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Program and Abstracts for Workshop on Islamicate Culture
in South Asia
Apr. 13, 2:00-5:00 pm
Topic for 2001: South Asian Islamic Aesthetics -- Music and Literary
North Carolina Center for South Asia Studies
Venue: Toy Lounge, Dey Hall (4th floor)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, April 13-15, 2001
1. Poetry, Power and Place
Paul Losensky (Indiana University)
Of the hundreds of poets who
migrated from Iran to India in search of patronage in the late sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, few enjoyed the success and acclaim of Kalim
Kashani (ca. 990-1061/ca. 1582-1651). His rise to the position of Shahjahan’s
poet laureate took him to many of the centers of patronage in Mughal India
and brought him into contact with a large circle of his fellow poets. Because
of the length of his career and his well-deserved stature, Kalim provides
a good focal point for studying the movement of literary talent to India
and the position of Persian poetry in Mughal cultural life. One striking
feature of Kalim’s progress as a professional poet is the important role
played by another art form—architecture. His entree into the courts of
both Shahnavaz Khan Shirazi and Shahjahan was closely tied to his patrons’
building projects, and an examination of Kalim’s divan shows how fully
he participated in the vogue for architectural description that swept the
Persian literary world during the Safavid-Mughal period. In this paper,
I will first survey the place of architecture in Kalim’s life and works
and discuss the unity of the arts in the Mughal courts. Through a close
reading of one of Kalim’s commemorative poems, I will then analyze some
of the strategies and techniques of architectural ekphrasis as means of
inscribing imperial power on both the building and landscape.
"Building a Career:
Architecture in the Life and Poetry of Kalim Kashani"
Nargis Virani (Washington University at St. Louis)
Largely due to their own monoglottic
dispositions, the small body of macaronic poetry within Islamic literatures
has been designated as insignificant and therefore unworthy of study by
the puritans representing each of the linguistic traditions. This
paper explores the various socio-political, cultural, literary, aesthetic,
and religious reasons for ‘speaking in more than one tongue’ through the
mulamma’at of one of the greatest mystical poets of all times, Jalal- al-Din
Rumi (1207-1273). Rumi composed close to one hundred ghazals, lyrical
poems, by mixing Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Greek, the occasional Mongolian
locution and even an amorous Armenian phrase. Whilst an exploration
of the variety of reasons that lead to such pluralist poetics is the overarching
focus, the study reads Rumi’s mulamma’at as a dynamically imaginative and
unique form of apophatic discourse.
"Pluralist or Garbled Poetics? : The Mulamma’at of Jalal-al-Din
Furthermore, it suggests
that the primary significance of Rumi’s mulamma’at is not simply its poetic
ingenuity. Rather, its contributions lies in opening up an entire
mode of expression which might be termed “macaronic,” not in terms of mixed-language
compositions, but also in terms of a plurality of approaches which defy
authoritative religious, moral, linguistic, and literary categories.
Comment and Discussion: Shantanu Phukan
(University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill)
Apr. 14, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
2. Literary and Musical Genres in Local Context
F. Nalini Delvoye (École Pratique des Hautes
The present-day discourse on
the Dhrupad genre of Indian art-music traces its history back to ancient
India, or to Vedic India even, in total contradiction with historical and
musicological data that have been studied in India and abroad for the past
few decades. If references to Dhrupad provided by medieval Sanskrit musicological
treatises are rather scarce, from the sixteenth century onwards, Indo-Persian
texts belonging to a variety of literary genres provide a wide range of
accounts about it as an appraised literary and musical genre in performance,
and about its poet-composers and singers. The huge number of lyrics in
Braj Bhasha that are likely to have been created and sung in the Dhrupad
genre, which are preserved in manuscript anthologies, confirms the importance
of song-texts, originally composed in a particular musical mode by poet-composer-interpreters
(vaggeyakara) in a perfect aesthetic unity.
and Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie
du Sud, Paris)
"Dhrupad Songs in Braj Bhasha:
Catering to the Taste of Indo-Persian Rulers in Medieval India"
Since most poet-composers
were singers attached to royal courts, they had to cater to the taste of
various patrons. The Indo-Persian patronage of Dhrupad has been documented
by a number of authors who noticed the variety of its thematic range as
well as its non-metric form and other features that were alien to classical
norms of Persian poetry. Many Dhrupad songs, including the name of the
Muslim ruler to whom they were addressed, are not of Islamic inspiration;
rather, they are 'classical' in their content, following the Sanskrit kavya
literary classification of 'heroines in love' (nayika) or 'heroes' (nayaka)
close to the image of the ideal patron and connoisseur, or borrowing from
Puranic imagery. That reveals that the Indo-Persian rulers who patronised
Dhrupad singers had not only acquired a sufficient knowledge of the vernacular
language in which songs were composed, but also were sensitive enough to
their aesthetic appeal to encourage it for centuries.
