Hazrat Amir Khusrau lived from 1253 to 1325 CE which made him live through the period of 11 different Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate, from Ghiyasuddin Balban to Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. Referred to as “Parrot of India” (Tuti-e-Hind), “Voice of India”, “Father of Urdu Literature”, “Father of qawwali”, Ab’ul Hasan Yamin ud-Din Khusrow, better known as Amir Khusrau was an Indian musician, scholar and poet, who still remains an iconic figure in the cultural history of India and Pakistan, even after 700 years of his death. Buried next to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in the Nizamuddin Dargah complex, his grave reminds us of his deep connection with his spiritual master, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and his work that reminds us of the lost ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb’; an eccentric culture that was built up with both Hindu and Muslim traditions, that had begun to emerge to during the time of Amir Khusrau.
खुसरो बाजी प्रेम की मैं खेलूं पी के संग जीत गयी तो पिया मोरे हारी पी के संग
साजन ये मत जानियो तोहे बिछड़त मोहे को चैन दिया जलत है रात में और जिया जलत बिन रैन
Khusrau had an illustrious career under the Delhi Sultanate, and in order to understand his work one must know about his early years and how he came up and made his position in the courts of the Sultanate. Khusrau was born in the Patiyali district, in the present-day district of Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh. Khusrau’s father, Saifuddin Mehmood, was a tribal chief of the Lachin tribe, placed in the city of Takash in present-day Turkmenistan. His father had been forced to migrate to India owing to the invasions of the Mongol Genghis Khan. His father served under the police force of Sultan Iltutmish and his maternal grandfather served as the Arzi Mumalik (Defence Minister) under Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban.
आ साजन मोरे नयनन में, सो पलक ढाप तोहे दूँ न मैं देखूँ और न को, न तोहे देखन दूँ
खुसरो पाती प्रेम की बिरला बाँचे कोय वेद, कुरान, पोथी पढ़े, प्रेम बिना का होय
At the age of 8, Khusrau’s father passed away, and he along with his mother, moved to Delhi in his maternal grandfather’s (Imad-ul-Mulk) house. It was in this house in Delhi that Khusrau developed his love for India and learned Turkish, Persian, and Arabic languages. He composed his first Divan (Collection of poems), Tuhfat us-Sighr (The Gift of Childhood) from the age of 16-18. In his poems, Khusrau repeatedly reiterated on the fact that he was Indian Turk (Turk-e-Hindustani). At the age of 20, Khusrau’s grandfather passed away and this is when he joined the army of Malik Chajju (nephew of Ghiyasuddin Balban). As he served in the military of Malik Chajju (also called Kishlu Khan), his poetry started to receive attention in the Assembly of the Royal Court where he was honored. In 1280 Khusrau caught the attention of Khan Malik Sultan Mohammad (son of Balban), who invited Khusrau to Multan. In Multan Khusrau served for 5 years not only as a court poet but also as an officer in the army of Sultanate. His career in Multan came to a sudden end in 1285, when Sultan Mohammad was killed in an attack by the Mongol army of Timur and he was held as a captive. He was let free after some time upon the payment of a ransom, and sent back to the court of Delhi. Works of Khusrau tell us about his experience under hostage: “I was also taken prisoner, and from fear that they would shed my blood, not a drop of blood remained in my veins…My Mongol captor sat on a horse like a lion bestriding the spur of a mountain… If through weakness I lagged a little behind, he would threaten me sometimes with his spear.” After returning back to Delhi, Khusrau wrote a heartwarming eulogy for his Sultan, which brought tears in the eyes of Sultan Balban. If one reads the works of Khusrau, his hate for Mongols is clearly visible owing to his experience with them. Due to his anti-Mongol stand, his works were not very widely received by the Mughals in the early stage, as the Mughals were themselves descendants of the Mongols and referred to themselves as Chaghtai Turks. Under Sultan Kaikubad, Khusrau was able to make his own contribution to the field of music, as Kaikubad was someone who patronized musicians, dancers, and poets all across India. Khusrau was commissioned by Kaikubad to compose the ‘Quirani’s-Sa’dain’ (conjunction of two auspicious personalities). Popular traditions also tell us that Khusrau invented the Sitar by combining the Indian Veena and Iranian Tambura and is also credited for the invention of Tabla. He is also said to have invented the tradition of Qawwali.
