Essay: Sufi Poet and Author Syed Liaqath Peeran is a man of achievement by Aju Mukhopadhyay34 min read
In this essay, Aju Mukhopadhyay shares a comprehensive critique of Sufi poet and author Syed Liaqath Peeran’s literary work covering some 12 books by him along with a short discussion on the nature of Sufi poetry and its influence on the Indian Bhakti movement.
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Syed Liaqath Peeran hails from an illustrious family of scholars in Mysore serving the erstwhile Princely state of Mysore as Ministers. The family carries one of the highest Sufi traditions with their names being descendent of Abdul Qadir Jilani the greatest Saint of Baghdad. They are usually known as Qadri Sufis. His Poet great-grandfather received the ‘Siraj-ul Ulma’ (Sun among Scholars) title and his grandfather received the title of ‘Moin-ul-vizarath’ (Pillar of Ministry) from the late Maharaja of Mysore. His father too was decorated with a title, ‘Sajjada-Nishin’ of Darga of Saint Hz-Qader awaliya, Srirangapatna.
After successfully studying and obtaining a Law Degree and a Diploma in Social Science, Peeran practised Law as a consultant and worked as a professor for some years before being selected as a member (Judicial) of the Customs, Excise & Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal of India and worked as such until he retired voluntarily.
A bilingual poet and author, Peeran started writing in Urdu but soon began writing in English too. He has published a total of 35 books including some coauthored ones: 18 collections of poetry, a book of short stories, 7 books on Sufism, a book of criticism on 16 Indian English Poets, and an autobiography; “A Journey of a Sufi.”
Poets International Bangalore conferred on him “Best Poet for 2003” award. International Poetry Academy, Chennai, awarded him as “Best Poet” in 2009. And he won another Literary Prize in 2017; ‘Naji Naaman’ from Lebanon.
Founding a Sufi Centre, International Sufi Centre, at Bengaluru he became its Trustee and Editor of “Sufi World”, a Journal on Sufi Culture, Philosophy, and Literature (Islamic Spiritualism; Tasawwuf).
Frugal in his personal life, a vegan, leading a simple life he spends good time daily in meditation as a Sufi.
Peeran’s Creative works
“Of all the products of the Sufi tradition, by far the best known and most appreciated is the legacy of Sufi poetry, together with the music and dance that have accompanied it for hundreds of years. . . . the discovery of literary Sufism required separating it from rigidly conceived Islam. Sufi poetry was first interpreted in terms of universal romantic norms and then ‘derived’ from Greek, Christian, and Hindu sources.” (Sufism 147) “Many of these verses use the same imagery of love and wine found in secular poetry so the only thing to distinguish them as mystical is their context and interpretation.” (Sufism 153)
We find the mention of Saki or lady cupbearer and wine, sometimes beloved too is included in such poems, but surely not in many; indicating pleasure and hedonism but a hidden mystic sense often remains concealed in it. The symbolism and use of wine in spiritual life have a long and distinguished history. The union of truth in life, a union of knowledge, and love with bread and wine have been linked to Prophet Abraham. The wine was used by the Greeks in poetry. They were linked to some other religious practices too.
The famous Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “What makes the Sufi? Purity of heart; / Not the patched mantle and the lust perverse /. . . . He in all dregs discerns the essence pure: / In hardship ease, in tribulation joy. (The True Sufi/ Persian Poets 139)
Peeran’s Sufi Poems
S. L.Peran published his poems under the title “Divine Poems /Sufi Poems” in his book of poems titled Divine Sufi Poems. There are 385 poems under the group as serialised in it.
Coming to Peeran’s Sufi poetry we find him celebrating life by the Grace of the Divine. “I was a lost sheep, now I find my way”, he writes to celebrate at the end, “Let they glory be sung by all for ever / Let all thy seekers receive they grace.” (My Beloved’s Grace/ Divine Sufi Poems 10/28)
His faith is confirmed in the poem below,
Look at the inner light
Its light is eternal
Close your eyes
In your heart- recite-
“La illaha illAllah
Mahammadur Rasool Allah
Allah huh u Allah, hu hu
Allah hu hu Allah hu hu”.
(Inner Peace/ Divine Sufi Poems 11/29)
“Is Allah Everywhere?” He asks in poem No.191 and writes,
Allah is perfect, A Divine purified
Existing from Beginning to End.
“La Mashood”, “La Mojood”. None
(Is Allah Everywhere?/ Divine Sufi Poems 191/167)
In the middle of the poem repeating but rearranging Keats’ famous line, “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty” (Ode on a Grecian Urn) he writes, “Truth is Beauty, Beauty is Truth/ How to achieve Truth? ‘Annal Huq’” (Is Allah Everywhere? Divine Sufi Poems 191/167). ‘Annal Huq’ is a quote from Hallaj. They signify ultimate unity with God as in “Soham”, a Hindu Vedic Mantra, meaning “I am that”. Those words might be the annihilating point for Al-Hallaj. Among the modern poets, I have found one Syed Ameeruddin, among maybe others using the word.
In Life Beyond Death Swami Abhedananda referred to the conception of Islamic Heaven. Referring to the same conception the poet questions the logic behind such conception; analyzing it he gives his opinion, “Appear to be an allegorical reference.”
(Heavenly Abode/ Divine Sufi Poems 203 174)
Heaven itself is a dream-child; where’s the logic for such an abode!
Love changes the heart and mind,
Melts the whole being like a candle.
Emitting light to glorify the Lord
The darkness fades, spreading fragrance.
Love calls for a great sacrifice,
And the sacrifice is to die.
(Love and Death/ Divine Sufi Poems 209 178)
It reminds one of the ecstatic poetic expression in Rumi using the candle as a metaphor as referred earlier,
A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment
it has no shadow.
It is nothing but a tongue of light
describing a refuge.
(A Just-Finishing Candle Persian poets 100)
Sufi poems in the book sometimes contain rant, slant and satire; otherwise quite justified in a situation depicted in them like, “From Light To Darkness”. Light falling from eternity to earth cleans dirt, clears ignorance and niggardliness but presently,
“Orderinariness (sic) consuming refinement
Law of jungle ruling the roost . . . .
A ‘Chaiwala’ occupying seat of power.
To compound confusion and chaos.
A fall of Mahatma to a low level . . . .
Collapse of civilization, clashes, wars.
Buddha, Mahavira, Christ bidding bye.
Sun, Moon shedding tears, ozone melting.
Earth shrinking, squeezing mankind.
(From Light To Darkness Divine Sufi Poems 346 282)
“Holy Shaivaite Saint of Kolimuth (sic)” It seems that the poet had been to Arapaleeswarar temple at kollimalai or Kolli hills. Matha is usually such a place. It is a Shiva temple and the saint referred to lived there. It seems to be an autobiographical poem. The poet with the catholic mind of a Sufi visited it and was benefitted by the blessings of the saint there. It is a long poem. The last four lines are the significant summing-up of the poet’s idea about such saints and places.
O Holy Sages and Saints of this ancient land!
You are all beacon of peace and good will;
To assuage the wounded feelings
Of sufferers and suffering humanity.
(Holy Shaivaite Saint of Kolimuth Divine Sufi Poems 380 312)
“I Thank Thee” is a poem almost emulating the Persian Sufi Poets of the middle ages in type and style, written in praise of them. Of the poets all but Ghalib were of Persia; only Ghalib was of Turkish descent Indian poet. It’s a poem having two stanzas. I give below the first stanza for understanding the humorous humility of the poem.
I wish I could gather pearls
From the words written on paper
By Hafiz, Ghalib, Rumi, Saadi.
But my poor grasp cannot cup it.
I pose myself as if I love all.
But my beloved knows my tricks,
My cunningness, my stupidity.
Yet my beloved bestows upon me
Whatever I desired more than I deserve.
(I Thank Thee Divine Sufi Poems 381 312)
“Ponzy Schemes” is another humorous, satirical poem, reflecting on the present world scenario, with mythical references and Islamic allusions. It has several Arabic words in Islamic terms. It depicts the deceitful profiteers and such persons like Dajjal. Last two lines of the poem may be said to be consoling words to the world of followers praising the action by the Prophet.
The Great Merciful has given a doze of purgative
To purge from the ‘Ummat’ the ‘haram’!
(Ponzy Schemes Divine Sufi Poems 382 313)
“Year has Passed” is a heart-wrenching poem by a poet written in memory of his recently deceased wife. There are more such poems in this collection and elsewhere. Hereon he waits, perhaps resting on the next life, “slowly and steadily to melt/ And join you forever.”
(Year has Passed Divine Sufi Poems 384 315)
The next and last poem of the series seems to have been written alluding to the same incidence of death which seems to be the outcome of human fate and ‘Karma’ as in the Hindu philosophy of recurring life and rebirth.
Destiny has a unique way
To play its part to move
The wheels of life on the
Chequered board of snake
And ladder, on the chess board
Of mysterious and wonderful life.
(Snuffing out Mysteries (sic) Life Divine Sufi Poems 385 316)
Poems from the other Books:
A Call From The Unknown
O Adam! You blame her for your sin!
Degrade her to hell, eat her flesh
Swim in her blood, make fire of her bones
Bury a baby girl and hang a pretty house wife!
O Adam, you never forget that you were Adam! A religious fiction of the mind! But of the blame on him it is somehow a fact. That’s why the Eve force has so revolted at one place on earth that the Adams have cowed down. Let’s wish it happen more and more in all such places until the brute ignorant forces are defeated kissing the ground. Here the poet is grievous, feeling pity for the harmed woman but in another place he captures their saucy pert nature;
Butterfly girls hopping from flower to flower
Sucking nectar emptying the sweetness
Corrupting the souls of the charming youths
To make them dance to their tunes.
Fleece as they Please
Here in A Call from the Unknown the poet moves through the jungle of humanity; through history and geography, through the past and the future, through love and love betrayed and lastly declares his faith:
Yes, I have a religion
I do practice it
Say my ‘Namaz’
Turn towards ‘Kaaba’
Give ‘Fitra’, ‘Zakat’
Yearn for circumambulation
Around the Holy’Kaaba’.
(My Religion Unknown 5)
All these he believes “Are acts of love /To foster oneness” (My Religion Unknown 5) among mankind though others practise different rites, recite different words in other faiths.
Fountains of Hopes
It has poems ethical and moral with hopes for upholding the righteous and condemning the sinners or wrong doers. In “A Ray of Hope” he writes, “I now look up for fresh dreams. /To pass on the legacy for a new era. (Hopes 31) In “O ‘Taliban’” he writes, “Soul rending music does not stirr (sic) you. /O ‘Taliban’ Shun violence, acquire world view.” (Hopes 32) In “Bears Hardships with a Smile” (Hopes 33) he tries to uphold the honour and dignity of woman.
