About this text
Kalim Kashani (c.1581-1651) wrote Persian poetry in the so-called Indian style (sabk-e hindi). He studied at Kāshān and Shiraz before going to the Deccan to seek patronage in the Indian courts. He became friends with Šāhnavāz Khan of Shiraz (d. 1611), a court official to Ibrāhim ʿĀdilshāh II, the ruler of Bijāpur; but Kalim’s first stay in India was rather unsuccessful, and he was imprisoned as a spy. In 1619, he returned to Persia, settled for two years at Isfahan, without recognition. Some of his poems complain of these hardships. He returned to India in 1621, and until 1628, was in Agra serving Mir Jumla. In 1628, he became a member of the court of Shah Jahān (r. 1628-58), winning the emperor’s favour, so that in 1632, he was given the title Malek al-shuʿarā (poet laureate) and commissioned by Shah Jahān to compose a poem on his reign. Kalim thus spent the last years of his life in Kashmir, composing the masnawi Shāhnāma, where he was buried in 1651. Kalim’s poetical works comprise about 24,000 lines, including around 15,000 couplets in the Shāhnāma and 9,500 couplets collected in his Divān.
The poet wishes to emphasize that not only was Deccan faced with a political crisis at that time but simultaneously it was also struck by the natural calamity of dearth of rain and of famine. Says he: When good fortune turned away from Nizamul Mulk, dew became fire for the pastures of his fate. The region of Deccan was engulfed, just like an old boat, in a terrifying and stormy sea. As its fate became its enemy, all paths to victory were closed. On one side it was surrounded by the royal armies and on the other, its luck failed it. There were no signs of rain or clouds and the land was totally parched and dry. That entire region suffered without water. What can be said about the farmers and their fields and orchards when not a single seed could grow in the sizzling cauldron of the earth, burning like fire in which all seeds were scorched to destruction. In that desolate land and ravaged gardens, nothing could grow except the famine – and a terrible famine had gripped the land. Be it poor or rich, every one was eating the fruit of grief. Bread was scarce and, without food, people’s lips were sealed like the lips of a wheat germ. The mouth of the flour-grinding mills and the baking oven were starved of grain and bread. The repositories of the world had become empty of grain and the bread could be made only from dust. What to say of bread, only bricks were baked in the furnace. The entire world was begging for bread but where was the bread? The only bread to be seen was the bread– like face of the moon. Sheer poverty replaced comfort and affluence. Due to scarcity of food, people ate stealthily, hiding from their own shadow, what to say of neighbours. In such misfortune, it will not be surprising if a mother sold her milk to her children. When bread is dear, guests are a pain, what place is there for a beggar? To live became impossible because of the famine and people began to depart for the Eternal world.
Qaṣida-e- Kalim Kāshāni:
Perhaps may body has become the nest of the birds of death; my poor limbs are covered with millet. The hair coming out of the scabs are like an army of ants that have found their way inside a repository. Excess of small pox has made my body like a net with which I catch hold of pain and misery for myself. My body is a sky of grief and the wounds caused by my scratching nails are the bright stars of this sky. Not only my friends but also the Scribe who records my acts in this world has deserted me. My body has become a mine of boils and out of this mine pearls come out without any effort. These are not spots left by scabs on my body, they are the mark of slavery with which I have been stamped by the Muse.
When due to excessive rain, my tent starts dripping with water, I seek shelter on the saddle. The clouds continuously weep on our misery and the world has become like a prison for human beings. We have three things to eat in abundance: grief, cold and the rainy water.
Rain and water have destroyed all our houses. Everything else has been dissolved by the rain except our tears which are intact. Doors and walls are falling hither and thither like drunken men as if the rain were the wine. Rain has caused so much destruction in the world that no home is intact except that of the water bubble. A carpet of water has been spread on the floor for the Sun which is a rare visitor.
I have been abandoned like the Christ because of my poverty. They want me to pay back their money; alas, why don’t they take my life from me instead. In my shame, I hide myself under ten folds of the earth; and am empty-handed having lost my nails (in digging the earth)
The hand of my greed is repulsed by money; I am not inclined towards collecting worldly goods; it can be said that the only thing I have is fasting – and that too, it truly speaking, is due to poverty.
The animosity that the skies and the stars bear towards me is obvious; so is the incongruity of the inclement fate; just like a dried nest in a green pasture, our poverty is prominent among the people.
One had seldom seen such jewels (tears) which cook the bread for the poor.
In this land, water is not scarce because of several water ponds in every village.
When my desolate fate sows a seed, only its ashes are stowed away in the repository; I am not indebted to fate for providing oil for my lamp; I set my house on fire to light my solitary cell.
It has seen such calamity from the floods of my tears; that the colour never returns to my face; The rain become flames before it reaches the miserable pastures of my hope.