in jaltii ha;D;Diyo;N ko shaayad humaa nah khaave
tab ((ishq kii hamaarii pahu;Nchii hai ustu;xvaa;N tak

1) these burning bones, perhaps the Huma would not eat
2) the heat of our passion has reached/arrived as far as the bones



tap (of which tab is a variant): 'Heat, warmth; fever'. (Platts p.309)

S. R. Faruqi:

The Huma is known to eat bones. Thus the expectation is that when the lover would die and decompose, his bones will be food for the Huma. There are two aspects to this theme. One is that the lover's corpse will remain unburied and unshrouded, so that kites and crows will eat his body. When the bones alone remain, they will be of use to the Huma.

The second aspect is that on the lover's body there's no flesh at all, he's only a framework of bones; thus when he dies, his bones will be available to the Huma to eat, and no other creature will get anything. (The aspect of remaining without a grave and a shroud is common to both themes.)

To have expectations of the Huma, or rather to be confident that he will eat the lover's bones, is even more interesting because the one upon whom the Huma's shadow would fall, will become a king. Thus even after death the lover's personality is so self-sufficient and vital that thanks to it, people become kings. Because of this aspect the speaker has not assumed (as we will see below) that any other animal besides the Huma is eating the lover's bones.

For the lover's bones to become food for animals (and especially the Huma) is not a new theme. Although indeed the theme that in the bones there's so much heat that the Huma won't eat them, is Mir's own. The theme of the fire of passion is obvious, but Mir has established in it a medical aspect as well, for in olden times some kinds of fever were called 'bone fever' [ha;D;Dii kaa bu;xaar]. The word tab is extremely fine, because it has the meaning of 'fever' and also of 'fire'.

That the fire of passion would reach to the bones-- this theme Mir has versified very finely in the fifth divan:


In the present verse the double meaning of tab has created an extra pleasure that's not there in {1779,3}. (It's a separate matter that in {1779,3} there a number of excellences; these will be described in their place.)

That the Huma will feel distaste for burning bones-- this theme so pleased Mir that he expressed it in a number of places, with almost no change in the wording. In the second divan [{844,4}]:

in ha;D;Diyo;N kaa jalnaa ko))ii humaa se puuchho
laataa nahii;N hai mu;Nh vuh ab mere ustu;xvaa;N tak

[about the burning of these bones, one should ask the Huma
he doesn't bring his mouth, now, as far as my bones]

(This 'ground' too was so pleasing to Mir that in addition to the fourth divan he composed a ghazal in it in every divan. It's possible that part of this pleasure was the pleasure of the theme of the Huma and the burning bones.)

From the fourth divan [{1370,4}]:

kyaa mel ho humaa kii pas az marg merii or
hai jaa-e giir ((ishq kii tab ustu;xvaa;N ke biich

[how would the Huma have any inclination toward me, after death?
the landholding of the heat of passion is among the bones]

From the sixth divan [{1832,10}]:

in jaltii ha;D;Diyo;N par hargiz humaa nah bai;The
pahu;Nchii hai ((ishq kii tab ay miir ustu;xvaa;N tak

[on these burning bones, the Huma would absolutely not sit
the heat of passion has reached, oh Mir, as far as the bones]

In the fourth divan, by overturning this theme he has created the refinement that because of burning, the bones have become alkaline; for this reason, they please the Huma's taste [{1455,4}]:

der rahtaa hai humaa laash pah ;Gam-kushto;N kii
ustu;xvaa;N un ke jale kuchh to mazaa dete hai;N

[the Huma stays long on the corpses of the grief-slain
their bones, having been burned, do give some pleasure]

In the second line of {1455,4} there are two subtleties. The first is one that has been mentioned above. The second is that the burned bones are somewhat tasty, otherwise the Huma wouldn't have remained so long on the bones of those slain by grief.

Of all the verses that have been noted above, {844,4} is the weakest.

The verse that I've included in my selection has a beauty found in no other verse: that is, in the first line there's a yearning, there's a sorrow. Previously there was hope that our bones would be of use to the Huma (and perhaps in this way even make someone a king), but now the heat of passion has reached to the bones; now it's unlikely that the Huma would eat these bones. In life we were always destined to disappointment; in death too we will still be destined to disappointment.

