Ghazal 81, Verse 3


baa-vujuud-e yak jahaa;N hangaamah paidaa))ii nahii;N
hai;N chiraa;Gaan-e shabistaan-e dil-e parvaanah ham

1a) despite [the presence of] a whole/single world, there's no creation/result of commotion
1b) despite a 'whole-world' of commotion, there’s no creation/result

2) we are the lamp-display of the bedchamber of the heart of the Moth


baa-vujuud : 'Along with the fact (that), notwithstanding, although, withal, in spite of'. (Platts p.117)


hangaamah : 'A convention, an assembly, a meeting; a crowd; —noise, tumult, commotion, confusion, uproar; sedition, disturbance, disorder; an affray; assault'. (Platts p.1238)


paidaa : [of which paidaa))ii is the abstract noun form] 'Born, created, generated, produced; invented, discovered, manifested, manifest, exhibited; procured, acquired, earned, gained'. (Platts p.298)


He says that the ardor of the lamp that, when lit, generated such commotion in the heart of the Moth, is so hidden that for it there is no creation of effect at all. This is also the state of our existence-- everything is commotion, but there's no information about existence itself. That is, if in reality there's any existence, then it is one alone. (82)

== Nazm page 82


The expression of the second line is a commentary on the first line. (75)

Bekhud Mohani:

Despite the fact that our species has created a commotion, a noise in the whole world, in reality our existence is nothing. So it's as if we are lamps in the bedchamber of the heart of the Moth. That is, the fire of ardor that is flaming up in the Moth's heart can't be seen. Indeed, people only see his restlessnesses when he burns in the candle. The same situation is that of our existence. (170)


In the heart of the Moth dwells a world of longings, but in it no turmoil, no commotion, is created. We too are in this same state. That is, the light that has illumined the heart of the Moth is also present in our heart. Or say this: that we are that very light. (168)


In this verse attention first of all falls on yak jahaa;N hangaamah . If this phrase is taken as a single construction, then the interpretation becomes that despite a great deal of commotion, nothing is being expressed-- yak jahaa;N hangaamah meaning an extreme amount of commotion. To put yak to mean 'a great deal' is a Persian idiom, and it's not easy to use it, because without a suitable [munaasib] noun yak has no effect. Besides Ghalib, perhaps only Mir was able to have the courage to use it: M{452,2}.

In the verse under discussion, yak jahaa;N hangaamah is usually read as a single construction. But we can also consider that yak jahaa;N and hangaamah are separate. [In this case] he has said yak jahaa;N , that is, 'one whole world'. Commotion-- that is, turmoil and clamor-- is the quality of a world; thus in the next words he has mentioned it [and negated it, as a surprising absence]. Another excellence [of this reading] is that now 'we'-- that is, the personality of the speaker-- have become unlimited, like the world. It's better to say 'we are a world, but commotion is not apparent', as compared to saying 'there is a great deal of commotion in us, but the commotion is not apparent'.

Now the question arises, what is intended by a lamp-display in the heart of the Moth? The theme of the whole verse is clear: just as in the Moth's heart there's always a lamp-display, but it's not visible to anybody (rather, compared to the candle the Moth looks dark and black), in the same way we too, although we are a world, or inside us have a world, of commotion, nevertheless all this remains inside us alone. Outwardly there's nothing, only peace and quiet.

So then, what's the affinity between the Moth's heart and a lamp-display? Most commentators haven't discussed this question. Although its answer is present in Mir [M{427,4}]:

aa pa;Raa aag me;N ai sham((a yihii;N se to samajh
kis qadar daa;G hu))aa thaa jigar-e parvaanah

[since it emerged in flame, oh candle, from right here, understand
to what extent the Moth's liver had become a wound].

The Moth's heart, because of the burning bestowed on it and the flame kindled by its passion, is covered with wounds. He gives a lamp as a simile for a wound. In this way the Moth's heart is a lamp-display [though nothing is outwardly visible].

The metaphors of both lines, and the form of the second line, are astonishing. The harmony of the constructions has made the verse even more beautiful.

== (1989: 100-01) [2006: 123-25]

[See also his commentary on Mir's M{1853,5}.]



Faruqi's discussion of this marvelous verse is excellent; if you read Urdu script, you should really click on the link and read the full original text. I agree with him that (1a)-- adopted by Josh-- is more interesting than (1b)-- adopted by Nazm and Bekhud Mohani. But of course, to have both of them alternating in your perception is inevitable-- no serious reader of Ghalib can fail to perceive yak-jahaa;N hangaamah in its (1b) meaning, as at least a secondary choice. For more on Ghalib's beloved yak -something constructions, see {11,1}. On chiraa;Gaa;N as lamp-display, see {5,5}.

Nobody has anything to say about the word 'bedchamber'. Yet it has its own role to play. If we consider the sequence, we are 'the lamp-display of the bedchamber of the heart of the Moth'. We are reduced by degrees to the smallest possible scope-- not just to the size of the tiny, doomed, short-lived Moth, but even to his still tinier heart, and in that his still tinier bedchamber, and in that his still tinier lamp-display. Yet we are a world!

Moreover, a lamp-display is usually something public, a way to decorate the house for a gathering. Here, the lamp-display is as emphatically private as possible: it's not only held in the Moth's bedchamber-- which gives it a quality already of innerness, of dream or nightmare-- but the bedchamber itself is located, through the powers of metaphor, in the inviolable solitude of the Moth's heart. We ourselves are this lamp-display-- we're as helpless as the cards being shuffled by the 'card-player of Thought' in the previous verse, {81,2}. Yet we are a world!

And a world of passion, commotion, turmoil-- all of it invisible from the outside. And perhaps that's the way we want it. Consider {100,4}-- our every drop may be an ocean, but why should we show as little self-restraint as Mansur? We and the Moth know how to keep our secrets to ourselves. On the exceedingly tiny focus of the lover's huge passion, see also {96,2}. For another meditation on extreme smallness (or extreme vastness), see {138,1} with its 'ant's egg' sky.

Owen Cornwall points out (Jan. 2011) that baa-vujuud in Persian also retains its literal sense of 'existing, being present' (Steingass p. 153), and in this sense it resonates enjoyably with paidaa))ii .

For another verse that locates us in an impossibly small, abstractly imagined place, see {373x,4}.

Compare also Mir's Moth, who has 'dust in his eye': M{95,11}