kyaa tan-e naazuk hai jaa;N ko bhii ;hasad jis tan pah hai
kyaa badan kaa rang hai tah jis kii pairaahan pah hai

1) what a delicate body it is-- a body of which even/also the spirit/life feels envy!
2) what a color of the body it is-- which is in/on the layer/depth of the robe!



tah : 'Ground; site; floor; surface; bottom, underneath; foundation; depth; layer, stratum; fold, plait, ply'. (Platts p.345)


pairaahan : 'Covering, mantle; a long robe; a kind of loose vest, a shirt or shift'. (Platts p.298)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this opening-verse two themes have been brought together so beautifully, and versified so rhythmically, that the whole verse seems to be a captivating charm of 'connection', and one doesn't feel that two separate themes have been melted down into a single verse. The first theme we have already seen several times in previous verses-- that is, the delicacy and refinement of the body, which is greater than that of the spirit; we have seen the freshest example of it just now in


The fountainhead for this theme is that uncommon verse by Khusrau that I have noted in {1123,5}. There too another verse by Khusrau, and also one by Hafiz, have been noted. Then, we've also seen a verse by Firdausi in {1039,5). Thus the family tree of this theme is very ancient and venerable. Mir himself used it so many times that one wonders what would still be left in it. But in the present verse by saying that the spirit/life is envious of the delicacy of the body, he has inserted into the theme something absolutely new.

Then, the repetition of the word tan has increased the power of the expression, because the first part of the line is insha'iyah. After an interrogative beginning, it was necessary for the word tan to be brought in again; otherwise, the balance would have suffered. In this question itself there are several meanings: (1) What a (superb, astonishing) delicate body it is! (2) What a delicate body it is! (3) Bravo-- what delicacy there is! (4) Can such a body be called 'delicate'? That is, the word 'delicate' is insufficient to describe it.

The theme that's in the second line seems to be Mir's own; and partly because of its excellence, and partly because Mir has versified it so well, from Mir's time to the present poets have sought to bring it within their grasp. Consider some examples. Mus'hafi:

yuu;N hai ;Dalak badan kii us pairahan kii tah me;N
sur;xii badan kii jhalke jaise badan kii tah me;N

[somehow the gleam of the body is in the depth of that robe
the way the redness of the body would glimmer in the depth of the body]

Mus'hafi, a second verse:

us ke badan se rang ;Tapaktaa nahii;N to phir
labrez-e aab-o-rang hai kyuu;N pairahan tamaam

[if color does not drip from her body, then
why is her whole robe brimful with radiance and color?]

Imdad Ali Bahr:

rang ka;Ttaa hai badan ke rang se kyaa rang hai
zard ho jaatii hai us ke jism me;N poshaak-e sur;x

[color is diminished by the color of her body-- what a color it is!
on her body, red clothing becomes yellow/pale]

Ghalib [in Persian]:

'Why would she put a veil on her face, when from the radiance of color
Within a robe she appears naked?'

Amirullah Taslim:

phuu;T niklaa rang-e jism-e naaznii;N poshaak se
ek saa rakhtaa hai ((aalam pairahan dono;N :taraf

[the color of the coquettish body has burst out from the clothing
the robe has something like the same condition, on both sides]

Vahid Allahabadi:

aataa hai na:zar jism kaa baalaa-e qabaa rang
kis nuur ke insaan ho kyaa ;husn hai kyaa rang

[the color of the body is visible, on the surface of the robe
what a radiant person would she be! what beauty she has! what color!]

