Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kashmiri songs and stories for Rustam

An illustration to the Shahnama ("Book of Kings"): Rustam and the White Div, Kashmir, circa 1800
Source: christies
"Even now, the people of cashmere read and hear with pleasure, some of the touching episodes about the ancient persians in the Shahnameh of Firdousi. During my visit to that country, last May I frequently heard the Pandits saying:

i.e.,"the person who reads Shahnameh, even if he were a woman, acts like a hero." The episodes are rendered into Cashmiri songs, and sung on special occasions by musicians and singers, before large assemblies at night. In the midst of a very touching episode, when, owing to the difficulty or the danger of the favourite hero of the episode, who has for the time become a favourite of the audience as well, the excitement of the hearers is raised to the highest pitch,the singer suddenly stops and refuses to proceed further. The hearers get impatient to know the fate of their favourite hero, and subscribe among themselves, a small sum to be given to the singer as the price for releasing the favourite hero from what they call his "band," i.e., difficulty or danger. It is only, when a sum is presented, that the singer proceeds further. They say, that even on marriage occasions, some of the marriage songs treat of the ancient Persians. For example, I was told that one of the marriage songs, was a song sung by the mother of Rustam, when her son went to Mazindaran to release king Kaus.

It was for the first time, that I had heard in Kashmir, the following story about Rustam and Ali. I do not know, if it is common to other parts of India. They say, that Rustam was resuscitated about 500 years after his death for the following reason. Ali, the favourite of the holy Prophet, had fought very bravely in the war against the infidels. The Prophet complimented him, saying: "You have fought as bravely as Rustam." This remark excited the curiosity of Ali, as to who and how strong this Rustam was. To satisfy the curiosity of Ali, but without letting him know about it, the Prophet prayed to God to resuscitate Rustam. God accepted the prayer. Rustam re-appeared on this earth, and met Ali once, when he was passing through a very narrow defile, which could allow only one rider to pass. Rustam bade Ali, Salam Alikum, i.e., saluted him. Ali did not return the Alikum Salam. Having met in the midst of a narrow defile, it was difficult for anyone of them to pass by the side of the other, unless one retraced his steps. To solve the difficulty, Rustam lifted up the horse of Ali together with the rider hy passing his whip under his belly, and taking him over his head, placed him on the other side of the defile behind him. This feat of extraordinary strength surprised Ali, who on return spoke of it to the Prophet.
After a few days Ali again met Rustam, who was sitting on a plain with his favourite horse, the Rakhsh, grazing by his side. On seeing Ali, he bade him Salum Alikum, but Ali did not return the salam. Rustam then requested Ali to bring to him the grain bag of his horse, which was lying at some distance. Ali found it too heavy to be lifted up, and it was after an amount of effort that he could carry it to Rustam. Ali thought to himself: What must be the strength of the horse and of the master of the horse, if the grain-bag of the horse was so extraordinarily heavy? On going home, he narrated to the Prophet, what be had seen. The Prophet then explained the matter to him, and said that it was Rustam, whom he had seen during these two visits, and that God had brought him to life again at his special request. He then reprimanded Ali for his want of respect towards Rustam, in not returning his salams, and said, that, had Ali been sufficiently courteous to Rustam, he would, have prayed to God to keep him alive some time longer, and in that case, he (Rustam) wouid have rendered him great help in his battles."

~ Cashmere and the Ancient Persians, Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, B.A. (1871), read on 9th December 1895 for Asiatic Papers Papers Read Before The Bombay Branch Of The Royal Asiatic Society. Published 1905.
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