Hindustan (India) and Hindus in Rumi's Poetry


"Hindus praise me in the terms of India
And the Sindhis praise in terms from Sindh
Not for magnificats do I make them pure
They themselves become pure and precious
We do not look to language or to words
We look inside to find intent and rapture."
Rumi - Masnavi 2: 1757-59 - translated by Prof. Franklin Lewis.

In his informative article, 'Persian Language and Literature in India', Professor A.R.Momin explains the historical origins of the word Hindu: "It is interesting to note that the word Hindu is of Persian origin. The Persepolis and Naqsh-e-Rustam inscriptions of Emperor Darius (d. 486 B.C.) refer to the frontier regions of the Indus as Hindush. The term was later used in Arabic geographical and historical sources."

Although Rumi's magnum opus, Masnavi was brought to Hindustan in 1276-- three years after his death by one of his disciples, Ahmad Rumi, the Persian language already had deep roots in India as it was first introduced to Hindustan by the Persian emperor, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi in the the tenth century. The great eleventh century Persian scholar and philosopher, Al-Biruni is widely credited with being the first Persian scholar who not only wrote extensively on India, but also helped translating and popularizing India's rich civilization and diverse culture and customs throughout the Persian Empire. Al-Biruni's most important works on Hindustan (India) are:

1. Critical study of what India says, whether accepted by reason or refused.
2. Researches on India.

The Persian language reached its highest zenith in the rich and absorbing culture of India around the 16th century when the Mughal Dynasty adopted Persian as the official language of the royal court. In Urdu language alone, over 60% of its vocabulary is comprised of Persian words, and the Hindi language contains over 40% of Persian words. Poetry of the great Persian poets such as Ferdowsi, Rumi,Hafiz, Sa'di, Khayam, and also that of Indian-born Persian-speaking Sufi poets, Masud Sa'd Salman, Baydel, Mirza Ghalib, Iqbal Lahori, and Amir Khusro form the foundation bases of 'Hindustani' or 'Hindi Style' of Persian Poetry in Indian Subcontinent.

The incomparable 14th century Persian Sufi poet, Hafiz Shirazi has beautifully captured Persian's influence on India in these verses:

All the Parrots of India will become sweet talkers
From the sweetness of this sweet Farsi
That's being shipped to Bengal!
Hafiz Shirazi - my translation

شکر شکن شوند ، همه طوطیان هند
این قند پارسی که به بنگا له می رود
 حافظ شيرازي


Either you learn how to be an elephant trainer
Or stop dreaming of Hindustan like an Indian elephant!
Hafiz Shirazi - my translation

با رسوم پیلبانان یاد گیر
یا مده هندوستان با یاد پیل
حافظ شيرازي


The eminent 17th century Indian-born Sufi poet, Baydel Dehlavi has also alluded to Hindustan's appeal in these mystical verses:

What's the reason o wise sages
For being so interested in India?
The destiny will ultimately make
The mirror needing the ashes.
Baydel Dehlavi - my translation

روبه هند آوردن صاحبد لان ازبهر چیست؟
روز گار آیینه را محتاج خا کستر کند
 بيدل دهلوي


The eminent 11th century Persian poet, Ferdowsi has also repeatedly mentioned Hindustan or India in his magnum opus, Shah-Namah or The Epic of Kings:

From China to Hindustan (India),
The bright-eyed Idols are worshiped.
Ferdowsi- my translation

ستوده ز هندوستان تا به چین
میان بتان در چو روشن نگین
فردوسی - شاهنامه


I should abandon this magic land
and reach the borders of Hindustan (India).
Ferdowsi- my translation

ببرم پی از خاک جادوستان
شوم تا سر مرز هندوستان
فردوسی - شاهنامه


The great 13th century Persian poet, Sadi Shirazi has this to say about Hindus and Hindustan:

If my Hindu friend accepts my friendship,
I'll be forever indebted to my Hindu friend.
Sadi Shirazi - my translation

دوست به هندوی خود گر بپذیرد مرا
گوش من و تا به حشر حلقه هندوی دوست
سعدی شیرازی


The Land of India and entire Turkey will be yours,
If your Turkish eyes appreciate her Hindu black hair!
Sadi Shirazi - my translation

دیار هند و اقالیم ترک بسپارند
چو چشم ترک تو بینند و زلف هندو را
سعدی شیرازی


The eminent 10th century Persian poet, Abu Sayed Abul-Khair poeticaally explains the Hindu Wisdom in these verses:

A Philosopher said: In Hindustan (India),
I once saw a wise Hindu teaching
engraved inside a Hindu Temples of Idol.
I asked him: So what was that Hindu wisdom quote?
He responded: "Man is like the stone and the glass,
while the wheels of the universe resemble a mad man!
This world of ours worships the material, yet
The material world worths nothing to Almighty.
How could an intelligent person possibly
Fall in love with this materialistic world?"
Abu Sayed Abul-Khair - my translation


فیلسوفی گفت: اندر جانب هندوستان
حکمتی دیدم نوشته بر در بت خانه‌ای
گفتم: آن حکمت چه حکمت بود؟ گفت: این حکمتست
آدمی را سنگ و شیشه چرخ چون دیوانه‌ای
نعمت دنیا و دنیا نزد حق بیگانه است
هیچ عاقل مهر ورزد با چنین بیگانه‌ای؟
ابوسعید ابوالخیر


