Amir Khusrau
Amir Khusrow teaching his disciples in a miniature from a manuscript of Majlis al-Ushaq by Sultan Husayn Bayqara
Amir Khusrow teaching his disciples in a miniature from a manuscript of Majlis al-Ushaq by Sultan Husayn Bayqara
Background information
Birth nameAb'ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn K͟husrau
Patiyali, Delhi Sultanate
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
DiedOctober 1325 (aged 71–72)
Delhi, Delhi Sultanate
(now in Delhi, India)
GenresGhazal, Qawwali, Ruba'i, Tarana
Occupation(s)Sufi, singer, poet, composer, author, scholar
Influenced by Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya
Urdu literature
ادبیاتِ اُردُو
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Amir Khusrau (father of Urdu literature) - Wali Dakhani (father of Urdu poetry) - Mir Taqi Mir - Ghalib - Abdul Haq (Baba-e-Urdu)
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Abu'l Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrau (1253 – 1325 AD), better known as Amīr Khusrau, was an Indo-Persian[1] Sufi singer, musician, poet and scholar who lived during the period of the Delhi Sultanate.

He is an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent. He was a mystic and a spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi, India. He wrote poetry primarily in Persian, but also in Hindavi. A vocabulary in verse, the Ḳhāliq Bārī, containing Arabic, Persian and Hindavi terms is often attributed to him.[2] Khusrau is sometimes referred to as the "voice of India" or "Parrot of India" (Tuti-e-Hind), and has been called the "father of Urdu literature."[3][4][5][6]

Khusrau is regarded as the "father of qawwali" (a devotional form of singing of the Sufis in the Indian subcontinent), and introduced the ghazal style of song into India, both of which still exist widely in India and Pakistan.[7][8] Khusrau was an expert in many styles of Persian poetry which were developed in medieval Persia, from Khāqānī's qasidas to Nizami's khamsa. He used 11 metrical schemes with 35 distinct divisions. He wrote in many verse forms including ghazal, masnavi, qata, rubai, do-baiti and tarkib-band. His contribution to the development of the ghazal was significant.[2][9]

Alexander Visits the Sage Plato, from the Khamsa of Amir Khusrau

Family background

Amīr Khusrau was born in 1253 in Patiyali, Kasganj district, in modern-day Uttar Pradesh, India, in what was then the Delhi Sultanate, the son of Amīr Saif ud-Dīn Mahmūd, a man of Turkic extraction and Bibi Daulat Naz, a native Indian mother.[9] Amir Saif ud-Din Mahmud was a Sunni Muslim. He grew up in Kesh, a small town near Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan. When he was a young man, the region was destroyed and ravaged by Genghis Khan's invasion of Central Asia, and much of the population fled to other lands, India being a favored destination. A group of families, including that of Amir Saif ud-Din, left Kesh and travelled to Balkh (now in northern Afghanistan), which was a relatively safe place; from there, they sent representatives to the Sultan of distant Delhi seeking refuge. This was granted, and the group then travelled to Delhi. Sultan Shams ud-Din Iltutmish, ruler of Delhi, was also Turkic like them; indeed, he had grown up in the same region of Central Asia and had undergone somewhat similar circumstances in earlier life. This was the reason the group had turned to him in the first place. Iltutmish not only welcomed the refugees to his court but also granted high offices and landed estates to some of them. In 1230, Amir Saif ud-Din was granted a fief in the district of Patiyali.[citation needed]

Amir Saif ud-Din married Bibi Daulat Naz, the daughter of Rawat Arz, an Indian noble and war minister of Ghiyas ud-Din Balban, the ninth Sultan of Delhi. Daulatnaz's family belonged to the Rajput community of modern-day Uttar Pradesh.[9][10][11]

Early years

Amir Saif ud-Din and Bibi Daulatnaz became the parents of four children: three sons (one of whom was Khusrau) and a daughter. Amir Saif ud-Din Mahmud died in 1260, when Khusrau was only eight years old.[12] Through his father's influence, he imbibed Islam and Sufism coupled with proficiency in Turkish[clarification needed], Persian, and Arabic languages.[12] He was known by his sobriquet Tuti-i Hind ("Parrot of India"), which according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam "compares the eloquent poet to the sweet-talking parrot, indicates his canonical status as a poet of Persian."[13] Khusrau's love and admiration for his motherland is transparent through his work.[14]

Khusrau was an intelligent child. He started learning and writing poetry at the age of nine.[14] His first divan, Tuhfat us-Sighr (The Gift of Childhood), containing poems composed between the ages of 16 and 18, was compiled in 1271. In 1273, when Khusrau was 20 years old, his grandfather, who was reportedly 113 years old, died.