In Rare Moments
The poet writes in “Man Arafa Naf Sahu”,
“Man Arafa Naf Sahu”, “Know your /Own Self” is the main slogan /Of “Tassawuff” (Sufism).” (Moments 40). In this book there are poems of fundamental issues like, “Allah’s Bounty” (Moments 41), “What is Love” (Moments 42) and “How to Reach the Truth (Moments 43)
“In Rare Mements” the poet writes about an ideal man,
“With warmth in heart for one and all. /Ever Submissive to the Lord’s call.” (Rare Moments 19). In this book there are poems like “No more past Dreams” (Rare Moments 21), “Good and Evil”
(Rare Moments 22), “Whither Peace?” (Rare Moments 25)
In Sacred Moments
As I was sojourning through S. L. Peeran’s book of poems he sent to me over the years and were kept with many such books in oblivion, I found almost at the end that one book I missed reading as it was kept aside, I didn’t even look through its pages. And it has given me a good shock of having missed reading the golden poems written by a matured and purified mind and heart after going though many a pitfall, many a trouble, gaining a purification unforgettable. Most of the poems are free from any regional, communal or sectarian reference or taint. Most of them carry a fresh fragrant air, a cosmopolitan, universal message. I have realised that my review of his poems, my writing on his works would remain crippled without a proper mention of the poems lying hidden within its covers. The book is titled In Sacred Moments; his tenth book of poems, published in 2008.
One would perhaps have liked the last poem as the first of the book and the first one as the last. In the last poem we find; “My voice is now choked/I can no longer roar . . . . My wings are clipped/ I am a wingless bird . . . . Now I have to crouch, /For anything and everything.” (Cringing Times Sacred Moments 66)
Oblivious of the umpteen sins committed by me.
I had broken the “Lakshman Rekha”, like Adam.
Shown jealousy and arrogance like Satan.
Yet, when I am in submission in prayers.
I am like a child in the arms of my mother.
O Lord! Forgive my erring soul and mind.
Let my sacred moments be dear to me
Let Thy effulgence shine forever on me
(The Sacred Moments Sacred Moments 1)
“Opposites differ” is a good poem with good observations and insight into human hearts, like what is crime for someone is a vocation for the other, one’s sin is other’s entertainment, one’s food is poison for the other, one’s joy is other’s abhorrence and what is a good news to one is bad for the other. (Sacred Moments 29) “Senseless Leaders” is an insightful poem exposing the misdeeds of the leaders. (Sacred Moments 39) The poet has doubt, “Can the created things, /Fathom the creators? /Realize how He is? /Can we know Him by His creations? (How to know Him? The Sacred Moments 46) In “Fulfilment” he realises, “Life is a mixture of love, hope and volcanic eruptions /Ultimately to fizzle out after fruition.” (Sacred Moments 53) “O Master!” is a candid declaration and honest confession of the poet as a Sufi clears his heart thereby. “Wherever your Name is uttered /I am there . . . . In whatever Form, /You are worshipped / I adore and love you. /Let me bow my head /Before you forever and ever. (Sacred Moments 55) Giving the examples of Tagore and Mahatma the poet says that they come once in a rare moment and among millions; whereas a poet like Nissim Ezekiel was rotten and forgotten in an unknown hospital, “A poet with fresh breeze, a /Fresh breath, a vision, longings, /Can hope to be heard for a while /And fade away into nothingness. (Nothingness Sacred Moments 58)
He writes, “The passing Time unbothered of decay around.” (Decaying Times Love 26) In “Advent of Islam” the poet narrates historically,
Then arose in sixth century A.D.
A man of impeccable character
Known to Arabs as ‘The Truthful’
‘The Trustworthy’, Muhammad
When he reached forty years of his age
Gabriel the Arch Angel brought
Message from Allah, The Holy Quran
To be continued for next twenty-two years.
(Advent of Islam Love 90)
Comparing the throwing and mixing of the burnt ashes in rivers like Ganga or Cavery (usually South Indian people consign their ashes here as Ganga isn’t available) after cremation of the dead as in Hindu religion with the hope of getting immersed in the divine as Ganga river is worshipped by them as a deity, one wishes the body to get mixed with dust after burial and hopes for rebirth with a belief in ‘Qiyamat’.
My dead body would be consigned.
To the dust forever and ever,
To mingle and to turn to dust.
In the belief of rebirth in ‘Qiyamat’
(Million Praises Love 85)
Here the pious poet has brought in two religious symbols to get his idea fitted to them. No ashes come out of burial but the burial ground is akin to soil or dust. Qiyamat has been explained in the poem as the ‘Doomsday’. The word recalls the Christian belief in the Day of Judgment or the last day when the soul is given award of heaven or punishment of living in hell. Similar belief is prevalent in Islam; the religions had ideas borrowed or mixed with other religious beliefs on later dates. Though the idea of Rebirth is foreign to Islam Qiyamat has been referred to that belief. However, poet’s wishes are genuine, taking birth in his heart’s religion.
In this book ‘Love’ is remembered in many poems in good sense. Mahatma, Mahavira and Buddha are praised and offered obeisance. He begins a poem with, “For Sufies ‘Insha Allah’ are words of certainty.” And ends it with, “These days ‘Insha Allah’, uttered at drop of a hat. / With unkept promises, being good at that.” (Insha Allah Love 54) There are many poems retelling his experiences on different subjects.
