Chandar Bhan Brahman-Iqbal Husain

The share of the Hindus in the expansion of Persian literature is great. It is a subject too vast to be dealt with in a single paper but it is indeed a very interesting subject for study. Many people are inclined to remark that the Hindus displayed their interest in Persian for political reasons, but the whole truth does not lie in this remark. The Hindus, who have always displayed a high taste in literature, developed a real admiration for Persian, and quite a large number of them adopted this language as their medium of expression. The enlightened patronage of the Mughal rulers stimulated the growth of Persian literature in India in its own way. The Persian language became Indianized and the Hindu poets and writers enriched the Persian vocabulary by introducing Hindi words and idioms. The Persian diction was affected by Hindu ways of thought and expression. Amongst the Hindus who have made very valuable and definite contributions to Persian literature Chandar Bhan occupies a prominent position, and in this paper I propose to deal with him.

Chandar Bhan, who gave himself the poetic title of Brahman, was a native of Lahore. His house was situated in Niyula, which seems to have been that quarter of the city of Lahore which is now known as Naulakha. This district of Lahore once formed part of the ancient City. In the third Chaman of his work entitled Chahar Chaman, Chandar Bhan Brahman gives some details of his own life. He says: ” I am a Brahman boy of Punjab. My ancestors earned their livelihood by various occupations, but my father Dharam Das was a scribe and distinguished himself among the officers of the king. Towards the end of his life, my father retired into pious seclusion. I had three brothers. One of my brothers, Udai Bhan, on account of his merits and talents, entered the services of Aqil Khan. The king (Shah Jahan) used to favor the Khan with his visits and it was through Aqil Khan that I was introduced to the king. I am a pupil of Mulla Abdul Hakim of Sialkot. Kishan Chand Ikhlas, in his Hamesha Bahar, writes that at the beginning of his career Brahman was in the service of Amir Abdul-Karim of Lahore and afterward became the companion of Afzal Khan. After this Brahman passed into the imperial service of Shah Jahan, with the duty of attending on the emperor’s journeys and recording the daily occurrences.’Brahman was very proud of his post and remarks with gratitude that the king had given him a small elephant on which he rode as he talked with the king on the way.’ Rieu describes his post as that of Waqai-i-Nawis-i- Huzur. He was sent by Shah Jahan to Udaipur in order to settle the affairs of the Rana. According to Sher Khan Lodi, Brahman acted as Munshi to Dara Shikoh, who had great trust in him. On the 9th April 1656 A.D. Chandar Bhan Brahman was honored by Shah Jahan with the title of Rai. Brahman accompanied Dara Shikoh on his Qandhaar campaign as the superintendent of household stores and workshops. The prince ordered Chandar Bhan to select a site from which he might witness the deeds of velour of his troops on the day of the assault. Chandar Bhan chose a house on the slope of a hill known as Chehel-Dokhtaran, and the prince visited the place

Relying on the statement of Sher Khan Lodi, the author of Nishtar-i-Ishq and many other writers state that after the murder of Dara Shikoh, Brahman went to the holy city of Benares and passed the rest of his life there. Rieu supports their statement. This statement, however, is not correct. After the death of his patron Dara Shikoh, Brahman entered the service of Aurangzeb and passed several years of his life in the service of this emperor. We do not know why Brahman decided to serve the man who had brought about the death of his patron in so sad a manner. On the accession of Aurangzeb to the throne, Brahman wrote him a letter in the most submissive terms, praying for the prosperity of his reign, and incorporated therein a Rubai specially composed for the occasion. The Rubai runs as follows:-

Shaha aalam muti’-e-farman-e-tu baad

Labrez ada-e-shukr-e-ehsaan-e-tu baad

Chu.n zaat-e-tu khalq ra nigahbaa.n baad

Har jaa baashi khuda nigahbaan-e-tu baad

“0 King!  May the world be under your command; may it utter from its tongue its thanks for your kindness. Since you are the protector of man, wherever you may be, may God protect you!”

