Revisiting the provenance of the Sindbadnamah, by Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Studies, British Library Blog

While recently looking for documentation on the Library of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799), my eye fell on this entry in Charles Stewart’s Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the late Tippoo Sultan of Mysore (Cambridge, 1809), pp. 72-3:

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XCIV. Diwāni Sindbād Hakīm. Thick quarto, common hand, ornamented with pictures, &c. The instructions of the philosopher Sindbād to his pupil, the ignorant son of a king; in a series of interesting and facetious stories. The author is unknown; but it is dedicated to Shāh Mahmūd Bahmeny of the Dekhan, A.D. 1374.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/06/revisiting-the-provenance-of-the-sindbadnamah-io-islamic-3214.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

 

A Mughal Shahnamah – British Library Blog

By Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Collections

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/06/a-mughal-shahnamah.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

This copy of the Shāhnāmah is thought to date originally from the 15th century. Unfortunately it has no colophon but it was extensively refurbished in India at the beginning of the 17th century when the 90 illustrations were added. These are numbered consecutively 1-91, only lacking no. 37 which, together with a gap of about 150 verses, is missing at the beginning of the story of Bīzhan and Manīzhah between folios 201v and 202r. The manuscript was altered again in the first half of the 18th century when elaborate paper guards and markers were added. The magnificent decorated binding, however, dates from the early 17th century.

The New Age (Ruzgar-i naw): World War II cultural propaganda in Persian – British Library Blog

Though Iran was officially neutral when war broke out in 1939, many Iranians were sympathetic towards Germany which, they hoped, might liberate them from years of British and Russian oppression. An increasing German presence combined with British concern for continued supplies of Iranian oil led to Operation Countenance, an Allied invasion launched on 25 August 1941. As a result Reza Shah was deposed and replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iran was forced to abandon its neutral position though it did not actually declare war against Germany until September 1943. From 1941 onwards, British propaganda, published by the Ministry of Information (MOI), played a crucial role. Favouring a cultural approach, the MOI produced items such as the Shāhnāmah cartoons by the artist Kem (see our post ‘The Shahnameh as propaganda for World War II’) and the magazine Rūzgār-i naw, or The New Age which was published quarterly in Persian between 1941 and 1946.

See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2014/05/the-new-age-ruzgar-i-naw-world-war-ii-cultural-propaganda-in-persian-.html#sthash.Uv1CLfDf.dpuf

How the ‘Panchatantra’ travelled the world thanks to Persian and Arabic narrators Few books have been narrated, written, re-written, translated and adapted as much as this collection of tales of wisdom. Anu Kumar

In the year 570 CE, a Persian physician named Burzoy or Burzoya (Burzawayh in Arabic) living in the Sassanid kingdom of Persia travelled to India in search of a book of wisdom: a book greatly sought by then King of Persian Khusroy  I (Anoshagruwa or “the immortal”) who ruled from 531 to 579 CE. Burzoy succeeded in his endeavours, returning to Persia with the knowledge he had gained. His book was in turn written down by the king’s wazir, Wuzurgmihr and included, at Burzoy’s own request, the story of his journey to India.

http://scroll.in/article/758031/how-the-panchatantra-travelled-the-world-thanks-to-persian-and-arabic-narratorsch

Two Mystical Stories by Farid al-Din Attar

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Editor’s note: The following two mystical stories have been adapted from the August-September 1981 issue of The Unesco Courier magazine, which was dedicated to Islam and the Muslim world.

INTRODUCTION
(compiled from UNESCO Courier)

A manuscript by Farid Al Din Attar kept in Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Wikipedia. A manuscript by Farid Al Din Attar kept in Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Wikipedia.

We present two extracts from The llahi-nama or Book of God by the great Persian mystic poet Farid al-Din Attar (circa 537-627 AH, 1140-1230 AC) translated into English by John Andrew Boyle. The translation, with a foreword by Annemarie Schimmel, was published by the Manchester University Press in 1976 and forms part of the Unesco Collection of Representative Works.