Garden of Bliss
“The Blessed Prophet Mercy to the Humanity” (Bliss 11) is a long poem relating to the prophet and stories around him. The poet prays for peace for the Prophet of Islam adding umpteen epithets with his name as in the particular religion and its tradition in his poem, “A Mercy and Peace to Humanity” (Bliss 26-27). In “Fall of Man” (Bliss 10) he brings in the story of Adam and Eve and Satan referred to as Abrahamic myth of creation included in Bible and later added to Islamic faith. Adam and Eve with Satan often appear in poems by Peeran. “Good Shepherd” (Bliss 65) and “Floods” (Bliss 66) alludes to Christian religion and fields in Arabia and such places as in olden days of Jesus. In “The Sufies” (Bliss 31) the poet brings in the images of Sufi again as in many other poems. Here he tells the true nature of a Sufi and does not refer to any other intermediary between a Sufi and his master, the Divine itself.
The Sufies, the ‘mutaqueens’ the truthful
Are those who have attained
In truth that True Master
Who exits by means of infinite,
Absolute, and colourless existence.
(The Sufies Bliss 31)
Though Sufis are referred to as mutaqueens, alluding to Qur’an, here their relationship is exclusively with God.
In Eternal Quest
We find him a ‘torn kite’ in most of the poems. “Yesterday is dead, tomorrow is yet to be born. /I seek closing chapter, for, my life’s kite is torn.” He writes in “Torn Kite” (Eternal Quest 9) and we find this condition of life continues till towards the end of the book. In “Lost Love” he writes, “A torn kite I in rough weather, doesn’t mend.” (Lost Love Eternal Quest 83) In “Love Betrayed” he writes, “Tears and tears flooding my benign being” (Eternal Quest 89) but from the year 2012 he regains his cheerful life as he writes in “Welcoming 2012”, “Welcoming 2013” and “Glorious 2014” (Eternal Quest 90-92). The last short poem, “A Prayer” is a nice poem where the poet expresses his gratefulness to God, “O Lord! Accept my thanks for bounties received.” (Eternal Quest 93). At the end of the book are some quatrains and Haiku written in the same measures and styles as elsewhere.
Japanese and other short verses
Haiku is a short poem of Japanese origin which essentially contained among other things definitions like Kigo, a seasonal word and cire-ji, cutting point, Haiku moment and many others. It carries its tradition from 17th century Japan beginning with masters like Basho, Shiki and others. Haikai and hokku, the earlier words, were poems by definition anti- traditional, anti-classical, anti-establishment, mostly on the present scenario but not rejecting the past. Haiku is a cultural harvest of a particular society. Many are the varieties of it like Senryu. There are different varieties of Japanese short verses like Tanka, Haiban and many others. Among all the most popular are Haiku and then Tanka. Haiku is a three lined poem and Tanka, five lined. These are the primary definitions of such poems as conceived by most poets writing in English and other languages. But there are so many others things hidden in the form and expressions which in their simplest forms do not appear to have any specialty; they don’t mean much. Haiku was originally a part of travelogue written by masters like Basho. Ongoing observations, picturesque in their presentation mostly culled from Nature as they appeared in the eyes of the poet, they were mostly taken from the then scenario but such that they could relate to any past of future occurrences. Tanka is having a musical effect on recitation; lyrical in a sense but they weren’t rhymed usually as haiku too isn’t rhymed.
Primarily three lined Haiku are written in five, seven and five syllabic measures and Tanka are written in similar measures of five, seven, five and the last two lines are of seven syllabic measures. That became a strict rule for structures of Haiku and Tanka. As the culture of writing such poems mainly in English spread, it was found that not only stress, rhyming and rhythm were unimportant in such poems, the Japanese syllable and syllabic divisions are different from English. So it has been accepted by most poets writing in English that though the subtle forms in length are to be maintained usually with some variations, the strict rule of syllabic measures in English version of the poetic forms may not be followed. They don’t usually use capital letters in the lines, not even at the beginning. Such short poems usually aren’t titled. These are the widely accepted norms among the poets. But some poets differ in their views and they strictly maintain the Japanese rules of measurement in their poems. Haiku were the products of indigenous minds travelling through country sides keeping pace with nature and changing seasons in changing times. Senryu is a genre of urban variety, humorous or satirical. They may or may not have the element of nature in them.
Among the Indian poets, Mohammed Fakhruddin, editor of “Poets International”, a prominent poet and editor of various genres and varieties of poems, is a strict observer of syllabic measures in haiku and tanka as in original Japanese. He would not reject haiku of differing lengths in his magazine but name those poems as ‘Gen Poems’, as of a different variety. Peeran wrote such poems in English in “Poets International”. He follows the strict rule of syllabic measures writing them here and there and in his books. In his book, Haiku, Tanka, Short Verse, Quatrain and Poems, all are short poems. Let us see some examples of his haiku;
A sure way to lose money
Health and happiness.
(and Poems 56)
Douse the fire gently
Find peace by ending quarrels
Before milk turns sour.
(and Poems 57)
On wine, fast woman, horses
Cannot tame a shrew.
(and Poems 91)
We talk about thoughts
Which are at our mind’s surface
Fail to reach bottom.
(and Poems 91)
Buy second hand car
Marry a sickly lady
(and Poems 97)
And I quote three tanka poems by him;
Cloning of a child
A scientific invention
Of ingenious minds
For destruction of culture
A daredevil incarnate.
Your servant seeking blessings
Forever a slave
Sincerely seeking your Grace
For perpetual happiness.
(and Poems 159)
Languishing in jail
Iron chains all around me
For stealing a bread
Pain of living is severe
All alone in desert.