अंगना तो परबत भयो, देहरी भई विदेस जा बाबुल घर आपने, मैं चली पिया के देस
खुसरो पाती प्रेम की बिरला बाँचे कोय वेद, कुरान, पोथी पढ़े, प्रेम बिना का होय
After the accession of Khilji’s on the seat of Delhi, Khusrau served under Jalaluddin Khalji, as he was an old admirer of Khusrau. Under Jallaludin, Khusrau was raised to the highest courtly position where he was appointed to the office of ‘Keeper of the Royal Quran’. He was presented with the ‘Robe of Honor’ and the ‘white waistband’. He was also given an additional salary which made him equivalent to the ranks of the top nobles. Sultan Jalaluddin, who was a lover of Mehfils (parties), would often invite Khusrau to them and pay him handsomely. After Jallaludin’s death, Amir Khusro went on to serve as the court poet of Allaudin Khilji. Ziauddin Barani has written in his ‘Tarikh-e-Feroz-Shahi’ that Sultan Allaudin did not realize the actual talent of Khusrau. Although during the 20-year reign of Allaudin, Khusrau was able to produce major works that continue to be read all across the world. From 1298 to 1300 CE, he completed his 5 romantic manasvis: Matla’Ul Anwar, Shirin Khusrau, Majnun Laila, Aina-i Sikandari, and Hasht Bihist. All these poems were together called ‘Panj Ganj’ and were dedicated to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Along with poems, Khusrau also wrote two very important works that tell us about the conquests that led to Allaudin Khalji. These two works were ‘Khazainul Futuh’ and the ‘Ijaz-i-Khusravi’. After Allaudin’s death, Khusrau served as the court poet for his successor Mubarak Shah Khalji. Under Mubarak Shah, he wrote the ‘Nuh-Sipihr’ in 13228 CE, where he listed 10 reasons why India was the greatest place on planet earth.
खुसरो सरीर सराय है क्यों सोवे सुख चैन कूच नगारा सांस का, बाजत है दिन रैन
खुसरो दरिया प्रेम का, उल्टी वा की धार जो उतरा सो डूब गया, जो डूबा सो पार
After the rule of the Khalji’s, Khusrau went on to serve under Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, who had strained relationships with the Sufi Saint, Nizamuddin Auliya. Although Khusrau was a disciple of Auliya, he still received royal patronage from the Tughlaq monarch. Under Ghiyasuddin, Khusrau wrote the Tughlaq Nama, which was a detailed account in the life of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and the city of Tughlaqabad. The year 1325 was the final year of Khusrau, as his spiritual master, Nizamuddin Auliya had passed away. The death of Auliya, severely effected Khusrau, and pressure also added up as his patron, Ghiyasuddin also passed away in the same year. At the age of 70, Hazrat Amir Khusrau Dehlvi was buried next to the grave of his most beloved person, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Texts and traditions tell us that both of them had wished to lie in the same grave if Islam allowed.
खुसरो रैन सुहाग की, जागी पी के संग तन मेरो मन पियो को, दोउ भए एक रंग रैन बिना जग दुखी और दुखी चन्द्र बिन रैन तुम बिन साजन मैं दुखी और दुखी दरस बिन नैंन
Amir Khusrau’s singing not only enthralled monarchs, nobles, villagers, but also renowned Sufi Saints such as Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who came out of depression after the death of his nephew, through the music that Khusrau wove to put the mystic at ease. The legacy of Khusrau runs deep, as even Tansen and Baiju Bawra couldn’t achieve that level of respect, posterity, and fame in the eyes of emperors, people, and history. Ghazals, Hamds, nazams, qasids, and thumris created by Amir Khusrau can still be heard in one’s ear on a solitary evening.
Inside the Tomb of Hazrat Amir Khusrau
Tomb of Hazrat Amir Khusrau in Nizamuddin