Ghazal 39, Verse 5x


but-parastii hai bahaar-e naqsh-bandiihaa-e dahr
har .sariir-e ;xaamah me;N yak naalah-e naaquus thaa

1a) idol-worship is the springtime/flourishing of the descriptions/drawings of the universe
1b) the springtime/flourishing of the descriptions/drawings of the universe, is idol-worship

2) in every scratching of the pen, was a single lament of a conch-shell


naqsh-band : 'Designing, planning, forming, inventing; creating; —a painter; delineator, designer; creator; —adorner; embroiderer; —a magic square; a charm; naqsh-bandii : The art of painting, &c.; —painting; embroidering, &c.; —description'. (Platts p.1145)


.sariir : 'Creaking; grating (as of a door on rusty hinges); scratching sound (of a pen)'. (Platts p.744)


;xaamah : 'A writing-reed, a pen'. (Platts p.485)


naaquus : 'A kind of wooden gong; a thin oblong piece of wood, suspended by two strings and struck with a flexible rod (used by the Eastern Christians to summon the congregation to divine service, church bells not being allowed in Muhammadan countries); —a kind of shell blown by Hindus in divine worship (i.q. sha;Nkh )'. (Platts p.1115)


The painting/description of the age is, so to speak, idol-worship; and in the condition of painting/describing there is a reversal of education, from which a sound emerges that is, so to speak, the sound of the conch.

== Asi, p. 72


In this verse ;xaamah means the pen of a painter. He says that in making the shapes/forms of the scenes of nature, the sound that emerges from the pen has the similitude of the lament of a conch-shell. From this it's become clear that painting/artistry is idol-worship.

== Zamin, p. 85

Gyan Chand:

To capture very fine pictures of the scenes of the world is idol-worship, because this inclines one to toward beauty other than God. In this every sound of the painter's pen becomes the sound of a conch-shell, which Hindus play in the temple.

It's only a 'poetic thought' [shaa((iraanah ;xayaal]. He has presented a simile for the scratching of the pen.

== Gyan Chand, p. 116


IDOL: {8,1}
WRITING: {7,3}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; I thought it was interesting and have added it myself. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The naaquus was originally something entirely different (see the definition above), but has been repurposed in the ghazal world to mean the conch shell that is often blown as a part of Hindu worship. For more on this kind of redefinition, see {60,8}. For another naaquus verse, see {298x,5}.

Through the power of grammatical symmetry, we can take the first line to be about the nature of idol-worship, as in (1a), or else about the nature of drawing or writing, as in (1b). Either way, the use of bahaar makes it sound like a flourishing, thriving activity, one in its prime. So why does every scratching of the pen make a 'lament'? No doubt we can come up with possible reasons (finiteness, mortality, meaninglessness, the human condition in general), but still the 'connection' of the lines leaves something to be desired.

Compare the deservedly preeminent 'scratching of the pen' verse, {169,13}, the only one selected for the published divan.