Sunday, September 1, 2013

Muhammad Shah Rangeela: The Great Mughal...

King of Hearts!
Definitions belong to the Definers, not to the Defined- Toni Morrison, Beloved

"Human thinking is a process of cubby-holing your experiences, then drawing upon the bank of your past experiences, applying the principles of logic you learnt to the cubby-holed data plus past experiences put together, and making predictions, i.e. extrapolations, as also interpolations....."

These lines were written by none else than nacheez in the well-read post
As we know, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ perpetuates life and hence living beings are by instinct, comfortable with the ‘predictable’. For, if the environment is predictable, they can go by the cubby-holed experiences, without coming up against unexpected danger, and survive merrily! Man therefore looks for regularity and predictability, tends to over-simplify things, loves thinking in black and white, and that is the beginning of ‘Prejudice’, which is the bane of human existence. Sharu Rangnekar wrote about a childhood experience in his series on Management. On the first day in Grade I, the kid next to him introduced himself as Abdul, and Sharu steered clear of him because his granny had once told him that Muslims were unreliable, and as Abdul was a Muslim name, the classmate was to be avoided. Of course wiser counsel prevailed later, Sharu supposedly being better educated and cultured than Namo, he, he, he…!

The baby Sharu or the semi-literate Namo can be pardoned for swearing by old-wives tales, but the following paragraph trotted out as History by Britannica, of all publications, is unpardonable and is an act of criminal, casual cubby-holing:

Muḥammad Shah, in full Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad Shah (Rangila), original name Roshan Akhtar   (born August 7, 1702, Ghaznā [now Ghaznī], Afghanistan—died April 6, 1748, Delhi, ineffective, pleasure-seeking Mughal emperor of India from 1719 to 1748.

The depths Old Blighty can sink to! Et tu Britannica? Then I must unsubscribe…(*)


Because Muhammad Shah Rangeela sang and danced, loved Music and Wine, he is to be lampooned! This bloody Posterity ki bachchi….! People throng the Sound and Light show at the Delhi Red Fort, paying Rs. 90/- per head, (Rs. 330/- for foreigners), are regaled with the sounds of wine being poured to the Badshah who drunkenly professes “Dilli doooor ast”, and come out believing that is the History of the edifice called Red Fort. Rs. 90/- is enough to sway one’s judgement…It’s a crying shame the Government perpetuates such crass prejudice and also charges a fee for the same-$ 4.50, which was $ 5.50 when we began writing this blog: how fast things move in India..!

Same applies to another hero of Indian Culture. Humanity will forget Monuments, forget peer-o-hazraat, Prime Ministers and Presidents, Jana Gana Mana , Vande Maataram may perish, but Babul Mora Naihar Chooto Hi Jai will always resonate in the human heart! The immortal composition is the creation of another persona non grata of Lady Posterity, Wajid Ali Shah 'Akhtarpiya'! [see ]

Mohammad Shah Rangeela himself willingly or un-wittingly assisted Posterity in her damning act, by voluntarily  adopting the taqhwallus ‘Rangeela’. You’ll appreciate, labels are so significant in mindless-ness.

Today we highlight the life and times of Mohammad Shah, the colourful Mughal emperor, whose footprints on the sands of the sub-continent’s culture are the most enduring and endearing…

Here is the succession of emperors of the Mughal dynasty alongwith IK’s ABC analysis:

Sr. No.EmperorReign in AD__to__Relationship with PredecessorReign Length A/B/C =Decades 3/2/1Political Impact A/B/CCultural Impact A/B/C
5Shah Jehan1627-1658SonABA
7Bahadur Shah I1707-1712SonCCC
8Jahandar Shah1712-1713SonCCC
10Rafiúd Darjat1719First Paternal CousinCCC
11Shah Jehan II Rafiúd Daula1719BrotherCCC
12Mohammad Shah1719-1748First Paternal CousinAAA
13Ahmed Shah Bahadur1748-1754SonCBC
14Alamgir II1754-1759
Second Cousin of Father, but reverting to main line interrupted after Jahandar 40 years back.
15Shah Alam II1759-1806SonAAC
16Akbar Shah II1806-1837SonACC
17Bahadur Shah Zafar1837-1857SonBAA
The succession from Babur to Aurangzeb is common knowledge, though we bet you’ll be flummoxed with the following quiz:  हुमायूँ अकबर के बाप का क्या था ?(**)

