Dialogue  January-March, 2005, Volume 6 No. 3


Indo-Uzbek Literary and Language Relations Throughout 11-18 Centuries#

Azad N. Shamatov*

Bearing in mind that Independent Uzbek Republic came to existence only not earlier than in 1991 i.e. at the end of 20th century one should consider that during the period marked above it had been representing a certain part of the greater Central Asia, comprizing its contemporary regions like Tashkent, Sir-Darya, Farghana Valley, Samarqand, Bukhara, Qashq-Darya, Surkhan-Darya, Khwarazm and Karakalpakistan as a whole.

Moreover, literary and Language developments during the proposed period, as it is well known, proved to have been going on as integrated process within the framework of various Medieval and New Times state structures moulded after Sasanid Empire’s administrative standard.

As for Medieval India considered within the given period nowadays it is commonly regarded as an integral part of the whole geopolitical area defined widely as South Asia proper.

That’s why one can treat the Indo-Uzbek relations as interactions between South and Central Asia in the most broad sense.

As it is well known the both regions from the ancient times onwards equally served as an object of various foreign invasions and this phenomena has left it’s great impact on their cultural background embodying in itself a substantial relics of numerous influences and synthetic elements, so that one can mention Achaemenids Empire, partly including North-Western India (5-3 centuries B.C), Alexander the Great’s Conquests, bringing afterwards Greek-Hellenic Cultural Influence on Buddhist Art (3rd century B.C.) and at last ArabianKhalifate (7-th-8th centuries A.D.) which overally represent a brief list of main factors more or less strongly affecting the destinies of local peoples since many millenia of preceding epoch.

It’s quite natural a that these factors immensely contributed the process of social, political, religious, ideological, commercial, economic, cultural and domestic conditions formation, prevailing in both regions.

In this respect a special role in the regions under investigation belongs to Arabic and Persian and their Literary Traditions, due to which local cultural values had been enriched by Antique and Hellenistic science achievements as well as by well-developed religious and philosopical sources, inspired by ancient subjects and images of Judaism, Christianity and Pre-Islamic Arabians. The same should be stressed upon of highly artistic Poetry, which preserved and cultivated masterpieces of Ancient Semitic, Zoroastrian and Manichean Lore and Belle Letters having borrowed and absorbed a brand new system of Versification i.e. Aruz, which subsequently was elaborated up to genuine perfection within literary activities of various ethnic groups inhabiting a whole area under consideration.

At the same time one should take into account a great influence of Buddhist Culture extended on the vast territories including Central, South-East Asia and even Far East onwards. The one can be distinctly traced in Ancient Turkic, Sogdian, Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan.

Some particular trends of this syncretic culture by its origin and development might be found also in other spheres of civilized activities like Philosophical and Social Thought, Architecture, various fields of Music, Choreography and Applied Arts as well.

Although some traces of this global process indeed had been already found and recorded in scholarly investigations but nevertheless a complete recreation of wide panorama describing in full length the historical phenomena related to our concern has remained a far-reaching task in perspective which could be accomplished by joint systematized efforts of many scholars over the world.

That’s why the present monographical essay is targeted mainly on observing only principal features of the process at all, outlined on the basis of original sources.

Side by side with a differentiation of the various aspects of the problem, our approach is directed at disclosing an integrity and intercommunication of Indo-Muslim rapprochement and intimacy as a general course of cultural and historical process, which has been stimulated by linguistic processes of “Muslim Lexicon” borrowing, adaptation and assimilation in New Indian and Central Asian languages.

In this connection the main attention is given to the problem of Historical role of Indian Muslims as a new social stratum, appeared in the depths of Indian society by the midst of the 14th century. The same process in Central Asia had started more earlier and rapidly than in India since a local population has already undergone a consequent experience of such beliefs like Paganism, Zorastrism, Manichean, Buddhism and even Nestorian Christianity as a whole. Thus, a considerable part of this social stratum was reinforced by newly converted Muslims from local Indian and Central Asians, and this phenomenon created the favourable pre-conditions for social and linguistic assimilation of non-Indian and as well as of non-Central Asian speaking ethnic groups.

As for India at the primary stage of the coexistence of two religious communities there were two main features. The first was a formation of new-typed culture, which has synthesized the Indian and Muslim traditions and embraced many spheres of social relations, being under formation during the epoch studied by us.