Amir Mina'i:

chhantaa hai nuur-e ((aari.z-e gul-guu;N se is qadar
ho jaatii hai safed bhii us kii naqaab-e sur;x

[it is sifted throughthe light of the rose-colored mirror-ring to such an extent
even/also her red veil becomes white]

Hasrat Mohani:

all;aah re jism-e yaar kii ;xuubii kih ;xvud bah ;xvud
rangiiniyo;N me;N ;Duub gayaa pairahan tamaam

[oh God, the excellence of the beloved's body-- that all by itself
her whole robe has become drowned in colorfulnesses]

Hasrat Mohani, another verse:

raunaq-e pairahan hu))ii ;xuubii-e jism-e naaznii;N
aur bhii sho;x ho gayaa rang tire libaas kaa

[the excellence of the coquettish one's body became the glory of the robe
it became even more mischievous, the color of your clothing]

Hasrat Mohani, a third verse:

pairaahan us kaa hai saadah rangii;N
yaa ((aks-e mai se shiishah gulaabii

[her robe is simply colorful
or through a reflection of the wine, the glass is rose-colored]


damak rahaa thaa bahut yuu;N to pairahan us kaa
;zaraa se lams ne raushan kiyaa badan us kaa

[it was somehow glowing greatly, her robe
a small touch lit up her body]

This list shows, without any analysis or commentary, that in the whole long list the worst verses are Hasrat's, and the best are Mus'hafi's (his second one), Ghalib's, and Bani's. Ghalib's and Bani's verses both bear new aspects of theme and meaning. It should also be kept in mind that despite the long history of more than two hundred years of benefit, Mir's verse maintains its place even now, and among the later poets if someone wanted to take a step beyond this verse then his foot remained in the air-- no one was able to steal a march on Mir.

In Mir's verse the word tah is very crucial. Among its meanings, the following are helpful here: (1) When something (for example, clothing, or a wall) is painted/dyed, then first one color is applied to it, which in English is called 'primer' and in Urdu, tah . (2) A glitter, especially a glitter of color. (3) For a light streak of some color (for example, black or red), the word tah is used.

Then, in kyaa badan kaa rang hai there are even more layers [tahe;N] than in kyaa tan-e naazuk hai . Just consider: (1) One meaning is, 'Is that color, a layer of which can be seen on the robe, the color of the body, or is it (for example) the color of some other garment underneath the outer garment?' (2) 'How radiant is the color of the body, that because of it the clothing too seems to be radiant!' (3) A third meaning is, 'How beautiful is the color (for example, a wheatish color) of the body, since a glimmer of it is seen on the robe!' (Consider Bahr's verse above.) (4) A fourth meaning is that 'The body is so colorful (red and white, rose-colored, golden, etc.) that because of it even the outer garment has become colorful!' (Consider Mus'hafi's second verse above.)

The manner of establishing 'connection' in the verse is a fine one-- that in the first line he has described the body's somewhat spiritual quality: that it is so delicate that the spirit/life itself is envious of it. Then in the second line he has said only an innate and physical thing: that color/light is radiating out of the body to such an extent that the very clothing has become colorful. The pleasure is that in this description too there's a kind of delicacy and spirituality.

Then, the whole verse is pervaded by a mood of extraordinary absorbedness and enjoyment. When genius comes, it eats your lunch [shekspi))yar aa))e aur mu;Nh kii khaa))e]. Even Mir himself couldn't compose for a second time a verse like this one from the second divan [{1008,3}]:

kyaa rang me;N sho;xii hai us ke tan-e naazuk kii
pairaahan agar pahne to us pah bhii tah bai;The

[what mischievousness there is in the color of her delicate body!
if she would put on a robe, then even/also on it a layer/deph would show up]

[See also {885,5}; {1328,1}.]



Both lines of course make use of the 'kya effect': 'What a delicate body it is!' or 'Is it a delicate body?' (or might it be something else?); 'What a color of the body it is!' or 'Is it a color of the body?', and so on.

The idea of the color of the skin vividly showing through (or somehow irradiating) a garment might well seem just one more hypertrophied extravagance of ghazal imagery, like the vision of the beloved as having no waist, or no mouth. But here is a striking testimony to the sartorial situation among upper-class Bengalis as late as the early nineteenth century, from Nirad Chaudhuri's 'Culture in the Vanity Bag' (1976): page 62.