The prayer for all
RISHIKESH BAHADUR DESAI
None would imagine that the piety-filled prayer that emerges from the
tomb of the Prophet in Madina has its roots in Bidar. It was written
by Hazrat Ishqui, a poet from Bidar
HOARY PAST A file photo of Rajya Sabha member, the late Maqsood Ali
Khan, felicitating Rashid Ahmed Rashid in Bidar. Rashid was called
Shayar-e-Hayat by fans
The air around the Masjid –E-Nabavi in Mecca in Saudi Arabia
reverberates with the sound of the prayer “Ya Shafi Ul Wara Salam Un
Alaik…”, five times a day, everyday. This mosque, also called the
Mosque of Prophet Mohammad, co ntains the tomb of Prophet Mohammad and
is considered holy by Muslims all over the world.
The prayer sung here is written in praise of the Prophet. This
beautiful piece of Arabic poetry is the creation of Hazrat Ishqui, who
lived in Bidar in Karnataka nearly 200 years ago. The saint poet
Hazrat Ishqui is revered across the globe. His religious writings in
Arabic and Farsi are still recited by believers in Iran, Egypt,
Indonesia and other countries.
Hazrat Ishqui was born in Bidar. Kings of the Asaf Zahi dynasty
supported him. He lived in this historic city till he was very old. He
died in Hyderabad around 1805.
Bidar has had a glorious literary tradition. Its fame was so
widespread that modern writer Mohsin Quamal described it in his
shayari: “Bidar Hai Jiska Naam Voh Ek Shaher –E –Gazal Hai” (Bidar is
that place which is the city of songs).
It is said that the lyrical novel “Masnavi Padam Rao Kadam Rao”,
published in Bidar between 1325–1338 is the first ever publication in
Urdu. “Research in Karachi University in Pakistan has confirmed this,”
says Quazi Arshad Ali, editor of the Hindi daily, Bidar Ki Awaaz.
The first king to patronise arts and literature was Sultan Humanyun of
the Bahmani Sultanate in the 14th century.
The Bahmani Kings ruled this province till the late 16th Century.
Baridshahi kings took over from them. Bidar was the capital for both
kingdoms. Both these dynasties supported writers. Prominent among
those who received their patronage are Abdul Quareem Hamdani, Mulla
Nizami, Syed Taheer, Mulla Dawoodi, Mulla Quashfi, Mahamood and
A very important poet of the period was Feroze Bidri who lived during
the transition period between Bahmani and Baridshahi kings. He is
credited to have brought out the first poetry collection in Urdu. His
collections are preserved in the Kolkota museum. Great poets like
Mulla Wazhi and Ibne-e-Nishati have called him Ustad Shayar or
“teacher”, informs literary critic Anees Hashmi. After spending his
youth in Bidar which was then called Mohammadabad- Bidar, Feroze
settled in Golconda where he died.
Urdu was made the official language of the state by the Nizams of
Hyderabad. “It is the only period in Indian history that Urdu has
enjoyed the status of an official language,” observes Mr. Ali. The
Nizam rule ended in 1948. However, literature continued to flourish in
Bidar in independent India.
Interestingly, a significant number of non-Muslims also wrote Urdu
poetry. Works of Hindus like Pandit Yashwantrao Korekal of Manik Nagar
and Pandit Damodar Pant ‘Zaki’ and Sikhs like Sardar Charan Singh
Charan of Bidar are popular even today.
In the last 100 years, the direction of poetry has changed and writers
focus more on crisis of modern living. Among the modern writers are
Hazrat Ghulam Mohinuddin Fitrat, Maqdoom Mohinuddin, Hazrat Wafa,
Sikandar Ali Wajd, Hazrat Kunj-E-Nasheen, Syed Hussein Saifi and
Hazrat Sajjad Basha Sajjad. The most famous poet in the recent times
is Rashid Ahmed Rashid. He is called “Shayar-E-Hayat” or the Sun who
shines on the land of poetry. He went to Osmania University for
studies and came back to settle in Bidar. In the annals of Urdu
literary history, he has been compared to Jigar Moradabadi and Josh
Maliabadi of Uttar Pradesh. He is known as the poet who turned the
attention of the poetical world away from the themes of love, beauty,
and the intoxicating effect of love and liqour. He spoke of human
suffering, enlightenment and philosophy. His first collection,
Kham-E-Abrao (’The twist of the eye brow’) earned him instant praise
and recognition. His most famous work is Ilham-O- Yakeen, or
“Enlightenment”. It is a treatise in philosophy and dwells into
problems faced by mankind and its possible solutions. He reflected the
poverty and deprivation of his fellowmen in the poem “Sitam Rashida
His contemporary Suleiman Khatib popularised the Dakhani Urdu or the
desi dialect. Khatib’s poetry is marked with wit and humour. His
couplets are known for their multiple layers of meanings. His “Kivde
Ka Ban” describes a garden of beautiful flowers that may be concealing
Other important writers are Ata Kalyanvi who popularised the Naat
style of poetry and Desi Bukhari of Chitaguppa who used the Dakhani
Urdu. Allah Baksh Bakshi and Mohammad Jahangeer have also helped put
the name of Bidar on the map of Urdu poetry.
