Love's Subtle Magic: An Indian Islamic Literary Tradition, 1379-1545

By Aditya Behl; Wendy Doniger | Go to book overview

3
Creating a New Genre:
The Cāndāyan

Manuscripts and Paintings

The openness of the possibilities, and the intractability of the fragmented remains of the text of the Cāndāyan, the first surviving Hindavī Sufi romance, make the task of interpreting it as a model for an entire genre a peculiarly tentative and caution-inducing exercise in judgment. The extended fragments of a now-lost original serve almost as an allegory of the difficulties of explicating the cultural history of the sultanate period. Reading the poem is like trying to make one’s way across a swiftly flowing river, large parts of which remain shrouded in darkness and obscurity, on the stepping stones of a few secure textual fragments. The later Hindavī poets had the advantage over us in having complete texts of Maulānā Dā’ūd’s original Hindavī prema-kahānī, written and recited in Dalmau’s provincial court in 1379. Dā’ūd created an Indian narrative genre for cultivated people who already enjoyed the exquisite Persian romances of the great Ni

āmī Ganjavī, with their subtly suggestive texture and imagery, as well as Indian music, poetry, and dance. The later Sufi romances that followed Dā’ūd’s formula sought to emulate and surpass the popularity and allure of their predecessor. Within the sultanate court cultures of Turkish and Afghan nobles and the Sufi hospices they frequented as disciples and novices ready to develop their spiritual taste (ẕaup), the generic formula of the Cāndāyan was to have a tremendous appeal and impact.

In addition to later poems modeled on the Cāndāyan, Dā’ūd’s rhymed Hindavī story inspired several courtly illuminated manuscript traditions, minimally exemplified in the respective styles of the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Staatsbibliothek and Lahore-Chandigarh leaves of the Cāndāyan, the Prince of Wales Museum manuscript in Bombay, and the John Rylands Library manuscript in Manchester, England.1 When confronted by this mass of fragmentary evidence, none with a very clear provenance, and no extended account

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