(and Poems 167)
Rabindranath Tagore after his visiting Japan introduced haiku giving his descriptive perception of it for the first time in India. He praised its brevity and picturesque quality. He wrote haiku like poems, many times didactic, but did not write haiku as he found there. Peeran’s poems sometimes have such didactic qualities but they are mostly statements of what actually happens in a society; not images of particular incidents or happenings before the eyes.
Quatrains are usually four lined rhymed poems. Peeran’s four lined poems under the head, “Quatrains” usually do not rhyme; measures of such lines though have some patterns in the originals, are not always of equal length. I have found a somehow rhymed quatrain which is the first one in this group.
There is fraternity in Serpentine queue
You find men and women of all hues
Standing for long to reach the counter
Preventing strangers breaking line in centre
(and Poems 193)
Sometimes gems of observing mind are found among such quatrains like,
Today the god men, ‘Swamis’, ‘Fakirs’
In various colourful dresses & headgears
Have become Robin hoods & Veerappans
To scare & rob the innocent victims.
(and Poems 204)
Sometimes sweeping statements are made which people know but don’t think about,
Large majority of people live in self-doubt,
They are yet to understand the meaning
And purpose of life, the ideals
And straight paths to walk upon.
(and Poems 205)
Sufism, Sufi Poetry, Vedanta, Guru Granth Saheb, Hinduism, Theosophy and Philosophy.
Jointly authored by S. L. Peeran, R. M. Chopra and T. K. Jayaraman.
Preface for this coauthored book was written by S. L. Peeran. And he wrote an essay on “Islam, Sufism and Vedanta” besides 49 poems; the group of poems titled Divine Poems / Sufi Poems. Such poems were published in his book Divine Sufi Poems, discussed earlier.
After some introductory narrative on the subject of “Islam, Sufism and Vedanta” his replies to questions have been recorded for quite some pages constituting the subject of the essay. The narrative, commentary and answers are repetitions from some common religious and other types of books of ancient histories with some common ideas, errors and omissions shared. While I do not wish to comment on such narratives I feel it is imperative upon me to revisit my thoughts on two points; of the antiquity of Vedas and related literatures and the precedence of Sufism and its influence on Indian Bhakti movement and literature.
Antiquity of the Vedas and Indian Civilisation
It is written, “Indian civilisation is the only civilisation that has survived . . . . All its parallel, Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian have ceased to exist . . . . The Aryans settled down near the river Sind after their migration generations before Vedic period more than 3500 years ago. . . . The language of those times was Prakrit, later to become Sanskrit.” (And Philosophy 41). To this my reply is as below.
With the discovery of Indus Valley Civilisation based on some architectural and other remains, some scholars tried to fix that as the oldest proof of Dravidian or Indian past. Vedas and all connected to Vedic works, actually the oldest ones so far found in the world; the greatest spiritual records of ancient India, finest mystic poetry, sublime revelations and epics, were conjectured to be works of the period secondary to Indus Valley period. Actually Aryan people belonged to ancient India and may be some neighbouring parts of adjacent coutries like Persia as at that time the regions weren’t so divided as on later periods. Vedic was the symbolic, mystic language from which Sanskrit was evolved. Prakrit, Pali and other versions were later developments. Some recorded facts in favour of the above argument are given below.
Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900), the German scholar living in England, was a great Indologist. He was pioneer in introducing Indian civilisation , Veda and related topics to the Western world. He took great interest in proving his theory with apparent show of educating and civilising India but with the secret aim of helping the missionaries to convert the Indian people to Christian religion. He twisted his scholarship, sometimes contradicting himself, to propagate his ideas for a distinct purpose of denigrating Indian past, to help getting it converted to Christianity.
In his Autobiography, written in his last days, published after his death by his son, he admitted: “As to the actual date of the Veda … if we were to place it at 5000 B.C. I doubt whether anybody could reduce such a date, while if we go back beyond the Veda, and come to measure the time required for the formation of Sanskrit, and of the Proto-Aryan language, I doubt very much whether even 5000 years would suffice for that. There is an unfathomable depth in language, layer following after layer, long before we arrive at roots, and what a time and what an effort must have been required for their elaboration, and for the elaboration of the ideas expressed in them.” 1
In a private letter to his wife, his motive was quite transparent.
“In 1866, Max Muller wrote in a letter to his wife ‘I am convinced, though I shall not live to see that day, that this edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India ….. It is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years.’” 2
Beginning with Mortimer Wheeler (Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler 1890 – 1976), the author of The Indus Civilization and The Cambridge History of India, a number of foreign scholars took an interest to prove that India had the Dravidian people and other ignoramuses like hill living tribes who were driven out by the superior Aryan people. Many Indian scholars joined the queue in explaining and elaborating such theories.
All such personalities had high belief in their religion and a belief that all others would remain ever subjugated to them. Unfortunately some proud Westerners, without suitable knowledge and erudition wrote denigrating India in their books. One such writer was Katherine Mayo, an American historian, who wrote a great book titled Mother India (1927) which was aptly replied to by C.S. Ranga Iyer, a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly, by his book Father India (1927)
Mr. William Archer (1856 1924), a dramatic critic, wrote denigrating India, India and the Future (1917) which was replied to by Sir John Woodroffe in his book, Is India Civilised? And Sri Aurobindo wrote a series of essays collected in his famous book The Foundation of Indian Culture which is a treasure trove on ancient India and Indian culture.