Seemingly, reign length bears some correlation to cultural impact. Perhaps the cultural impact
he,he,he ka raaz
aids the longevity as it enervates the schemers against the throne…. ‘reign in’, he, he, he…? Shah Alam II’s reign was long, with little cultural impact because he was a Maratha puppet, and the reign was only in name. sultanat-e-Shah Alam, aa Dilli, ta Palam.... सल्तनत - -शाह आलम , दिल्ली, ता पालम, they said.
The permanent impact is the Cultural impact, as it reaches the Social DNA so to say. Soul-stirring I sayyyy… Nacheez is nacheez because of his mental programming, nothing doing with his ugly exterior…In any case, in the analysis of IK, only 3 emperors receive 3 A’s, Akbar, Aurangzeb and our protagonist at 12! If you discount Aurangzeb’s achievements as coercive, you’d be justified, and then you have to call Mohammad Shah Rangeela the third most successful Mughal Emperor after Akbar and of course the man who started it all: Babur! The ranking goes on to show the importance the sub-continent lays on things cultural, highlights the store at least IK stores by these achievements. Still not convinced? What if you were told that Khayal Gayaki and Urdu Shayari, not to speak of the sensational Qawwali, were born and incubated, they thrived and matured, during Rangeela’s long reign of 3 decades?!  

The impact of Akbar’s Navratnas led by Mia Tansen wilts before that of Rangeela’s Ratnas , for they were Mir Taqi Mir, Sadarang and Adarang! What Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram are to evolution of Marathi, Mir and Mirza Ghalib are to Urdu, ahem... You’ll find more on this sphere of Rangeela’s reign in Pakistani writings than Indian. Our people may parrot she-rs, but are more concerned with reviving a fossilised Sanskrit, the way Professor John Hammond re-created the dinosaur (Jurassic Park). To negate the beliefs for which Sant Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram were martyred. 

Here are excerpts an article by the well-known, articulate biographer of Allama Iqbal,  Khurram Ali Shafique in Dawn (aur Hedonism Phedonism ki Theoury  ko ghar rakh kar aana, haal-e-Bartannia  to aapne oopar dekh hi liya…):

Most Mughal historians belonged to the class of the militant nobility, and hence they either painted (the Shah) as a monster of sloth, or simply ignored him as a pleasure loving escapist. In reality he was more of a realist that his accusers, perhaps the first pragmatist in the House of Taimur since Shahjehan.

Out of the ashes of the Mughal Empire, Muhammad Shah created a Delhi that was a city of culture. The middle and upper classes were marked with an easy going attitude with a high value placed on etiquette and courtesy. Even in the realm of music, the classical dhurpad was replaced with the easier one, khayal. The elegant Persian language gave way to Urdu, the language of the commoner, now adopted by the elite for the first time. The general atmosphere was liberal, though also licentious. It was the Delhi of Muhammad Shah that Mir Taqi Mir recalled a generation later with pride and nostalgia, "Dehli jo eik shehr tha alam mien intikhab..."

It is said that when a messenger brought news to Muhammad Shah about Nadir's advances in the Frontier and Punjab, he dipped the letter into his cup of wine, reciting the famous verse from Hafiz: Ein daftar-e-bemaana gharq-e-mae naab oola! (This meaningless account better be drowned in neat wine)

There is no way we can verify this story, which is inconsistent with Muhammad Shah's typical behavior on such occasions. Upon hearing the news of a far-off province taken away he would usually retreat into a garden and spend a few hours in flower gazing with a gloomy look on his face. But then, again, consistency is not a virtue to be found in those who represent a decadent society.