The second one was an expansion and growth of consolidation factors and trends towards reciprocal rapprochement, which defined synthetic phenomena in linguistic evolution of Northern and Southern India and accelerated the linguistic interference and following integration between both communities.

In it own turn the period under consideration being abundant of devastating endless wars and campaigns, feuds and regional tumults, for instance, the most notable of these were Mahmud Ghaznavi’s invasions and plunderings across both regions (998-1030), Mongols i.e. Genghiz Khan’s raids and conquests over Central Asia, Middle East and Caucauses (13th century) as well as subjugation of Central, East and South India by Delhi Sultans (14-16 centuries) and finally invasion of India by Babur and establishing Moghul Empire (16th century). Nevertheless it was presented by the Historians as a period respectively more or less fruitful in terms not only of literary activities, but also of literary and language contacts between various part of the area under discussion1.

Now proceeding to direct description of the topic it seems appropriate to sketch briefly some synthetic phenomena in ethnic and social life which served as a definite historical background for the trends being investigated on.

Concerning a problem of first Central Asian new comers to India one can notice that an overwhelming majority of the research scholars put a particular accent on that a nobility of the Delhi Sultanate “exhibited very miscellaneous origins, not just Turks, but also Khurasanis and other Persians (Tajiks), Ghuris and Kohjas”2. In this kind of statements we find a definite presence among the Delhi Sultanate’s noble class a lot of representatives from Central Asia, including Turks (the ancestors of the present Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kazakhs, Karakalpaks and Kirghizs) as well as of the Tajiks and Khurasanis, who are representing some part of the population of modern Central Asia and Afghanistan deriving from Itranian origin3.

We consider also as a very significant point the fact of sending “a strong military contingent” by the ruler of Central Asia to Sind “to be present in the royal army camp in Thatta in 1346.”

If our former data in general concerns with Delhi proper and some parts of Northern India as well there is also an abundance of the facts disclosing a real situation in Southern India too. Paying attention at first to the Bahmani Kingdom in Deccan one can imagine an extremely complicated picture arising from a survey of ethnic diversity occured there. Referring to the paper of Muhammad S. Siddiqu “Ethnic Change in the Bahmanid Society.4” We came to know that “the majority of local Muslims professed the Sunni faith” and represented a wide scope of new comers from the various parts of Muslim world, nevertheless we can refer to another observation of him, stating that “Distinguished alien figures like Sayyid Hussain Badakshi, Mir Ali Farrukh Badakshi. Khursro Khan Uzbek... were attained to his (i.e. Bahmanid) court.”

“Moreover we consider as the most interesting that Jalal Khan (grandson of Jalal Bukhari) and etc... were... married to Ala’ad Din Ahmad’s (i.e. the ruler’s) sisters and” “Another daughter of the Sultan became the spouse of a Chingizi prince, Shah Quli Sultan”. So that becomes obvious that inspite of extensive influx of newcomers from many non-central Asian Eastern counties the Badakhshis (i.e. from Badakhshan), Bukharis (i.e. from Bukhara) and Uzbeks (as one of medieval Central Asian tribes which afterwards became an integral part of modern Uzbed nationality) have been representing a sizable and powerful group of Deccani nobility being sometimes an immediate relatives of the Sultans.

The same picture is in general peculiar to the neighbouring Gujarat as well as to West Punjab.

One of the most popular medieval Sufis Hazrat Qutab-i-Alam was “an illustrious descendant of Makhdum Jalal Jahaniyan, the ancestor of the Bukhari Sayyids of Gujarat. He came from Uch, which now forms a part of Bahawalpur...in the West Punjab. Uch, though a small place in itself, has been associated with the names of Bukhari Saints and Ismaili missionaries5”.

Now if we will try to define a reasons of such a great exodus of people from Central Asia and its influx to India, we come across a some views expressed by Dr. Surendra Gopal, who points out, for example, that “Internal political upheavals in Central Asia immediately drew into their vortex the people inhabiting the fringe of the subcontinent...Further he continues going in details ”... The Islamized Turks mounted their invasions on India from Central Asia and established their empire here in the 13th century. Immediately they were confronted by the Mongols whose occupation of Central Asia unhleashed mass exodus raids continued from almost a century. The new rulers needed the skillful Central Asian horsemen for their cavalry. They required the litterati to occupy positions in the administrative hierarchy... In some measures the Indian subcontinent became a part of the Central Asian cultural scene6.