After Khusrau's grandfather's death, Khusrau joined the army of Malik Chajju, a nephew of the reigning Sultan, Ghiyas ud-Din Balban. This brought his poetry to the attention of the Assembly of the Royal Court where he was honoured.

Nasir ud-Din Bughra Khan, the second son of Balban, was invited to listen to Khusrau. He was impressed and became Khusrau's patron in 1276. In 1277 Bughra Khan was then appointed ruler of Bengal, and Khusrau visited him in 1279 while writing his second divan, Wast ul-Hayat (The Middle of Life). Khusrau then returned to Delhi. Balban's eldest son, Khan Muhammad (who was in Multan), arrived in Delhi, and when he heard about Khusrau, he invited him to his court. Khusrau then accompanied him to Multan in 1281. Multan at the time was the gateway to India and was a center of knowledge and learning. Caravans of scholars, tradesmen and emissaries transited through Multan from Baghdad, Arabia and Persia on their way to Delhi. Khusrau wrote that:

I tied the belt of service on my waist and put on the cap of companionship for another five years. I imparted lustre to the water of Multan from the ocean of my wits and pleasantries.

On 9 March 1285, Khan Muhammad was killed in battle while fighting Mongols who were invading the Sultanate. Khusrau wrote two elegies in grief of his death. In 1287, Khusrau travelled to Awadh with another of his patrons, Amir Ali Hatim. At the age of eighty, Balban called his second son Bughra Khan back from Bengal, but Bughra Khan refused. After Balban's death in 1287, his grandson Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad, Bughra Khan's son, was made the Sultan of Delhi at the age of 17. Khusrau remained in Qaiqabad's service for two years, from 1287 to 1288. In 1288, Khusrau finished his first masnavi, Qiran us-Sa'dain (Meeting of the Two Auspicious Stars), which was about Bughra Khan meeting his son Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad after a long enmity. After Qaiqabad suffered a stroke in 1290, nobles appointed his three-year-old son Shams ud-Din Kayumars as Sultan. A Turko-Afghan named Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji then marched on Delhi, killed Qaiqabad and became Sultan, thus ending the Mamluk dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate and starting the Khalji dynasty.

Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji appreciated poetry and invited many poets to his court. Khusrau was honoured and respected in his court and was given the title "Amir". He was given the job of "Mushaf-dar". Court life made Khusrau focus more on his literary works. Khusrau's ghazals which he composed in quick succession were set to music and were sung by singing girls every night before the Sultan. Khusrau writes about Jalal ud-Din Firuz:

The King of the world Jalal ud-Din, in reward for my infinite pain which I undertook in composing verses, bestowed upon me an unimaginable treasure of wealth.

In 1290, Khusrau completed his second masnavi, Miftah ul-Futuh (Key to the Victories), in praise of Jalal ud-Din Firuz's victories. In 1294, Khusrau completed his third divan, Ghurrat ul-Kamaal (The Prime of Perfection), which consisted of poems composed between the ages of 34 and 41.[9]

Alexander is Lowered into the Sea, from a Khamsa of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi, attributed to Mukanda c. 1597–98, Metropolitan Museum of Art[15]

After Jalal ud-Din Firuz, Ala ud-Din Khalji ascended to the throne of Delhi in 1296. Khusrau wrote the Khaza'in ul-Futuh (The Treasures of Victory) recording Ala ud-Din's construction works, wars and administrative services. He then composed a khamsa (quintet) with five masnavis, known as Khamsa-e-Khusrau (Khamsa of Khusrau), completing it in 1298. The khamsa emulated that of the earlier poet of Persian epics, Nizami Ganjavi. The first masnavi in the khamsa was Matla ul-Anwar (Rising Place of Lights) consisting of 3310 verses (completed in 15 days) with ethical and Sufi themes. The second masnavi, Khusrau-Shirin, consisted of 4000 verses. The third masnavi, Laila-Majnun, was a romance. The fourth voluminous masnavi was Ayina-i Iskandari, which narrated the heroic deeds of Alexander the Great in 4500 verses. The fifth masnavi was Hasht-Bihisht, which was based on legends about Bahram V, the fifteenth king of the Sasanian Empire. All these works made Khusrau a leading luminary in the world of poetry. Ala ud-Din Khalji was highly pleased with his work and rewarded him handsomely. When Ala ud-Din's son and future successor Qutb ud-Din Mubarak Shah Khalji was born, Khusrau prepared the horoscope of Mubarak Shah Khalji in which certain predictions were made. This horoscope is included in the masnavi Saqiana.[16]

