Ghazal 111, Verse 3


thii;N banaat ul-na((sh-e garduu;N din ko parde me;N nihaa;N
shab ko un ke jii me;N kyaa aa))ii kih ((uryaa;N ho ga))ii;N

1) the Daughters of the Bier of the heavens were hidden, by day, in pardah
2) at night, what came into their inner-self, that they became naked?!


pardah : 'A curtain, screen, cover, veil, anything which acts as a screen, a wall, hangings, tapestry; ... secrecy, privacy, modesty; seclusion, concealment; secret, mystery, reticence, reserve'. (Platts p.247)


((uryaa;N : 'Naked, nude, bare, stripped'. (Platts p.760)


He expresses the mood of the stars' coming out; he has constructed it as 'becoming naked'. The Daughters of the Bier are seven stars visible in the north. Four stars among them are the bier, and three are the bearers of it. (116)

== Nazm page 116; Nazm page 117

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The Arabs consider [these stars] 'girls', and the women of Hindustan call them a group of 'seven girlfriends' [saat saheliyaa;N].... He says, by day, they remain hidden in the pardah of the heavens, and by night, they emerge from pardah-- that is, they become naked. (167)

Bekhud Mohani:

The truth is that from the apparent form of the words ['Daughters of the Bier'] he found occasion to pull out a delicate theme, and on it he has laid the foundation of the verse. Just as in the verse {153,7} he has composed the verse only on the basis of bai;Thnaa . (219)


But what occurs to them at night, that they come before everyone unveiled? ( ((uryaa;N can mean either 'naked' or 'unveiled'.) (209)


SKY {15,7}
VEIL: {6,1}

As Bekhud Mohani observes, this is a verse built almost entirely on wordplay. It's also what I would call a classic 'mushairah verse'. From the first line, the listener can't tell what's coming next, and must wait during the mushairah's suitably suspenseful oral-performance interval between lines. Even when the second line is vouchsafed, the punch-word doesn't appear until the last possible moment.

In the first line, we hear of the 'Daughters of the Bier', who all day remain, with apparent chastity and rectitude, in the seclusion of pardah. Thinking of them as 'daughters' makes us feel that they're living discreetly and quietly in their father's house. But of course, the 'Daughters of the Bier' is the Arabic name for the constellation Ursa Major, the 'Great Bear'.

Even in the second line, we're starved of information until the last possible moment: 'at night, what came into their heads, that they --became NAKED?! (For a discussion of Ghalib's uses-- and positioning-- of the word 'naked' [((uryaa;N], see {6,1}.) And then, when you suddenly 'get' it, you've got it entirely, and surely with a laugh. A real 'mushairah' verse neither demands nor rewards much further reflection.

The second line is in Ghalib's favorite interrogative form of his favorite inshaa))iyah mode of speech. We immediately recognize it as a rhetorical question, however. What came into their mind? Well, we all know, don't we! The verse, with a clever show of naive innocence, enlists our own erotic memory and imagination into its service. This is one of Ghalib's elegantly indirect erotic verses; for others, see {99,4}. What other poet could make something so witty and sexy from such seemingly mild material as the idea of the stars coming out?

Compare the mileage that Mir gets from similar innuendo about the 'Daughter of the Vine': M{584,7}.

Note for grammar fans: In the second line, the feminine singular aa))ii is agreeing with a colloquially-omitted baat . For more on this, see {59,4}.