Ghazal 18, Verse 4


puuchh mat rusvaa))ii-e andaaz-e isti;Gnaa-e ;husn
dast marhuun-e ;hinaa ru;xsaar rahn-e ;Gaazah thaa

1) don't ask about the disgrace of the style of independence of beauty!
2) the hand was pledged to henna; the cheek was a pledge to rouge


isti;Gnaa : 'Ability to dispense with, independence (in point of fortune), opulence; content'. (Platts p.49)

marhuun : 'Deposited as a pledge, pledged, pawned, mortgaged'. (Platts p.1027)


;hinaa : 'The plant Lawsonia inermis, Egyptian privet or Indian myrtle, henna (used for dyeing the hands and feet and hair)'. (Platts p.482)

rahn : 'Pledging, pawning; a thing deposited as a pledge, a pledge, a pawn; a mortgage, a sum lent on mortgage'. (Platts p.610)


;Gaazah : 'Rouge for the face; perfumed powder for the hair or skin'. (Platts p.768)


That is, despite its pride, beauty is so needy that the hand is stretched out [beseechingly] to henna and the cheek to rouge. (19)

== Nazm page 19


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {18}

Bekhud Mohani:

How can I describe how much disgrace there was for the claims of beauty to non-indebtedness!.... That is, beautiful ones claim that their beauty is divinely given, we have no need for adornment. But we've always seen then making henna designs on their hands, and we've seen the color of rouge glimmering on their cheeks. (45)


Beauty's independence and non-neediness is established. But in this verse he has proved it to be needy, and expressed the disgrace of its independence. He says, aloof Beauty's independence has become disgraced, for its hands remained in need of henna and its cheeks have been found absorbed in the ardor for the rubbing-on of rouge. (75)



Beauty pretends to be independently wealthy, but it's all a false front. In fact, it's all based on borrowed finery, facades, pawnshops, mortgages. The beloved who claims to owe her beauty to no one and nothing, is really a highly indebted fraud making false claims. How disillusioning, how pathetic! This is the general reading of the commentators.

But where exactly does the 'disgrace' come in? Because people have now found out? That might be why the second line is in the past tense, as though retailing gossip about once-hidden misdeeds that have now come to light.

At a deeper level, though, Ghalib always urges a radical autonomy: don't be indebted to others, even to medicine when you're sick (see {26,1}). Rather, you should let everything, no matter what, emerge from your own being (see {148,5}). Even if people don't know, the disgrace is in the hypocrisy itself, the inauthenticity itself.

But there's another dimension that comes to mind. Think of {12,1}, with its great introductory phrase in which the lover describes himself as saraapaa rahn-e ((ishq , 'from head to foot pledged to passion'. In this case, passion is no cheap debt and nothing trivial, but is the supreme goal to which the lover sacrifices his life. This makes us consider whether the beloved's hand might be 'pledged to henna' in this sense, and her cheek 'a pledge to rouge.' Her allegiance to perfect beauty would then be as ultimate as the lover's allegiance to passion. Her 'disgrace' would then be comparable to his-- and perhaps just as morally defensible, and even admirable. Why shouldn't her commitment to being adorable be as powerful and totalizing as his commitment to adoring her? The worldly, the 'people of the world,' the ahl-e dunyaa , may consider this a disgrace, but what do they know? Perhaps it's better to obey the first line's injunction, 'don't ask'-- perhaps there's a mystery of passion behind it all.

About ;hinaa : Applied as a dark olive-green paste, it then dries to long-lasting orange, then red, designs. For details see the wikipedia account: Henna. General examples: {6,12x}; {149,6x}. Ghalib sometimes imagines henna as applied to the beloved's hands, as in the present verse-- and in this modern example:

For more verse examples of henna on the hands, see: {48,6}; {57,4}; {145,11x}; {186,2}; {226,6x}; {230,2}.

And for verses with henna on the feet: {27,3}; {39,2}; {108,3}; {108,7}; {108,9x}; {108,10x}; {187,4x}.

A verse of Mir's, with henna on both hands and feet: M{1725,6}; one that imagines the color of henna as a 'bird': M{52,2}.

A lady applying henna to her feet (Bikaner, c.1720-30, from the Met's collection):

A cosmetic box so elaborate that in order to open the compartments, the central peacock (which both acts as a lock and provides an applicator tail) must be unscrewed: