In 2003, during a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, we were taken to the private residence of the caretaker of the Saleem Chishti Dargah located inside the complex. Once inside, we were warmly received by the caretaker, an elderly gentleman and his family. We were served sharbat and shammi kababs. Soon after, in our presence, the caretaker received another group of Indian men and women, all dressed in expensive clothes and they spoke to each other in English with a distinct American accent.
“Ye sab sap hi logoN ka to hai,” [This all, is all yours only] the caretaker said to them before introducing the family to us. We were delighted to discover that they were direct descendants of Akbar, the emperor who built the magnificent complex.
We spent some time with them and left the residence to take a round of the complex. In the central courtyard, I was horrified to see carts of vendors selling bangles, cosmetics and cheap snacks. The carts were stationed in front of the Dargah and all the vendors were Muslims. In another section of the complex, I saw banana peels, discarded footwear and paan stains on the walls. I left the complex disappointed. Continue reading “Romanticisation alone is not helping our heritage”
MILLIONS of AMU students and alumni around the world sing the university tarana every year. It brings back so many Aligarh memories to me and countless others. The tarana itself is a fine piece of Urdu poetry and the story behind it is an interesting one.
One of AMU’s most famous student and an Urdu poet of the highest calibre, Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz, attended the university between 1930 and 1936.2 It was 1936 that he penned his famous poem Nazr-e-Aligarh.1 Majaz first recited it the same year in the Union Hall, in the presence of the Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) A.B. Ahmed Haleem.
Haleem stopped the recital and walked out when Majaz reached the lines “YahaaN ham ne kamandeN daalii haiN, Yahan hum ney shabkhooN (night raids) maaray haiN; YahaN hum nay qabaayeN nochii haiN, yahan hum nay taaj utaarey haiN” (Trans: We have scaled buildings here and ambushed here, We have torn garments here and removed crowns here).4
The huge gathering of students asked him to continue but Majaz did not. He had to relent later, and completed it in the Union Hall’s lawns (between Morrison court and Union building).3
Continue reading “The Story behind AMU Tarana”
WHAT was previously thought to be typical Viking Age patterns in silver on woven bands of silk in Viking Age graves are actually geometric Kufic characters as per a new research at Sweden’s Uppsala University. The Arabic characters appear in burial costumes in Viking Age boatgraves, as well as in the chamber graves clothing of central Viking Age sites such as Birka in Mälardalen.
“One exciting detail is that the word ‘Allah’ is depicted in mirror image,” says Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University. “It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland. Perhaps this was an attempt to write prayers so that they could be read from left to right, but with the Arabic characters they should have. That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”
It was while working to recreate textile patterns for the Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, Enköping, Sweden, that the researchers discovered that the woven bands contained ancient Arabic script, Kufic characters, invoking both Allah and Ali. The Kufic characters were found in the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia. Similar Kufic characters appear in the grave costumes in Viking Age chamber graves in central sites such as Birka in Mälardalen, as well as in boatgraves in the area around Gamla Uppsala. Continue reading “New research finds Allah and Ali in Viking Age patterns”