I will illustrate my presentation
with a selection of Dhrupad songs - mostly collected from late seventeenth
century manuscripts - addressed to some of the Sultans of Gujarat and to
the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. I will also
refer to some lyrics composed by Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur (r. 1580-1627)
, who was himself a poet-composer, a musician and a liberal patron fascinated
by the Indian Navarasa or "Nine Sentiments" aesthetic theory.
Farina Mir (Columbia University)
The Punjabi qissa (story;
pl.: qisse) tradition derives from Arabic and Persian traditions
of story-telling that came to South Asia with migrants from the Arabian
peninsula and contemporary Iran and Afghanistan. In both content
and form, Punjabi qisse reflect this Islamic and/or Persian heritage.
In some cases, the relation between these story-telling traditions is as
fundamental as the translation of an Arabic or Persian narrative such as
Yusuf-Zuleikha or Shirin-Farhad to Punjabi. In others, the only relation
may be a Punjabi poet's subtle use of literary conventions grounded in
Perso-Arabic qissa norms. Whether or not Punjabi
"Representations of Piety and Community
in Late-nineteenth-century Punjabi Qisse"
qisse share content or form with their Arabic and Persian counterparts,
however, to understand the Punjabi qissa tradition as a "Muslim" genre,
as many literary scholars do, is to ignore the multiple ways in which the
tradition is grounded in a religiously diverse local cultural context.
By drawing on representations of piety in late-nineteenth-century texts
of the qissa Hir-Ranjha, this paper argues that Punjabi qisse
are best understood as a literary tradition that reflect local beliefs
and practices. In particular, it will examine practices of saint
veneration as the foundation of a shared "spiritual community" (one in
which Punjabis participated irrespective of religious affiliation).
Representations of piety in Hir-Ranjha texts thus transcend associations
to broadly defined religious communities and instead reflect shared notions
of spiritual belief and community at the local level.
Christopher Lee (Iowa State University)
According to the typologies
of many local poets in Varanasi, there are three major genres of Urdu poetry
currently being performed by male Muslim poets: rivaayati (what
I shall call 'traditional'), taraqqi pasand ('progressive'),
and jadiid ('modern'). Often a fourth, derisively called vaqti
('timely') is added. While none of these categories are wholly exclusive,
they are the terms used by poets to describe one another's style of poetry,
and by extension, one another. As such, these categories are extremely
important in describing often opposed and competing local constructions
of Muslim identity and history, as well as the proper use, motivations,
and intentions of poetry and poetic performance.
Focusing on these categories,
this paper will explore the meanings and construction of 'traditional,'
'progressive,' 'modern' and 'timely' through the poetry and life histories
of four Banarsi Muslim poets, each of whom situates himself, and/or is
situated by others, in one of these categories. Following the focus of
other papers in the workshop, this paper will offer some insights regarding
competing local articulations of Muslim identity and history, as well as
ask larger questions regarding the relationship of individual poet to larger
poetic genre and tradition, and local vs. pan-South Asian constructions
and understandings of Urdu poetic genres and their performance.
"Traditional, Progressive, Modern and Timely:
Four discourses of and about Urdu poetry in Varanasi, India."
Comment and Discussion: Frances Pritchett (Columbia
Apr. 14, 2:15-5:15 p.m.
3. Modern literary responses to saint cults
Farooq Hamid (University of Pennsylvania)
Modern definitions of hagiography,
such as those of Hippolyte Delehaye, insist on the "lisable"-to borrow
a term from Derrida-character of the life of a saint ignoring other equally
significant social inputs into the construction of the saint's hagiography.
The purpose of the present exercise is to propose a modified definition
of "hagiography" different from the existing ones that solely and particularly
deal with Christian martyr saints while keeping in mind the historical
context of the lives of Sufi saints and their historical and modern inputs
and uses. This modified definition of "hagiography" for Sufis takes into
account not only the written sources of what Delehaye terms as the "vita"
but one that further includes the malfuzat (oral discourses of the Sufi
shaykh meant for didactic purposes) and inputs from assorted aspects of
material culture, such as; the musical tradition of sama' and zikr, the
iconic tradition, dress, food, socialization practices of the Sufis, the
effects of modernity and colonialism on the social relations between the
Sufis and their environment and politics. Collectively all of these areas
of study mentioned here form what may be designated as the "Social Text"
(an amplification of the Bakhtinian notion of "verbal text"). The arena
of the construction and propagation of "Muslim space and identity" in the
South Asian context is far broader than merely literary texts.