Brahman could not afford to court the displeasure of Aurangzeb and he willingly accepted a post under him. In a letter to Aurangzeb Brahman begins with the following verse-

Shudem pir ba-isya.n-o-chashm aa.n daaram

Ki jurm-e-ma ba-jawanan-e-na-rasa bakhshad

 “I am an old man laden with sins, but I hope that my faults may be excused for the sake of devout young men.”

This verse is very significant. The poet was afraid of some punishment at the hands of Aurangzeb, for he had been a close associate of Dara Shikoh. When Aurangzeb ascended the throne Brahman was an old man, and not in a fit state of health to take an active part in the duties of the State. He, therefore, retired to Lahore and engaged himself in the pious duty of looking after the mausoleum of Jahangir. He wrote a letter to Aurangzeb informing him that he was discharging his duties with great honesty and devotion. In the sixth year of Aurangzeb’s reign, Brahman wrote a letter to the emperor and conveyed to him the details of the Majlis-i-Maulud, which was performed at the mausoleum on the 17th day of Ziqad, in memory of Jahangir. Brahman administered the property attached to the mausoleum wisely and well. Rieu states that Brahman died in A.H. 1073/A.D. 1662. This statement also is not true. On the testimony of Brahman’s letter cited above, we find that Brahman was alive till at least six years after the accession of Aurangzeb to the throne, which period corresponds to A.H. 1075/A.D. 1664.

Brahman possessed a very noble and trustworthy character and it was for this reason that he enjoyed the confidence of Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh, and many nobles of the court. In order to know him, it is necessary to go through his writings carefully. He was deeply influenced by Islamic culture but in all his writings he shows his Hindu proclivities. In one of his verses he says: ,

Maraa dilest ba-kufr-aashnaa ki chandii.n baar

Ba-kaabaa burdam-o-baazash barhaman aawardam

“I possess the heart of an infidel. Many a time I took it to the Ka’ba but always brought it back a Brahman”.

It is related” that when he recited this verse in the court, Shah Jahan became greatly displeased, but Brahman’s patron Afzal Khan humorously quoted the well-known verse of Saadi:

KHar-e-iisaa agar ba-makka rawad

Chuu.n bayaayad hanuuz KHar baashad

“If the donkey of Jesus goes to Mecca, on its return, it remains a donkey.”

The king smiled at the pleasantry. Brahman being a devout Hindu had a special affection for his sacred thread. He says:

Maraa ba-rishtaa-e-zunnaar ulfate Khaas ast

Ki yaadgaatr-e-man az barhaman hamii-daaram

“I have a special love for my sacred thread, for this is the only sign which I possess of the Brahmanic faith.”

Thus the remark of the author of the ‘Amal-i-Salih’ that “although outwardly he is a Hindu yet he professes the faith of Islam” does not seem to be justified. Yet in spite of his love for his own religion, he was deeply impressed by the practical philosophy of the Muslim people. He was much inclined towards the Sufi faith. His letters show also that he had much love and affection for his son, brothers, and father. In his letters, he remembers his father and his patron Aqil Khan with great respect. In one of his letters, he describes his own faith thus-

 ii.n barhaman-e- vafakesh ba-aashna-o-begaanaa-o-dost-o- dushman tarh-e-mudaaraa andaaKHta , aalam-e-kasrat raa ba-chashm-e-vahdat mushhahdaa namuuda –o- Gaire raa darmiyaan na-didaa –o- Gair az haq na-daanista

 ” This Brahman, sincere of faith, established peace with the known and the unknown, friends and foes, saw the world of multiplicity with the eyes of unity, never found a stranger, and never acquainted himself with anything but Truth.”

It was a high ideal and Brahman had the satisfaction of living up to it.

Brahman is the first eminent Hindu writer of both Persian prose and poetry whose works have come down to us. Muhammad Afzal Sarkhush, paying compliments to his genius, writes thus :—

Tab.a-e- durust daasht , sher bataur-e-qodmaa shustaa-o- saaf mii-guft-o- saliqaa-e-inshaapardaazii niiz daasht.

“He was a talented person, composed verses very clear and pure like the classical poets, and was well versed in writing letters in an elegant style.”

