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Amir Khusro

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Amir Khusro

Amir Khusrow
Amir Khusrow teaching his disciples; miniature from a manuscript of Majlis Al-Usshak by Husayn Bayqarah
Background information
Birth name Ab'ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn K͟husrow
Born 1253
Patiali, Etah, Delhi Sultanate
Origin Indian
Died October 1325
Genres Ghazal, Khayal, Qawwali, Rubai, Tarana
Occupations Great Sufi, Musician, Poet, Composer, Author, Scholar[1]

Ab'ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrow (1253–1325 CE) Hindi अमीर खुसरो, (Urdu: ابوالحسن یمین‌الدین خسرو‎;, better known as Amīr Khusrow (also Khusrau, Khusro) Dehlawī (meaning Amir Khusrow of Delhi) (امیر خسرو دہلوی) was a Sufi musician, great poet and scholar. A polymath an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent. A 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 in the time of the Delhi Sultanate, being reputed to have invented both the Sitar and the Tabla. He wrote poetry primarily in Persian, but also in Hindavi. A vocabulary in verse, the Ḳhāliq Bārī, containing Arabic, Persian, and Hindavi terms is often attributed to him.[2]

He is regarded as the "father of Qawwali" (the devotional music of the Sufis in the Indian subcontinent).Introduced the Ghazal style of song into India. These traditions have been kept very much alive in India and Pakistan to this day.[3][4] He is also credited with enriching Indian classical music by introducing Persian, Arabic and Turkish elements into it and was the originator of the khayal and tarana styles of music.

A musician and a scholar, Amir Khusrow was as prolific in tender lyrics as in highly involved prose and could easily emulate all styles of Persian poetry which had developed in medieval Persia, from Khāqānī's forceful qasidas to Nizami's khamsa. He used only 11 metrical schemes with 35 distinct divisions. The verse forms he has written in include Ghazal, Masnavi, Qata, Rubai, Do-Beti and Tarkibhand. His contribution to the development of the g͟hazal, hitherto little used in India, is particularly significant.[5]

Early life and background

Amīr Khusrow was born in Patiyali in Etah Uttar Pradesh. His father, Amīr Sayf ud-Dīn Mahmūd, was a Turkic officer and a member of the Lachin tribe of Transoxania, themselves belonging to the Kara-Khitais.[5][6][7] His mother was the daughter of Rawat Arz, the famous war minister of Balban, and belonged to the Rajput tribes of Uttar Pradesh.[7][8]

Life and career

Hazrat Amir Khusro (R.A) was the son of Amir Saif-ud-Din Mehmood a Turk of Lacheen Hazara. At the invasion of Changez Khan (Genghis Khan) He migrated from his Hometown Kesh near Samarkand to Balkah. Saif-ud-Din was chieftain of Hazara. Shams-ud-Din. Altamish the empire od Delhi welcomed them to his country.. He provided shelter to the dislodged princes artisans, scholars and rich nobles. Saifuddin was among them. It was around 1226 CE. In 1230, he was granted a fief in the district of Patiali (in Etah District of present Uttar Pradesh).

Amir Saif-ud-Din married Bibi Daulat Naz, who bore him four children, three sons and one daughter. Amir Khusro was one among them born in the year 1252-53 CE at Patiyali ( Hazrat Amir khusro Nagar ). His father Saif-ud-Din died in 1260 CE.

Khusro was an intelligent child. Poetry came to him at the early age of eight. After the death of his father, he came to Delhi to his grandfather’s (maternal) Imadul Mulk (Rawat Arz) house. He grew under his grand father’s guardianship. When Amir Khusro was 20 years old, his grandfather who was 113 years old in 1271 CE died.

Deeply saddened by this event he was desperate to find some meaning and purpose in his life. He joined as a soldier in the Army of Malik Chajju a nephew of Sultan Balban. This in turn brought his poetry to the attention of the Assembly of the Royal Court where he was highly honoured. His devoted mother brought him up and little is known about his mother Hazrat Bibi Daulat Naz, but no doubt she was an inspiration for him throughout his life.

Then a double tragedy struck him when he was forty seven years old (1298 A.D.) and on the crest of a wave in his career. His beloved mother and brother died.

He cried like a child and said:

"A double radiance left my star this year

Gone are my brother and my mother,

My two full moons have set and ceased to Shine

In one short week through this ill-luck of mine."

Khusro's homage to his mother on death was: "Where ever the dust of your (mother) feet is found it is like a relic of Para dise for me."

