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 a throne
2) the pomp and circumstance of the vow/time of 'union' of idols-- don't ask!

Notes:

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)

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! (317)

FWP:

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

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

The striking first line does seem to invite a historical/political reading of the kind that Gyan Chand gives it: alas, 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 'pomp and circumstance', 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 an entirely different direction. For in the world of the ghazal, 'union' almost reflexively demands to be connected with a 'vow' rather than with an '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 suddenly led to read it 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 exactly the right direction: it suggests that the heart of the verse is indeed an attempt to capture the inexpressible glories of the 'vow of union of idols' [((ahd-e vi.saal-e butaa;N]. If the beloved promises you 'union', your ecstasy is beyond all description-- all of Hindustan is nothing but a mere shadow of a rose (when you have a promise from the real rose) at the foot of the throne to which you find yourself elevated in your bliss. (And/or perhaps there's even a brief shining moment, a 'time of union', when the ecstasy is even more supreme.)

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). The present verse too shares this set of imagery (Hindustan, wall, shadow).

*"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)