In 1300, when Khusrau was 47 years old, his mother and brother died. He wrote these lines in their honour:

A double radiance left my star this year
Gone are my brother and my mother,
My two full moons have set and ceased to shine
In one short week through this ill-luck of mine.

Khusrau's homage to his mother on her death was:

Where ever the dust of your feet is found is like a relic of paradise for me.

In 1310, Khusrau became a disciple of Sufi saint of the Chishti Order, Nizamuddin Auliya.[12] In 1315, Khusrau completed the romantic masnavi Duval Rani - Khizr Khan (Duval Rani and Khizr Khan), about the marriage of the Vaghela princess Duval Rani to Khizr Khan, one of Ala ud-Din Khalji's sons.[9]

After Ala ud-Din Khalji's death in 1316, his son Qutb ud-Din Mubarak Shah Khalji became the Sultan of Delhi. Khusrau wrote a masnavi on Mubarak Shah Khalji called Nuh Sipihr (Nine Skies), which described the events of Mubarak Shah Khalji's reign. He classified his poetry in nine chapters, each part of which is considered a "sky". In the third chapter he wrote a vivid account of India and its environment, seasons, flora and fauna, cultures, scholars, etc. He wrote another book during Mubarak Shah Khalji's reign by name of Ijaz-e-Khusravi (The Miracles of Khusrau), which consisted of five volumes. In 1317 Khusrau compiled Baqia-Naqia (Remnants of Purity). In 1319 he wrote Afzal ul-Fawaid (Greatest of Blessings), a work of prose that contained the teachings of Nizamuddin Auliya.[9]

In 1320, Mubarak Shah Khalji was killed by Khusro Khan, who thus ended the Khalji dynasty and briefly became Sultan of Delhi. Within the same year, Khusro Khan was captured and beheaded by Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq, who became Sultan and thus began the Tughlaq dynasty. In 1321, Khusrau began to write a historic masnavi named Tughlaq Nama (Book of the Tughlaqs) about the reign of Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq and that of other Tughlaq rulers.[9][10]

Khusrau died in October 1325, six months after the death of Nizamuddin Auliya. Khusrau's tomb is next to that of his spiritual master in the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi.[9] Nihayat ul-Kamaal (The Zenith of Perfection) was compiled probably a few weeks before his death.

Shalimar Bagh Inscription

A popular fable which has made its way into scholarship ascribes the following famous Persian verse to Khusrau:

Agar Firdaus bar ru-ye zamin ast,
Hamin ast o hamin ast o hamin ast.

In English: "If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this."[17][18][19] This verse is believed to have been inscribed on several Mughal structures, supposedly in reference to Kashmir, specifically a particular building at the Shalimar Garden in Srinagar, Kashmir (built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir).[20][21]

However, recent scholarship has traced the verse to a time much later than that of Khusrau and to a place quite distant from Kashmir.[22] Historian Rana Safvi inspected all probable buildings in the Kashmir garden and found no such inscription attributed to Khusrau. According to her the verse was composed by Sa'adullah Khan, a leading noble and scholar in the court of Jahangir's successor and son Shah Jahan.[22] Even in popular memory, it was Jahangir who first repeated the phrase in praise of Kashmir.[19]

Contributions to Hindustani Music


Further information: Qawwali

Khusrau is credited with fusing the Persian, Arabic, Turkic, and Indian singing traditions in the late 13th century to create qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional song.[23] A well-punctuated chorus emphasising the theme and devotional refrain coupled with a lead singer utilising an ornate style of fast taans and difficult svara combinations are the distinguishing characteristics of a qawwali.[24] Khusrau's disciples who specialised in Qawwali singing were later classified as Qawwals (they sang only Muslim devotional songs) and Kalawants (they sang mundane songs in the Qawwali style). The musical flow of some of his poems has made them favorites of musicians even today.[9][24]

