Of Persian Chronograms

Whenever I want to be at peace with myself I look back



Every one of us, at one or other point of time yearns for a serene moment. I do not know how you get that moment.   Whenever I want to be at peace with myself I look back- they call this looking back as nostalgia. Someone has said that it is ‘like folding your hands in your lap, becoming passive, stepping out of your surroundings.’   I might have written earlier also, for me it works as a magical potion that conjures “memories of a somehow better, purer, more innocent, more harmonic past” and brings the much-needed inner peace to me. Anything, takes me down the memory lane: it can be common hoopoe, a blue-whistling thrush in spring, a bulbul on sill of window or a large-billed crow perching on majestic draped in angelic white snow during winters. Sometimes it is a majzoob in a meditative mood reclining against tombstone in vast graveyard or squatting on chiseled limestone floor of a hospice during winters.
This time, it was a time-paled newspaper in my archives, carrying one of my articles, “In search of my grave”, about my poignant experience that took me down the memory lane. It was about a nightmarish “Shab-e-Barat, when I had gone to Mallakah to offer fa’tah for my parents. And to my disappointment, finding huge bungalows constructed on the graves surrounding my eternal home. The vast expanse of the land purchased by Mir Muhammad Hamadani, illustrious son of an illustrious father Hazrat Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani, for burial of Muslims turned into housing colonies-that too with impunity. In neo-fascist set up, what could a pen pusher do- write a protest note? I got a protest note published in newspaper about vandalizing of this great sanctuary; ‘where wicked cease from troubling, and weary are at rest’. ‘That has never latched its portals to any one’ but greeted   ‘kings and paupers; beauties and bastards; victors and vanquished; clerics and chancellors and minions and ministers with equal warmth’.
No one then cared about my protest note- now half of Mallakah sold by land mafia, age-yellowed newspaper article did not get my adrenaline going but brought tears to my eyes- tears of helplessness. My peers and I have spent half our childhood in Mallakah. In spring, it looked like beautiful garden with narcissus, irises, and hyacinths blooming everywhere. In summer under the shade of Chinars, Mulberry and Brimaj trees, we cooled our sweat after playing cricket in open spaces.   I remember, in our childhood some of the grave sites in the vast area dotted with finely chiseled gravestones opened like pages of history. The gravesites dedicated to some leading religious scholars were testimony to their commitment for spread of word of Allah in and around the historic city. The huge tombstones, some eight to ten fights long attracted our childhood imagination, some of graves were of the Afghan governors that had ruled the state. Some tombstones with bold embossed Arabic inscriptions testified our mastery in calligraphy. Some gravestones carried inscriptions on one side in Sanskrit and Persian- speaking about the great transition period from Sanskrit to Persian. I still remember the gravesite with huge tombstone on way to Makdoom Sahib despite have been declared as protected site suddenly disappearing.  The commoners buried in the vast graveyard were known through humble tombstones with an Arabic inscription and date of their death and those of the elite could be recognized through Persian chronograms scripted on their tombs.
I have no idea when practice of chronogram was introduced in Kashmir. History, ‘tells us that  the practice was popular with Jews and earliest chronogram in Jewish letter was found in a Hebrew poem in 13th century. Moreover, it was during renaissance that chronograms were often used on tombstones and foundation stones to mark the date of death and the date of the event being commemorated.’ I believe the practice was introduced in Kashmir during the period of Mogul period but using chronograms on graves was favored with elite and emigrant families more than others were during our childhood. Some top poets had mastered the art of writing chronograms in Persian- the names of poets who were known for this art in our part of the city included Muhammad Amin Daraab, Peerzadia Ghulam Hassan, Ha’yrat Kamali, Ghulam Rasool Nazki, Mirza Arif, Hakim Manzoor…of them to seen all except Muhammad Amin Daraab.

The death of Persian language has brought death to the tradition of chronogram writings on tombstones. 

Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 9 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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