Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Keshavdas & Abu'l Fazl

Keshavdas was the court poet of Raja Bir Singh Deo of Orcha, the usurper infamous for murdering Abu Fazl to earn a huge reward from Akbar's rebellious son- later the Emperor Jehangir. I have read that this Raja built a temple in Mathura which Aurangazeb later destroyed prompting, the poet, Chandrabhan 'Brahman' to write
Bibin karamat-i-butkhanah-i'i mara ay shaykh
Kih chun kharab shavad khanah-i' Khuda gardad
(Look at the miracle of my idol-house, o Sheikh
That when it was ruined, it became the house of God!)

Interestingly, Keshavdas's poem on his patron contains high praise for Abu Fazl.
Allison Busch, a scholar of Braj at Columbia, writes 'Abu’lFazl’s death is treated with a narrative generosity that approaches reverence: his body is said to have emitted a miraculous fragrance at death, indicative of his spiritual power. Emphasized in a string of eulogizing verses are Abu’l Fazl’s nobility; his intrepidness on the battleļ¬eld; even his support for Brahmans – all high terms of praise in the classical Hindu literary imagination.'

Dr. Busch highlights the word-play in this verse of Keshavdas-

The question that arises in my mind, in connection with Dr. Busch's theory that Keshavdas moved from a position of hostility to the Turkish invaders to one of conciliation, is whether riti (court) poetry was ever really wholly divorced from bhakti poetry- as the school of Sheldon Pollock might hold. The opposite view enriches our reception of both types of poetry- it reconciles maryada & virodha bhakti- but this raises the possibility that Indian people weren't stupid brutes at some point in their history. Clearly, this is Hindutva gone mad and so Keshavdas really was just a moronic sycophant utterly without morals or character.

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