‘When young people want to carve out a regional identity,they go to Khusrau’

Two exhibitions on Amir Khusrau celebrate the pluralist philosopher.

Written by Devyani Onial | Published:March 7, 2013 1:06 am

Two exhibitions on Amir Khusrau celebrate the pluralist philosopher.

Poet,scholar,Sufi,statesman,musician and a man of science. Amir Khusrau Dehlvi was,as Shakeel Hossain says,a Renaissance Man. “What Mozart was to Austria or da Vinci was to Italy,Khusrau was to India,” says Hossain,curator of two exhibitions on Amir Khusrau in Delhi.

The idea,says Hossain,is to show the context in which the 13th-14th century poet lived,and elaborate on the subjects of his work and link it to contemporary culture. While much of his writings may be in Persian,the culture that informs it is Indian. So,for instance,in one of his writings,he mentions India as a paradise where Adam was banished to. “It was the beginning of the Indo-Islamic culture what today we call Hindustani,” says Hossain,a consultant with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and curator for Jashn-e-Khusrau,the month-long festival that hosted seminars,musical performances and exhibits on the poet.

“Life and Works of Khusrau”,the exhibition at the National Archives displays digital copies sourced from various museums to piece together the story of Khusrau — the devout Sufi,the poet who served sultans and the icon of plurality who spoke about the importance of Sanskrit and talked about learning from Hindus at a time when the rulers were Muslims.

“He was having a dialogue with the Persianate world. It was a time when destruction of the Muslim world by Chengiz Khan brought the best of those regions to India with whom he interacted,” says Hossain. The exhibition cites such interactions in Khusrau’s work. It also sheds light on lesser known interests of his: astrology and astronomy.

A short walk away from the National Archives,the National

Museum is displaying its Khusrau collection for the first time. “The World of Khusrau” displays seven manuscripts — I’jaz-i- Khusravi,Qiran us-Sa’dain and the Khamsas (quintet poems) of Khusrau.

From Majnun-o-Layla to Shirin-o-Khusrau (Prince Khusrau and not the poet),the manuscripts give a peep into the versatility of Khusrau,who wrote the khamsas in response to the khamsas of the great Persian poet,Nizami. “While Nizami took 27 years to write his khamsas,Khusrau took three,” says Hossain.

In times when Sufism is a term much in circulation,it is perhaps befitting to revisit one of its greatest exponents,one whose legacy survives in the bustling lanes of Nizamuddin,in the rousing qawwalis and in the strains of his poetry. “When young people want to carve out a regional identity,they go to Khusrau,” says Hossain. The exhibitions are a good place to meet him.

Know the poet

Life and Works of Khusrau,

National Archives,Janpath: Laid out in various sections with illustrations from his manuscripts and visuals from contemporary sources. One section deals with his understanding of scientific thoughts on astronomy and astrology,another explores his spiritual evocations,while a third has his dedications to his sultans and patrons. Digital copies,sourced from various museums across the world.

On till March 27,10 am to 5 pm,Sat-Sun closed

The World of Khusrau,National Museum,Janpath: Exhibition has seven illustrated manuscripts of Khusrau from the collection of the National Museum that have been displayed for the first time. Also on display are miniature paintings,musical instruments and other objects to illustrate the works and times of Khusrau.

On till March 24,10 am to 5 pm,Monday closed.

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