Reading through Rumi's monumental works, Masnavi and Divan, one can clearly grasp his fascination with the majestic Land of the Hindus, Hindustan or India. Rumi's deep knowledge and insight into the ancient Indian mystical culture, particularly the wandering Yogis and meditative sages, are repeatedly manifested throughout his vast poetry works, notably in Masnavi. Both in Divan and Masnavi, Rumi has made numerous references to Hindu sages and mystics, the long beautiful black hair of the Hindus, the beautiful black eyes of the Hindus, the Hindu Temples, the far away Land of Hindustan (India), and the metaphoric expressions of a 'Nostalgic Indian elephant dreaming of Hindustan', or a 'Nostalgic and homesick Indian elephant breaking its chains and returning to its homeland, Hindustan or India.'





The Masnavi of Rumi reached the Indian Subcontinent in late 13th century - in 1276 AD, three years after Rumi's death. The Masnavi was taken to India by one of his disciples, Ahmad Rumi who belonged to the Suhrawardiyah and Qadiriyah Sufi Orders. One eminent Sufi of the Suhrawardiyah Sufi Order, Sheikh Bahauddin Zikariya of Multan was a contemporary of Rumi and was very much influenced by his teachings.

In the Indian Subcontinent Rumi was also appreciated among the Naqshbandiyyah Sufi Order already in the 15th century and his influence has grown ever since. Not only have numerous commentaries been written upon him, such as those of ‘Abd al-Latīf al-‘Abbāsī and Shāh Mīr Muhammad Nūrallāh al-Ahrārī, but also there developed in the Subcontinent, as well as in Persia and the Ottoman worlds, a particular musical genre which is associated solely with the singing of the Masnavi, a form that again remains popular to this day. More particularly certain of the Sufis of that region, especially Shāh ‘Abd al-Latīf, the great Sindhi poet and mystic who was also an outstanding musician, may be said to be direct emanations of Rūmī's spirituality in the Indian world. It is not without reason that many have compared Shāh 'Abd al-Latīf's Risalo with the Masnaviī.

From the 17th century onward, one can easily trace the influence of Rumi's Masnavi in the writings of Indian scholars like Shah Waliullah, Syed Ahmad Barailvi and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Their disciples, such as Shah Rafiq, Shah Muhammad Ishaq, Mufti Sadaruddin, Shah Ghulam Ali, Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh, Mevlana Fazal Haq Khairabadi and others further developed their ideas. Thereafter the teachings of Syed Ahmad Khan, poetry of Altaf Hussain Hali and writings of Shibli and others belonging to the Aligarh school of thought are also founded on Rumi's Masnavi. 

Muhammad Iqbal, the renowned 20th century philosopher, poet and politician of the Indian Subcontinent, was also immensely inspired by the teachings of Maulana Rumi. The famous long Urdu poem by Iqbal is titled “Sage Rumi and Indian Disciple” which consists of an interesting dialogue between Iqbal and Rumi. Some extracts are as follows:

Indian  Disciple:  A stream of  blood flows from the seeing eye because at the hands of modern knowledge, Religion is tattered and torn. Can this be remedied?

Sage Rumi:  Knowledge used exclusively for material gain bites you like a serpent. But as a purifier of the inner self, it becomes your best friend.

Indian Disciple: O leader of sensitive lovers! I remember the exalted dictum embodied in your verse: 

Mind, strings and frame of the instrument are dry,  
yet where from emerges the song which reminds one of the Beloved?

The  modern age is intoxicated by the  song, but it does not derive any  pleasure as it is transitory, uncertain and unaware of the joy of presence before the Beloved. Thus how can it know the secret as to who is the Beloved and wherefrom emerges the song, Alas! Despite the light of Arts and Sciences in Europe, the song is plunged into the abyss of darkness instead of being elevated to the heavens.

Sage Rumi: Everyone is not capable of enjoying the song. Figs are a fruit which are not relished by all birds.

Indian Disciple: I have absorbed the philosophies of the East and the West.  Yet my soul remains  troubled and agitated with aches and pains.

Sage Rumi: Incompetent healers have made you ill.  Consult a physician who takes motherly care of you. 

Indian Disciple: Alas! The Young man who gets university education has been hunted down by the European wizard.

Sage Rumi: A chick which has not grown its own wings is bound to be torn to pieces by the cat if it attempts to fly.

Indian  Disciple:  Should the body be preferred to the soul?

Sage Rumi: At night a counterfeit coin gives the appearance of gold. Therefore gold must await the light of day to reveal its authenticity.

Indian Disciple: Tell me what is the reality of Man? I am only a speck of dust; transform me into a moon or a sun.

Sage  Rumi:  Outwardly, Man is so insignificant that even a mosquito can make his life miserable. But inwardly, he has the potential to dominate the seven heavens.

Indian  Disciple:  The brightness of  your thought can illuminate the dust.  Tell me whether the object of Man is to seek Reality through perception or through vision?

Sage Rumi: Man in substance is vision whereas the rest of him is only crust, and vision means enlightenment of the eye with the beauty of the Beloved.