Sri Aurobindo observed, “Not only was India in the first rank in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, surgery, all the branches of physical knowledge which were practiced in ancient times, but she was, along with the Greeks, the teacher of the Arabs from whom Europe recovered the lost habit of scientific inquiry and got the basis from which modern science started. In many directions India had the priority of discovery,- to take only two striking examples among a multitude, the decimal notation in mathematics or the perception that the earth is a moving body in astronomy,- cala prithvi sthira bhati, the earth moves and only appears to be still, said the Indian astronomer many centuries before Galileo.” 3
David Frawley (born 1950), an American author, astrologer, teacher and remarkable Indologist, has written numerous books on topics spanning from the Vedas to Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. Frawley rejects the Indo-Aryan migration theory in favour of the Indigenous Aryans theory, accusing his opponents of having a “European missionary bias”. Frawley along with Georg Feuerstein and Subhash Kak has rejected the widely supported Indo-Aryan migration, rhetorically calling it the Aryan Invasion Theory, an outdated and inaccurate term, and supported the fringe Indigenous Aryans theory. Frawley also criticizes the 19th-century racial interpretations of Indian prehistory, and went on to reject the theory of a conflict between invading Caucasoid Aryans and Dravidians.
Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo denied any such theory of Aryan invasion and a split of the Indian race. Following them, a large numbers of historians and Indologists have written books denying any such theory of Aryan invasion and destruction of Indus Valley Civilisation by groups of men. None has so far produced any proof of such invasion; neither radiocarbon nor carbon-14 dating nor archaeological proof, nor any literary clue. Such a theory was conjectured by biased people to fulfil their motives. It has been found that a great drought might be the cause for such destruction. No other civilization or culture of India was found. Research is still on for a proper deciphering the Indus Valley Scripts whereas Vedic civilization, culture and literature remains the oldest surviving records of any world language and literature.
Sufism and its influence on Indian Bhakti Movement
“Great Sufis like Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer, Baba Fariduddin of Pak Patan, Bakhtiar Kaki, Nizamuddin Awliya ,and Chirag Dilli or Delhi influenced greatly the minds of masses with their miraculous powers and magnetic personality; thus started the Bhakti Movement in India. Saints like Sant Kabir Das, Mira Bai, Ramanjanachari (sic), Madhavachari and hundreds of Saints, yogis were able to bridge the gap between the Hindus and Muslims.” (And Philosophy 48)
Below are the excerpts from my work titled “Sufi and Bhakti Kindred by Love”, published in different magazines and was a part of our jointly authored book, Essence of Eastern Spirituality And Western Philosophy- A Sufi World Initiative-Published by Authorspress, New Delhi, 2021.
“The Indegenous Bhakti Current
Bhakti movement was born out of Hindu religion like many other offshoots of it in India. Its first emergence in the Tamil epic, Silppadikaram reached its zenith during the period of the Alvars, the wandering devotees of Krishna, between sixth and tenth century. The Bhagavata, a Sanskrit work which weaved the theory of Bhakti for Krishna and exercised great influence on the Bhakti movement was composed after the advent of the Alvars. This Bhakti was apart from the Gita. It is a devotional story of the cowherd Krishna which was already in vogue in the folk lore of Tamil Nadu. It is said that the Saiva Siddhanta, the doctrinal basis of Tamil Saivism, is more indebted to the passionate songs of the Saiva poets than to any other text. Virasaivas contributed significantly towards the emergence of Satasthala Siddhanta, a system of religious activities of the Bhakti cult derived from Sankhya and Vedanta traditions. Gaudiya Vaishnavism of Bengal, a Krishna cult, derived their doctrines and practices from the emotional experience of Sri Chaitanya Deva and the lyrics of Jayadeva, Vidyapathi and Chandidasa besides other Vaishnava poets. The Bhakti movement in India was indigenous, growing up from the native soil much before the advent of Sufi and it flourished in poetry, song, and dance. It is said that when Sufism arrived in India with fana, dhikr and sama with its beloved-lover framework, it did not surprise Indians for such things were already in practice. It came as another dimension of the many splendoured Bhakti movement. The forceful Vaishnavism and Saivism continued in their own ways.
“The source was Love for God
Bhakti and Sufi movement and poetry grew up almost independently without a meeting between the parties and the poets involved, as if connected by an invisible inner thread of love relationship, by an inner heart connection, without the earth yet becoming a global village due to inconceivable development of communication. But the movement and poetry of Bhakti and Sufi cult are not so powerful genres in modern times. Nevertheless, they continue in other forms for the element of Love cannot die out. It weaves the hearts together in spite of many a hindrance.
“A forceful source of Indian Heritage
Though begun earlier the Bhakti and Sufi movement and Poetry reached its climax in India in the fifteenth century with the participation of several geniuses from different regions of India so much so that it lost the distinction and differences of tongue and tone, its music flooded the whole of India transcending the barrier of religion and languages. And it was exclusively an
Indian festival of Bhakti movement in which both Hindus and Muslims including the hitherto neglected sectors of the society from both communities joined as participant performers and audience. In a sense, it was a unified action in the whole of India flooding it with dance and music in love for the divine.”
Glass House is a book first published in 2004 and its second amended and enlarged edition came out in 2020. It is a book that is apart from the usual work of S. L. Peeran. It has three parts comprising short stories, articles, and poems. Part one contains 15 stories, Part two has seven articles and Part three has 158 poems.