Despite all this tragedy,Khusro buried his sorrow in the power of verse and melody. Bughra Khan son of Balban was invited to listen Amir Khusro. He was so enchanted that he bestowed countless gold coins. The prize impaired the relations with his master Chajju Khan. Khusro left him and went to his new patron Bughra Khan, where he served for four years and came to fame. In 677 A.H/1277 A.D. Bughra Khan was then appointed ruler of Bengal but Amir Khusro decided to return to Delhi. The eldest son Khan, Mohd of Balban (who was in Multan) came to Delhi. When he heard about Amir Khusro he invited him to his court. Finally Amir Khusro accompanied him to Multan in 679 A.H/1279 A.D. Multan at that period was the gateway to Hind and a center place of knowledge and learning. The caravans of scholars, tradesmen and emissaries transited from Baghdad, Arab, Iran to Delhi via Multan. Amir Khusro says that:

"I tied the belt of service on my waist and put on the cap of companionship for another five years. I imparted lustre to the water of Multan from the ocean of my wits and pleasantries." Amir Khusro and another poet Amir Hassan Sijzi were happy under the patronage of Mohd of Balban. Amir Hasan Sijzi was younger to Amir Khusro by two years. Both were in the company of the celebrated historian Hazrat Moulana Ziauddin Barni the writer of "Tareekh-e-Ferozshahi". The work was completed thirty one years after Amir Khusro’s death. His Shrine lies south to Hazrat Amir Khusro’s (R.A) Shrine in Nizamuddin (Delhi).

In the year 683A.H./1283A.D Jinar Khan a Mongol, invaded India. Khan Mohd his patron was killed in battle trying to stop the invasion. The deep grief of brave Prince Khan Mohd remained in his heart forever. He wrote the two elegy (sorrowful poems) of Prince Khan Mohd describing him the most generous, brave and good human being. At the old age of eighty, King Balban called his second son Bughra Khan from Bengal, but he refused to come back to Delhi. After King Balban’s death his grandson Kikabad was made the King of Delhi who was 17 years of age. Khusro remained in his service for two years (686 A.H to 687 A.H/1286 to 1287 A.D.).

After the death of Kikabad, a Turk soldier Jalaluddin Khilji took power and became the King. He was a poet and loved poets. Khusro was highly honoured and respected in his Darbar and was known as "AMIR KHUSRO". He was made secretary to the King "Mushaf-Dar". His status was raised to ‘Amarat’. The darbar life made Amir Khusro focus more on literary works. Khusro’s Ghazals which he composed in quick succession were set to music and were sung by singing girls every night before King Jalaluddin Khilji. Amir Khusro was rewarded beyond expectations and was acknowledged in a following verse.

"The King of the world Jalal uddin, in reward for my infinite pain which I undertook in composing verses, bestowed upon me an unimaginable treasure of wealth."

King Khilji was a brave soldier and an able administrator. He expanded his Empire and won four battles in a year. He ruled for 6 years from 689A.H/1289A.D to 695A.H/1295A.D. He was murdered by the men of Allauddin Khilji, his nephew and son-in-law. Allauddin Khilji then ascended the throne of Delhi on 22nd Zilhaj 695A.H/1295A.D.

Amir Khusro wrote a short auto-biographical Masnavi called "Shah Name mun"—of Allauddin’s life. Amir Khusro was the few notables who blessed Allauddin Khilji.

Alauddin Khilji was one of the great ruler’s of India in the Delhi Sultanate empire. He was a strong man, hard in nature, brave and intelligent soldier. He expanded his Empire to Deccan in South and far to East and west of India. He ruled for twenty one years. Hazrat Amir Khusro (R.A) enjoyed his patronage and developed much of his works. Amir Khusro in his book "Khazinatul-Futuh" (the treasures of victory) penned down Allauddin’s construction works, wars, peace and security, administrative services. Further in another poetical work Masnavi "Matta-ul-Anwaar" (Fountain of light) consisted of 3310 verses (completed in 15 days) had the theme of "Love of God". The second masnavi, "Shireen" consisted of 4000 verses. The third Masnavi "Laila Majnu" story of Laila and Majnu and their romance. The fourth voluminous Masnavi was "Aina-e-Sikandari" had 4500 verses relating to the heroic deeds of Alexander the Great. The fifth Masnavi was "Hasht Bahisht" related to the events of King Bahram Gaur. All these works made Amir Khusro a leading luminary in the poetical world. The King Allauddin Khilji was highly pleased by his works and rewarded him handsomely.

After Alauddin Khilji's death, his son Qutubuddin Mukarak Shah became the king. Amir Khusro wrote a Masnavi on Mubarak Shah as "Nahsi Pahar" (Nine Skies), a historical poetry relating the events of Mubarak Shah. He classified his poetry in nine chapters, each part is considered as a sky. In the third chapter he wrote about India and its environment, the atmosphere and seasons, flowers their varieties beauty and the fragrances, the chirping of birds and their colourful gaiety the animals world, education and sciences, ideology and religions of India, languages spoken and their zones etc. This shows how patriotic Khusro was to his motherland and had deep knowledge of it. He wrote another voluminious book in the period of Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah by name "Ejaze Khusravi", the book consisted of five volumes. Thus it reflected Amir Khusro’s ocean of knowledge and scholarship.

