian literati in semi-official contexts; the same daftar is also characterized by a quite frequent use of Hindi/Urdu words and non-standard Persian expressions (see Naqavi, pp. 252-53). As already noted by Sprenger (p. 130), the third daftar, published in 1959 in Patna by ʿAṭā al-Raḥmān Kākwi, is probably the most valuable since it deals with later and often lesser-known poets, in many cases directly acquainted with the author. As stated by the author himself, the taḏkera-ye Kalemāt al-šoʿarā by Mirzā Afżal Sarḵoš was used as a model for its redaction (Ḵošgu, p. 77); six other directly mentioned sources, among which the Taḏkera-ye Naṣrābādi is particularly important (e.g. Ḵošgu, p. 72), are listed by Naqavi (p. 249).

Although Ḵošgu doesn’t reserve a specific notice for himself, much autobiographical data can be found scattered in the entries dedicated to his masters, especially Sarḵoš, Ārzu, and Bidel (Ḵošgu, pp. 71-77, 312-21, 103-25), and his fellow-poets, like his uncle Sadānand Bitakallof (Ḵošgu, pp. 91-92) and his friends Shivrām Dās Ḥayā and Lālā Ḥakim Čand Nodrat (Ḵošgu pp. 183-85, 352-53). Among the longest and most important notices in the third daftar is that consecrated to Bidel (Ḵošgu, pp. 103-47), as it represents a fundamental first-hand source to reconstruct the biography of the great poet of Patna (see Qāẓi ʿAbd al-Wadud and Abdul Ghani, passim); similarly useful is the information about the first period of Ārzu’s life (Ḵošgu, pp. 312-21). More generally, the third daftar of the Safina-ye Ḵošgu is essential for the understanding of the Indo-Persian intellectual environment of Delhi and Hindustan in the first half of the 18th century, since it gives, through the expressive filter of the taḏkera genre, vivid descriptions of the new urban atmosphere developed with the crisis of the Mughals. Relevant socio-cultural phenomena, such as the mošāʿera (literary salon) and the institutionalization of the ostād-šāgerd (master-pupil) relationship, are described; many Delhi-based Indo-Persian poetic schools, like that of Sarḵoš, Bidel, Moḥammad ʿAlim ‘Taḥqiq’ (d. 1748), Ārzu, Maẓhar Jān-e Jānān (d. 1781) are directly observed and textually represented in the light of the specific conceptual framework of a “memorative communication” (see Hermansen and Lawrence). Moreover, Ḵošgu shows in his Safina a particular interest in the participation of Hindu intellectuals in the poetic circles he describes (there are sixteen biographies of Hindu poets, i.e. 6.5%), giving an image of ‘Hinduism’ (especially Krishnaite devotion) as already integrated as an expressive possibility in the Persian literary-aesthetic system, for instance when speaking of the Persian translation of the tenth chapter of the Bhāgavata-purāna by his friend Nodrat (Ḵošgu, p. 353). Its rich documentation, based on direct observations, made the Safina one of the principal sources for subsequent Indo-Persian taḏkera-writing: a major work like the second part of the Gol-e raʿnā by Lačhmi Narāyan Šafiq, for instance, often mentions entire passages of the Safina while speaking of the pupils of Bidel (e.g. Šafiq Awrangābādi, pp. 46, 81-83, 165-69).



Sayyed ʿAbd-Allāh, Adabiyāt-e fārsi mē hindu’õ kā ḥiṣṣa, 3rd ed., Delhi, 1992.

Abdul Ghani, Life and works of Abdul Qadir Bedil, Lahore, 1960.

Maulavi Abdul Muqtadir, Catalogue of the Arabic and Persian Manuscripts in the Oriental Public Library at Bankipore, vol. VIII, Calcutta, 1925.

Serāj-al-Din ʿAli Khan Ārzu, Majmaʿ al-nafāʾes, ed. by ʿĀ. R. Bedār, 2nd ed., [Patna], 1992.

Sayyed Kalim Aṣḡar, “Tartib va taṣḥiḥ va ḥāšia-ye Safina-ye Ḵošgu - taʿlif-e Bendrāban Dās Ḵošgu,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Dāneškada-ye adabiyāt va ʿolum-e ensāni, Dānešgāh-e Tehrān, Tehran, 2002.

Dānešnāma-ye adab-e fārsi, vol. IV in 3 parts, Tehran, 2001, pp. 1093-94, 1404.

Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tāriḵ-e taḏkerehā-ye fārsi, I, Tehran, 1969, pp. 713-22.

Bhagvān Dās Hendi, Safina-ye Hendi, ed. by ʿA. R. Kākvi, Patna, 1958.

M. K Hermansen and B. B. Lawrence, “Indo-Persian Tazkiras as Memorative Communications,” in D. Gilmartin and B .B. Lawrence, eds., Beyond Turk and Hindu. Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, Gainesville, pp. 149-75.

ʿAli Ebrāhim Khan Ḵalil, Ṣoḥof-e Ebrāhim, ed. by ʿA. R. Bidār, [Patna], 1978.

Bindrāban Dās Ḵošgu, Safina-ye Ḵošgu (daftar-e ṯāleṯ), ed. by ʿA. R. Kākvi, Patna, 1959.

Sayyed ʿAli-Reżā Naqavi, Taḏkeranevisi-ye fārsi dar Hend va Pākestān, Tehran, 1964, pp. 238-55.

Qāżi ʿAbd al-Wadud, “Bidel awr taḏkera-ye Ḵošgu,” Maʿaref, 50/1, July 1942, pp. 39-52.

Moḥammad Moẓaffar Ḥosayn Ṣabā, Ruz-e rowšan, Bhopal, 1880.

E. Sachau and H. Ethé (1889), Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Part I (Persian Manuscripts), Oxford, 1889.

Lačhmi Narāyan Šafiq Awrangābādi, Taḏkera-ye gol-e raʿnā. Faṣl-e sevvom dar ḏekr-e noktapardāzān-e aṣnāmiyān, Hyderabad, n.d.

A. Sprenger, A Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustany Manuscripts, of the Libraries of the King of Oudh, I, Calcutta, 1854; repr. Osnabrück, 1979.

C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: a bio-bibliographical survey, vol. I, pt. 2, London,1953.

(Stefano Pello)

Originally Published: April 7, 2008

Last Updated: April 7, 2008