Writers like Anees Hashmi, Quaisar Rehman Basit Khan Sofi and others
are still active and continue to bring out poetry and works of
100, and not out
RISHIKESH BAHADUR DESAI
Bidar has a rich past in journalism. October marks the centenary of
Urdu journalism in the district
GOES A LONG WAY A copy of the Bidar Gazette magazine dated January 16, 1909
This advertisement appeared in the Subhe–Bahar literary magazine in
Mysore in 1909. “Please read the ‘Urdu Weekly Bidar Gazette’ published
from Mohammadabad Bidar. Edited by Meher Ali, it is in its third yea r
of publication and contains news from the Nizam State and speaks about
national and international issues. It provides complete information on
topics like education, culture, ethics, religious reform and history.
The subscription rates are Rs. 12 per annum for zamindars, the rich
and the advocates, Rs. 6 for the general purchasers and Rs. 3.75 for
students and the poor.”
This shows that Bidar had an enviable heritage of journalism. October
marks the centenary of Urdu journalism in Bidar. In fact, it marks the
centenary of journalism in Hyderabad-Karnataka region as no attempts
were made to start a newspaper or magazine in any language at that
Historians consider Bidar as the second capital of Urdu journalism in
the State. “Khasimul Akhbar published in 1862 in Bangalore is the
first Urdu newspaper of Karnataka. Bidar Gazette, first published on
October 8, 1907, was the first journalistic venture in any language in
the Hyderabad Karnataka,” says Anees Siddiqui, researcher and author
of the book “The History of Urdu Journalism in Karnataka”.
Bidar Gazette had 12 pages with three columns. Each column had 40
lines. Each page contained a separate topic. Each page had pointers
like Provincial, National, International, Culture, Religion and
It used to exchange information and pages from other papers like
Khadiyan, Niyar, Rehnuma-E-Taleem, Moradabad, and Lahore. The editors
did not pay for the copies of other papers. They bartered copies of
their pape rs for other papers. Apart from staff correspondents, the
magazine invited experts to contribute.
The earliest available copy of the Bidar Gazette is of January 16,
1909. It is preserved in the Mohammad Gawan Urdu Arabic library in
Bidar. Unfortunately, Bidar Gazette stopped after nearly a decade of
Bidar readers had to wait for a long time for the second paper.
Anti-Nizam activists and revolutionaries started some wall papers in
1940s. They were imaginatively named as Bala Ghat, Mohammad Gawan,
Rafi and Jinnah . They were regularly brought out and pasted on the
same walls each time.
Insaniyat, the first weekly after independence was started by
Moinuddin Moinabadi. The magazine was short lived. “We faced a revenue
crunch,” says Mr. Moinabadi, the last of the surviving senior
journalists of the district. Other senior Urdu journalists have been
Mukhtar Ahmed Gilani, Abdul Sattar Adib, Mohsin Kamal, M.A. Hamid,
Quaisar Rehman and S.I. Quadri. Mr. Gilani was the founder president
of the Journalists Association in Bidar.
Abdul Wahid’s Waqt Ka Paigam began as a weekly in 1964. It was turned
into a daily for sometime before it closed in 1968. Poet and former
MLC Mohsin Kamal started Gawan, a Urdu daily in 1968. However, it did
not continue after his death in the 80s.
Other papers that did not have a long life span were Behmani Samachar
of Sabagat Ulla, Aftab–e-Bidar of Fadeedullah Alfi, Basat-e -Hayat of
Shamsul Islam. M.A. Hamid started the English we ekly Hyderabad
Karnataka from Gulbarga in 1960. He later converted it into a Urdu
daily and began publishing from Bidar in 1979. It is still running
successfully. S.I. Quadri’s Adabbi Akkas started in 1984 is s till in
publication. His son S. S. Quadri edits it now.
MLC Quazi Arshad Ali started the Surkh Zameen daily in 1993. It is an
uninterrupted publication since then. It is well read both in the city
Even non-Muslims have been active in Urdu journalism. R. Ganapath Rao
started Rafiq, a Urdu newspaper soon after independence. “Bidar has
the largest number of Urdu schools in the State. It means the district
produces so many people who can read and write Urdu every year. The
readership of Urdu newspapers is also growing year on year,” says Mr.
Friday, Aug 17, 2007
The flower-like letter
Imagine a style of writing being compared to the glistening hair of
the bride. Such evocative images can emerge only from the grand art of
calligraphy. Sadly, it is withering away for lack of patronage
RISHIKESH BAHADUR DESAI
FADING CITADEL Mohammad Quaza demonstrates his art. With no takers
left, he leads his life painting posters
“Let me enjoy the aroma of flowers around here,” says the epitaph of
Sultan Mehmood Shah Bahmani the third, who once ruled Bidar. The
Arabic and Farsi letters are arranged in such an artistic manner on
the tomb stone, that they look like flowers in blossom.
