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hafiz

Persia’s revered poet-mystic does not make it to Gulbarga; he is being true to his soul, yet it also means forgoing culinary novelties such as samosas. Image: 19th C copy of the Diwan of Hafiz depicting Hafiz offering his work to a patron.

THE NEW SULTAN – MAHMOOD – will come to be known as the Second Aristotle. Well versed in the local dialect as well as Persian and Arabic, he is a gifted poet and now in the position of Sultan, patronizes some of the finest poets from West and Central Asia. Gulbarga becomes a magnet for artists and poets from West Asia. The Sultan pays equal attention to details of administration and justice as he does to verse. He is conscientious leader. During a famine, he personally pays for the despatch 10,000 bullocks to as far as Gujarat, to bring back wheat to provide for his people at a subsidy. Beloved of his people, Sultan Mahmood sets scrupulous standards for himself. As a prince, he had a reputation for being up-to-date on and setting fashion trends, but in the role of Sultan he will only be seen in plain white clothing. Here is a leader who saw himself as a trustee of his kingdom’s wealth and to his credit, he managed it with good judgement unquestionable taste.

The Sultan extends an invitation to Hafiz – Persia’s revered poet-mystic – going so far as to send a sum of money to cover his journey to the Deccan. Hafiz accepts the invitation and boards the ship at Hormuz but after a sudden storm, the ship turns back to port , shortly after setting sail. Shaken by the incident, Hafiz decides to return to his home country. He makes it a point to compose a poem for the Bahmani Sultan by way of excusing himself and also to honour the king for his consideration:

… When I thought of your pearls, it seemed then to me
To risk a short voyage would not be too bold;
But now I am sure, one wave of the sea
Cannot be repaid by treasures of gold.
What care I for pearls or for gems rich and rare
When friendship and love at home both are mine?
All the gilding of art can never compare
With the pleasure derived from generous wine!
Let Hafiz retire from the cares of the world,
Contented with only few pieces of gold …

Had Hafiz reached Gulbarga, he would not have found himself at sea on the front of cuisine. Accounts of travellers to Delhi (with a similar court culture) at the time speak of drinks of sherbet and fuqqa (made from barley). Meals featured thin loaves of bread known as khubi, stuffed breads and preparations of roast sheep meat and fowl. At a private dinner in Delhi, the Moroccan traveller Ibn Batutta remarked at a preparation known as sambusak (samosa), suggesting it was a novelty for him and that he was encountering this dish for the first time, in India.

REFERENCES
  • A History of the Deccan, by James Dunning Baker Gribble
  • Meaning of Islamic Art, by K.K. Aziz
  • History of the rise of Mahomedan power in India, by Muḥammad Qāsim Hindū-Šāh
  • The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts (1829)
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