Muslims who praise Lord Krishna

Religious syncretism

I search you elsewhere, ignorant me! Waiting and waiting and letting life go by, while you reside within the deepest core of me. Let my senses be open to you within me. I hear the flute, I see the melody, I feel the love.’

The se lines were written and often sung by Sayyad Mubarak Ali Bilgrami for Lord Krishna during the 17th century. A musical drama helped us recall the fact that somewhere in history Muslims praised, the Hindu god Krishna. Hari Ho Gati Meri (HHGM), a solo Kathak project was based exclusively on the verses of Muslim poets who wrote, praised and, at times, even worshipped Lord Krishna.

HHGM, is both a search, as well as a demonstration of the common thread of spiritualism and mysticism that runs through the worship of Lord Krishna.  Although considered a Hindu God, Muslim poets were nonetheless keen to express their love and admiration for Lord Krishna.

To refresh one’s memory, try to remember the names of Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, Raskhan and Hasrat Mohani. Have we ever read their names in our history textbooks? A scholar from Columbia University, C M Naim, wrote an article on The Maulana Who Loved Krishna, where he talks about Hasrat Mohani, who wrote Kulliyat “collected works”, which contains a small set of Krishna-bhakti poems.

The concept for the dance show comes from an avid reader and a chance friend of Gauri Diwakar (a professional Kathak dancer in HHGM), Sanjay Nandan. He read the article by C M Naim, and he was pushed to do more research on the same.

“I went to different libraries also, like the Sahitya Akademi Library, where I found books like Kanhavat, which is written by Malika Mohammada Jayas, Indo-Muslims Cultures in Transition and others. Maybe not in contemporary scene, but even before the Mughal period in India, there were Muslims writing poetry about Krishna,” Nandan tells Metrolife.
Nandan selected the various verses, by different Muslim poets for HHGM. Miya Wahid Ali besides, Bilgrami, Mohani and Jayasi’s poems was also selected.

The vocalist for HHGM, Sami Ullah Khan is a professional singer, who has lent his voice for many such devotional songs for Krishna. He says, “In my 19 years of career, I have only sung for Indian classical dances, which includes dadra and thumri, which are solely based on praises for Krishna. I was not aware of so many Muslim poets who wrote for Lord Krishna. But my contemporary link is somewhat the same. The theme of HHGM is more relevant now, when the present generation is unaware of the syncretism of the
two religions.” 

He explains that some of these poems are not only written in Urdu, but also in Brij, Awadhi, Khadi and Kacchi boli.

HHGM choreographer, Aditi Mangaldas explains that an art like poetry is derived from inspiration. “It is not about a minority seeking art patronage from a majority community. To me it is like Krishna being an inspiration to the imagination of these poets which is beyond religion. The same can be true for architecture. Krishna as a concept or philosophy can affect even a non-Indian mind,” she says.   

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