Islamic Calligraphy, called Fun –E- Khattat is present on almost all
the historic buildings in Bidar. It adds to the beauty of these 100 or
so tombs, Masjids and Dargahs in and around the historic city.
Calligraphy is also defined as the art of giving form to signs.
Islamic calligraphy is said to have evolved nearly 100 years after the
death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Islamic belief that only the
Almighty can create beauteous forms, led some artistes to create
beautiful forms using letters, says Anees Hashmi, Islamic scholar and
The pioneer of calligraphy is believed to be the fourth Calipha Hazrat
Ali who used various handwriting styles to document the verses of the
Quran and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad. The Quran is in Arabic
script and the art of calligraphy spread wherever Arabic began to be
used as an influence of Islam.
The various styles of calligraphy are Khat-e-Qufi, popular in Iraq,
Khat-e-Sulas that is popular in Iran and India, and Khat-e-Nasq, and
Khat-e-Nastaliq, used by many Urdu newspapers today. Most of the
structures in Bidar are in the Sulas style, indicating its century old
connections with Iran.
Various forms of calligraphy developed over the years. They are Gulzar
or the garden, Tawoos or the peacock, Zulf-e-Aroos, or the bride’s
hair, Manshoor or the triangle, Badr-e-Kamal or the crescent moon,
Vilayat or the exotic, Ummul Khubus or the Gestalt style, Mahi or the
fish, Nakhoon or nails, Gauhar or pearls, and Toghra, that uses
letters to produce various forms of landscapes and designs.
Calligraphy was an essential part of the education of Kings. Babar,
Humayun, Akbar and Jehangir were all great calligraphers, says
Mohammad Quaza, one of the senior calligraphers in Bidar.
The reign of Qutb-Ud-Din-Aibak is known as the golden era of
calligraphy. Aurangazeb Alamgir was a great calligrapher and used
liquid gold to make copies of the Quran. He used money thus earned on
his personal expenses. Some such copies of the Holy Book are preserved
in many museums across the country.
There were many women calligraphers like Shehzadi Gulbadan Begum,
Jahan Ara Begum and Zebunnisa Begum. It is saidHumayun weighed
Shehzadi Begum in pearls after she wrote a verse from the Quran on a
poppy seed. There have been Hindus who excelled in calligraphy. Suraj
Bhan and Chandra Bhan of Delhi were great Arabic calligraphers during
Shah Jahan’s time.
Poet Mohammad Iqbal translated Bhratahari’s Neeti Shataka into Urdu
and wrote it using calligraphy. Many of Dr. Iqbal’s poems written in
calligraphic styles are used as wall hangings in many homes, explains
In Bidar, the fort, the Mohammad Gawan Madrassa, the tomb of Ahmed
Shah Wali in Ashtur, the tomb of Qualilullah Kirmani in Choukhandi,
tomb of Abul Faiz, the tombs of Barid Shahi Kings Ali Barid and Quasim
Barid, and others have beautiful pieces of calligraphy on the walls
and ceiling. Iranian artist Mughees Shiraz is said to have carried out
the carvings inside the Bidar fort. “Bidar has a great heritage of
calligraphy. At one time, being a Urdu journalist meant being a
calligrapher. The situation has changed only after computers began to
be used in newspaper offices,” says Quazi Alioddin, a senior
journalist with the Hindi daily, Bidar Ki Awaaz.
There are many calligraphers in Bidar now. However, not all of them
are leading a comfortable life. Senior calligrapher Mohammad Quaza was
trained in the Nastaliq style in Arabic and Urdu. He is also equally
skilled in English, Hindi and Kannada calligraphy. Sadly, he now lives
his life painting film posters.
Retired teacher Abdul Raheem, mastered the art of writing mirror
images of Arabic and Urdu letters, as it was necessary for screen
printing. Asifa Rahi still paints portraits and writes film posters.
He also paints signboards.
Mohammad Zafar Ulla Khan produced handwritten books. This is how
Bidar’s famed poet Rashid Ahmed Rashid’s books were first published.
Moin Yaar Khan who was a great hockey player, developed fast writing
method in calligraphy. Former MLC Mohsin Kamal brought out Gawan, a
calligraphic daily newspaper.
Abdul Wahab and Ameen Ud Din Nawaaz are credited with reviving the art
in Bidar. Mr. Nawaaz is keeping the tradition alive by teaching
students calligraphy. Over 100 students attend his lessons. “This
shows that the art is not dead,” he says.
Mr. Wahab who retired as a teacher, is considered a calligrapher of
international standards. He visits the nearly 90 mosques in the
district at least once every month. He writes verses from the Quran
and other holy scriptures along with their meanings on the black
boards there. His visits are so popular that people look forward to
them. In many Masjids, the practice of keeping black boards started
after he began writing.
Other calligraphers like Qaisar Rehman, Anees Hashmi, Syed Quadri,
Javed Mohammad, Akbar Ali, Abdul Sattar Adib and Gaffar Jaffar, Sheikh
Ismail, Mohsin Kamal, Quaisar Rehman, Anees Hashmi have brought
laurels to Bidar with their artistic writing.