Meanwhile another authors give us much more particular details, like that “in the second decade of the 13th Century, Delhi received a large influx of Muslim scholars and theologians, artisans, handicraftsmen, physicians and men of administrative experience from Khwarizm (Khiva), Iran and Khorasan.”

Reinforcing observations should remind one more interesting approach on this matter which is given in very solid publication of U.S.A. offered a refuge of scholarly fugitives from the Mongols. In the 13th century India became a cultural colony of the Muslim world at a time when the center of that world was in enemy hands.”

In order to draw a proper conclusion from the all facts given before one must underline such points that though there are an extremely complicated impressions of diversity in ethnic contents of the newcomers to medieval India during the Delhi Sultanate and early Moghuls, nevertheless we can anticipate a sustainable foundation which preceded a cultural synthesis as a next stage of the historical development.

Meanwhile a problem of Turkish literature in India as well as of Indo-Uzbek literary relations indeed represents a very painstaking and confused deal for the two main reasons. At first it depends on multilingual nature of the Central Asian newcomers to India. And on the second hand it is due to lower social status of Turkic language in comparison with Arabic and Persian both of which had been considered as major literary languages throughout all Muslim world including Central Asia as well. So at that period the literary activities in Turki in Central Asia proper has been in fact in second rate next to Persian and Arabic, though the period of the 14th and the 15th Centuries has been regarded as a flourishing in the history of the Turki’s Chaghatai form.

As far as first traces of that in India are concerned one could notice that “when the pressure of the Mongols in Central Asia and the Eastern fringe of Khorasan grew stronger a number of scholars and poets found shelter in Sindh. One of them was Muhammad Aufi “...in 1220. He was a famous Persian poet and writer. It is interesting to note that his second book “Jawami al-Hikayat (Necklaces of Anecdotes)... has been translated into Turki several times and was written at the request of his Turkish ruler Qabacha”8. It is propabably an only one link in the chain of obscurity we consider prevailing in the Delhi Sultanate period about Turki Literary works.

Meanwhile in accordance with M-me A.M. Schimmel’s observations the Turki was in fact “a language which must have been widely spoken in the subcontinent, since most of the Muslim conquerors hailed from Central Asia, and the military aristocracy was Turkic to such an extent, that “Turk” and “Muslim” became equivalents in some Indian vernacudlars”.

Taking advantage of that one ought to go in details about some cases of retaining a several typical Turkic titles and terms in Indian history. For instance “in August 1249 the Sultan Allauddin Khilji awarded the title Ulugh Khan “a great Khan” Hasan Qarlugh, the Khwarazmi prince who had ruled Multan and Uch for some years”.

It is also well-known that the Dynasty of Asafjans in Hyderabad Deccan among many other titles bore such a title as Chin Qilich Khan, “which is in Turki means the Khan of Honest sword”. Or one more else “like the Shahs the rulers of Golconda also had a “majlis-i kingash”, which was summoned by the Shah during period of extremy emergence or where the existence of the state itself was in jeopardy”. It seems needed here to explain a meaning of the latter term. It contains besides Arbic majlis “an assemblance” also a word kingash of Turkic origin in the sense of “council”.

To our opinion Dr. A.M. Schimmel is very right in her remark, that “Turkish remained a favourite language in the feudal classes, and dictionaries of Turkish were composed up to the late 18th century.9

She should be credited by discovering a new data on a real scope of Turki’s circulation. In particular she found some marks of that in medieval Sind where several compositions in Turki were written at the reign of the Turki originated ruling families like the Arghuns and the Tarkhans. These are “Raudat as-salatin wa jawahir al ajaib” by Fahri Harawi and “Mathnawi maxhar ul-atar” by Jihangir Hashimi, which were edited by H. Rashdi and published in respectively at Hyderabad (Sind) in 1968 and at Karachi in 1957. The mentioned works have been rendered in the early sixteenth century and seems to be actually the most considerable legacy of the primary Turki literary production in India. To be more precise the former of those belongs to Fahri Harawi who had made previously his own name especially popular for his delightful translation of the classic poet of Chaghatai Turki Mir Ali Shir Nawai, “Majalis an-nafais” in Herat under the title “Latifnama” into Persian.10

On the other hand we have found a brand new approach by S.A.A. Rizvi in his, “Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Subcontinent from the coming of Muslim to the British Conquest (1200-1700)”. He just notes that the Naqshbandi order’s distinctive features were formed by Khawaja Abdul Khaliq (d. 1220) of Ghijduwan... near Bukhara.”

While surveying another Sufi order’s activities in Medieval India we could not help suprising to know that here are two other famous orders which are supposed to be originated from Central Asia. The first one of these informations which belongs to S.A.A. Rizwi (“A History of Sufism, in India from the 16 to Modern Century”, Das Munshi, New Delhi, 1983, p. 83) is the following, “The Shattariya Silsila introduced by Central Asian emigrant Shah Abdullah (d. 1485) in the 15th century... the second one relates to the Suhrawardi order which in accordance with an information delivered by Mumtax Ali Khan was founded by Sheikh Qadi Hamiduddin of Nagaur, who “along with his father... came to Delhi from Bukhara via Farshor (or Peshawar) during the early 13th Century””.

Now it would be more appropriate to move on language aspects of medieval Central Asian and Indian links. It is well known that an initial signs of these are traced as early as in the 11th Century while our ancestor Al-Beruni apart from his foremost Sanskrit studies left behind many examples pertaining to several New Indo-Aryan Languages. We could refer to the paper of George Morgenstierne from Oslo, “Modern Indo-Aryan words in Al-Beruni’s India” (Islamic Culture, Vol 19, 1958, pp. 319-322). He first of all notes that al-Beruni, “was in fact, the founder of comparative studies in human culture. Analising a number of numerals like Barkhu, Biya, Triya, Caut, Panci, Satin and so on, Morgenstierne remarks that, “It is obvious that we have here to deal with modern Indo-Aryan Numerals” (p. 320) and in particular those of Sindhi as Barhu for “one” and the ordinals bio, trio, cotho, panjo and so on.

In conclusion the scholar inclines “to admit the possibilities of
al-Beruni’s list being patched together, the latter part belonging to a dialect with distinct affinities to Pashai (of Dardic origin). The present Pashai dialects are spoken by illiterate hilltribes, but they go back to the Hindu-Buddhist language of civilization of Kapisa, Lampaka and Nagarahara. Very possibly a closely related dialect was spoken also in Kabul, “the suburb of which had still a Hindu population in the second half of the 10th Century”, with which al-Beruni may have been in contact... The occurrence of Sindhi numerals is natural, considering the early contact between Sindh and Islamic world.” (p. 322).

After al-Beruni as a real missionaries of language links between Central Asian and Indian Culture one should highly appreciate the painstaking activities of Sufi saints and their orders especially of those which had been originated from Central Asia like Naqshbandiyya, Shuttariya and Suhravardiyya.

Many scholars use to stress that the contribution of the Sufi saints in the sphere of languages was that at first they discouraged linguistic chauvinism, on the second hand they developed a common medium for the communication of ideas, known as Hinduvi and on the third hand they helped in the development of Panjabi, Bengali, Dakhini, Gujarati and other regional languages of India.

There are many researchers who underlined that significantly enough. In the early history of these languages is the Khangah or abode of Sufi’s which stands out prominently as the main nursery where the language of elite (i.e. Persian and Arabic) and the language of common man (i.e. a colloquial Indian one) came together and paved the way for the emergence of new languages intelligible to both.

It should be noted in addition that the Sufi saints belonging to the different orders were reportedly highly educated intellectuals being capable to communicate in many Oriental Languages. To come back to the Naqshbandiya Sufis one could notice that one of the mounting figures of the order Shaikh Abdul Haqq Muhadith would have related that his teacher Shaikh Abdul Wahhab Mutaqqi who had settled in Mecca, used to deliver his lectures in Arabic for Arab students, in Persian for those who hailed from Persia and Central Asia and in Hindi for the benefit of the Indian Students-Hadith and Tafsir.

In this connection it should be pointed out, “the language of all these Sufi’s in India, who had settled in different parts of the country, has certain common linguistic features. The metres used by them were mostly Hindi and occasionally Persian. The rhyming of all works whether of Hindi, or Arabic, or Persian origin was based on their similarity of sounds as they are pronounced by the inhabitants and their foreign accent was lost. In their mystical utterances the Sufi poets have freely borrowed from the Indian spiritual and intellectual atmosphere and Indian literary motifs. There verses were both discursive and lyrical and sometimes in the form of a folk-tale or questions and answers.”

Outlining a role of Sufi’s Central Asian and Indian Language links one should concentrate also on such a non-less significant problem, as a problem of tolerable atmosphere towards Indian culture and languages created by the Central Asian rulers of India, both Delhi Sultans and Moghuls as well, who reigned over 600 years as whole in the Indian History.