Indian  Disciple:  The East is alive due to the warmth of your songs. Tell me what causes nations to perish?

Sage Rumi: Nations perish when they mistake pebbles for perfume."





In her groundbreaking work, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, the incomparable German-born scholar of Rumi, late Prof. Annemarie Schimmel gives us a remarkable insight into the enormous influence of Maulan Rumi in the Indian Subcontinent:

"In India, the love of Maulana Rumi was by no means restricted to the Sufi Orders. We may say without exaggeration that the Masnavi was accepted as authoritative throughout medieval India. The emperor Akbar (ruled 1556-1605) loved the Masnavi, and we read that the poet Sheyda at Shah Jehan's court (ruled 1627-1658) 'quoted in self-defense the authority of Maulana Rumi' and was released. The heir apparent of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jehan's son, Dara Shikoh (d. 1659) was a great admirer of Rumi, so much so that he copied a Masnavi of Rumi with his own hand. Dara's younger brother Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707), who persecuted and eventually executed him, was likewise fond of Rumi's poetry to such an extent that his theological instructor, Maula Jivan, composed an interpretation of the Masnavi. One of his courtiers had told Dara Shikoh's mystical leader, Maula Shah Badakhshi:

I have often had the honor of reading before Aurangzeb passages from the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi. The Emperor was often so touched that he shed tears.
Indo-Pakistani sources contain much information about famous Masnavi-Khwan's [Masnavi Reciter] who excelled in the recitation of Rumi's verses. Among them we may mention a certain Sayyid Sa`dollah Purabi (d. 1726) who wrote a resala-ye chehel beyt-e Mathnavi:  just as the pious Muslim selected forty traditions from the Prophet, thus the mystics chose forty verses from the 'Koran in Pahlavi tongue' and commented upon them. The anthologies of Persian poetry written during the 17th and early 18th centuries supply us with allusions to Rumi and quotations from his work in the lyrical effusions of almost every major and minor poet. When the Kashmiri poet Safya, who wrote poetical pieces in the meter of Malana's Masnavi, tells us that:

The Masnavi-ye Maulavi-ye Ma`navi grants new life to one who has been dead for a hundred years,
he is perfectly in harmony with many other Indo-Muslim poets who praised the Masnavi as source of inspiration, or imitated it in various ways. The biographical handbooks speak of many poets who 'were possessed of an excessive love for the Masnavi', and the outstanding Persian poet of the 17th century, Sa'eb, wrote quite a number of poems in imitation of Rumi's ghazals. Since it had become fashionable to write naziras, 'counter-poems', to classical poems, the poets not only tried to imitate and emulate Hafez, Khaqani and Anvari, but also Maulana Rumi. The last great representative of the Indian Style, and most admired poet of the 'Tajik' tradition, Bedil (d. 1721) is no exception to this rule; his variation upon Rumi's little ghazal:

From every piece of my heart you can make a nightingale . . .

is very successful; besides, allusions to the reed-flute, to the fire which it casts into the reed-bed, and to other images from Rumi's poetry are found in Bedil's Divan, though often in very distorted form. His whole world view, centering around the idea of a constant upward movement of everything created, bears similarities with Rumi's dynamic world view; but these seeming similarities still await scholarly proof.

That Rumi's Masnavi inspired many poems is well known: the refugee from Afghanistan to the court of Sind, Jehangir Hashimi (d. 1539) offers a new variation of Rumi's famous story on prayer in his Masnavi mazhar al-athar. And when, one-and-a-half centuries later, Aurangzeb's daughter, the accomplished poetess Zeb un-Nisa asked her poet friends to compose a Masnavi in the style of Rumi's poetry, this should not be taken as an isolated instance; in fact, there were many such imitations produced around 1700. Again, about a hundred years later, a Hindu writer called Anandagana Khwosh composed a Masnavi-ye kajkolah in the style of Rumi's Mathnavi (1794); it is important to note that he inserted in it the story of Dara Shikoh's meeting with the Hindu sage Baba Lal Das to remind his readers of the attempt at reconciliation of Muslim and Hindu mystical tradition by the unlucky Mughal prince. To glance through A. Sprenger's Catalogue of the manuscripts of the king of Oudh (1854) reveals not only how many copies of the Masnavi were found in the libraries of Indian Muslim kings, but even more the extent to which Rumi's work influenced and was imitated by numerous early 19th century writers in both Persian and Urdu.