“Glass House” (House 23-81) and “Dews on Dry leaves” (House 82-114) are two long narrative stories. The first one’s characters are two main friends in the story; Ramesh, a Hindu, and Rahim, a Muslim; instead of Ram and Rahim as usual in such stories. After some initial fall in the destiny of Ramesh due to usual love affairs, he recovers when his father recites words of wisdom from Upanishads and Geeta to give examples of those who have exalted characters who are fearless and near to God to excel in life. Ramesh remembers Rahim reciting from their scripture praising Allah with all epithets like supreme, absolute power, and being, glorifying him and him only. He also remembers how he recited from the Gospel of Mathew glorifying the Father in heaven and praying to him.
His devotion was uplifted. He adores his father as his Guru to guide him in the future. He also writes a long letter to his friend addressing him as ‘Shud Namazi’ and Sufi, praising his help in guiding him to the right path. Thus it is a story strengthening Hindu-Muslim unity, perhaps telling that all religions have examples of exalted characters and stories to tell. The next Story,
“Dews on Dry leaves” (House 82-114) is the story of a Muslim family; of whimsical, aristocratic Sultana and her husband, pious Ahmed Shariff who dies somehow neglected and the story extends to Sultana’s arrogant reign with her sons and their marriages. Her second son’s marriage breaks and he lives as a bachelor. Whimsical Sultana develops schizophrenia. After some time she suffered from a brain hemorrhage and dies. The lengthened story ends with the sons and marriages of the protagonists’ children and their families.
“The Lightning Strikes” (House 151-155) is a story of encounter among heterogeneous characters with different lives and personalities; of different heritage and birth like a saintly person, an aristocratic lawyer, and a thief and their associates, represented by Ateef, Rehman, and Fayaz in the story. “Clever Maneuvering” (House 156-158) is a story beginning differently but ending in a separate storyline. Ravi, a teenager, was driven out by his mother out of rage but was supported by his father out of natural love and affection though he could not bring him back to home in opposition to his wife. Ravi by his persevering efforts and high intellect progressed in life completing law successfully. He was benevolent and loved by all for his amiable character. He was trusted by all. But his effort to help a benign businessman ended in fiasco due to the cunning and fraudulent behavior of a dishonest politician he relied upon. Ravi remained honest to the end but earned a self-imposed blemish in life even when acting honestly. “A Search of a Lost Boy” (House 159-163) is the story of abducting of the son of a wealthy person who finally came back home. In between, the miscreants earned huge sums of money by dishonest means; sort of ransom. Son’s coming back was exactly as predicted by an astrologer. “New Delhi-A City of Djin” (House 179-183) isn’t a story. It’s all about the city. Not an essay but a description of it as recorded in history and hearsay, as ‘twas, as it’s. A feature on Delhi. “Invisible jinnies are bloodsuckers and millions have infested the city . . . . The most common feature among the old and new settlers is that they turn highly superstitious. . . . Another important feature of the city is spreading of rumours like a wild fire. . . . one can finds (sic) in every park and even on the residential waysides young couples indulging in lovemaking openly and unabashedly. . . .
“Admission in schools, hospitals, transfers, promotions, one needs to carry bundles of green chips.” (As if for any type of usual opportunities one gets in a city.) Writing many such things in a very humorous and sarcastic way, Peeran writes to confirm his title of New Delhi as a “City of Djinn”, telling that it was originally written in 2004 when the book was first published. The feature is an example of his capacity to create otherwise than he created elsewhere in other works.
A Sajjada Nishin (House 197) is a Sufi Guru for the murid or disciple. They are also the Mutavalli or administrators of Dargah, a Sufi centre dedicated to a Sufi saint. This reminds one that his father was decorated with the title of Sajjada Nishin.
“A Fakir, A Sadhu, A Mendicant and a Rag Picker” (House 201-02) including a Sufi, is a short feature explaining the definition of each such person whose station of life is outside the family and usual society. In “The Personality of a Mother” the writer has elevated her position in society near God, as his Avatar. Full of sympathy for and completely dedicated to her children; she effaces herself for the welfare and progress of her children, for their upliftment in life. She is the symbol of a divine mother to the child. But Sultana, also a mother in the story, “Dews on Dry leaves” already discussed, represents almost a reverse character, a different mother. So was the mother of Ravi (“Clever Maneuvering”; House 156-158)
Don Quixote is like some names that move through centuries like legend and history as Krishna and Tarzan or a typal name like Lilliput (from Gulliver’s Travels). In the 17th century, the term Quixote was used to describe a person who does not distinguish between reality and imagination, coming from the novel titled as such, protagonist of the novel, Don Quixote. A typal character. S.L. Peeran’s “Don Quixote The Juggler” depicts a character imitating the protagonist of the novel in his own way following the Indian characteristic of a peculiar human adult. He is the jack of all trades, master of all languages and knowledge; knowing all tricks including becoming an idiot. Peeran’s description of him;
“Don has smattering knowledge of astrology, palmistry or ‘Vedas’, ‘Doshas’, ‘Yoga Kaarakas’, and ‘Sani Dristi’ about omens, signs, Amulets to be worn and pooja to be performed to word off the evil effects of the enemy planets, of ‘grahas’ and ‘gocharas’.”
All the write ups in this group are very short prose works, which may be termed as features and light essays; quite enjoyable, sometimes very humorous.
Mostly poems from other books I have discussed so far. This section has large numbers of poems. Here we find a different poet; finer poems written, as if by a different poet, expressing different sentiments in different moods, sometimes rhyming too.
