chashm-e in.saaf se burqa(( ko u;Thaa dekho use
gul ke mu;Nh se to ka))ii pardah vuh ruu naazuk hai

1) having lifted the burqa, look at her with the eye of justice/fairness!
2) several layers/veils/leaves more than the face of the rose, that face is delicate



burqa(( : 'A thing with which a woman veils her face, having in it two holes for the eyes (it is a long strip of cotton or other cloth, concealing the whole of the face of the woman wearing it, except the eyes, and reaching nearly to the feet)'. (Platts p.147)


pardah : 'A curtain, screen, cover, veil, anything which acts as a screen, a wall, hangings, tapestry; film, fine web, pellicle, lid (of the eye); drum (of the ear); sail (of a ship); the piece which covers the chest in an angarkhā or coat; the surface of the earth; secrecy, privacy, modesty; seclusion, concealment; secret, mystery, reticence, reserve; screen, shelter, pretext, pretence'. (Platts p.246)

S. R. Faruqi:

pardah = fold, layer

The theme of this verse is interesting-- that the beloved should remove her burqa, and her face should be seen. As if this is some common, possible thing. It's clear that this is not the case. But the speaker/lover becomes so abstract in the praise of his beloved's beauty that he doesn't even reflect that in order to prove that the beloved's beauty is several layers more delicate and refined than that of a flower, it will be necessary to remove her veil [niqaab]. And in any case, who will have the boldness to remove the veil?

Another interesting aspect of this verse is due to the word pardah -- that it has been used in the meaning of 'fold' or 'layer'. Then, among pardah , chashm, burqa(( there's the connection of a zila. Then, chashm-e in.saaf se dekhnaa is also fine, for this whole verse is about seeing with the eye, and it's clear that the speaker/lover looks at his beloved with the eyes of love, and to the lover, the beloved in any case seems more beautiful than the rose and the lily.

Then, to say, 'look at my beloved with the eye of justice' is nothing but lover-like innocence. There's also the pleasure that 'to look with the eye of justice' is associated not so much with a bodily action as with making a mental kind of decree of worth about something. Otherwise, colloquial usages like in.saaf se dekho to falaa;N kaa qaul bar-;haq hai would be meaningless.

It's Mir's poetic trickiness that he's both inviting someone to look, and also requesting him to do justice. Otherwise, for the lover it would have sufficed to say 'Enough-- just please look at my beloved'. In a rather commonplace verse of Faiz's, just this has been said:

vuh to vuh hai tumhe;N ho jaa))egii ulfat mujh se
ik na:zar tum miraa man:zuur-e na:zar to dekho

[she is herself!-- like me you will fall in love
just take a single look at the one I'm looking at/for]

Mir's poetic trickiness was somewhat greater than Faiz's. While inviting the beholders to look with the eye of justice, he created in his tone innocence and absorption-- and also avoided Faiz's commonplaceness, which is inviting a single individual as a common man in general, or rather is requesting him, like a middleman, to 'come and look at my beloved'.

Then in Mir's verse, in the lifting of the burqa there's also the point that in Mir's day the beautiful women of the bazaar, who knew how to take care of themselves and live with dignity, left their homes very rarely, and even when they did so they were wrapped in a burqa. Even today, in particular cities, this custom remains. (In this connection see the essay by Veena Talwar Oldenburg, 'Lifestyle as Resistance: the Case of the Courtesans of Lucknow'.) Thus for Mir's speaker/lover to say to someone, during a discussion, 'you lift the burqa and see', is not improper.

Mir's verse was spoken on an occasion when someone, or some people, are mentioning in the speaker/lover's presence the delicacy of the rose. In reply to that, he suddenly says, 'You just lift her burqa (that is, that of the beloved, or of the beloved of the city) and look at her face'. Because of his absorption he gives no thought to 'looking with the eye of justice' or the subtleties of lifting the burqa, and expresses his innocence.

There's wordplay among burqa(( , pardah , mu;Nh , ruu , chashm ; it's hardly necessary to say that there's an affinity between gul and pardah , because pardah is used as a simile for a rose-leaf [according to the dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam ].

In all the manuscripts one finds ka))ii pardah written, but it's possible that Mir might have written parrah , meaning 'rose-leaf' or 'blade of grass'. [A discussion of this possibility, based on entries in several Persian dictionaries.] The truth is that in the context of the present verse parrah seems better, because from pardah the meaning emerges with difficulty. But respecting the text as it has reached us, I have written pardah . Indeed, if pardah also meant 'rank, station', then that would be something else again. I haven't found this meaning in any dictionary.

The theme of being a thousand pardah more delicate than the rose, Mir has also versified in a quatrain:

jaa;N se hai badan la:tiif-o-ruu hai naazuk
paakiizah hai tirii :tab((a-o-;xuu hai naazuk
bulbul ne samajh ke kyaa tujhe nisbat dii
gul se to hazaar pardah tuu hai naazuk

[the body is more subtle, and the face is more delicate, than life
your temperament is pure, and your disposition is delicate
what was the Nightingale thinking when he made the comparison with you?
compared to the rose, you are a thousand layers/leaves more delicate]

But as to why the Nightingale compared the beloved to the rose-- this idea has remained without 'proof', so that the pleasure of the theme has been reduced.



Mir very often uses the word burqa(( , but what does he mean by it/ Nowadays the term seems to be applied most often to what has been called the 'shuttlecock' kind of ankle-length garment with two eyeholes (see the wikipedia account). For Platts, the garment is a long wrapper (see the definition above). But in the present verse it seems to be something that could plausibly be 'lifted up' to reveal the face. Perhaps Mir is thinking of a two-part garment with an upper part that covers the head, face, and body above the waist, then a lower part like a long skirt.

In any case, the main point is that we should imagine the kind of garment that suits the needs of that particular verse. Mir is under no obligation to confine himself to garments actually worn by women in his society. (I hope it wasn't necessary to say this, but I've learned that 'natural poetry' inclinations die hard.)