"Hagiography Continuing and Continued:
The Case of a Medieval Chishti Sufi, Farid ad-Din Ganj-i Shakar
According to this
construction of the term "hagiography" to be eventually applied to the
personae of both historical and contemporary Sufis, the hagiographical
texts are unfinished projects progressively acquiring and accruing material
from the above mentioned sources as the construction of the "life/vita/tazkira"
of a Sufi is a process that begins during the life of that Sufi and continues
so long as the belief in the "vilayat" (sanctity) and baraka (spiritual
power) of the historic Sufi-be it through malfuzat, both spurious and genuine,
tazkiras or popular opinion-persists even though geographic and linguistic
space may separate his followers and later Sufis from the historic Sufi
personality. With this goal in mind the present essay shall attempt
to outline the various inputs into and aspects of the continued and continuing
formation of the hagiography of Chishti Sufi, Farid al-Din Mas'ud Ganj-i
Shakar (d. 664/1265) of India who is commonly known as Baba Farid. In the
period between the establishment of Ganj-i Shakar's shrine by his spiritual
descendants after his death in 13th century CE and the modern period, the
tradition of performing sama' (ritual musical concert) has been a central
feature of this shrine complex. It is this pivotal area in the construction
of hagiographies, the sama' performing tradition, that I will concentrate
on. With contemporary musical and poetic samples collected from the sama'
ceremony held at the annual urs at Ganj-i Shakar's shrine I hope to demonstrate
the ongoing process of the formation and transformations in the hagiography
of this Sufi saint.
Kelly Pemberton (University of California at Berkeley)
This paper investigates the
production, dissemination, and use of reformist discourses in the popular
Urdu literature that emerged in late nineteenth-century North India.
It focuses upon a selection of demotic texts sold in the markets attached
to Sufi shrines, texts which sought to address what their authors characterized
as a sort of "misguided Islam" that predominated among South Asia's Muslims.
I consider the production, use, and dissemination of the texts examined
in light of three issues. First, I assess the production of these
works in light of their relationship to prominent Persian and Arabic literary
forms - such as the adab works -- that preceded them. Second, I show
how the texts in my survey reflect ideological and practical shifts among
reform-minded Sufis and their followers towards pan-Islamic aspects of
the faith (such as the symbols of the Prophet and the Shari`ah), and away
from some of the more controversial aspects of Sufi shrine culture.
Third, by comparing and contrasting reformist messages within a single
genre, "etiquette literature", I argue that assessing the ways in which
hegemonic discourse reproduces the very contradictions it tries to eliminate
is key to understanding its continued viability in the shrine setting today.
"Shattering the Mirror: Urdu Literature, Reformist Discourses,
and the Shaping of Muslim Consciousness in the Sufi Milieu"
Comment and Discussion: Regula Qureshi (University
Apr. 14, 8 p.m.
A Concert of Hindustani light classical music by Jyoti
Swaroop Pande, featuring performance of marsiya and soz pieces.
Apr. 15, 9:00 a.m.-Noon
4. Muharram performance in practice
Amy Bard (Harvard University)
This paper problematizes the
relationship of the individual performer to the various “traditions” in
which she is embedded, while highlighting the creativity and the economics
of women’s performances of Shii Muslim Muharram poetry. My paper focuses
on one performer, Baji Zahidah of Lahore, Pakistan, and her repetoire of
Muharram genres, which have “classical,” “folk,” “household devotional,”
and even “pop” elements. A member of a Panjabi-speaking family that includes
television actors and singers, Zahidah inevitably contends with the stigma
that attaches to women performers, in spite of her popularity among respectable
Shi‘i Muslim women as a poetry-reciter in religious rituals. Even as she
negotiates choices between pious religious performance and financial compensation,
between artistic pride or professionalism and devotional humility, and
between secular and religious performance contexts, Zahidah’s distinctive
renderings of Panjabi and Urdu genres are a marvel of individual creativity,
of linguistic flexibility, and of musicality in a context that permits
no reference to “music,” “tune,” or “singing.” What, I ask, does it mean
for an artist to occupy multiple worlds? What happens to a “local” ritual
setting as it is affected by international trade in music, literature,
“spirituality,” and even, in some sense, in “identity” itself? What accounts
for the appeal of an artist who occupies multiple musical or social categories?
"'He Made Me Able to Light Up the Gathering':
Zahidah Baji and the Mediation of Music and Text in Shi‘i
Workshop Wrap-up and Discussion:
Carl Ernst (UNC - Chapel Hill), David Gilmartin (NCSU),
Tony Stewart (NCSU)