After Mubarak Shah, Ghyasuddin Tughlaq came to the throne. Amir Khusro wrote a historic Masnavi "Tughlaq Name" on him. Thus all Kings of their period, honoured Amir Khusro as the jewel of their crown. They felt proud of his writing. In total Amir Khusro served under Seven Sultans. He was also an astronomer and an astrologer. When Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah son was born, he prepared the horoscope of child where certain predictions, were made. This horoscope is included in the Masnavi "Saqiana".[9] In 1321 Mubarak Khilji (sometimes spelled "Mubarak Khalji") was murdered and Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq came to power.

Khusro started to write the Tughluqnama. Then in 1325 Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq came to power.

On 3 April 1325 Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya died, and six months later so did Hazrat Amir Khusrow. Khusrow 's tomb is next to that of his master in the Nizamuddin Dargah of Delhi.[10]

Major life events in chronological order

Khusrow was born in Patiyali in Kasganj district which is also known as Kansiram Nagar near Etah in what is today the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. His father Amir Saifuddin came from Balkh in modern day Afghanistan and his mother hailed from Delhi.

  1. 1260 After the death of his father, Khusrow went to Delhi with his mother.
  2. 1271 Khusrow compiled his first divan of poetry, "Tuhfatus-Sighr".
  3. 1272 Khusrow got his first job as court poet with King Balban's nephew Malik Chhajju.
  4. 1276 Khusrow started working as a poet with Bughra Khan (Balban's son).
  5. 1279 While writing his second divan, Wastul-Hayat, Khusrau visited Bengal.
  6. 1281 Employed by Sultan Mohammad (Balban's second son) and went to Multan with him.
  7. 1285 Khusrow participated as a soldier in the war against the invading Mongols. He was taken prisoner, but escaped.
  8. 1287 Khusrow went to Awadh with Ameer Ali Hatim (another patron).
  9. 1288 His first mathnavi, "Qiranus-Sa'dain" was completed.
  10. 1290 When Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji came to power, Khusro's second mathnavi, "Miftahul Futooh" was ready.
  11. 1294 His third divan "Ghurratul-Kamal" was complete.
  12. 1295 Alauddin Khilji (sometimes spelled "Khalji") came to power and invaded Devagiri and Gujarat.
  13. 1298 Khusrow completed his "Khamsa-e-Nizami".
  14. 1301 Khilji attacked Ranthambhor, Chittor, Malwa and other places, and Khusro remained with the king in order to write chronicles.
  15. 1310 Khusrow became close to Nizamuddin Auliya, and completed Khazain-ul-Futuh.
  16. 1315 Alauddin Khilji died. Khusrow completed the mathnavi "Duval Rani-Khizr Khan" (a romantic poem).
  17. 1316 Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah became the king, and the fourth historical mathnavi "Noh-Sepehr" was completed.
  18. 1321 Mubarak Khilji (sometimes spelled "Mubarak Khalji") was murdered and Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq came to power. Khusro started to write the Tughluqnama.
  19. 1325 Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq came to power. Nizamuddin Auliya died, and six months later so did Khusrow . Khusrow 's tomb is next to that of his master in the Nizamuddin Dargah of Delhi.

Khusrow the royal poet

Khusrow was a prolific classical poet associated with the royal courts of more than seven rulers of the Delhi Sultanate.[11] He is still loved and respected today in India, Pakistan and by lovers of Poetry and Sufi music throughout the world. With so many playful riddles, songs and legends attributed to him. Through his enormous literary output and the legendary folk personality, Khusrow represents one of the first (recorded) Indian personages with a true multi-cultural or pluralistic identity.To unite mankind through the power of Poetry, Music and Dance.

Urdu language and its development

Amir Khusrow was the author of a Khamsa which emulated that of the earlier poet of Persian epics Nizami Ganjavi. His work was considered to be one of the great classics of Persian poetry during the Timurid period in Transoxiana.

He wrote primarily in Persian and Hindustani. He also wrote a war ballad in Punjabi.[12] In addition, he spoke Arabic and Sanskrit.[7][13][14][15][16][17][18] His poetry is still sung today at Sufi shrines throughout Pakistan and India.