In four lined “Old Bandicoot” (House 294) we find sarcastic depiction of a typical shenanigan. “Left Out” is a poem which evokes pity. As if at the end of everything one is abandoned. No hope. No more effort for anything is required. “For the Times have passed and you are left out.” (House 329) Wisdom sparks anew in “Our Own Enemy” , beginning in “Our greatest enemy is ourselves” (House 330) “Sadism” is the result of one’s age old observation confirmed in his old age that from childhood fun in teasing animals to adult experiments with animals in laboratory a man’s impulse does not diminish to harm others, even in old age. “As grownups, our urge/ To harm has not diminished any more.” (House 336) “My Fair Lady” (House 346) points out the woman nature specially of some zealous housewives; humorous. “Tame the Wild Cat” is painting of a very beloved lady of an opposite character who always agrees to her lover and remains always nice to him, even in adverse situations. “I had to purr like a tame pussy cat /When she places her cheeks on my velvety hat.” (House 347)- it evokes a rejoicing humorous feeling. “Can I find a way out?” (House 359) is genuine lamentation of a recent widower at the loss of his beloved wife.
The works in this book, Glass House, among all works, show that the writer in him has embarked on almost an untrodden path not traversed so far by using humour, sarcasm, and wit with apt use of some literary ornaments. One would welcome more such humorous pieces from him. The Glass House, first published in 2004, may be said to be one of his best works. It draws our attention to another more known work of fiction titled The Glass Palace written by Amitav Ghosh in 2000.
From the foregoing discussions it is established that S. L. Peeran is mainly a poet but he can and has created other genres of literature too. Though it may be that the heritage of Sufi carried by him throughout his life as pride and prejudice has pulled him more towards works on Sufi and Sufi poems, some of his creative prose works with humour and sarcasm are more enjoyable, proves more of his talent as a writer and poet.
Most of his literary works are based on morals and ethics. His works are more a result of thought process than creation of art for art’s sake, “l’art pour l’art” as the term was first used by Theophil Gautier. In spite of all, it must be admitted that he stands on the literary ground based on his spiritual thoughts and poems dedicated to Gods and prophets. Here he is one of the exceptions among the modern Indian English poets though this tradition of devotional and spiritual literature occupied a vaster region of Indian literature; more created in the past than at present. Genuine spiritual personalities are rarer now than in the past. All major works of literature are now based on intellect.
Apart from poetry included in his literature, mainly as a Sufi Poet, Peeran stands for his organizational and editorial acumen too as the founder of the Sufi Centre in Bangalore and editing the journal, “Sufi World” exclusively dedicated to Sufism and Sufi literature. He has in recent years published and edited a number of jointly authored books and anthologies on his own initiative in collaboration with the Sufi Centre founded by him, bearing their cost and labour, mostly from Authors Press, New Delhi, including in their bodies many contemporary Indian authors and poets in his ventures which still continues. This too is rarely seen now. Through his life and literature, by his publications adding to literary values, he has built a citadel worthy to mention and remember.
Notes and References
1. My Autography. Muller Max. New Delhi: 2002. (Indian reprint) as published in “Dialogue”, a quarterly journal of Astha Bharati. January – March, 2008 Issue. V. 9. No.3
2. “Max Muller-Missionary or Scholar” by Devendra Swaroop in “Dialogue”; January-March, 2008. Vol 9 No.3 as in reference 1 above.(http://www.asthabharati.org/Dia_Jan08/swar.htm)
3. The Foundations of Indian Culture. Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Birth
1. Ernst Carl W. Sufism. Boston: Sambhala South Asia Editions.1997
2 Sufi Poets. Edited by Washington Peter. New York: Everyman’s Library. 2000
And following books by S. L. Peeran
1. Divine Sufi Poems. New Delhi: Authorspress. 2021
2. A Call From The Unknown. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2003.
3. Fountains of Hopes. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2006.
4. In Rare Moments. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2007
5 The Sacred Moments. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2008
6. Glittering Love. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2009
7. Garden of Bliss. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2011
8. Eternal Quest. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2014
9. Haiku, Tanka, Short Verse, Quatrain and Poems. New Delhi: Authorspress. 2019
10. Sufism, Sufi Poetry, Vedanta, Guru Granth Saheb, Hinduism, Theosophy and Philosophy.
Jointly authored by S. L. Peeran, R. M. Chopra and T. K. Jayaraman. New Delhi: Authors Press.2019
11. Essence of Eastern Spirituality And Western Philosophy- A Sufi World Initiative. Aju Mukhopadhyay. Dr. Ajay Kumar Singh, Dr. Suresh Chandra Pande, P C K Prem, S L Peeran, Dr. Jayshree Singh, T K Jayraman. New Delhi: Authorspress. 2021. Paperback.
12. Glass House. Bangalore: Bizz Buzz. 2020. Second Edition
Aju Mukhopadhyay, Pondicherry and Kolkata, India, is a bilingual award-winning poet, author, and critic. He has published 41 books. An Environmentalist, he writes in Indian and International journals. His works are varied in nature from poems, short stories, novels, features, biographies, and travelogues.
Besides Poetry and other awards, he received Albert Camus Centenary Writing Award from Cyprus, Laureate Award in the Best Author category (Non-Fiction) from LITEROMA, Kolkata, Glory of India Award from the Indian Achievers’ Forum, and the latest, Sri Aurobindo Puraskar from Kolkata. His two latest books displayed in the sell counters are That House That Age, a novel, and Vast Akash, a book of poems.
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