jam gayaa ;xuu;N kaf-e qaatil pah tiraa miir z bas
un ne ro ro diyaa kal haath ko dhote dhote

1) {so abundantly / although} your blood had dried on the murderer's hand, Mir
2) she wept and wept, yesterday, while washing her hands



az bas : 'From the abundance; sufficiently; very, extremely, excessively; notwithstanding, although'. (Platts p.45)

S. R. Faruqi:

Many of us will remember that scene in Shakespeare's famous play 'Macbeth', in which Lady Macbeth, walking in her sleep, rubs her hands and tries to remove spots of blood from them. Because of its intensity of effect and its terrifyingness, this scene has a high rank in the world's dramatic literature. In the present verse there are some points that cannot fail to recall Shakespeare's drama. In Mir's verse, the murderer is innocent and young; thus when she is unsuccessful in removing the spots of blood she 'weeps and weeps'.

The phrase un ne ro ro diyaa gives, along with a complete picture of compulsion and helplessness, a suggestion of the murderer's inexperience and youth. (See


If the beloved had not been inexperienced, then she would not have been in such a rush to remove the spots of blood, or in such anxiety about them. Then, in the second line, there's also the word 'yesterday', which brings the event close to everyday life. Although Lady Macbeth is not innocent, there's such a heavy burden on her mind, and her sense of guilt is so intense, and her psychological state is so panic-stricken, that we forget her sin and empathize with her afflictedness, repentance, and inner self-blame.

Just as in Mir's verse the speaker (or the narrator of this scene) is both separate from the scene and also part of it, in the same way Shakespeare too, with complete 'dramaticness', has shown us the scene through the views of others. As in Mir's verse, Shakespeare too has used details of time to bring the event close to everyday life-- that Lady Macbeth has for some nights, while sleepwalking, kept trying to remove blood from her hands. In Shakespeare's scene too, Lady Macbeth's problem is not solved; rather, she herself says that all the perfumes of the land of Arabia cannot purify her little hand from blood. In the same way, in Mir's verse too the event remains incomplete, and we don't know whether or not the spots of blood were finally removed from the beloved's hand.

Then, in Mir's verse the phrase jam gayaa ;xuu;N too is extremely meaningful, because it suggests that the blood deliberately, intentionally, dried and remained there, so that no one would be in doubt about the murderer.

Now it's necessary that, despite the fear of excessive length, the part of Shakespeare's play should be presented that resembles Mir's verse. From 'Macbeth', Act V, Scene 1:

What is it she does now? Look, how she rubs her hands.

It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands: I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour.

Lady Macbeth:
Yet here's a spot.

Hark! she speaks: I will set down what comes from her, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

Lady Macbeth:
Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?--Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.

Do you mark that?

Lady Macbeth:
The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?--What, will these hands ne'er be clean?--No more o' that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with this starting.

Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that: heaven knows what she has known.

Lady Macbeth:
Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!

What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

It's obvious that a dramatic scene comprising a number of lines, and obtaining additional force from the power of narrative, can hardly be compared to a verse comprising two lines, especially when the drama would be in the prose of a flexible language like English, and the verse would be bound by the tight metrical constraints, and the repetition of rhyme, of Urdu poetry. But the effect of both is the same, and in the rhetorical devices of both there are also some similarities, as I have shown above.

It's certainly the case that the English drama is based on crime and sin, and the feeling of guilt and reproach, while the Urdu verse rests on a conventional assumption; but this same conventional assumption also bestows on the verse a dramatic tension. Hazrat Mujaddid [Ahmad Sirhindi] Sahib says that the beloved's cruelty/violence is more beloved, because it's the purpose/will of the beloved; whereas the beloved's kindness is not so pleasing, because mixed into it is the lover's purpose/will as well. Against the background of this picture of lover and beloved, the image of Mir's beloved washing her hands and weeping comes to bear an uncommon power and tension-- that this murder was the beloved's purpose/will, but she didn't know what effect repentence for this murder would have on her.

If you wish to estimate the power and depth of the theme of Mir's verse, and its dramatic intensity, compare this verse to


Commenting on these two verses, Sardar Ja'fri says,

In Shakespeare's famous drama 'Macbeth', when Lady Macbeth, tormented by a guilty conscience, sleepwalks, she keeps wringing her hands as if she would be trying to wash them, but the spots of innocent blood can't in any way be removed, and she mumbles that not even Arabian perfume could take away the scent of blood from her hands. Mir's beloved too, who suggests cruel kings and blood-spilling conquerors, keeps scrubbing her hands.

After this, Ja'fri Sahib notes down the present verse and writes, 'This is the mood of madness, which in common parlance is called ;xuun cha;Rhnaa '. Leaving aside the fact that if we consider Mir's beloved to be 'a suggestion of cruel kings and blood-spilling conquerors' then not only does the meaning become extremely limited, but the effort to scrub the hands and remove the spots of blood no longer has any 'warrant'. And in addition, if from the tone of the verse we are to learn that the beloved is some cruel king or blood-spilling conqueror, then we will have to entirely re-learn the suggestions of the language.

