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 pawned/pledged to henna; the cheek was a pawn/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)


me;Nhdii : 'The Henna plant, or Broad Egyptian Privet, Lawsonia alba, or L. inermis, or L. spinosa (cultivated throughout India for its leaves, and as a hedge-plant for gardens; the powdered leaves, beaten up with catechu and made into paste are much used by women to dye their hands and feet a reddish-orange; and, by men, to dye their beards; and occasionally to stain the tails and manes of horses)'. (Platts p.1109)

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, they 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, loans. The beloved who seems to 'own' her beauty, to owe it to no one and nothing, is really a highly indebted charlatan 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, the inauthenticity. Or perhaps in the very constraint itself; for an intriguing verse in which the poet's joy is 'pawned, pledged' to the finding of a theme, see {436x,6}.

ABOUT HENNA: Applied as a very dark brownish-green paste, henna [;hinaa], also known as 'mehndi' [me;Nhdii] (see the definitions above), then dries to orange, then settles into a long-lasting red, which finally lightens as the color gradually fades. For detailed information about the elaborate application process, see the wikipedia account. General examples of Ghalib's use of henna: {6,12x}; {88,5x}; {149,6x}; {220,4x}; {285x,4}; {299x,1}; {338x,2}; {341x,9}; {346x,7}; {379x,1}; {379x,7}; {416x,5}. 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}; {50,5x}; {50,7x}; {57,4}, blood as henna; {73,3x}; {145,11x}; {186,2}; {199,5x}, duzd-e ;hinaa ; {226,6x}; {230,2} // {239x,3}; {436x,1}.

And for verses about henna on the feet (which may prevent one from walking for a time, as in {424x,3}), see: {27,3}; {39,2}; {108,3}; {108,7}; {108,9x}; {108,10x}; {187,4x} // {279x,4}; {379x,1}; {424x,3}.

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):

An elaborate cosmetic box: in order to open the compartments, the central peacock that acts as a lock must be unscrewed: