As end of the 1700s approached, Azeemabad became empty of the first generation Urdu poets, such as Ali Ibrahim Khan ‘Khaleel’, Haibat Quli Khan ‘Hasrat’, Khadim Hussain Khan ‘Khadim’ and thus the responsibility of carrying on the cart of Urdu poetry came upon the shoulders of the next generation. ‘Rashki’ from the second generation emerged as one of the most prominent poets of that era.
Nawab Syed Mohammad Hassan Khan Bahadur ‘Rashki’, the grandson of Nawab Haji Syed Ahmad Ali Khan Bahadur ‘Qayamat’, born in the royal family of Azeemabad was the 4th Nawab of Doolighat preceded by his elder brother Nawab Syed Mohammad Ali Khan Bahadur ‘Hairati’ (Sangi Dalan) who died at an early age in Bahrain.
Alim Hussain in his book ‘Tazkirat-al-Ansaab’ writes that Nawab Syed Mohammad Hassan Khan ‘Rashki’, married to the daughter of Nawab Ali Qasim Khan Bahadur of Hussainabad was the second child of Nawab Khadim Hussain Khan. Rashki, a sufi in nature as well as in practice was a friendly person who never differentiated between nobles and the commons. His ghazals are a clear depiction of the chaging sufi genre of the urdu poetry in the late 18th century.
Ek nigah se jo teri dil ka mere kaam hua,
Aashiqon’ mein’ tere mera bhi bada naam hua
(Within a glance of yours, died my heart, and thus,
Among your lovers, eminent I became.)
The Nawabs of Doolighat are definitely of an important mention in the history of urdu literature as they proved to be a continuous source of patronage to a number of poets in Azeemabad. Syed Mohammad Hassan Khan thus, was brought up in a poetic atmosphere where the notable poets even from the city of Shahjahanabad like Sheikh Hassan Raza ‘Nejat’ Dehlavi and Mirza Mohammad ‘Waasil’ Dehlavi were associated with his grandfather’s court.
His father Nawab Syed Khadim Hussain Khan Bahadur ‘Khadim’ was himself a notable poet who is widely mentioned in a number of books such as ‘Gulzaar-e-Ibraahim’, ‘Gulshan-e-Hind’, ‘Tazkira-e-Shorish’, ‘Tazkira-e-Ishqi’, ‘Tareekh-e-Sho’ara-e-Bihar’, ‘Tazkirat-al-Akabir’, ‘Badah-e-Irfan’ ‘Yadgaar-e-Shoara’, ‘Tabaqat-e-Sho’ara-e-Hind’ as well as in ‘Histoire De La Litterature Hindoui Et Hindoustani’ compiled by M. Garcin De Tassy . Khadim wrote extensively in Arabic, Persian as well as in Urdu. He was a ‘Sahib-e-Deewan’ poet whose works in Persian and Urdu are fortunately available but the ones in Arabic are nowhere to be seen.
His uncle Nawab Azeez-al-Mulk Ameen-ad-Daulah Syed Ali Ibrahim Khan Bahadur Nasser Jung ‘Khaleel’, Governor and the Chief Magistrate of Benares was an another magnificent poet who had his name coined from the lands of Mysore to the Soobah of Bengal. It is important to mention that at several sites Rashki in his poetry is way too similar to what Khaleel wrote, for instance are the couplets where both the poets are conveying the restlessness of their heart after the sudden departure of their beloved. :
Uth gaya kaun paas se mere?
Ud gaye kuch hawaas se mere !
– Nawab Ali Ibrahim Khan ‘Khaleel’
Jab se pahlu mein mera yaar nahin
Aah dil ko mere qaraar nahin
– Nawab Mohammad Hassan Khan ‘Rashki’
When Nawab Khadim Hussain Khan ‘Khadim’ died in 1787, Rashki considered his father’s friend Sheikh Wajeeh-ad-Deen ‘Ishqi’ as his mentor. Ishqi in his book ‘Tazkira-e-Ishqi’ mentions Nawab Mohammad Hassan Khan in such a manner that it wouldn’t have been possible to believe that Rashki was actually his disciple, if it wasn’t literally mentioned in it. In the same book, it is mentioned that Rashki was a poet with multiple Deewans.
In ‘A Catalogue Of The Arabic, Persian and Hindusta’ny Manuscripts of The Libraries of The King of Oudh’ compiled and published in 1854 by Mr. A. Sprenger, it is mentioned that Rashki’s Deewans were present there at the royal library of Awadh along with that of his father Nawab Khadim Hussain Khan ‘Khadim’, his uncle Nawab Ali Ibrahim Khan ‘Khaleel’ and his grandfather Nawab Ahmad Ali Khan ‘Qaayamat’, but are nowhere to be found anymore.
Doolighat, in that era, was the hub of symposiums. Mushairas were held on a regular basis and were attended by the renowned poets of the era. Deewan-e-Ishqi mentions a number of symposiums conducted at the Doolighat palace. Similarly during the reign of Nawab Mohammad Ali Khan ‘Hairati’, the symposiums were attended by poets such as Maharaja Jai Gopal Singh ‘Saqib’, Shah Mobarak Hussain Mobarak, Kunwar Sukhraj Bahadur ‘Rahmati’, Rai Ganga Prasad ‘Badar’ and Rai Durga Prasad ‘Shah’. Rashki being a witness to these symposiums from a young age started composing ghazals from his early teens. Nawab Nejat Hussain Khan Bahadur ‘Ashki’ in his book ‘Tazkirat-Al-Akabir’ mentions the initial ghazals of Rashki, one of them being :
Jise haaye pyaare teri yaad ho
Wo kab yaad e gulshan dilshad ho
(Whoever remembers you, my dear,
How is it possible for him to be happy with the garden’s memory)
Yun ghaeron ko deve tu daad e sukhan
Aur ham per sada haaye bedaad ho
(There are praises from your side to the rivals,
While in my favour it is a ruthless behavior?)
Ghazab hai rahein ghaer nazdeek yun
Arey door ho ham ko irshaad ho
(Awful it is to see them in your company,
With a ‘stay away’ for me)
Agar eik din aawe wo mere ghar
To weeran ghar mera aabad ho
(If they ever come to my house,
Let, this deserted house be inhabited)
Hai ‘rashki’ jo nashaad aashiq tera
Bhala kyounke tujh bin wo dilshad ho
(Rashki he is, the woed lover of yours
How is it possible for him to be happy without you?)
From this ghazal onwards, Rashki became known for his playful ways in poetry. A touch of mysticism with love and separation from the beloved is very well visible in his works. The easiness and smoothness in his poetry made him popular among the common masses.
Apart from being a poet Nawab Mohammad Hassan Khan Bahadur ‘Rashki’ was an educationist and a teacher. He is mentioned in history for writing several textbooks in Persian, Arabic, Mathematics and Islamic Philosophy. For the rest of his life, he used to teach at Madarsa-e-Deenia, the college established by his grandfather at Doolighat. He even maintained a private library at his residence firstly at the Bagh Haweli and then in the palace, constructed by his father, commonly known as Kothi Khadim Hussain Khan.
The level of Rashki’s popularity can be guessed through the fact that Syed Azeez-ad-Deen Balkhi ‘Raz’ in his book ‘Tareekh-e-Sho’ara-e-Bihar’ mentions that he was even designated as the editor of Delhi Urdu Akhbar, though it was actually Mohammad Ali ‘Rashki’ a disciple of Mirza Ghalib.
Nawab Mohammad Hassan Khan became sick in Azeemabad and following the advice of his doctor reached Hussainabad on the 20th of Rabi Al-Awwal. He died exactly after 4 days of his arrival in Hussainabad, and lies buried in the Karbala.
It has been 200 years since his demise in 1821 but he is still nowhere to be seen in the larger poetic discussions in and around Azeemabad. The urdu poetry in Azeemabad has just been bound to the names of Bedil, Bismil and Shad while a number of poets are not even remembered anymore.
It is disheartening to see that such an important figure in the establishment of Azeemabad School of Poetry is already eliminated. The much questionable thing is that if this is the fate of Nawab Mohammad Hassan Khan Bahadur, who knows what happened to the rest.
S. N. Ali Fraz Rezvi is a theatre artist and a student of social work in the University of Delhi.