Amir Khusrow and the origins of the Sitar and the Tabla

Amir Khusro's genius as a musician speak volumes, for he is responsible for the invention of the tabla. The term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, which simply means "drum.",. Together with the invention of the sitar, the grand lute. Named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning "three strings"). The instrument appears to have descended from long-necked lutes taken to India from Central Asia. The first prototype instruments were invented during the Delhi Sultanate period of the 13th/14th centuries when the Persian patrons of music and poetry encouraged innovation in Indian art. The sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in the 18th century. Today it is the dominant instrument in Hindustani music. Both these instruments are the foundation of India's classical musical heritage.[19][20][21]

The development of the Tabla originated from the need to have a drum that could be played from the top in the sitting position to enable more complex rhythm structure's that were required for the new Indian Sufi vocal style of singing/chanting and Zikr. At the same time to complement the complex early Sitar melodies that Khusro was composing. The Tabla uses a "complex finger tip and hand percussive" technique played from the top, unlike the Pakhawaj and mridangam which mainly use the full palm and are sideways in motion and are more limited in terms of sound complexity.

Samples of Khusrow's poetry

Amir Khusrow,once said a famous couplet for Kashmir.

"Gar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast "

This means,If there is a paradise on earth,It is this, it is this, it is this.[22][23][24]


  • Tuhfa-tus-Sighr (Offering of a Minor) his first divan, contains poems composed between the age of 16 and 19
  • Wastul-Hayat (The Middle of Life) his second divan, contains poems composed at the peak of his poetic career
  • Ghurratul-Kamaal (The Prime of Perfection) poems composed between the age of 34 and 43
  • Baqia-Naqia (The Rest/The Miscellany) compiled at the age of 64
  • Qissa Chahar Darvesh The Tale of the Four Dervishes
  • Nihayatul-Kamaal (The Height of Wonders) compiled probably a few weeks before his death.
  • Qiran-us-Sa’dain (Meeting of the Two Auspicious Stars) Mathnavi about the historic meeting of Bughra Khan and his son Kyqbad after long enmity (1289)
  • Miftah-ul-Futooh (Key to the Victories) in praise of the victories of Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji (1291)
  • Ishqia/Mathnavi Duval Rani-Khizr Khan (Romance of Duval Rani and Khizr Khan) a tragic love poem about Gujarat’s princess Duval and Alauddin’s son Khizr (1316)
  • Noh Sepehr Mathnavi. (Mathnavi of the Nine Skies) Khusrau’s perceptions of India and its culture (1318)
  • Tarikh-i-Alai ('Times of Alai'- Alauddin Khilji)
  • Tughluq Nama (Book of the Tughluqs) in prose (1320)
  • Khamsa-e-Nizami (Khamsa-e-Khusrau) five classical romances: Hasht-Bahisht, Matlaul-Anwar, Sheerin-Khusrau, Majnun-Laila and Aaina-Sikandari
  • Ejaaz-e-Khusrovi (The Miracles of Khusrau) an assortment of prose compiled by himself
  • Khazain-ul-Futooh (The Treasures of Victories) one of his more controversial books, in prose (1311–12)
  • Afzal-ul-Fawaid utterances of Nizamuddin Auliya
  • Ḳhāliq Bārī a versified glossary of Persian, Arabic, and Hindavi words and phrases often attributed to Amir Khusrau. Ḥāfiz Maḥmūd Shīrānī argued that it was completed in 1622 in Gwalior by Ẓiyā ud-Dīn Ḳhusrau.[25]
  • Jawahar-e- Khusrovi often dubbed as the Hindawi divan of Khusrau

See also

Poetry portal


  • E.G. Browne. Literary History of Persia. (Four volumes, 2,256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing). 1998. ISBN 0-7007-0406-X
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. ASIN B-000-6BXVT-K
  • Shīrānī, Ḥāfiż Mahmūd. "Dībācha-ye duvum [Second Preface]." In Ḥifż ’al-Lisān (a.k.a. Ḳhāliq Bārī), edited by Ḥāfiż Mahmūd Shīrānī. Delhi: Anjumman-e Taraqqi-e Urdū, 1944.
  • R.M. Chopra, "The Rise, Growth And Decline of Indo-Persian Literature", Iran Culture House New Delhi and Iran Society, Kolkata, 2nd Ed. 2013.

Further reading

  • Important Works of Amir Khusrau (Complete)
  • AMU). 1931.
  • Poems of Amir Khusrau The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians: The Muhammadan Period, by Sir H. M. Elliot. Vol III. 1866-177. page 523-566.
  • Táríkh-i 'Aláí; or, Khazáínu-l Futúh, of Amír Khusrú The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians: The Muhammadan Period, by Sir H. M. Elliot. Vol III. 1866-177. Page:67-92.


External links

  • Amir Khusro Website
  • Sufism
  • Original Persian poems of Amir Khusrow at WikiDorj, free library of Persian poetry
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