Dr. Kalika Ranjan Qanungo notes that, the Muslims seem to have taken to the cultivation of Hindi poetry even before the conquest of Delhi and Ajmer by Shihabuddin Ghuri... The earliest poets in Hindi were Mas’ud (1112 A.D.), Qutb Ali (1143 A.D.) and Akram Faiz (118 A.D.), the last being a contemporary of Chand Baradai. Sixty-three years after the death of Chand, was born the famous poet Amir Khusrau. Son of a Turkish Amir...he was the first Hindustan born Muslim, who breathed a true Indian patriotism, upholding the greatness of everything Indian—languages, rivers, and her gifts of nature... These Muslim poets departed from the convention of singing lofty themes - kings and wariors, chivalry and philosophy, and set the fashion of depicting joy and sorrows of the country side...” (pp. 49-53)11

A perfect amity and tolerance between Hindus and Muslims having been patronaged by the Mughals since Akbar onwards tended to foster the “Rekhta” of Urdu which represented the principle of unity in diversity, so marked a feature of Indian life in its best.

Besides we came across incidentally a paper of Dr. S.K. Chatterji devoted to a verse by Guru Nanak in the “Adigranth” quoted by Emperor Aurangzeb. According to this Aurangzeb cited thus :

                                                    Tupi lende bawri dende gehare nilaja

                                                    Chuha khadan mawli tikali banhe chaja.

And Prof. Dr. Trilochan made the following translation of this: “Mad are those who bestow praises and honour on the undeserving and very shameless are those people who accept (such praise of honour)... The rat cannot fit into hole, yet has tied a winnowing basket to its waist with the assurance of carrying it into the hole.”

While drawing a concluding part of the paper I have borrowed from these sources a long list of Sanskritic writings having been composed under the Mughals. For instance, there are about ten works on Astronomy, Civil Law, Medicine, Theology, Philosophy, Ethics, Music, Dancing, to be especially dedicated for the pleasure of Akbar. The list contains also five works compiled by the order of Jahangir concerned with Algebra, Philosophy, and Grammar. Besides one can find there eight compositions which have been carried out either on request or under immediate influence of Shahjahan, his fabulous Queen Mumtaz Mahal, Aurangzeb, Shuja Shah, Dara Shikoh and Shayasta Khan, Aurangzeb’s maternal uncle and general. These are devoted to various topics including poetical works, a treatises on Astronomy in Sanskrit metres, and works on auspicious moments as well as works on sentiments, moods, figures of speech and even the literary works containing prose and poetry. Apart from these they have also collected a bulk of data connected with Sufi orders activities in developing a number of new Indo-Aryan Languages like Hindi, Gujarati, bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kashmiri as well as of some Dravidian ones like Tamil and Telugu.


     1.   Elio H.M The History of India as todl by its own historians, London, V. 3, 1867-77.

     2.   Islamic Culture Quarterly, Hyderabad (India) Vol. 62, 1988, No. 4, Pp. 1, 8, 17,22, 23.

     3.  In compliance with Aziz Ahmad’s opinion “Turks and Tajiks... were quite comon in the Mongol armies of Central Asia, relating to Delhi Sultanate period (see Conversions to Islam in the valley of Kashmir” in Central Asiatic Journal, Vol 23. 1979, pp. 3-18.

     4.   Islamic culture, Vol. LX, No. 3, 1986, pp. 61-81.

     5.   M.I. Dar. “Gujarat’s contribution to Gujari and Urdu” in “Islamic Culture”, Vol. 27, 1953, pp. 18.

     6.   “Indians in Central Asia” in India (Bombay), Vol. 28, 1991, issue
52-53, pp. 40.

     7.  Second Edition, Vol. 1, From the Beginning to 1800 AD and reviewed by Arnsli J. Embree, Columbia University Press, New York, 198, Part IV, Islam in Medieval India, p. 385.

     8.  Annemarie Schimmel, Islamic Literature of India, in “A History of Indian Literature” ed. By 1 Gonda, Otto Harrassowitz. Wiesbaden, 1973, p. 12.

     9.   The same work at p. 23.

   10.  He enlarged the original by adding to it a new chapter with the biographical sketches of 188 poets and literary men not treated by Nawai, among the latter Mas’ a Timurid prince. He until recently the seventies has been completely unknown to the world.

    11. K.R. Qanungo, Islam and its impact on India, Calcutta, 1968.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

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