It goes without saying that Indian scholars and mystics wrote numerous commentaries of the Masnavi; most of them date from the 17th century, the period of greatest scholarly and poetical activity in the Subcontinent. We could easily enumerate a dozen or more learned commentaries written during this period, besides special glossaries, and anthologies made from Rumi's poetry. The amount of material is probably even larger than is known at present, since a thorough investigation into the catalogs and particularly into the treasures of uncatalogued libraries in India and Pakistan would give even more information about direct or indirect influences of Rumi's work on Indo-Muslim thought. Suffice it to mention that the most famous commentary of the Masnavi, that of `Abd al-`Ali surnamed Bahr al-`olum was composed in Lucknow in the late 18th century; it has been considered by Western scholars the best introduction into Rumi's theology. The useful analytical index known as mir'at al-Masnavi and compiled by Telmidh Hoseyn, should not be left out in this connection; it gives an excellent survey of the contents of the Masnavi
Of special interest is the survival of Rumi's poetry in the Indus valley, in Sind, the first part of the Subcontinent that came under Muslim rule (711). The above mentioned poet Jehangir Hashimi, though of Persian extraction, lived at the court of the Arghun rulers in Thatta, Sind; after him there came a great number of poets who 'kept warm the market of Divine Unity' by reciting the Masnavi in this province. Sind had been noted for the interest of its inhabitants in saint-worship and mystical poetry, and the historians enumerate the names of those who indulged in the recitation of Rumi's work which was regarded as 'the highway for those who attain Divine Reality'. Some of them were able to recite the Masnavi 'with sad voice so beautifully that all the listeners were brought to tears.'
In Sind, as in other parts of Indo-Pakistan, the admiration for the Masnavi was not restricted to a single mystical order. Not only the Chishtiyya but the Qadiriyya and the Naqshbandiyya relied largely upon this book. It is told that one of the 18th century leaders of the Naqshbandiyya in Sind, Mohammad Zaman-e awwal, gave away his whole library and kept for himself only three books, namely the Koran, the Mathnavi, and the Divan-e Shams Tabrizi.

Maulana Rumi's influence on mystical poetry in the Indus valley is best revealed in the work of Shah `Abdul Latif of Bhit (d. 1752). His Risalo in Sindhi is for everyone who speaks Sindhi, be he Hindu or Muslim, the textbook of his Weltanschauung; verses from this collection of mystical poetry are still stock-in-trade in the country. Even the foreigner has to admit that the Risalo belongs to the most touching poetical expressions of Islamic mysticism, and that Shah Latif's way of blending simple Sindhi folktales with high flown mystical speculations is remarkable.
Lilaram Watanmal, one of the first (Hindu) authors to write about the mystical poet of Bhit expressed the opinion that the Koran and the Masnavi were always in the poet's hand, together with some Sindhi mystical poems, and It is related that Nur Mohammad Kalhora, the then ruler of Sind, from whom Shah Latif had become estranged, won back the poet's favor by presenting him with a fine copy of the Masnavi.

Fifty years later, the British civil servant H. T. Sorley, who has devoted a useful book to the Sindhi poet, went so far as to think that Shah `Abdul Latif's poetry is nothing but 'an Indian Muslim development of the philosophy of Jalaluddin Rumi' and 'that it would have been enough for the author of the Risalo to be familiar with the Masnavi alone.' 

Shah `Abdul Latif has inserted into his poetry the famous motif of the blind men and the elephant, and a couple of other allusions to the Masnavi. The most touching instance is that in Sur Sasui Abri (I, 8):

Those, in whom is thirst-water is thirsty for them.

This quotation from the Masnavi (I 1741) points to the truth that God and Man act together were not the Source of Love thirsty for Man's longing, how could Man dare to long for this unfathomable source of Life?

In a long sequence of verses in Sur Yaman Kalyan (V lo-15) the Sindhi poet openly acknowledges his indebtedness to Rumi. Every verse begins with the statement: 
'This is Maulana Rumi's idea . . .' and then explains theories of unity and plurality, of love and longing. It is also known that Shah Latif was on very friendly terms with Shah Isma`il Sufi (d. 1732) who was famous as reciter of the Masnavi. Among the later poets of Sind, all of whom knew Rumi's work very well, we may mention Bedil of Rohri (d. 1872) who read the Masnavi with one of the great mystical leaders of Sind, Pir `Ali Gowhar Shah Asghar whose family has played an important role in the history of Sufism in the Indus valley. The historians tell us that Bedil was comforted during his illness by the recitation of the Mathnavi, and his poetry in Sindhi, Siraiki, Urdu and Persian contains numerous allusions to Rumi's verses and to Shams-e Tabriz. He has even composed a strange book called Masnavi-ye delkosha which consists of a combination of Koranic quotations. Prophetic traditions, verses from the Masnavi and verses from Shah `Abdul Latif's Risalo: these four elements were put together to show the way of higher mysticism.

How strong the love for Maulana still is among the Sindhis can be understood from the fact that beginning in 1943, an excellent Sindhi verse translation of the complete Masnavi was written in Hyderabad/Sind; the author of this work, called Ashraf al-`olum, was Din Mohammad Adib, a teacher in Hyderabad (d. 1975). 

Similar is the situation in the Punjab. At least two commentaries on the Masnavi in Punjabi have been printed, one of them being in Punjabi verse by Pir Imam* Shah (1911), which comprises, however, only a small part of the 26,000 verses of the original. Another Punjabi verse translation, by Maulana Mohammad Shahoddin, appeared in Lahore in 1939.
As to Pashto I know of a poetical version of the Masnavi which is being prepared by Molavi `Abdul Jabbar Bangash from Kohat, and by Abdul Akhar Khan 'Akbar' of Peshawar. In the poetry of the Pathans we find as many allusions to Rumi's work as in the other languages of Muslim India and Pakistan or Turkey.