Doctor, pharmacist and perfumer, Attar, whose name means “He who trades in perfumes”, wrote a prose work containing much information on the mystics, Tadhkirat ul-Auliya (abridged English translation, Biographies of the Saints, 1961) as well as several major works of poetry. In…

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Cats in Persian manuscripts – From Asian and African Studies Blog, British Library

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Double-page opening to the tales of the two jackals Kalilah and Dimnah, by Naṣr Allāh ibn Muḥammad, dated AH 707/1307-8. Here the king is enthroned on the left, surrounded by courtiers with two lions beneath and, on the right, hunting cheetahs, a horse and a hawk – See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/08/cats-in-persian-manuscripts.html#sthash.zofw507e.dpuf

Since August 8th is International Cat Day, it seemed a good excuse to publish some of the more picturesque felines from the manuscripts we have been working with during the last three years of our project ‘Digital Access to Persian Manuscripts’. – See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/08/cats-in-persian-manuscripts.html#sthash.zofw507e.dpuf

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/08/cats-in-persian-manuscripts.html

The Aga Khan Museum’s collection includes a folio from the epic Persian poem, Shahnama

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Folio from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (ca. 1532).Image: Archnet Folio from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (ca. 1532).
Image: Archnet

The Shahnama was composed by the Persian poet Firdausi (d. 1020) around the year 1000. It tells the story of ancient Iran (Persia) from the time of Creation to the conquest of Islam in the seventh century. The history of Iran is divided into three successive dynasties: the Pishdadiyan (the early legendary shahs, who established civilization and fought against the forces of evil),  the Kayanids, and the Sassanians (the last glorious dynasty to rule Iran before the advent of Islam).*

Partly legend, partly historic, it is also a manual on kingship, a collection of heroic tales, and a long essay on wisdom, love, warfare, and magic. The epic poem helped preserve Persian traditions, folklore, and oral literature — becoming the Persian literary standard — and it retains considerable influence in the storytelling tradition of Iran, even today.It was customary for every king…

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Love Charms, a Sufi poem/kafi by Bulleh Shah painted by by F. Zahra Hassan (text and painting from an album produced in 1997 in London.

LOVE CHARMS

With love charms, O friends, I shall win over my Beloved.

This charm I shall recite and waft: with sun fire burn it.

The lamp black of my eyes is the dark clouds: with brows

I shall kindle the blaze.

I cannot afford anything else; But I will plaint my wedding braids

on my temples.

Seven seas welter in the core of my heart; from the heart

I will start a wave,

Tranformed into clouds, will come crowding down.

Love, the Brazier; the aspen seeds the stars; in the

Sun-fire I will cast them.

I will enfold my spouse in my arms and sleep; then I

will deem myself wedded!

I am neither married nor a maid, yet I will mother a babe in my lap.

O, Bullah, sitting in the courtyard of the Houseless

I will sound my horn.

This is a very beautiful poem with very powerful symbolism. It is a love song in which the first person, the narrator, is female and is trying with every type of charm and magic she can think of to win her Beloved – the Beloved being the Divine Beloved hidden within us all: “With Love Chars, O friends, I shall win over my Beloved”. It is typical of the mystical poetry of the Indo-Pak sub-continent, (particularly in Hindu poetry) specially the northern part, to narrate a poem in the first person in the role of a female Lover addressing her male Beloved, the Beloved being the Divine Beloved. The device is used in most of the poems I have chosen and in them God is the Beloved, the husband and Bullah himself is the wife, whose only aim is to win the favour of her husband. On a more profound level it symbolises the yearning of the individual on the earthly plane to become reunited with the Creator on the celestial plane, “then I will deem myself wedded~” The language of the poem has some very strong and beautiful imagery such as “the lamp-black of my eyes is the dark clouds” and “Seven seas welter in the core of my heart; from the heart I will start a wave.” The “Seven seas” suggests that the narrator, in the longing knows she possesses such strength of love in her heart that when it is unleashed it “will start a wave,” which in turn will be “transformed into clouds” and come “crowding down.” in this poem Love is described not only as the “seven seas”, but also as the “brazier” – that is, the container for burning hot coals, the “aspand seeds” which are placed on the coals to avoid the evil eye, and the “stars” too; and then, as with the charm mentioned in the second line (and the title as well), they will all be cast in the “sun-fire.”

This, it must be said, is one of Bulleh Shah’s rare poems in which the language is not as simple as usual. He is narrating in the first person as the female Lover and in the last verse she succeeds in wining over the Beloved. This is symbolic of the marriage of the individual should (herself, the Lover) to, the universal Spirit, “I will deem myself wedded~” The union between husband and wife is when the poet realises his Divine Ideal of losing his ego in God. His communion with God results in ecstasy, bliss and the highest spiritual happiness and the “babe in his lap” is the fruite of his union, a spiritual child or gnosis (Marifa). The poet is an unmarried lady in this poem, and symbolically she is the love of her Lord.

“Sitting in the courtyard of the Houseless” is an awkward translation and in fact in Punjabi Bulleh Shah writes “peen”, which means throne or platform. “Peeri, is the highest spiritual station and when reached the blessed traveller is able to listen to eternal song which is sung by the soul.