An era comes alive Shakeel Ahmed and Vaishali Rai accompanied by Salim Ahmed Khan (L), Syed Rehman Khan (r), Anees Ahmed (c) (1)

Words: Ambica Gulati

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast (If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this.)

The verse about Kashmir is credited to the legendary Hazrat Amir Khusrau and this is how I had heard about the great poet. Until I attended the two-day poetry and music  concert, Rang-E-Khusro organized by a NGO Sakshi and SIET at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre.

Dr Mridula Tandon
Dr Mridula Tandon

The brainchild of Dr Mridula Satish Tandon, President, SAKSHI and SIET, this was her way of acquainting the public with the legendary poet. She calls Hazrat Amir Khusrau a soldier, scholar, sufi, inventor, musician, humanist and much more. “His great body of work, indeed his whole life is a wonderful example of our ‘Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb’. And these ancient works gain importance as they spread the message of love, peaceful co-existence in today’s troubled terror-driven times,” says Dr Tandon. Her desire was to recreate the ambience of the old-world mehfil, to recapture the era gone by, to bring people together.

I missed the first day which had the Jugalbandi of Ashaar and Sitar. Renowned Sitar Maestro, Dr. Sudeep Rai accompanied by Ustad Rashid Zafar Khan (Tabla), performed on the ‘Poetic Reflections’ by litterateur and poet, Nazim Naqvi.

But I made up for this loss by listening to the mesmerizing Sufi vocals by Ustad Shakeel Ahmed and Vaishali Rai, accompanied by Ustad Salim Ahmed Khan (Tabla), Ustad Syed Rehman Khan (Sarangi) and Anees Ahmed (Keyboard) on the second day. This Kalaam-e-Khusrau began with Piya Ghar Aaye, went on to the popular Kesariya balam and ended on a high note with Dama Dum Mast Kalandar.

In this process I discovered that the Persian poet was a master blender—he knew Arabic, Sanskrit, Khadi boli, Persian, Hindi, Urdu and was even interested in Krishna bhajans. He is best known as the ‘father of qawwali’ and inventor of the ‘tabla and sitar’.

Shakeel Ahmed’s superb solo and duet was mesmerizing as he went on with the hour-long renditions such as ChhaapTilak, delectable farsee  Amadabaqatl e man, khadi boli song Kahe ko byahi bides.

Amir_KhusroThe awesome vocals reverberating in my ears, I browse through to know more about this grand mystic and spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi. He has many pioneering aspects to his credit. He introduced the ghazal style into India; along with Persian, Arabic and Turkish elements into Indian classical music; was the originator of the khayal and tarana styles of music. He used 11 metrical schemes with 35 distinct divisions. He has written in many verse forms including ghazal, masnavi, qata, rubai, do-beti and tarkibhand.

Amīr Khusrau was born in Patiyali in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, in 1252-53 CE. His father, Amīr Saif-ud-Dīn Mahmūd, was a Turkish officer and a member of the Lachin tribe of Transoxania,Central Asia, belonging to the Kara-Khitais. He started learning and writing poetry at the age of eight. He is also called the Parrot of India.

He joined the army of Malik Chajju, nephew of Sultan Balban. This brought his poetry to the attention of the Assembly of the Royal Court. It was in the court of Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji that Khusrau was honoured with the title of Amir Khusrau. His ghazals were sung by every night before the king. And Khusrao wrote: “The King of the world Jalal ud din, in reward for my infinite pain which I undertook in composing verses, bestowed upon me an unimaginable treasure of wealth.”

An illustrated manuscript of  one of Amir Khusrau's poems
An illustrated manuscript of one of Amir Khusrau’s poems

His works include Shah Name mun, Khazinatul-Futuh, Matta-ul-Anwaar, Shireen, Laila Majnu, Aina-e-Sikandari, Hasht Bahisht, Nahsi Pahar, Ejaze Khusravi, Tughlaq Nama.

On April 3, 1325 Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Khusrau’s teacher passed away, and after six months he also died. Khusrau’s tomb is next to his teacher’s in the Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi. But the story doesn’t end….

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