The regional languages of the Subcontinent contain a large amount of material taken from the Masnavi. It would be surprising if the literary language proper of the Indian Muslims, viz. Urdu, would not contain allusions to or translations from the work of Rumi. How widely Maulana's work was read is illustrated by the fact that even the satirist Sauda (d. 1792), one of the 'four pillars of Urdu' in the 18th century, composed a very little Masnavi on a verse of Rumi about all-embracing unity. That the great mystical poet of Delhi, Mir Dard (d. 1785). following his father Nasir Mohammad `Andalib's example, quotes profusely from Rumi goes without saying. Even in the poetry of the last great master of Urdu and Indo-Persian poetry, Mirza Ghalib (d. 1869) some images can be traced back to Rumi through the long chain of poets like Dard, Bedil, and `Urfi. Urdu translations of the Masnavi are of course available. Munshi Mosta`an `Ali's poetical version, Bagh-e Iram, was completed in 1826 and has been printed several times. The most recent, and probably most successful, Urdu verse translation, which like every good version in the Islamic languages preserves the original meter, is the Pirahan-e Yusofi by Mohammad Yusof `Ali Shah Chishti, lithographed in 1943. Its name 'Joseph's Shirt' (besides alluding to the author's proper name) invokes the image of the healing quality of Joseph's garment which, being part of him, conveyed sight to his blind father: should not the translation of the Masnavi brighten the reader's eyes, filling them with spiritual insight?
The Indian Muslims also showed interest in Rumi's prose work Fihi Ma Fihi [Discourses of Rumi]. `Abdur Rashid Tabassum translated this book into Urdu in our century, after `Abdol Majid Daryabadi had undertaken the task of editing it for the first time in 1922. He received inspiration for this work from the poet-philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the 'spiritual father of Pakistan'. Iqbal himself is no doubt the most fascinating example of Rumi's influence on a contemporary Muslim poet and thinker."

Excerpts from The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi by Annemarie Schimmel






Did you hear that in Hindustan (India)
a wise Sufi once noticed
a group of Hindu mystics
returning from their long spiritual journey,
starving, exhausted, and completely naked...
Rumi - my translation


شنیدی تو که درهندوستان
دید دانایی گروهی دوستان
گرسنه مانده شده بی برگ و عور
می رسیدند از سفراز راه دور
مولانا




The old Hindu sage has come over
To our Sufi Convent.
Bestow upon him and the entire Hindustan (India)
The best of your hospitality.
Rumi - my translation


شیخ هندو به خانقاه آمد
خاص او گیر و جمله هندوستان
مولانا



God's grace touched the old Hindu sage
and out of sheer joy and gratitude
the Hindu mystic went into ecstasy,
jumping up and down like a fish.
Rumi - my translation


به پیر هندوی بگزشت لطفش
چو ماهی شد پیر از خوش عزرای
مولانا


From those beautiful Hindu black eyes
and the long Hindu black hair,
learn o inhabitants of Hindustan (India)
the art of being a Hindu!
Rumi - my translation


زآن چشم سیاه او زان زلف سیه تارش
الا ای اهل هندوستان بیاموزید هندویی
مولانا



From the stunning look of your
beautiful Hindustani black hair,
Men are left speechless, and
women are screaming out loud!
Rumi - my translation



ای زهندوستان زلفت رهزنان بر خواسته
نعره از مردان رد واززنان برخواسته
مولانا



Look at that beautiful smiling Hindu face,
Looking like a sweet sugar field!
Look at those beautiful black eyes
Looking like the stunning eyes of the Hindus!
Rumi - my translation



روی آن خوش نگر چو قندستانی
و آن چشم خوشش نگر چو هندستانی
مولانا



If God has bestowed wisdom, knowledge,
and intellect upon the Hindu Gentlemen,
Then He must have also bestowed
beauty, chastity, and faithfulness
upon the beautiful Hindu Ladies.
Rumi - my translation


عمروذکا و زیرکی داد به هندوان اگر
حسن و جمال و دلبری داد به شاهدختن
مولانا



For the Hindus,
The word Hindustan is praiseworthy.
For the Sindhis,
The word Sindh is praiseworthy.
Rumi - my translation



هندوان را اصطلاح هند مدح
سندیان را اصطلاح سند مدح
مولانا



Warn those Hindu magicians
So they don't trespass
the boundaries of their magical acts!
Rumi - my translation



فرمای به هندوان جادو
کز حد نبرند ساحری را
مولانا



Hindi blade of separation
Is undoubtedly very sharp.
But Hindi Love
Is even more sharper!
Rumi - my translation



تیغ هندی هجر برانست
لیک هندی عشق برانتر
مولانا



My soul is like a Hindu
and my heart, a Sufi convent.
Out in the open,
there is no need for war and peace
between us.
Rumi - my translation


نفس هندوست و خانقه دل من
از برون نیست جنگ و آرامش
مولانا



He is so fluent in Hindi,
He sounds as if being a native Hindu.
But his inspirational language
Has always been Arabic.
Rumi - my translation


زبان هندوی گوید که خود از هندوانستی
زبان وحییان او زازل وجه العرب بوده
مولانا




As I've previously mentioned, Rumi has beautifully and cleverly used the the metaphoric expressions of a " Nostalgic elephant dreaming of Hindustan.", or a "Nostalgic and homesick elephant breaking its chains and returning to its homeland, Hindustan.", throughout his vast poetic works. Here are some examples:


