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The Nine Skies - Unresolved Tensions in Amīr Khusraw


Sep 23 2023 to Sep 23 2023 6:30 p.m.



Bangalore International Centre

7 4th Main Rd, Stage 2, Domlur 560071

Event Description

In 1318 the Persian poet Amīr Khusraw (1253-1325) of Delhi completed the most formally accomplished and thematically diverse of his works, The Nine Skies, in 4,487 end-rhymed couplets. Its nine chapters replicate the nine concentric spheres of the Ptolemaic cosmos, moving from the outermost to the innermost sky.

In implicit and unprecedented imitation of Sanskrit poetry in cantos (mahākāvya) Khusraw composed each chapter in a distinct meter and addressed diverse courtly themes: Muslim triumph over idolatrous Hindus, praise of Brahmins and Sanskrit, India’s paradisiac status, disputes between the Sultan’s bow and arrow and densely punning battle descriptions. But he submitted such thematic diversity to the Arabo-Persian panegyric’s unifying logic of praise for the royal addressee. By thus epicizing a living king, his patron Sultan Mubārak Shāh Khalajī, he replicated Sanskrit models like Bilhana’s eleventh-century Vikramânkadevacharita. However, he did so for purposes wholly in line with the medieval Islamic theological problem of free will versus fatalism.

Prashant Keshavmurthy will lead us through the poem’s ingenious structure with passages from his forthcoming complete translation of it into English blank verse, recitations from the original, and reflections on its consummation of Khusraw’s career-long tension between rhetoric as truth-speaking and rhetoric as persuasion. 

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