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A Stranger’s Homecoming: Arzu’s Persian in Mir’s Urdu Poetry

id: 7irm8


· Sumaira Nawaz McGill University (Montreal, Canada)


‘Vernacular’ Theorisations of ‘Literature’ in Modern South Asia


Abdur Rasheed’s ground-breaking study of Mir’s Urdu poetry in light of Khan-e Arzu’s lexicon Chiragh-e Hedayat has opened up new avenues of looking at the relationship between Urdu and Persian (Rasheed 2008). It makes apparent Khan-e Arzu’s contribution as a bilingual poet and linguist in showing how Persian writers smoothened this vernacular’s way within elite literary circles by the 18th century (Dudney 2013: nn). Khan-e Arzu’s lexicon Chiragh-e Hedayat is renowned for having included Persian words of Indic origin, and references to Indian poets of Persian language. His lexicon was intended to underpin Indo-Persian’s relevance within norms of the Persian cosmopolis, implying that “properly educated Indians had as much right as Iranian native speakers to innovate in Persian” (Dudney 2013: nn). It is an established view that Mir generously drew on Chiragh-e Hidayat in his autobiography Zikr-e Mir. Shamsur Rahman Faruqui, in his defence of Mir against critics who had thought of it as “unnecessary” and merely “ornamental,” commended his skill of “fitting” in words in Rekhta insofar they did not appear “added-on”(Faruqi 1991: 33). Rasheed’s research of Chiragh-e Hidayat’s spectre in Mir’s Urdu poetry further emphasises on Urdu’s ability to absorb Persian words and validate Arzu’s theory on their linguistic proximity. My paper is going to be an investigation of the impact of Mir’s lexical choices, becoming a commentary on Urdu’s construction as an elevated vernacular. Finally, I will focus on the ramifications of Urdu lexicography’s amnesia towards classical literature and poetry, which prevents us today from looking at the linguistic debates that framed the language.