I'm like that homesick Indian elephant
who dreams of Hindustan (India)
and no longer pays attention to his driver.
Rumi - my translation



چون پیل که خواب بیند هند را
پیلبان را نشنود آرد دغا
مولانا



The elephant remembered Hindustan (India)
And the flames of his Love for God
Started raging upward.
Rumi - my translation


یاد آمد پیل را هندوستان
آتش عشق خدا بالا گرفت
مولانا



Last night,
Our elephant was again dreaming of Hindustan (India).
Out of nostalgic madness,
The elephant was tearing up the veil of night
Till the break of dawn.
Rumi - my translation



دوش آمد پیل ما را باز هندوستان بخواب
پرده شب می درید او از جنون تا بامداد
مولانا



Out of sheer nostalgia,
The elephant remembers Hindustan (India)
And then at night,
His memories manifest themselves to him.
Rumi - my translation



ذکر هندوستان کند پیل از طلب
پس مصور گردد آن ذکرش به شب
مولانا



A donkey will never dream of Hindustan (India)!
Because a donkey has never been separated
From Hindustan.
Rumi - my translation



خر نبیند هیچ هندوستان به خواب
خر ز هندوستان نکردست اغتراب
مولانا



Mark and wound my head
So like that Indian elephant
I don't dream of the beautiful gardens
Of Hindustan.
Rumi - my translation.


همچو پیلم بر سرم زن زخم و داغ
تا نبینم خواب هندوستان و باغ
مولانا



A blurred vision
and a burning heart like the sun
are like that Indian elephant
who constantly dreams of Hindustan.
Rumi - my translation



دیده نابینا و دل چو آفتاب
همچو پیلی دیده هندوستان بخواب
مولانا



Is your elephant also dreaming of Hindustan?
Because you've also ran away
From the circle of your lifelong friends!
Rumi - my translation



خواب دیده پیل تو هندوستان
که رمیدی ز حلقه دوستان
مولانا



It was the mere sign of a vision of Hindustan (India)
Which made the homesick Indian elephant
Get up and go crazy.
Rumi - my translation


این نشان دید هندستان بود
که جهد از خواب دیوانه شود
مولانا



It'll take an Indian elephant
To be able to sleep everywhere
While constantly dreaming about
The Land of Hindustan.
Rumi - my translation



پیل باید تا که خسپد او ستان
خواب بیند خطه هندوستان
مولانا




The eminent 19th century British Orientalist, E.H.Whinfeld explains, in his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi, Hindustan and Hindus' prominence in Rumi's works:

"Masnavi is a grand collection of fables, stories, sayings, poems, couplets, in persian, of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi. It is the best known and popular handbook of sufi philosophy and practices, and probably has an islamized content of pre-Islamic Iran. Masnavi also provides several of the contemporary ideas of Persians, Arabs, Greeks about Hindusthan. Masnavi also provides historical hints about contemporary interchanges on Islamization of India which was going on then, e.g. anecdotes during the Mahamud of Gazna's campaigns, stories where slave Hindus play a part, stories where "Infidels' are punished". But it is also full of so many fables which correspond directly with stories from Panchatantra, Hitopadesha, Jataka, and Kuvalayamala.
It includes fables which are so very familiar to the Indian traditions and which a comman Hindu child grows up sleeping to. The details, characters, and the situations are sometimes different, but the central idea of the fable, even the 'punch lines' are the same."

In Masnavi, Rumi has dedicated the following metaphorical stories to Hindus and Hindustan in conveying his profound Sufi mystical messages and teachings:

1. The Four Hindus who censured one another.
2. The Merchant who was traveling to Hindustan and his clever Parrot.
3. The Hindu Slave who loved his Master's Daughter.
4. The Indian Tree of Life.
5. The Elephant in the Dark House.
6. Sultan Mahmud Ghazna and his Hindu Slave.

Rumi's poems listed below are translated by the following scholars of Rumi:

Rumi's 'The Indian Tree of Life' translated by the great 19th century scholar of Rumi, E.H.Whinfeld.
Rumi's 'The Elephant in the Dark House' translated by the great 20th century scholar of Rumi, A.J. Arberry.
Rumi's "Clever Parrot"-- as a short tale prose-- translated by E.H.Whinfeld.
Rumi's "The Indian Parrot" translated by Coleman Barks.
Rumi's 'The Four Hindustanis who censured one another' translated by E.H.Whinfeld
Rumi's 'Hindu Slave of Mahmud of Ghazni' translated by E.H.Whinfeld






The Four Hindustanis Who Censured One Another

English translation and brief explanation by the 19th century "Orientalist", E.H.Whinfeld, from his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi.