Whatever may be the case, we know that when Nadir Shah headed towards Delhi he found Muhammad Shah waiting at Karnal, fully prepared for a battle. The Persians massacred some twenty thousand soldiers on the Mughal side in a preliminary skirmish that lasted about two hours. Muhammad Shah stopped the battle and opened talks. Nizamul Mulk convinced Nadir to return with booty of twenty million rupees. This remarkable achievement in diplomacy was sabotaged when a Mughal noble, who had a personal grudge against Nizamul Mulk, informed the invader that he had made a poor bargain. Nadir now insisted on being taken as a guest to Delhi.....

Muhammad Shah has been underrated because historians take it for granted that the sword and the spear are superior to the lyre and the lute. That is an oversimplification, since the mystery of life can only be understood if seen in all its colors. If things could be drawn in black and white, then this world would be an easy place to live in, and perhaps also very boring.

And this is Mir’s Ghazal for which Mirza saheb would barter his entire deewan:

Munh taka hi kare hai jis-tis ka
hairat hai ye aina kis ka

sham se bujha bujha sa rahta hai
dil hua hai chirag muflis ka

the bure mugabachon k tewar lek
shaikh maikhane se bhala khiska

faiz-e-abr chashm-e-tar se utha
aj daman wasi hai is ka

tab kis ko jo hal-e-'Mir' sune
hal hi aur kuch hai majalis ka

Uma Ramamurty is a connoisseur of all that is best in Urdu Shayari, tarannum included. She was Asstt. Professor & Director of Research Informatics, Department of Paediatrics, Dan L.Duncan Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. Her take:

Mir Taqi Mir was born at Agra in 1723. He spent his early childhood under the care and companionship of his father, whose constant emphasis on the importance of love and the value of continence and compassion in life went a long way in moulding the character of the poet, and this became the chief thematic strand of his poetry.

Mir is one of the immortals among Urdu poets. He is a perfect artist of the ghazal, which makes its peculiar appeal through compression, suggestion, imagery and musicality. He builds his poetry on the foundations of his personal experience. His favourite theme is love - love unfulfilled - and his favourite manner is conversational. Mir lived at a time when Urdu poetry was yet at a formative stage - its language was getting reformed and purged of native crudities, and its texture was being enriched with borrowings from Persian imagery and idiom. Aided by his aesthetic instincts, Mir struck a fine balance between the old and the new, the indigenous and the imported elements. Knowing that Urdu is essentially an Indian language, he retained the best in native Hindi speech and leavened it with a sprinkling of Persian diction and phraseology, so as to create a poetic language at once simple, natural and elegant, acceptable alike to the elite and the common folk. Consequently he has developed a style which has been the envy of all succeeding poets..

This is what that lovable braggart Ghalib said about himself:

Poochhte hain vo ki ‘Ghalib kaun hai’ ?
Koi batlaao ki hum batlaaein kya ?

and ama aa riya hey, aa riya hey, sabr karo:

Hain aur bhi duniya main sukhanwar bahut achche
kehte hain ki ghalib ka hai andaaz i bayan aur

What Ghalib said about Mir:

Raikhte* ke sirf tumhi nahin ho ustad Ghalib
Suna hai agle zamane main koi Mir bhi tha.

Mir was more subtle and restrained in Self Appraisal:

Mir dariya hai, sune sheyr zabaani uski
Allah Allah re tabiyat ki ravani uski.

Hindustani Classical:

Here, the Shah should go un-challenged. Shafique has delineated the transition from dhrupad to khayal. The terminology does the rest. Dhrupad stands for Dhruv-pad (Dhruva= Pole star- immutable) and khayal  for ‘ínterpretation’. The feet of that Chinese maiden, which were cribbed and constrained by iron shoes were rendered unfettered at a stroke, and boyyyyy..…the way she sprinted and continues to do so…

We all know the influence Adarang and Sadarang (Niyamat Khan and Feroz Khan) exercised on Gwalior gayaki through Hassu Khan and Haddu Khan. A little bird (***) tells us that the practice of adopting taqhwallus originated in the times of Rangeela as innovators were making a break with the establishment, trying unsuccessfully to hide under the cover of pseudo anonymity. 