Munir, the famous Persian prose-writer of Lahore, in a special letter to Brahman paid him the highest tribute in the following terms, which cannot with justice be translated into English:—

Harfe az madh-e-ausaaf-e-aa.n chashm-o-charaG-e-aafriinash ,sar-e-lauh-e-kitaab-e-daanish-o- biiniish ,ashraf-e-duudmaan-e-hashmat –o-iqbaal ,matlaa-e-diibaacha-e-daulat-o-jalaal ,KHat-e-Jabbin-e-fsaahat,naqsh-e-nagiin-e-balaGat,sahbaanul asr , Hassanuzzaman,malikush-shora Chandra Bhan na-tavaa.n raqam zad.

aa.n ast ki baa-vajuud-e-pareshaanii-e-havaas-o-shoriidgii-e- dimaaG-o-aashuftagii-e- auzaa-o-naarsaaii-e- tabiiat-o-kotahii-e- daastaan-e-be-paayaan sanaa-e- aa.n halqaa-e-arbaab-e-ma.aanii raa dar hayyez-e- ibaarat ba-tahriir aarad.

The above letter is not to be found in the lithographed edition of Munir’s Letters, but it is extensively quoted by Laxmi Narayan Shafiq in his Gul-i-Raina. Munir has not been so lavish in his praises of any other writer. The author of the Nishtar-Ishq writes that once Brahman got several copies of his Diwan transcribed in the most elegant hand with every page artistically decorated. Each copy was given an excellent binding. These superb copies of his Divan, Brahman sent to some Iranian poets with a request that they might favor him with their selections of his verses. The Persian poets kept the beautiful bindings and decorated portions of the pages, and sent back the texts of the Divan to Brahman with the typical Persian remark: Your present thrown at your face!  I do not know what is the source of this statement made by the author of Nishtar-i-Ishq. It seems to be quite incorrect. For Brahman in one of his letters writes as follows:–

Raqaaim-o- navishtaajaat-e-ii.n niyaazmand dar Iraan-o- tuuraan shohrat yaaftaa.

“The works and writings of this humble man have attained to fame in Iran and Turan.”

Saib, one of the greatest Persian poets, incorporated Brahman’s verses in his personal anthology of verses. This was the greatest compliment that a poet like Saib could pay to Brahman.

Brahman in his Letters’ enumerates seven of his works, viz. (1) Divan consisting of Ghazals and Mathnawi, (2) Guldasta, (3) Chahar Chaman (4) Tuhfat-ul-Anwar (5) Karnama. (6) Tuhfat-ul-Fusaha, and (7) Majma’-ul-Fuqara.

In the Bankipore collection, there are two copies of Suwal wa Jawab-i-Lal Das wa Dare Shikoh. This book, arranged and edited by Chiranji Lal, was lithographed in Delhi in 1885. It contains the conversations between Baba Lal Das and Prince Dari Shikoh on the doctrines of Hindu Faqirs, in the form of questions and answers. The dialogue was originally written in Hindi but was subsequently translated into Persian by Brahman. Although the dialogue relates to religious themes yet Brahman has come out very successful in his translation.

Brahman’s fame rests on three works, viz. (1) Chahar Chaman, (2) Letters, and (3) his Diwan. Lachmi Narayan Shafiq mentions that during his time Brahman’s Chahar Chaman and his Letters were included in the higher course of Persian studies.’ Some details regarding Brahman’s Work may be found interesting.

  1. Chahar Chaman : This was written shortly after A.H. 1057. It is divided into four Chamans. The first contains descriptions of various festivals at the Court, with pieces of poetry recited by the author on those occasions. The second describes the splendors of the court, the daily occupations of Shah Jahan, his new capital Shah Jahanabad, and the principal cities and suburbs of the empire. The third contains the author’s life and some of his letters. The fourth deals with moral and religious subjects.
  2. Letters of Brahman : This is a collection of letters which Brahman wrote on many occasions to kings, princes, nobles of the court, contemporary poets and scholars, and some of his relatives. There are amongst many other letters addressed to Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, to Afzal Khan, Sa’dullah Khan, Ja’far Khan. Zafar Khan and Danish-mand Khan (all Mughal nobles and statesmen) ; to Raja Raghunath, Raja Gopal Das and Rai Brindraban (all Hindu noblemen), Shaikh Mirak, Mulla ‘Abdu’l-Latif, Mulla Jan Muhammad Qudsi, Mulla Munir of Lahore, and Mir ‘Abdul Karim (all poets and savants); and to his father and brothers. The Letters of Brahman were lithographed at Lucknow in 1885. In this collection of Letters the most interesting are those which Brahman wrote to his son Tej Bhan. They are full of words of wisdom and reveal the personality of the man. A loving father cannot use words better than these to address his son. In one of his letters’ to Tej Bhan he addresses him in the following manner-