Four Hindustanis went to the mosque to say their prayers. Each one duly pronounced the Takbir, and was saying his prayers with great devotion, when the Mu'azzin happened to come in. One of them immediately called out, "O Mu'azzin, have you yet called to prayer? It is time to do so." Then the second said to the speaker, "Ah! you have spoken words unconnected with worship, and therefore, according to the Hadis, you have spoiled your prayers." 1 Thereupon the third scolded the last speaker, saying, "O simpleton, why do you rebuke him? Rather rebuke yourself." Last of all, the fourth said, "God be praised that I have not fallen into the same ditch as my three companions." The moral is, not to find fault with others, but rather, according to the proverb, 2 to be admonished by their bad example. Apropos of this proverb, a story is told of two prisoners captured by the tribe of Ghuz. The Ghuzians were about to put one of them to death, to frighten the other, and make him confess where the treasure was concealed, when the doomed man discovered their object, and said, "O noble sirs, kill my companion, and frighten me instead."



The Merchant Who Was Traveling to Hindustan and His Clever Parrot

English translation and brief explanation by the 19th century "Orientalist", E.H.Whinfeld, from his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi.

There was a certain merchant who kept a parrot in a cage. Being about to travel to Hindustan on business, he asked the parrot if he had any message to send to his kinsmen in that country, and the parrot desired him to tell them that he was kept confined in a cage. The merchant promised to deliver this message, and on reaching Hindustan, duly delivered it to the first flock of parrots he saw. On hearing it one of them at once fell down dead. The merchant was annoyed with his own parrot for having sent such a fatal message, and on his return home sharply rebuked his parrot for doing so. But the parrot no sooner heard the merchant's tale than ho too fell down dead in his cage. The merchant, after lamenting his death, took his corpse out of the cage and threw it away; but, to his surprise, the corpse immediately recovered life, and flew away, explaining that the Hindustani parrot had only feigned death to suggest this way of escaping from confinement in a cage.



The Hindu Slave Who Loved His Master's Daughter

English translation and brief explanation by the 19th century British Orientalist, E.H.Whinfeld, from his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi.

A certain man had a Hindu slave, whom he had brought up along with his children, one of whom was a daughter. When the time came for giving the girl in marriage many suitors presented themselves, and offered large marriage portions to gain her alliance. At last her father selected one who was by no means the richest or noblest of the number, but pious and well-mannered. The women of the family would have preferred one of the richer youths, but the father insisted on having his own way, and the marriage was settled according to his wishes. As soon as the Hindu slave heard of this he fell sick, and the mistress of the family discovered that he was in love with her daughter, and aspired to the honor of marrying her. She was much discomposed at this unfortunate accident, and consulted her husband as to what was best to be done. He said, "Keep the affair quiet, and I will cure the slave of his presumption, in such a way that, according to the proverb, 'The Shaikh shall not be burnt, yet the meat shall be well roasted.'" He directed his wife to flatter the slave with the hope that his wish would be granted, and the girl given to him in marriage. He then celebrated a mock marriage between the slave and the girl, but at night substituted for the girl a boy dressed in female attire, with the result that the bridegroom passed the night in quarrelling with his supposed bride. Next morning he had an interview with the girl and her mother, and said he would have no more to do with her, as, though her appearance was very seductive at a distance, closer acquaintance with her had altogether destroyed the charm. Just so the pleasures of the world seem sweet till they are tried, and then they are found to be very bitter and repulsive.



The Indian Parrot

Translated by the great American scholar of Rumi, Coleman Barks

There was a merchant setting out for India.
He asked each male and female servant
what they wanted to be brought as a gift.
Each told him a different exotic object:
A piece of silk, a brass figurine,
a pearl necklace.
Then he asked his beautiful caged parrot,
the one with such a lovely voice,
and she said,
"When you see the Indian parrots,
describe my cage. Say that I need guidance
here in my separation from them. Ask how
our friendship can continue with me so confined
and them flying about freely in the meadow mist.
Tell them that I remember well our mornings
moving together from tree to tree.
Tell them to drink one cup of ecstatic wine
in honor of me here in the dregs of my life.
Tell them that the sound of their quarreling
high in the trees would be sweeter
to hear than any music."
This parrot is the spirit-bird in all of us,
that part that wants to return to freedom,
and is the freedom. What she wants
from India is herself!
So this parrot gave her message to the merchant,
and when he reached India, he saw a field
full of parrots. He stopped
and called out what she had told him.
One of the nearest parrots shivered
and stiffened and fell down dead.
The merchant said, "This one is surely kin
to my parrot. I shouldn't have spoken."
He finished his trading and returned home
with the presents for his workers.
When he got to the parrot, she demanded her gift.
"What happened when you told my story
to the Indian parrots?"
"I'm afraid to say."
"Master, you must!"
"When I spoke your complaint to the field
of chattering parrots, it broke
one of their hearts.
She must have been a close companion,
or a relative, for when she heard about you
she grew quiet and trembled, and died."
As the caged parrot heard this, she herself
quivered and sank to the cage floor.
This merchant was a good man.
He grieved deeply for his parrot, murmuring
distracted phrases, self-contradictory -
cold, then loving - clear, then
murky with symbolism.
A drowning man reaches for anything!
The Friend loves this flailing about
better than any lying still.
The One who lives inside existence
stays constantly in motion,
and whatever you do, that king
watches through the window.
When the merchant threw the "dead" parrot
out of the cage, it spread its wings
and glided to a nearby tree!
The merchant suddenly understood the mystery.
"Sweet singer, what was in the message
that taught you this trick?"
"She told me that it was the charm
of my voice that kept me caged.
Give it up, and be released!"
The parrot told the merchant one or two more
spiritual truths. Then a tender goodbye.
"God protect you," said the merchant
"as you go on your new way.
I hope to follow you!"



