Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kashmir in Akbar's Dream

A woman, her head covered, like she was on her way to a temple, praying aloud for the welfare of her family, like at a temple, walked past me and entered the chamber that is believed to house the grave of Akbar. The unconventionally plain walled chamber in fact houses the cenotaph of Akbar the Great.
Sikandra. U.P. July. 2011.

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In 1892, just three weeks after his death, Lord Alfred Tennyson, considered one of the greatest British Poet, was posthumously published. The collection of poems 'The Death of Oenone, Akbar's Dream, and Other Poems'. Among these, 'Akbar's Dream' is considered his last possible work. The poem was set as a conversation between Akbar and his trusted friend Abu Fazal. In the verses giving us visions of Akbar's great dream for his empire, its subjects, his fear of his sons and their budding blood thirst, his prophecy of a possible death of his dreams, and a possible salvation through adoption by a bigger dream - in all of it we can read how Tennyson believed British Empire was the only true inheritor and propagator of Akbar's dream.  The work is an interesting mixup of British imperialistic dreams with their oriental longings.

If one forgets that it's actually a British poem and has a subliminal meaning, an Indian can now easily adopt Akbar's dream. Or perhaps already has. Isn't modern India imagined and presented as a part of Akbar's great dream? That's not even remotely interesting. What is interesting is that this dream of Akbar presented by Tennyson actually starts with Kashmir.

AN INSCRIPTION BY ABUL FAZL FOR A TEMPLE IN KASHMIR
(Blochmann xxxii.)

O GOD in every temple I see people that see thee,
and in every language I hear spoken, people praise thee.
Polytheism and Islam feel after thee.
Each religion says, 'Thou art one, without equal.'
If it be a mosque people murmur the holy prayer, and if it be a Christian Church, people ring the bell from love to Thee.
Sometimes I frequent the Christian cloister, and sometimes the mosque.
But it is thou whom I search from temple to temple.
Thy elect have no dealings with either heresy or orthodoxy; for neither of them stands behind the screen of thy truth.
Heresy to the heretic, and religion to the orthodox,
But the dust of the rose-petal belongs to the heart of the perfume seller.

In 1872, Heidegger (Henry) Blochmann published the manuscript of 'The Ain i Akbari', and then in 1873 followed it with a translation.

In this book, about the origin of these lines, Blochmann writes:


"The 'Durar ul Manshur', a modern Tazkirah by Muhammad Askari Husaini of Bilgram, selects the following inscription written by Abul Fazal for a temple in Kashmir as a specimen both of Abul Fazal's writing and his religious belief. It is certainly vey characteristic, and is easily recognised as Abul Fazal's composition."

The original with translation and his notes follows:


And so, that great experiment too started with Kashmir.

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