Farzand-e-dilband,chraG-e-KHana-e-zindagaani,sham.a-e-bazm-e-shaadmaani,nuur-e-diidaa-e-ramad rasiidaa ,aaraam-e-KHaatir-e-Gam kashiidaa,quut-e-ayyaam-e-piirii,a’saa-e-ha.ngaam-e-dastgiirii,gul-e-gulzaar-e-umiid,maayaa-e- ishrat-e-jaaved,darmaan-e-KHatir-e-ranjuur,marham-ZaKHam-e-naasuur,sarmaaya-e-tijaarat-e-rozgaar,haasil-e-gardish-e-lailo-nahaar.

Brahman advises his son to acquire knowledge and put it into practice:—

Ilm-e-be-amal shaaKH-e- be bar buwad,ilm-e-qaliil-e- baa amal behtar az ilm-e-kasiir-e-be-amal

 “Knowledge without practice is like a branch without fruit. Little knowledge with practice is better than much knowledge without practice”. Cautioning his young son, Brahman writes:—

aaGaz-e-ayyaam-e-shabaab baais-e- shorish-e-mizaj-o- aashuftagii-e-tab.a ast, KHushaa sa.aa’datmandi ki ii.n mausam raa ba-tahammul –o- hauslaa –o-shakebaaii-o- burdbaarii-o-kam-goii-o- kam-aazaarii basar burd.

“The beginning of the youth is the cause of the disturbance of Mind and the uneasiness of temper. Blessed is that youth who passes his time with patience, resolution, endurance, forbearance, quietness, and inoffensiveness.”

A little further on he warns his son thus:—

Dil-bastagii har chand laazima-e-insaaniyat ast –o- daanaa –o- naadaan raa  az iiin guureze niist ammaa har ki subuksaar-tar aasuuda-tar

 “Although love is essential for man and neither the wise nor the fool can avoid it, yet he who is more unconcerned is happier.”

 In another letter to his son Tej Bhan, Brahman asks him to listen to the words of great men and to read Akhldq-i-Nasiri, Akhlaq-i-Jalali, and the works of Saadi.

The Letters of Brahman are unique in their simplicity and beauty of words. His style is praiseworthy and free from the technicalities of other ” Munshis.” The force and appropriateness of his words, the structure of his sentences, and his elegance always attract the notice of his readers. The author of Tazkira-i- Husaini praises Brahman for his letters written ” in a very simple style.” The difficult style of Abu’l-Fazal was before him. It did not appeal to him and he wrote in a style of his own. Although his letters are addressed to princes, kings, and noblemen yet the terms in which these dignitaries are addressed are very simple. The address to Emperor Aurangzeb takes the following form:—

Baadshhah-e- kariim,rahiim,aadil,meharbaan salaamat

Only when a letter is addressed to Mulla Munir of Lahore, who was well known for the ornate and pedantic style of his letters, does Brahman adopt a grand style? He begins as follows:–

Lamaat-e-mahre-muniir-e-sipahr-e-suKHanwari-o-rash.haat-e-abr-e-mutiir-e-falak-e-suKHan-Gustarii hamwaraa bar kishwar-e-suKHan taabaa.n-o-dar gulshan-e-maani gauhar-afshaa.n

Nowhere in his letters except in the one quoted above has Brahman adopted the style which is to be found in the letters of Abu’l-Fazal and Mulla Munir. He stands as a noble contrast to both of them.