The Indian Tree of Life

English translation and brief explanation by the 19th century British Orientalist, E.H.Whinfeld, from his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi.

"A certain wise man related that in Hindustan there was a tree of such wonderful virtue that whosoever ate of its fruit lived forever. Hearing this, a king deputed one of his courtiers to go in quest of it. The courtier accordingly proceeded to Hindustan, and traveled all over that country, inquiring of every one he met where this tree was to be found. Some of these persons professed their entire ignorance, others joked him, and others gave him false information; and, finally, he had to return to his country with his mission unaccomplished. He then, as a last resource, betook himself to the sage who had first spoken of the tree, and begged for further information about it, and the sage replied to him as follows:


A learned man once said, for the sake of saying something ,
"There is a tree in Hindustan
If you eat the fruit of that tree, you'll never grow
old and never die."
Stories about "the tree" were passed around, and finally
a king sent his envoy
to Hindustan to look for it. People laughed at the man. They
slapped him on the back
and called out, "Sir, I know where your tree is, but it's far
in the jungle and you'll need a ladder!"
He kept traveling, following such directions and
feeling foolish, for years.
He was about to return to the king when he met a wise man.
"Great teacher, show me
some kindness in this search for the tree."
"My son, this is not an actual tree.
though it's been called that. Sometimes it's called a sun,
sometimes an ocean, or
a cloud. These words point to the wisdom that comes through
a true human being, which
may have many effects, the least of which is eternal life!
In the same way one
person can be a father to you and a son to someone else,
uncle to another and nephew
to yet another, so what you are looking for has many names,
and one existence.
Don't search for one of the names.
Move beyond any attachment to names. "
Every war and every conflict
between human beings has happened because
of some disagreement about names.
It's such an unnecessary foolishness, because just
beyond the arguing there's a long
table of companionship, set and waiting for us to sit down."



The Elephant in the Dark House

English translation and brief explanation by the great 20th century British Orientalist, A.J. Arberry.

Some men feel the elephant in the dark. Depending upon where they touch, they believe the elephant to be like a water spout (trunk), a fan (ear), a pillar (leg) and a throne (back). The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the beast. This story of the "The Elephant in the Dark House" is a symbolic explanation of how we fail to understand our true spiritual reality. Rumi uses this story as an example of the limits of individual perception.
Some Hindus had brought an elephant for exhibition and placed it in a dark house. Crowds of people were going into that dark place to see the beat. Finding that ocular inspection was impossible, each visitor felt it with his palm in the darkness.


The palm of one fell on the trunk.
‘This creature is like a water-spout,’ he said.
The hand of another lighted on the elephant’s ear.
To him the beat was evidently like a fan.
Another rubbed against its leg.
‘I found the elephant’s shape is like a pillar,’ he said.
Another laid his hand on its back.
‘Certainly this elephant was like a throne,’ he said."
"The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the best. The eye of the Sea is one thing and the foam another. Let the foam go, and gaze with the eye of the Sea. Day and night foam-flecks are flung from the sea: of amazing! You behold the foam but not the Sea. We are like boats dashing together; our eyes are darkened, yet we are in clear water."



Hindu Slave of Mahmud of Ghazni

English translation and brief explanation by the 19th century British Orientalist, E.H.Whinfeld, from his English translation of Rumi's Masnavi.

When wise men recognize the true relative importance of the present and the future they cease to shrink from death and annihilation, which lifts them to a higher and nobler life. This is illustrated by an anecdote of Mahmud of Ghazni, quoted from Faridu- 'd-Din 'Attar. Mahmud, in one of his campaigns, took prisoner a Hindu boy, who at first regarded him with the greatest dread, in consequence of the stories he had heard of him from his mother, but afterwards experienced Mahmud's kindness and tenderness, and came to know him and love him. So it is with death. According to the Hadis "Those who have passed away do not grieve because of death, but because of wasted opportunities in life."



Persian and English Sources used:

1. Masnavi Ma'navi by Rumi.
2. Divan-e Shams by Rumi.
3. Divan-e Baydel by Mirza Abdul Qader Baydel Dehlavi.
4. Divan-e Hafiz by Hafiz Shirazi.
5. Masnavi Ma'navi (or The Spiritual Couplets of Rumi translated and abridged by E.H.Whinfeld-1898 version).
6. Persian Language and Literature in India by Professor A. R. Momin.
7. Tales from Masnavi by A.J.Arberry.
8. Coleman Barks, One-Handed Basket Weaving.
8. پيشينۀ تاريخی زبان و ادبيات فارسی- دری درهند و پيدا يش سبک شعری هندی
9. ادبیات فارسی در میان هندوان
10. ترجمه و تاثیر شعر فارسی در شبه قاره
11. --نقش ادبيات فارسی در هندوستان-وقتی طوطيان هند شكر شكن شدند
12. سیری در ادبیات فارسی هند و پاکستان-
13. فرهنگ مردم در شعر بیدل

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Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!








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