Amir Khusro’s lasting tryst with love

PRANAV KHULLAR writing here

At the heart of the Sufi mystical experience lies the Zikr or remembrance of God.

In its musical expression through the Qawwali , it has become synonymous with the name of Amir Khusro, whose musical idiom facilitated a unique synthesis of the Persian and Hindu-Braja cultures. His prodigious literary and musical experimentation is a unique effort at creating a universal Sufi language of Love and he forged a new mystical Sufi consciousness. This could have been a forerunner of the Nirguna Bhakti movement.

Khusro’s compositions are rooted in the theme of separation from the Beloved, a metaphor for the God within. His verses bring out the intense Sufi longing to merge into this state of mind. His Qawwali music touches that inner space in every listener, transporting him to a different dimension beyond the outer world of duality.

“Thou hast taken away my identity by a single glance, By making me drink from the cup of love, thou hast intoxicated me by a single glance” sang Khusro and to this day the song is part of every significant Qawwali presentation. He alludes to the mysterious paradox of love, referring to it as a tempestuous river, into which those who enter must drown, but at the same time, paradoxically, only those who drown get across.

Khusro’s tryst with Love arose out of the special bond he shared with his preceptor Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and the Chisti Silsilah, a bond that transcended all other relationships. It was the bridge to the Beloved which he sought. Khusro believed that the preceptor alone can transform the secular into the divine, and this requires a surrender of the ego through service, which Amir Khusro himself exemplified by serving in the kitchen of Nizamuddin Auliya’s daily langar .

He advocated this spiritual seeking amid all other worldly dispensations which destiny places each man in. He felt that this would provide the right perspective and balance to all ambitions and pursuits. He himself got transformed from poet laureate to seeker, a Qalandar free soul a Sufi.

This seeking characterises all of Khusro’s creative endeavours, including the Tarana style of singing which he created and improvised in fast tempo. This genre has been seen as a mystic’s dialogue with God, meant to arouse the trance-ecstatic state (haal) . Ustad Amir Khan in a seminal work on the origins of the Tarana , was to establish the meaning of the words used by Amir Khusro in the Tarana as Persian words connoting deeper mystical meaning, derived from Sufi philosophy, in which the seeker calls out to and becomes one with Higher Being.

So complete was his surrender to his teacher that at the passing away of Hazrat Nizamuddin, he composed mystical lyrics, a call from beyond the world of dualities, and passed away soon after himself: “The lovely maiden lies on finally on a wreath of flowers, her tresses covering her face/ O Khusro, turn back home now, dusk has set in all over.” Just as the Mevlevis use the swirling dance to induce the mystical kaifiyat (enchanted state), the Chisti Sufi tradition sees the Qawwali music as one of the means to enter into that state of being. It is through this musical outpouring that one celebrates the Urs of Amir Khusro at the Dargah of his mentor, Hazrat Nizamuddin, where he himself sought to be buried.

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