ḴAYĀL, Mir Moḥammad-Taqi


ḴAYĀL, the pen name of MIR MOḤAMMAD-TAQI JAʿFARI ḤOSAYNI (d. 1173/ 1759), Indian author of a collection of historical and fictitious stories composed in Persian in fifteen volumes over fourteen years (1155-69/1742-56) and titled Bustān-e ḵayāl. Little is known of his life beyond what he himself tells us. The following is extracted from the lengthy autobiographical statement in the preface to his work quoted by Moḥammad-Jaʿfar Maḥjub (1983, pp. 52-57).

Ḵayāl was born in Aḥmadābād (Gujarat), and sometime during his teenage years he moved to Šāhjahānābād (Old Delhi). From his childhood days, Ḵayāl had a passion for stories. In Šāhjahānābād, Ḵayāl, who had learned Arabic (and, presumably, Persian), used to attend a coffeehouse frequented by artists and intellectuals. There he met a certain storyteller, in all probability a salaried narrator at the Mughal court (cf. his sarcastic remark, in Maḥjub, 1983, p. 55), who boasted of being the best in the field. This man was in the habit of retelling old tales with some modifications, which, in Ḵayāl’s opinion, merely made them less pleasant. The storyteller had no knowledge of Arabic or Persian, but he enjoyed listening to Ḵayāl’s reserved comments, which he did not understand but believed to be in praise of his performance. The storyteller continued to boast of his art while narrating the tale of Amir Ḥamza (see Meredith-Owens, in EI2) and other stories. Ḵayāl clashed with this narrator, accepted a challenge from him, and soon recited a story without revealing that he himself was its author. The storyteller at first joined the audience in praising the story, but once he learned who the author was, he started criticizing it, saying that a story is pleasant if it is narrated in Indian, but quite unpleasant in Persian. He also reprimanded those who praised Ḵayāl. This incident encouraged Ḵayāl to narrate more stories, always disguising his authorship. He was also busy writing a story for one of his acquaintances.

Ḵayāl composed the first volume of Bustān-e ḵayāl at the same time that he was writing for others. He had written about one-fourth of the work when Nawwāb Rašid Khan Bahādor, probably of Delhi, read parts of the tale and liked it. He praised Ḵayāl’s work and ordered him to complete it. Ḵayāl wholeheartedly committed himself to writing Bustān-e ḵayāl and worked on it every day. In 1742, after completing the first volume, which he titled Farmāyēš-e rašidi, he presented it to Nawwāb Rašid Khan. Nawwāb’s elder brother, Nawwāb Esḥāq Khan Bahādor, who greatly enjoyed reading it, rewarded Ḵayāl with gifts and special favors. Ḵayāl soon finished the next two volumes and presented them to Nawwāb, who showed it to the Mughal emperor. Here ends the tale of Ḵayāl’s life as recounted by him. All we know of the rest of his life is that, sometime during the 1750s, he left the royal service and went to Bengal, where he completed the last volumes of his book. He died in Murshidabad (Moršedābād), three years after the completion of Bustān-e ḵayāl (Farḥat-Allāh Beg, pp. 219-31).

Bustān-e ḵayāl comprises fifteen volumes, being the second largest cycle of tales after Dāstān-e Amir Ḥamza. Ḵayāl divided his story into two parts, each part containing many interwoven tales. The first part deals with the legendary adventures of the ancestors of Abu Tamim Maʿadd b. al-Manṣur al-Moʿezz le-Din Allāh (r. 341-65/953-75), the fourth Fatimid ruler and the fourteenth Ismaʿili Imam. The second part tells the story of a great king who ruled long before the birth of the Prophet Moḥammad. In brief, the king longed for a son and asked his vizier to cast a horoscope and predict his future. The vizier told the king that soon he would become the father of male twins, but warned that they would be destined to face many hurdles. He gave the king two amulets to tie around the arms of the elder son. After about nine months, the twins were born, and the vizier’s advice was followed. The elder son was named Ḵoršid Tājbaḵš and the younger Badr-e Monir, and they differed from each other in habit and character. The elder brother was fond of merrymaking, whereas the younger loved riding, hunting, and other manly activities. Once Badr-e Monir was hunting with his entourage when he saw a beautiful marble throne in a lonely jungle. He sat upon it, and the throne flew away with him and disappeared. The elder brother visited a grand palace in a dream for six consecutive nights and fell in love with a princess there. He left his home, along with his fellows, to seek the princess. Both brothers became involved in different talismans (ṭelesm; see J. Ruska and B. Carra de Vaux [C. E. Bosworth]), a kind of mundus imaginalis or imaginary world, which they conquered and where they gained a huge amount of wealth. After many adventures they returned to their homeland laden with jewels, gold, and the Šamʿdān-e solaymāni (Solomon’s candelabrum). They summoned Ḥakim Asqalinos (probably an imaginary name, conceived by the author to make it sound like the name of a Greek sage) and asked for his guidance. Asqalinos predicted that “a Prophet will be born in Deserta Arabia after many centuries, and one of his descendants, al-Moʿezz le-Din Allāh, will marry two girls from your progeny.” They ordered the Ḥakim to make a ṭelesm and put all their wealth in it, “so that Moʿezz could conquer the ṭelesm and prove himself a worthy husband of the girls of our family.” (Farḥat-Allāh Beg, pp. 227-29). Asqalinos acted upon the order and recorded all the past incidents in a book entitled Šah-nāma-ye ḵoršidi. It was necessary for Moʿezz to get the Šamʿdān-e solaymāni and read the book in its light. In the meanwhile, Moʿezz continued to conquer the ṭelesm. When he had accomplished this, he married Maleka Nowbahār, who was of the lineage of Ḵoršid Tājbaḵš and Badr-e Monir, and they lived happily ever after.