The question ‘where was the Ulema?’ is beyond our purview, however interesting it’d be to know…but one darkly suspects, this question has something to do with the whole liberalisation interlude highlighted in purple above...holds the key so to say...remember those seminal words Sherlock Holmes utters in Silver Blaze, on why he suspected insider involvement...'the *** who didn't ****' ? Can't be reproduced here under house rules, but try googling if  you forgot...

But it was as if after a Cultural Ice Age the Sun had suddenly come out in all its glory, and people cast away their musty old coats and mufflers, exchanging them for a trendy tan...

Here is the Malhar (Pandit Bhimsen Joshi) which famously commemorates the Badshah:


Wellll...that's a most interesting clip, I sayyyy...with due respect to the esteemed audience, it appears as if the great genius has been kidnapped by a group of bandits, and unmindful of his fate, Panditji is busy regaling the flippancy or character assassination on IK....thereby also hangs a tale, better, an unconfirmed legend which was related on the Mumbai channel insync,  said to be the only 24x7 channel dedicated to Indian Classical based music. Pt. D.V. Paluskar, or Bapurao, who died young (34) but left an indelible imprint on Indian Music, was an inveterate traveller and therefore exposed to great travel-risk. While traversing Bihar, he was likewise abducted by a dacoit gang, the sargana of which happened to dote on the music of DV's father VD, and just wanted to savour some of VD's classic bhajans in the golden voice of DV! तेहीनो दिवसः गतः ! Gone are the days when even our dacoits were aesthetically inclined...Ya...Bapurao was honourably released and accorded a fitting farewell...

Adarang: A. Kannan, sounding like Guru Ustad Amir Khan Indori : Meghe Dhaka Tara

Half of all great bandishen  will contain Sadarang par Rang barasao or ham to Sadarang tumko chaahat hain, ultimate being ja je apne mandarva in Bhimpalasi:

Pray what is left of Hindustani Classical Vocal, minus Rangeela?
Unassailable logic: par baqaul Sahir, Magroor zamana mere liye kyun waqt apna barbaad kare? All we can plead is: there are two jahans: jahan-e-dil and jahan-e-dimagh: Rangeela was the ruler of Hearts...if you google jahan-e-dimagh for the era, all you'll get is "HTTP Error 404"...

Remember what Blaise Pascal had to say on the issue: 

The heart has its reasons which Reason knows not...
(*)YT became a paid Britannica subscriber because it happens to be one of the kosher sources so far as son Bittya’s Project-work is concerned. He studies in the country’s leading Law School at Bangalore, and there have been cases where students quoting from Wikipedia have been caned by the VC, he, he, he…

(**) Ans: नाम

(***) None other than nacheez! Ha, ha, ha…


Tarun said...

Thanks a ton for the wonderful blog! Love it!
I enjoyed reading your article on Muhammad Shah Rangila. Are you sure the Malhar piece ( Pt. Bhimsen Joshi) was composed by Rangeela and not Sadarang? (...sadarangiley ko sukhdayi...towards the end, exactly where one would encounter the 'maqtaa' according to the norms of Urdu nazm).

Is that iconic qawwali 'maula saim chishti' from the superlative movie 'Garm Hawa'?

vidushi said...

Hi Kaka, typical of you. I think this campus program on Indian music I planned this Thanksgiving can be made into a retro on Rangila!

sanjiv bokil said...

Kya baat hai! That's the qawwali indeed! Sharp observations, both. Since Sadarangiley was again a taqhwallus of the Badshah, I went along with the belief, but further inquiry substantiates your view. In deference to Posterity I have edited the entry. Thanks....

sanjiv bokil said...

Great! Don't forget to invite me!

Milind said...

Oh that was great treat on history of Hindustani music and history per say

Sunil Sunkara said...

Very interesting read, how can I find more poetic compositions written by Muhammad Shah? Have you come across any book ascribed to him?