9th September, 2011, marks the 707th Urs, death anniversary, of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, mystic poet and beloved disciple of the Sufi Master Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s dynamism in philosophy, music and litterateur earned him the patronage of seven successive Sultans of Delhi.
Together with Saadi, Nizami and Firdausi, he is acknowledged as one of four great pillars of fourteenth century Persian literature. He played a pivotal role in the evolution of Indian classical vocal and instrumental music, fusing Arab, Persian and Indian styles. The foundations of Qawaali are attributed to Hazrat Amir Khusrau; which he created to help mystics achieve spiritual states of ecstasy.
Ab’ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrow (1253-1325 CE) better known as Amīr Khusrow (also Khusrau, Khusro) was an Indian musician, scholar and poet. He was an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent. A Sufi mystic and a spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi, Amīr Khusrow was not only a notable poet but also a prolific and seminal musician. He wrote poetry primarily in Persian, but also in Hindavi. Many of his poems are even today used in Hindustani Classical as bandishes and as Ghazals by Ghazal singers.
Amir Khusro was born in 1253 in a place called Patiyali, Uttar Pradesh of a Turkish father and an Indian mother. He lost his father at a young age and then moved in with his maternal grandparents. His grandfather served as an attendance master of soldiers at the royal palace of emperor Ghayasuddin Balban.
Khusro was exposed to all famous literary figures of his time when he accompanied his grandfather to the royal courts to attend the private congregations. This inspired him to take up poetry and indulge in fine arts like music. He also learnt horse riding and received training in martial arts. The famous Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was his spiritual mentor.
Khusro is regarded as the “father of qawwali”. He is also credited with enriching Hindustani classical music by introducing Persian and Arabic elements in it, and was the originator of the khayal and tarana styles of music. Amir Khusrow is credited with fashioning the tabla as a split version of the traditional Indian drum, the pakhawaj.
Popular lore also credits him with inventing the sitar. He is said to be a descendant of the son-in-law of Tansen, the celebrated classical singer in the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.
One of his poems:
Kafir-e-ishqam musalmani mara darkaar neest
Har rag-e mun taar gashta hajat-e zunnaar neest;
Az sar-e baaleen-e mun bar khez ay naadaan tabeeb
Dard mand-e ishq ra daroo bajuz deedaar neest;
Nakhuda dar kashti-e maa gar nabashad goo mubaash
Ma khuda daareem mara nakhuda dar kaar neest;
Khalq migoyad, ki Khusrau butparasti mikunad
Aare-aare mikunam, ba khalq mara kaar neest.
I am a pagan (worshiper) of love: the creed (of Muslims) I do not need;
Every vein of mine has become taut like a wire; the (Hindu) girdle I do not need.
Leave from my bedside, you ignorant physician!
The only cure for the patient of love is the sight of his beloved –
other than this no medicine does he need.
If there be no pilot on our ship, let there be none:
We have God in our midst: the pilot we do not need.
The people of the world say that Khusrau worships idols.
So I do, so I do; the people I do not need,
the world I do not need.