Ghazal 129, Verse 4x

{129,4x}*

hinduustaan saayah-e gul paa-e ta;xt thaa
jaah-o-jalaal-e ((ahd-e vi.saal-e butaa;N nah puuchh

1) Hindustan was the shade/shadow of a rose at the foot of the throne/'sitting-platform'
2) the magnificence and splendor of the vow/era of 'union' of/with idols-- don't ask!

Notes:

saayah : 'Shadow, shade; shelter, protection; apparition, spectre; influence (of an evil spirit)'. (Platts p.632)

 

ta;xt : 'Throne, chair of state; seat, stage, platform; sofa, bed; any place raised above the ground for sitting, reclining, or sleeping'. (Platts p.313)

 

jaah-o-jalaal : 'Rank and grandeur, dignity; splendour, magnificence, pomp'. (Platts p.374)

 

((ahd : 'Compact, contract, covenant, agreement, engagement, obligation, promise; bond, league, treaty; —a vow, an oath; —time, season, conjuncture; lifetime; reign (of a king)'. (Platts pp. 766-67)

Asi:

The shade/shadow or a rose was, so to speak, Hindustan; and that very Hindustan was at the foot of our sitting-platform. Alas, why even ask about the kingship of that time, when we obtained union with the idols! That is, when we obtained union with the idols, then, so to speak, we were a king. And the shade/shadow of the rose and the garden in which we used to sit, was the foot of our sitting-platform. He has called the shade/shadow of the rose 'Hindustan' because of its darkness and blackness. (205)

Zamin:

They call Hindustan 'heavenly' [jannat-nishaan]; when the shade/shadow of the rose became Hindustan, then it also became heavenly. Enough-- how can you ask for anything equal to union with the idols (who are residents of Hindustan), the shade/shadow of whose sitting-platform is heavenly? That is, they are hardly idols of Hindustan-- they are Houris of Paradise! How can the pleasure of union with them be described?! (308)

Gyan Chand:

Ghalib remembers that in the days when the land was free and sovereign the aristocrats must have enjoyed themselves very well with beautiful ones and must have lived in high style. As if the era was the era of rose-gathering of the beauty of beautiful ones. Don't ask about the pomp and circumstance of that era!

== Gyan Chand, p. 317

FWP:

SETS == A,B; INEXPRESSIBILITY
IDOL: {8,1}
'UNION': {5,2}
VOWS: {20,2}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The striking first line does seem to invite a historical/political reading of the kind that Gyan Chand gives it: 'Alas, for the good old days of the Mughal Empire!'. And at first the second line seems to cooperate-- right up to the enjoyably multivalent word ((ahd in the middle of the second line. Up to that point, given the references to 'Hindustan' and a 'throne' and 'magnificence and grandeur', we can indeed decide to read ((ahd as 'time, era, reign'.

But then when we encounter the phrase ((ahd-e vi.saal-e butaa;N , our minds are shunted off in a different direction. For in the world of the ghazal, 'union' is far more likely to be connected with a (probably unfulfilled) 'vow' rather than with a whole 'era' of maximum access to the beloved(s). (How could the lover possibly maintain such bliss for a whole 'era'?) And surely the verse doesn't mean to say that the glory of the Mughal Empire was as untrustworthy as a promise of 'union' from the fickle beloved? Or that its heyday was as notoriously brief as any bliss that she might almost inadvertently have vouchsafed? Or that the Emperor was like a two-timing beloved?

Thus the pleasures of an 'A,B' verse like this. Instead of reading it as a verse in which the first line is central and the second line is an exclamatory description of it, we are led to read it more enjoyably as a verse in which the second line is central and the first line is an exclamatory description of it.

For fortunately, we have {138,6}, which guides us in the right direction: it suggests that the heart of the present verse is indeed an attempt to capture the inexpressible glory of the 'vow of union of idols' [((ahd-e vi.saal-e butaa;N]. If the beloved promises the lover 'union', his ecstasy is beyond all description-- all of Hindustan (the homeland of idols) is nothing but a mere shadow of a rose (when he has a promise from the real rose) at the foot of the throne to which he finds himself elevated in his bliss. (And/or perhaps there's even a brief shining moment, a 'time of union'; but of course it can't last.)

Nazm says about {138,6}, 'The special feature of Hindustan is that in the shadow of a wall there is darkness, and Hindustan too is a black [kaalaa] country' (148). As Asi notes, the present verse too shares this set of imagery (Hindustan, wall, shadow). For discussion of this imagery, see {138,6}.

*"Shah Jahan on the Peacock Throne at Delhi receiving deputations, from an eighteenth-century manuscript of 'Amal-i Salih, a history of Shah Jahan by Muhammad Salih Kanbu"* (BL)