chor uchakke sikkh marah;Te shaah-o-gadaa zar-;xvaahaa;N hai;N
chain se hai;N jo kuchh nahii;N rakhte faqr bhii ik daulat hai ab

1) thieves, pickpockets, Sikhs, Marathas, kings and beggars are gold-seekers
2) those who have nothing are at peace; even/also poverty/asceticism is a single/particular/unique/excellent wealth now



uchakkaa : 'One who suddenly snatches up a thing and makes off with it; a shop-lifter, pick-pocket, pilferer, thief, knave, swindler'. (Platts p.26)


marha;T;Taa , or marha;Taa : 'A Marhatta'. (Platts p.1027)


faqr : 'Poverty, want, need; the practice or vocation of a faqiir or derwish; a life of poverty with resignation and content; asceticism, ascetic mortification'. (Platts p.783)

S. R. Faruqi:

This is hardly a verse-- it's a gateway into an imagination of history. By doubling [mushaddad karnaa] the aspirated 'kh' sound in the word 'Sikh', he has brought the tone close to that of everyday speech, and in its form he has also created a kind of harshness that reinforces the meaning of the verse. Then, consider what groups he has brought together in the first line, and how he has brought them together.

First, chor uchakkaa is a noun compound, and in common speech both words can have the same meaning. In this respect chor uchakke has become a single class, and sikh marha;T;Te has become another. That is, between Sikhs and Marathas there's the same relationship as there is between chor and uchakke . If this is the case, then between shaah and gadaa too we ought to assume the same kind of similarity.

The word ;xvaahaa;N too he has placed well, because the word ;xvaahaa;N in isolation also means 'mortal enemy' or 'warrior'. For example, in Ahmad Husain Qamar's [volume of the Dastan-e Amir Hamzah called] :tilism-e half paikar , vol. 3, p. 1228: :tilism-kushaa meraa ;xvaahaa;N hai , pahaa;R se utar kar la;R pa;Ruu;Ngaa ['the tilism-breaker is my mortal enemy; I will have to go down from the mountain and fight']. Thus the word ;xvaahaa;N augments the semantic atmosphere of the verse.

It's not at all necessary that any actual historical event or situation should be versified in this verse. In any period at all of deterioration and societal decay and disorder (even if it would be brief), people make this kind of remarks about it: 'Sahib, what kind of a time has come, despoliation is everywhere'. This verse is not important because there's some kind of historical 'truth' in it; in fact it's possible that there might not be any historical truth in it at all. The period of composition of the fifth divan is said to be from 1798 to 1803; in that period Mir had already settled in Lucknow, and there Sikhs and Marathas had no access. It's obvious that Mir is expressing the experience or influence of some past time, he's not writing a history book.

The excellence of the verse is, in truth, that in it a complete and heart-chilling picture of deterioration and disorder has, through suggestions alone, come to exist. Nisar Ahmad Faruqi has disagreed with my idea that in Lucknow the Sikhs and Marathas had no access. He mentions the Maratha kingdoms in Farrukhabad and Rohilkhand. But these are events of some decades earlier. My point is that the present verse is from the fifth divan, which was compiled between 1798 and 1803, and at that time there was no presence of Sikhs or Marathas in Lucknow or Avadh.

[See also {1706,5}.]



On a first reading you think the verse is saying that only those who have nothing are blessedly secure from persecution by marauders, by those who use trickery or violence in their pursuit of gold. Here's Ghalib's even more extravagant appreciation of (post-robbery) poverty and peace:


But wait-- this reading accounts for the 'thieves, pickpockets, Sikhs, Marathas, kings', but what about the 'beggars'? They may be 'gold-seekers', but they can hardly threaten the 'peace' of those who have nothing. Their inclusion at the very end of the list pushes us to reconsider the word faqr , and to emphasize its psychological or spiritual sense of 'asceticism', of 'poverty with resignation and content' (see the definition above).

This new, deeper understanding makes it clear that those who practice faqr are more fortunate than those named in the first line not because they are physically safe from such marauders, but because they are at peace; the 'beggars' too may have nothing, but by definition (since they're 'begging' for 'gold') they are not at peace. Thus the ik with its range of meanings-- faqr can be a 'single', or 'particular', or 'unique', or 'excellent' kind of wealth.

Note for meter fans: SRF maintains that Mir has 'doubled' the 'kh' in 'Sikh' for colloquial effect. Thus the scansion becomes sik-kh-ma-rah-;Te (= - - = =). This doubling of the 'kh' has also been shown in the kulliyat. According to Platts, the first spelling of what even in Platts's day was called a 'Marhatta' (see the definition above) was marha;T;Taa . If that spelling is used, the scansion becomes sikh-mar-ha;T-;Te (= = = =). Platts also gives marha;Taa as a variant spelling, which could then be scanned and pronounced as 'Marahta'. I asked SRF about this, and he replied (Aug. 2018) that in Urdu marah;Taa is by far the most common pronunciation, while 'Sikh Marhatte' would sound 'intolerably clunky'. He added that the doubling of aspirated consonants in words like 'Sikh' was not so uncommon, and that the oblique plural was almost always sikkho;N , not sikho;N .