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Nineteenth-century prose

Chandrakāntā by Devaki Nandan Khatri (selection from the novel) Urdu
Premsāgar by Lallulal (selection)
Literary criticism by Bhartendu Harishchandra, “Hindī bhāshā” and “Urdū kā syāpā”

Twentieth-century prose

“Sadgati” by Premchand
“Dudh kā dām” by Premchand Urdu
“Urdū, Hindī, aur Hindūstānī” by Premchand Urdu
“Malbe kā mālik” by Mohan Rakesh
“Tanāv” by Rajendra Yadav
“Dillī mẽ ek maut” by Kamleshwar
“Paccīs caukā deṛh sau” by Omprakash Valmiki
Apne-apne pinjare by Mohandas Naimishray Urdu
“Lājwantī” by Rajinder Singh Bedi Urdu


Two Braj Bhasha poets:
  • Kabir Urdu
  • Rahim Urdu
Selections from Braj works: The Chayavad movement, with
  • Selection from the critical essay “Kalpnā ke kānan kī rānī” in Chāyāvād by Namwar Singh
  • “Vishva chavi” by Sumitranand Pant
  • Nīrajā by Mahadevi Varma (selection)
Old Avadhi texts: selections from
  • the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsīdās
  • the Madhumālatī of Manjhan

by Raḥīm

Raḥīm's Nagaraśobhā (The City's Radiance ]) compares with the Persian genre of śahrāśūb (Lament for the City ). While cruel, beautiful men dazzle the city at the heart of the śahrāśūb genre, Raḥīm's Nagaraśobhā focuses on the beauty of Indian women.  This work has some quasi-ethnographic features in that the women are classified by their respective professions, but it also hearkens back to the tradition of nāyikā bheda (a classification system from Sanskrit poetics) and is suffused with śṛngāra, the erotic sentiment. Still, there is something distinctly feisty and provocative about the women who come under Raḥīm’s poetic gaze.   The Nagaraśobhā is composed in a mixed idiom that is characteristic of Raḥīm's oeuvre with its often piquant multivalent registers. Allison Busch and her Fall 2012 class prepared the following glossary for the text.

-Justin Ben-Hain

On this page

PDF availableThe Braj text is available as a PDF

If the Hindi words below appear as boxes or nonsense, please see the introduction page for help.


Nagaraśobhā, vv. 1-18

अदि: beginning, primary
दुति: light, splendor
परम: highest, perfect, ultimate
लघु: light, small.
मति: understanding, mind.
अस्तुति: speaking ill of someone, state of disgrace; note that this need not be negative, i.e. स्तुति (compare अस्नान in verse 4, which means स्नान). Occasionally modern speakers of Hindi-Urdu insert a vowel before an initial conjunct sibilant.

तृप्ति: satisfaction
निरखि: absolutive from निरखना, to observe, AB
भाँति: various kinds

उत्तम: best, highest
जाती: caste/community
लुभाय: to entice
परसत: take परस- as a verb derived from स्पर्श, to touch

परजापति: the creator, title of Brahma, king (the father of goddess Parvati)

रति: enjoyment, love, intercourse.
खतरानी: the primary meaning is female kshatriya; the secondary meaning is danger, which may be intended as a pun
इतरान: the dictionary glossed this as इतराना: to behave with pride or conceit; strut
बिरंचि: Brahma
कुसुम: flower
कनक: gold
सान: grindstone/sign.

पारस: According to Platts, a “stone which, according to Hindū legend, immediately converts into gold any metal it touches:—pāras-patthar, pāras-patthal (S. sparśa+prastara, s.m.=pāras,"
पाहन: stone
मनो: brbh = मानों
पूतरी: पुतली, f. puppet, doll; lovely woman
कंचल: कंचन, gold
बिलसै: be delighted

जौहरिन: jeweler [specifically a female jeweller--all of these verses are about women, AB]
मानिक: ruby.
चख: eye
मुकुत: मुक्ता, pearl; a trope in Urdu and Persian poetry is the motif of tears as pearls. The bursting into tears idea seems particularly good because it provides a contrast to the imagery of laughing in the first line. This imagery does not come from the Indic Kavya tradition, as women are not portrayed crying.

बिरह: विरह: separation, anguish of separation.
चोट: wound, injury
पीरा: suffering, pain

कथन: to narrate; to speak; take closely with पार--to be able, "the Kayasth's wife is not able to say/speak..."
मुख: mouth.
बैन: speech.
छाती: chest, breast.
मैन: kamdev
सैन: signal.

बरुनि-बार:Eyelash-hair; one strand of eyelash
मसि: Ink
काजरि: kohl; from काजल
प्रेमाखर: Love’s letter. From प्रेम (love) अक्षर (letter, of the alphabet)
बांचन: Read; from बांचना which means to read

चतुर: Smart
चितेरिन: A woman painter
चित: Heart
चख: Eye
खंजन: Wagtail (A typical simile for a woman's eyes, because wagtails dart quickly)
आधो: Half
डारई: from डालना, subjunctive form

नित्र: Eyes
नेकु: Not one; not even a little
कागद: Paper
चित्र: Picture

सुरंग: Golden colored
बरन: color (from वर्ण, colour)
खवाये: Makes you eat
पान: betel-leaf; can also mean leaf as well as hand, from पाणि
निसि: Night
बिरही: Separated one
जन: People
प्राण: Life, soul

पीरी: Yellow
अति: Ultra; very
चन्दन: Sandalwood; yellow
खौरे: टीका, तिलक; sandalwood paste smeared on her body, a typical erotic adornment, and one befitting a panwali
गात: Body
परसत: Touching (cf. v. 3)
बीरी: this is a prepared pan, cf. MSH बीड़ा
अधर: Lips, especially lower lips
पीरी: yellow; (possibly) to turn pale

परम: Ultimate
कंचन: Gold
बरन: Body, form, color, quality
सोभित: शोभित, splendid, adorned
नारि: Woman
सुनारी: Goldsmith’s wife
साँचे: Mould
ढारी: ढालना means to cast
बिधिना: Fate, God
गढ़ी: (perfect tense) to make, to shape

रह्सनी: Rejoicing
बह्सनी: Arguing; to be talkative
घेरि: absolutive form of घेरना, to encircle

बनिआइन: Wife of the trader
हाट: Market
पेम: प्रेम.
पेक: पेक is attested as पायक, which means फेरीवाला or hawker. This gives us the right mercantile imagery. Another possibility might be पेंग , which means swinging . Or possibly from पेख< प्रेक्ष, to see
हेरि कै: upon seeing
गरुए: Heavy
टारत: Avert, defer, evade
बाट: Weights; path/marketplace

गरब: Pride
तराजू: Weighing scale
भौंह: Brow
मुस्क्यात: Smiles
डांडी मारना: Shirk, dodge, cheat
बिरह: Separation
घटि: Decreases

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This site last updated by Justin Ben-Hain on 5 November 2013.