An additional point is that the idiom ;xuun cha;Rhnaa is not found in any dictionary, nor is its meaning clearly the one that Ja'fri Sahib has expressed. For sar par ;xuun cha;Rhnaa , sar par ;xuun savaar honaa , ;xuun sar par cha;Rh kar boltaa hai , and so on are in the idiom, but they too don't mean what Ja'fri Sahib has expressed.

The fundamental point is that in the construction and analysis of our classical poetry, if we ignore the principle of 'theme-creation' then we cannot do justice to it. For example, Mir's present verse is a part of a matrix of themes, and in order to establish its meaning it's necessary to keep that matrix in view. Mir himself borrowed this theme from Khan-e Arzu:

daa;G chho;Taa nahii;N yih kis kaa lahuu hai qaatil
haath bhii dukh ga))e daaman tiraa dhote dhote

[the wound is not small-- whose blood is this, murderer?
the hands have become sore, washing and washing your garment-hem]

Mir's verse is of a much higher rank than Khan-e Arzu's, because in Mir's verse there are several layers of meaning and tone. But without knowing Khan-e Arzu's verse, one cannot fully know this present verse of Mir's. Since the theme is based on a metaphor, and the general principle of metaphor is that it is greater than the reality that is to be expressed by it [[that is, the vehicle is greater than the tenor]], in it many possibilities of meaning can arise.

Thus it is necessary that critics of classical ghazal should have the power to put the theme in its matrix and consider it. For example, in the case of the present verse, Khan-e Arzu's verse has of course a crucial importance, but it will also be beneficial to keep in mind the themes and verses that have been cited in {528,1}.

And remember Ghalib-- his theme too begins with Khan-e Arzu and Mir:


A final point is that the speaker, or the murdered person, feels no sorrow that someone (Mir = the lover, or = some stranger; see Shibli's nazm ((adal-e jahaa;Ngiirii ) has been murdered. The sorrow is because the beloved has had so much trouble in removing the spots of blood. If in passion there's to be an oblivion of self-- this is how it should be!

Janab Abd ul-Rashid, maintaining that in the present verse the point is the drying of the blood rather than the blood 'going to the head' in anger, has cited two verses in which ;xuun cha;Rhnaa has been versified. But those verses have no connection to the present verse of Mir's. A second point is that in those verses ;xuun cha;Rhnaa is not an idiom, but rather a use of cha;Rhnaa to mean 'to have an effect', the way duukaan chalnaa is not an idiom, but rather a use of chalnaa to mean 'to flourish, to be popular', and so on. However, here are the two verses cited by Abd ul-Rashid. Siraj:

dau;Re nahii;N hai;N sur;x tirii chashm-e mast me;N
shaayad cha;Rhaa hai ;xuun kisii be-gunaah kaa

[the redness in your intoxicated eyes does not fade
perhaps the blood of some innocent one has had an effect]


tujh upar ;xuun be-gunaaho;N kaa
cha;Rh rahaa hai sharaab kii sii :tara;h

[on you, the blood of innocent ones
is causing an effect, the way wine does]

In both verses, there's a description of the situation after a murder, but if we take Sardar Ja'fri Sahib's sense of ;xuun cha;Rhnaa as 'to intend to shed blood, to prepare to shed blood as if one would be in a turmoil of madness', then there's nothing at all of this meaning.

[See also {568,4}; {611,1}.]



Well, SRF has elaborated what might be called the 'Lady Macbeth' scenario, in which the beloved is 'innocent' and 'young', so that her murderous deed fills her with guilt and regret and panic. It's certainly a possible reading, but it's far from the only one.

For after all, her weeping may well have a physical cause. A very large amount of dried blood would be hard to remove completely from her hands. She would have to scrub and scrub, in a way that would irritate her delicate skin and damage her beautiful fingernails. She might be weeping from the pain. Or she might be weeping with sheer vexation, either at herself ('How could I have been so foolish as to revel in the blood, and not to wash it off before it dried?') or at the dead lover ('How could that wretch have such sticky, adhesive blood that even now I'm not free of him?').

Alternatively, z bas might mean 'although' (see the definition above). Thus there might be an enjoyably cynical reading: 'although it's been so long since the murder that the blood has dried on her hands, as of yesterday she still remembered you and actually shed tears over your fate-- imagine that, Mir!'.

Or of course, the verse might be read as a direct sibling of Ghalib's famous


In the time it has taken for the blood to dry on her hands, she's decided she regrets the murder, and she is now shedding big (crocodile?) tears. Ghalib's 'alas-- the repentance of that quick-repenter!' could equally well apply to the present verse. This irresistibly wry exclamation-- for is what she feels really 'repentance', and is she really a 'quick'-repenter?-- offers another wry and potent way of framing the verse. For more on such questions of 'tone' or 'mood', see {724,2}.

This is what I call a 'gestures' verse. The dead lover 'Mir', presumably talking to himself, simply observes that as she washed her thoroughly bloodied hands, she was weeping. Her weeping remains uninterpretable; we can only speculate about what it means. Nor does the verse show any concern with how the murdered lover can know this (if in fact he really does). The alternative possibility, that the speaker is some other observer who is conversing with the dead 'Mir', would impose its own form of bizarrerie.