In all probability, Ḵayāl was very close to the Ismaʿilis. This is apparent in the symbolism presented as an undercurrent throughout the story. Scholars have not yet properly studied these symbolic ramifications, but should such a study ever be undertaken, it would show the Ismaʿili tendency of the author.

The complete text of Bustān-e ḵayāl has not yet been published, although an abridged version titled Bustān-e ḵayāl mawsum be Ṭarab al-majāles was published in Bombay in 1309/ 1891 and in Lahore in 1916 and 1964 (Aršad, pp. 194-229). It has been translated into Urdu several times. Some of these Urdu versions have been published, but many remain unpublished (see Jayn, pp. 598- 658; Zaidi, pp. 204-6).

For manuscripts of Bustān-e ḵayāl, see Cat. Bodleian, nos. 9-23; Cat. Bankipore, nos. 749-65; Rieu, II, pp. 770- 72; Meredith-Owens, 1968, p. 46, no. Or. 11577; Ethé, nos. 833-45; Pertsch, pp. 993-94, no. 1040; Aumer, Cod. Pers. 57-58; Monzawi, Nosḵahā V, pp. 3742-45; idem, Persian Manuscripts in Pakistan VI, pp. 1053-57; Ross and Browne, p. 53, nos. LXII-LXVII; Ivanov, p. 132, no. 305; Yazdāni pp. 37-42.  



Mohammad Sohayb Arshad, “Jāʾezaye maḵṭuṭāt-e Bustān-e ḵayāl-e fārsi,” Taḥqiq-nāma 9, 2004, pp. 194-229.

Josef Aumer, Die persischen Handschriften der Königlichen Hof-und Staatsbibliothek in München, Munich, 1866; repr., Wiesbaden, 1970. Farḥat-Allāh Beg, “Bustān-e ḵayāl,” in Sohayl Aḥmad Khan, ed., Dāstān dar dāstān,: dāstānon ki ẓāheri va bāṭeni maʿnawiyat par montaḵab mażāmin, Lahore,  1987, pp. 227-29.

Wladimir Ivanov, Concise Descriptive Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the Collection of the Asia Siciety in Bengal, Calcutta, 1924.

Geyān Čand Jayn, “Bustān-e ḵayāl,” in Urdu ki nari dāstāneyn, Karachi, n.d.

Moḥammad- Jaʿfar Maḥjub, “Bustān-e ḵayāl: derāztarin dāstān-e ʿawāmāna-ye fārsi,” Irān-nāma/Iran Nameh 2/1, 1983, pp. 43-93.

Idem, “Dāstān-e ṭelesm-e Jamšid az Bustān-e ḵayāl,” Irān-nāma/Iran Nameh 3/2, 1984-85, pp. 220-45; 3/3, pp. 350-77.

Aḥmad Monzawi, Fehrist-e moštarik-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi-e Pākestān/A Comprehensive Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in Pakistan, 11 vols, Islamabad, 1983-90.

Glyn M. Meredith-Owens, “Ḥamza b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib,” in EI² III, 1971, pp. 152-54. Idem, Handlist of Persian Manuscripts 1895-1966, London, 1968.

Wilhelm Pertsch, Verzeichnis der persischen Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin, 1888.

Qasim Hasir Radavi Maulvi and ʿAbd-al-Moqtader Maulvi, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the Buhar Library, Calcutta, 1921.

Charles Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 3 vols., London, 1876-95, II, pp. 770-72.

E. D. Ross and E. G. Browne, Catalogue of Two Collections of Persian and Arabic Mauscripts Preserved in the India Office Library, London, 1902.

J. Ruska and B. Carra de Vaux [C. E. Bosworth], “Tilsam,” in EI² X, 2000, pp. 500-502.

Reżā Yazdāni Rāmpuri, “Mir Taqi ki Bustān-e ḵayāl,” Negār, August 1959, pp. 37-42.

Ali Javad Zaidi, A History of Urdu Literature, New Delhi, 1993, pp. 204-6.

See also Muhammad Salim-ur-Rahman, “Classics Revisited,” in Annual of Urdu Studies 8, 1993, available at http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/08/21classics.pdf; 9, 1994, available at http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/09/20SURclassics.pdf; 13, 1998, available at http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/13/12salimClassics.pdf (all accessed on 24 March 2013). 

(Mohammad Sohayb Arshad)

Originally Published: May 31, 2013

Last Updated: April 9, 2013

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Vol. XVI, Fasc. 2, pp. 146-148