The Romance of Laur-Chanda by Medhavi Gandhi from The Heritage Lab

Love stories never go out of fashion, especially when they are narrated using songs and drama. The story of Laur and Chanda, is one such story. The folklore is performed till date in Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh and some parts of North India. Many moons ago, somewhere around 1377-78 AD (the Sultanate Period), a Sufi poet, Maulana Daud composed this narrative in Avadhi, giving birth to the first surviving Indian Sufi romance.

A reason why I am drawn to museums is because they are a storehouse of  stories. I chanced upon the story of Laur and Chanda at the Government Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh. A delicate set of folios, the Museum has a great book on the collection.

THE STORY & ITS CHARACTERS

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Laur enters Chanda’s bed chamber.

The narrative begins with the birth of a beautiful Chanda to King Sahadeva of Govar. While still very young, she is bound in wedlock to a blind and impotent Prince. The great beauty that brought her this lamentable fate also releases her from it, for the unhappy maiden catches the eye of a wandering ascetic, Bajir. Bajir sings her praises wherever he goes and sets the story in motion. His songs arouse the lust of King Rupchand so much so that he forcefully tries to forge an alliance with King Sahadev. This is when our hero, Laur is brought in by the King, to overcome and kill Rupchand; but he falls in love with Chanda, though not before achieving his goal.  Chanda engages her confidante, Brihaspati in arranging secret meetings with Laur. But the story isn’t as simple because Laur is married to Maina – who comes to know about her husband’s illicit love and devises ways of winning him back when he elopes with Chanda. Chanda and Laur’s elopement itself is ridden with challenges – snakebites, thieves and the King Mahipat – who invites Laur to a game of dice and wins everything including Chanda. He is, however, outwitted by Chanda and they journey on. Maina on the other hand, entrusts Sirjan, a caravan leader with the task of locating her husband. Eventually, Laur and Chanda return but the lovers’ plight does not end with confrontation and Chanda ends up as Laur’s second wife.

THE CHANDIGARH MUSEUM FOLIOS

The folios of Laur-Chanda are rare and significant in artistic terms. A set of 24 folios has survived, of which 14 lie with the Lahore Museum in Pakistan, and 10 in India’s Chandigarh Museum. The poem by Maulana Daud testifies to his genius as a great storyteller. The artist pays tribute to this very genius by placing him in every folio – almost reminding the viewer of the origins of the story. You will notice him in white with a holy book in every frame.

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More: http://www.theheritagelab.in/laur-chanda/#comment-7

The soul’s ‘corporeality of origination’

al-Mubahathat

Mulla Sadra famously held that the human soul is “corporeal (jismani) in origination”. With this, people often say, he radically departed from Avicenna’s view that the soul is an incorporeal being from the very beginning of its existence. But those who claim such a departure on Sadra’s part don’t really clarify what the Sadrian doctrine precisely amounts to. Maybe that’s even partly Sadra’s fault – I don’t know. Whatever the case may be, point is: their unclarity about the content of the doctrine, as far as I’m concerned, renders any claim about a ‘radical departure’ suspect.

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During the Anjundan period Nizari Imams took on Sufi names

Interesting facts about History of the Middle East.

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The post-Alamut period in Nizari Ismaili history comprises the first two centuries after the fall of Alamut (1090-1256) and the Anjundan revival from the mid-fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

After the fall of Alamut, the Imams remained in hiding for almost two centuries in order to avoid persecution and to safeguard the community; only a handful of trusted da’is had physical contact with the Imams. Imam Sham al-Din Muhammad for instance, was concealed under the nickname ‘Zarduz’ (embroiderer).*

Illuminated pages from Diwan of Hafiz, late 18th century. produced for the 44th Imam Sayyid Abu'l Hasan. (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History) Illuminated pages from Diwan of Hafiz, late 18th century. produced for the 44th Imam Sayyid Abu’l Hasan. (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History)

The Nizari communities scattered over a wide region from Syria and Persia, Central and South Asia, developing locally and in isolation from one another. The Imams and the community disguised themselves under the mantle of Sufism that was spreading widely in Persia, appearing as a Sufi tariqa, using…

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Persian literature was dominated by a sophisticated tradition of poetry

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A manuscript of Rumi's Masnavi dated1652–53. (Image: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford) A manuscript of Rumi’s Masnavi dated1652–53. (Image: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford)

Persian literature is dominated by a highly  sophisticated tradition of poetry dating to the tenth century. Persian poetry can generally be divided into two forms: the lyrical and the epic. The major lyrical forms are the qasida, ghazal, and rubai. The basic form of epic poetry is the masnavi.

The qasida, a long mono-rhyme (aa, ba, ca) similar to an ode, is mostly used as a speech or in praise of somebody as well as for secular or religious moralism. It consists of three parts – a prologue, the actual praise or tribute, and a final appeal to the patron. It was also used to praise of God and the Prophet. The chanted qasida is part of the religious tradition of Arabic and Persian–speaking Nizari Ismailis.

The ghazal, rhythmically similar to the qasida only…

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