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River Indus: Flow of life – Part I

By Raza Rumi:

Along its 1,800-mile course, the Indus joins cultures from the steppes of Central Asia to the arid plains of the South Asian subcontinent. It affects patterns of thought and behavior, shapes expressions of culture and provides inspiration for art. The hopes and aspirations of its people are reflected in stories and elaborate myths, transmitted through the consciousness of successive generations by bards and story-tellers. It is important to mention that the Indus Valley Civilization originated in the fertile plains of the Indus River, in the third and fourth millennium BC. This civilization, or the Harappan Culture, was coeval with the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and is recognized as the third major civilization in the history of humankind. Mohanas, the boat-people of the Indus valley, still live along its banks, near the shrine of Khwaja Khizr and elsewhere. They traverse the mighty river on boats which have remained essentially similar in design to those depicted in the art of the Indus Valley Civilization thousands of years ago.

To the Sindhis, it is known as “Purali”: the capricious river whose floods can make and destroy civilizations

Alice Albinia in her excellent book Empires of the Indus: the Story of a River reminds us how the Indian subcontinent derives its very name from the great river. The ancient Sanskrit language referred to the Indus as “Sindhu”. Later, the Persians entitled it the “Hindu” and through the subsequent eras, it finally came to be known as India. Albinia has painstakingly researched how the Indus region excited the imagination of Europeans from early antiquity. The lure of the Indian subcontinent had reached the West even in the time of Alexander the Great, and ever since then, exotic tales of this enchanting land have spurred on the ambitions of many a great conqueror.

Sohni meets her tragic end in the Indus which up till recently had been a facilitator in her love-story, but suddenly becomes the ultimate obstacle in allowing it to continue

The multitudes of peoples who live along the banks of the Indus know it by a number of names. To the Sindhis, it is known as “Purali”: the capricious river whose floods can make and destroy civilizations. Further up the course of the river, the Pashtuns refer to it as the ‘Nilab’ (blue water), ‘Sher Darya’ (Lion River) and ‘Abbasin’ (father of Rivers). The mountain people of Baltistan know it as ‘Gemtsuh’ (the Great Flood), or ‘Tsuh-Fo’ (the Male River). […]

Another Incarnation

By PANKAJ MISHRA (NYT) reviews an interesting book that I must read.

 

THE HINDUS

An Alternative History

By Wendy Doniger

779 pp. The Penguin Press. $35

Visiting India in 1921, E. M. Forster witnessed the eight-day celebration of Lord Krishna’s birthday. This first encounter with devotional ecstasy left the Bloomsbury aesthete baffled. “There is no dignity, no taste, no form,” he complained in a letter home. Recoiling from Hindu India, Forster was relieved to enter the relatively rational world of Islam. Describing the muezzin’s call at the Taj Mahal, he wrote, “I knew at all events where I stood and what I heard; it was a land that was not merely atmosphere but had definite outlines and horizons.” […]

May 10th, 2009|books|1 Comment

The Battle over Hindu History

Author Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School , writes on this blog about her new work. This new work further consolidates the view that much of the now politically packaged Hinduism was actually a product of colonial scholarship in the ninteenth centruy.

The Battle over Hindu History

For years, some Hindus have argued that the 16th century mosque called the Babri Masjid (after the Mughal emperor Babur) was built over a temple commemorating the birthplace of Rama (an avatar of the god Vishnu) in Ayodhya (the city where, according to the ancient poem called the Ramayana, Rama was born), though there is no evidence whatsoever that there has been ever a temple on that spot or that Rama was born there. […]

May 9th, 2009|books, History, India, India-Pakistan History, Politics|2 Comments

W.H. Auden’s poem – Partition

My friend IK has reminded me of W.H. Auden’s poem “Partition,” published in 1966. These moving verses  highlight the absurdity of the way the border was created sixty two years ago: 

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
“Time,” they had briefed him in London, “is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.” […]

Visit to Sindh, Udero Lal (the story of the Dalits in Pakistan)

Yoginder Sikand writing at DNA

South-central Sindh isn’t quite a favourite holiday destination, but I spent a fortnight there while on a vacation in Pakistan. My host was the amiable, 70 year-old Khurshid Khan Kaimkhani, a noted leftist activist, author of the only book on Pakistan’s almost 3 million Dalits. Along with a friend, he edits the only Dalit magazine in the entire country.

Khurshid met me at the railway station in Hyderabad, Sindh’s largest city after Karachi. We drove to his small farm, on the outskirts of his hometown of Tando Allah Yar, a two hour bus-ride ahead. Several Bhil families live on the farm. “They are like my own family,” Khurshid says as Baluji, a tall, handsome Bhil man, manager of the farm, welcomes us in with a tight embrace. […]

August 18th, 2008|Guest Writer, India-Pakistan History, Personal|2 Comments

Islamic poster art in India – and South Asia

This piece entitled, My Name is Green, published in the weekly Outlook India traces how “forged in the cultural ferment of a century ago, Islamic poster art in India thrived on the frontiers of taboo.” The author is Shruti Ravindran, who has obviously undertaken a lot of research and also published some great samples of such posters. That Islam in South Asia acquired and adapted the local flavour and modes of social and spiritual interaction is well known.

While reading this piece, I also recalled seeing similar eclectic posters in Pakistan in my childhood before the puritanism of General Zia ul Haq engulfed the country and Wahabi variant of an exclusive and suspicious man made ‘faith’ deepened its presence, well at least in the public domain of representation.

This piece looks at some of these aspects through the popular art form. Read and enjoy – full text has been posted below courtesy the intelligent Outlook. […]

Bulleh Shah – a few poems

Bulleh Shah ‘s poetry addresses most maladies that we face in this day and age.

Recently, I was asked to help a friend with the original text of Bulleh Shah ‘s Hindu na Na heen Musalmaan. I found the original Punjabi and also found two other pieces that I am posting here.


 

HiNdu na naheeN musalmaan,
Baheeye tiranjan taj abhimaan.
Sunni na naheeN ham sheeya
Sulha kuhl ka maarag leeya.
Bhookhe na naheeN ham rahje,
NaNge na naheeN ham kahje.
RoNde na naheeN ham hasde
UjaRe na naheeN ham vasde.
Paapi na sudharmi na,
Paap pun ki raah na jaanaaN.
Bulhe Shah jo hari chit laage,
Hindu turak doojan tiyaage

Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace.
We are neither hungry nor replete,
Neither naked nor covered up.
Neither weeping nor laughing,
Neither ruined nor settled,
We are not sinners or pure and virtuous,
What is sin and what is virtue, this I do not know.
Says Bulhe Shah, one who attaches his self with the lord.
Gives up both hindu and muslim.
[…]

January 29th, 2008|Poetry, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Literature|263 Comments