3. Divan: The Divan consists of Ghazals and Rubais. In poetry Brahman is famous as a writer of Ghazal and I will deal here with some characteristic features of his Ghazals. Most of his Ghazals are composed in a simple style but in some we find rhetorical artifices and novel comparisons and similes. Some of his Ghazals are full of mystical pantheistic thoughts and show considerable grace and fluency of language.

The following is prominent among his graceful Ghazals-

bahaar aamad suKHan az jaam-o-sahbaa mii-tawaa.n guftan

suKHan gar na-shunwad saaqi ba-sahbaa mii-tawaa.n guftan

shikaayathaa ze aql-e-zuu-funuu.n  pesh-e-junuu.n daaram

ze naadaa.n har che pesh aayad ba-daanaa mii-tawaa.n guftan

tuu bar saahil kujaa az shorish-e- dariya KHabar daarii

ba-Gavvasii suKHan az qaar-e- dariyaa mii-tawaa.n guftan

ba-har na-tawaa.n guft Gamha-e-mohabbat raa

agar dar dil na-mii-gunjad ba-sahraa mii-tawaa.n guftan

barahman hosh baayad gosh hargiz bar namii taabad

hadiis-e-ishq  jaa.n-soz ast baa maa  mii-tawaa.n guftan

The following is another admirable Ghazal of Brahman, remarkable for its fluent phraseology and well-weighed thoughts –

Umr agar iinast chuu.n baad-e- sabaa KHawahad guzasht

Az hamaa begaanatar ii.n aashna KHawahad guzasht

Buu-e-dard-e-aashnaaii zindaa mii-daarad maraa

Har ki baa dard aashnaa shud az dawaa KHawahad guzasht

Hech kas az gardish-e- garduu.n namii aayad buruu.n

Har yake chuu.n daanaa zer-e-aasyaa KHawahad guzasht

Raah saKHt-o- shisha-e-umr-e-giraamii naazuk ast

Sohbat-e-miinaa-o-KHaa raa taa kujaa KHawahad guzasht

Bar sar-e-aazadgaa.n maanind-e-gul KHawahad guzasht

KHar-e-sahraaii mohabbat chuu.n ze paa KHawahad guzasht

ai barahman dar chaman pesh az sahar baayad rasiid

raah bisyaarsat subh az pesh-e-maa KHawahad guzasht

Even when Brahman handles a difficult rhyme, the result is successful-

Ze haal-e-man ki chuunam be-ruKHat daarii Khbar yaa na

Dil-e-man soKHt aayaa dar dilat baashad asar yaa na

Agar chashm-e-taram gauhar-fashaa.n gardad ajab na-buwad

Ki naisaa.n dar sadaf az qatra mii-bandad gohar yaa na

Bayaad-e-zulf-e-baa-KHweshtan afsaana mii-goyam

Ki KHwahad shud shabe ii.n qissaa-e-man moKHtasar yaa na

Dil-e-saahib-dilaa.n parwardaa-e-KHuun-e-jigar baashad

Baham aaGashtaa-e-laKHt-e-dil-o-Khuun-e-jigar  yaa na

Barahman gar na kaam-e-dil ba-dast aamad taGaful kun

Nihaal-e-naa-Umiidii niiz mii-baKHshad samar  yaa na

The following Ghazal, which is composed in a difficult style shows Brahman’s ability to introduce novel comparisons and similes –

Mastaanaa ba-baaG  aa-o- chaman dar gul-e-tar giir

Waz niim-tabassum  par-e-bulbul ba-shkar giir

ai qatra ki dariya-e-fanaa dar nazar-e-tust

chuu.n mauj ze uryaanii-e-tan jauhar-e-tar giir

hushyaar ki bedaar dilaa.n chashm baraah an.d

dar aayina-e-buu-e-gul az yaar KHabar giir

dar kishwar-e-iimaa.n ma-nashii.n behudaa

bar KHez barahman rah-e-iqliim-e-digar giir

In Brahman, we find a happy blending of Muslim and Hindu thoughts. And he deserves to be remembered for his many-sided genius.

Note – This article was published in the April 1945 issue of Islamic Culture journal. For our readers, we are republishing the article with roman transcription of Persian Texts.

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