Amir Khusrau

Under the Spell of Amir Khusrau

Ten years ago, Pradeep Sharma Khusrau decided to dedicate his life to spreading the work of Khusrau throughout the world, and in the process, he acquired a large, enviable collection of books, music, postal stamps, records, audio and video cassettes, CDs and DVDs on the poet saint. Sharma has even guided students to complete their thesis on Khusrau. His story in his own words:

The biggest feat a human can achieve is to find the purpose of his or her life. Until then, we are just wandering souls, in search of our calling. But, I have found mine. Thank God, for the night a decade ago, when I happened to listen to a rare gramophone record on the writings of the legendary saint, poet and musician of the 13th century – Amir Khusrau.

The record was titled ‘The Multi-faceted Genius of Amir Khusrau Dehalvi’. I was so spellbound by the poetry that I kept playing the record over and over again, all night long. His poetry was crafted to fit all forms of Hindustani music – classical, semi-classical and folk. The record also had riddles called, keh (sayings) mukarnis (denial) which were specifically written for adolescent girls and children. The writing style, the selection of words, left me sleepless. Next morning, I rushed to the market to look for more literature on Amir Khusrau.

I was surprised to find the sheer dearth of books on Amir Khusrau and his works in book shops and universities. So, I decided to delve deeper. During my quest, I met Mohammed Yunus Salim – the former Governor of Bihar. He is the founder member of Aiwan-e-Ghalib Society and All India Khusrau Society. He had a few books on Amir Khusrau and he presented three of them to me. One of them was titled, ‘Amir Khusrau Dehlvi’ (edited by Dr Zoe Ansari).

It is touted to be the world’s most comprehensive encyclopaedia on Amir Khusrau. It is a compilation of national and international writings on Khusrau and was published in 1975. After reading that book, I realised that multi-faceted is an understatement to define Khusrau’s personality. I was amazed to know that he was not just a poet and a Sufi saint, he was an astrologer, a linguist, a mathematician, a historian, a musician, a warrior, a philosopher, a scholar, and an instrumentalist.

He taught in the most prestigious universities of world and his works transcend different subjects. He is regarded as a legend in Central Asia (where his roots are).  The more I read about Khusrau, the more attracted I was towards him. Disappointingly, much of his work in India is now lost. What remains is largely in the Persian language.

It was shocking to find such neglect of one of the greatest poets India ever had. None of his original works have been translated and published. There are commentaries on his work, but they have been made in a scattered manner. I decided to dedicate my life in preserving and spreading the work of Khusrau. I took a vow to get his Persian writings translated in Hindi, English and Urdu, so that Khusrau can reach out to as many people as possible.

The challenge was to find Persian language experts, who could take up this project, with very less remuneration. I did not belong to a very affluent family and could barely make living with my career as a journalist and cartoonist. Still, I managed to get 5,000 pages translated from Persian to Hindi and English.

And got two books published —Qiran-us-Sadain (Conjunction of two lucky planets) and Matla-Ul-Anwar (Dawn of Lights). Four more translations are ready to be published. I have written three books, ‘Amir Khusrau Ek Bahuaayami Vyaktitv’, ‘Hazrat Amir Khusrau Ka Atal Bharat Prem’ and ‘Amir Khusrau Dehlavi’. I have written the first e- book on Amir Khusrau in Hindi for Ministry of Culture.

Now, I run the Amir Khusrau Academy in Delhi and have 35 more books in the pipeline. Though, I haven’t done a PhD on Amir Khusrau, many students have written their thesis on him under my guidance. I keep in touch with authors and publishers from all over the world to collect Amir Khusrau’s as many works as possible. In the last 10 years, I managed to collect 200 rare audio and video recordings of Amir Khusrau’s music from all over the world.

I have 2,500 books and manuscripts of and on Amir Khusrau in various languages; 100 gramophone records; and 200 rare paintings, illustrations, postal stamps etc. I participated in various projects on Amir Khusrau with organisations such as ICCR, IGNCA, UNESCO, Aga Khan Foundation, INTACH, Sangeet Natak Academy, Urdu Academy etc. I have sent copies of Khusrau’s Persian works collected from across the world to various scholars in India, to see if they are willing to translate any of his works voluntarily.

To my delight, a few of them have shown interest and have started the translation. My dream project is to re-write the history of Indian literature in the context of Amir Khusrau. It is challenging, but it’s worth it.  Khusaru is a one of the greatest writers and poets of the world, but his work ought to reach the common masses.

His teachings on Hindu-Muslim harmony and communal integrity are especially relevant now. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia found his greatest disciple in Amir Khusrau and I aim to exit this world as Khusrau’s biggest follower, admirer and messenger.