And it's not even as though we had longed for something so great-- we only wanted our bones to fill the stomach of the Huma. In shaayad humaa nah khaave there's a kind of endurance or even acceptance: now we're no longer of use to the Huma. There's also the suggestion that if these bones are of no use to the Huma, then perhaps they'll be of use to some other animal or human.

Ghalib has expressed [in Persian] the possibilities of this suggestion in his own special metaphorical and implicative style, like this:

'Stay far from these fragments of bones, oh Huma!
For this is a feast spread for fire-eating birds.'

And if we move along, then Asghar Ali Khan Nasim gave to the theme of Huma and bones this new aspect, that the bones don't even remain for the Huma to eat:

tan shu((lah'haa-e ;Gam se hu))aa ;xaak ay nasiim
dekhe;Nge ustu;xvaa;N nah hamaare humaa ke naaz

[the body, in the flames of grief, became dust, oh Nasim
our bones will not see the coquetries of the Huma]

Alas, that Nasim's first line isn't as trim/fitting as the second line! Sayyid Muhammad Khan Rind too has turned Mir's suggestion into a theme and presented it well:

pa;Raa hangaamah hai shaayad hamaare ustu;xvaano;N par
hu))aa jhag;Raa humaa me;N aur sagaan-e kuu-e dilbar me;N

[a commotion has perhaps arison over our bones
a fight has occurred between the Huma and the dogs of the beloved's street]

Rind's first line is a bit artificially contrived, and in the second line there's no such dignity or melancholy as in Mir's, but the theme is undoubtedly excellent.

After the lover's bones have not been able to become food for the Huma, for them to be established as not even pleasing to a dog-- this theme Sitvat Lakhnavi, a pupil of Latafat Lakhnavi, has taken up, but the verbal arrangement is very limp and the verbosity very great, so that the verse hasn't been able to become successful:

tal;xii-e furqat thii jo be-;had nah hargiz khaa sakaa
ha;D;Diyaa;N mirii sag-e jaanaa;N chubaa kar rah gayaa

[since the bitterness of separation was limitless, he absolutely could not eat them
my bones, the beloved's dog only tasted/nibbled]



Another version of this discussion appears, thanks to SRF's help, in Nets of Awareness (1994), pp. 112-115. In this section of the book I once had even more footnotes that thanked SRF for his obviously invaluable help, but he said he was embarrassed, and he made me take some out.

As SRF shows, this theme of the lover's bones being eaten (or not) by the Huma was very appealing to Mir. It's easy to see why. Not only is it unusual and striking, but it also juxtaposes the royal power and grandeur of the king-making Huma bird, with the commonplace vulgarity of its feeding on bones like a vulture or a stray dog. And similarly it juxtaposes the lover's own burning, powerful sensibility, his spirit which is aimed like an arrow toward a destiny far beyond this world, to the humiliation of his unshrouded, unburied body's being reduced to a neglected heap of bones which won't even be eaten by the Huma.

Literary descriptions of the Huma vary across time and space in the qualities they emphasize. In the Urdu ghazal, by far the most important quality is the Huma's king-making ability (if his shadow passes over your head, you'll become a king). The bones-eating tendency appears much less frequently, though SRF gives enough examples to establish clearly that it exists. It's hard to put together a single over-all description of the Huma, because so many sources give different depictions. But then, do we really need to do so?

SRF says 'The verse that I've included in my selection has a beauty found in no other verse: that is, in the first line there's a yearning/longing [;hasrat], there's a sorrow/melancholy [ma;hzuunii]'. And here once again we encounter that question of 'tone' (or 'mood'). Literally, the line is a straightforward statement of possibility: 'Perhaps the Huma would not eat these burning bones'. It's indeed easy to imagine its being said in a tone of melancholy and wistful longing, as SRF reads it.

But to me it seems that it could also be said detachedly, as a matter-of-fact observation about future events-- an observation made by someone who no longer cares about them. Or it could just as well be said proudly: 'our passion is so extreme, our bones are too hot for even the Huma to handle!' Or how about with wry amusement: 'look at what extravagant things happen to lovers!'. I simply can't feel that the tone of yearning and sorrow is actually 'built into' the first line. For further discussion of this issue, see {724,2}.