Tarana and Trivat

Further information: Tarana

Tarana and Trivat are also credited to Khusrau.[25] Musicologist and philosopher Jaidev Singh has said: Tarana was entirely an invention of Khusrau. Tarana is a Persian word meaning a song. Tillana is a corrupt form of this word. True, Khusrau had before him the example of Nirgit songs using śuṣk-akṣaras (meaningless words) and pāṭ-akṣaras (mnemonic syllables of the mridang). Such songs were in vogue at least from the time of Bharat. But generally speaking, the Nirgit used hard consonants. Khusrau introduced two innovations in this form of vocal music. Firstly, he introduced mostly Persian words with soft consonants. Secondly, he so arranged these words that they bore some sense. He also introduced a few Hindi words to complete the sense…. It was only Khusrau's genius that could arrange these words in such a way to yield some meaning. Composers after him could not succeed in doing so, and the tarana became as meaningless as the ancient Nirgit.[26] It is believed that Khusrau invented the tarana style during his attempt to reproduce Gopal Naik's exposition in raag Kadambak. Khusrau hid and listened to Gopal Naik for six days, and on the seventh day, he reproduced Naik's rendition using meaningless words (mridang bols) thus creating the tarana style.[27]


Khusrau is credited for the invention of the sitar. At the time, there were many versions of the Veena in India. He modified the three stringed Tritantri Veena as a Setar (Persian for 3 stringed), which eventually became known as the sitar.[10][28]


See also: Riddles of Amir Khusrow

An illustrated manuscript of one of Amir Khusrau's poems.

Amir Khusrau was a prolific classical poet associated with the royal courts of more than seven rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. He wrote many playful riddles, songs and legends which have become a part of popular culture in South Asia. His riddles are one of the most popular forms of Hindavi poetry today.[29] It is a genre that involves double entendre or wordplay.[29] Innumerable riddles by the poet have been passed through oral tradition over the last seven centuries.[29] Through his literary output, Khusrau represents one of the first recorded Indian personages with a true multicultural or pluralistic identity. Musicians credit Khusrau with the creation of six styles of music: qaul, qalbana, naqsh, gul, tarana and khyal, but there is insufficient evidence for this.[30][31]

Development of Hindavi

See also: Rekhta

Khusrau wrote primarily in Persian. Many Hindustani (or Hindi-Urdu) verses are attributed to him, since there is no evidence for their composition by Khusrau before the 18th century.[32][33] The language of the Hindustani verses appears to be relatively modern. He used the term 'Hindavi' (meaning 'of Hind or India' in Persian) for the Hindustani language,[34] and gave shape to it in the Islamic literature, earning him the epithet "father of Urdu literature".[6]

He also wrote a war ballad in Punjabi.[35] In addition, he spoke Arabic and Sanskrit.[10][36][11][37][37][38][37] His poetry is still sung today at Sufi shrines throughout India and Pakistan.[9]

In popular culture

The 1978 film Junoon opens with a rendition of Khusrau's Aaj Rung Hai, and the film's plot sees the poem employed as a symbol of rebellion.[39]

Amir Khusro, a documentary feature covering his life and works directed by Om Prakash Sharma released in 1974. It was produced by the Government of India's Film's Division.[40]

Amir Khusro, an Indian television series based on Khusrau's life and works aired on DD National, the national public broadcaster, in the 1980s.[41][42] He was portrayed by actor Bhawani Muzamil as a court poet of Alauddin Khalji in the 2018 Indian film Padmaavat by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.[43]

One of Khusro's poems on Basant, Sakal bun phool rahi sarson, was quoted in an episode of Saladin Ahmed's The Magnificent Ms. Marvel. Various renditions of this poem have been recorded time and again, including one sung by Rizwan-Muazzam in Season 8 of Coke Studio Pakistan, as well as another rendition by Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi in collaboration with the instrumental funk band Mughal-e-Funk. It was also recreated in the Netflix web series Heeramandi, sung by Raja Hassan.


Mughal illustrated page from the Hasht-Bihisht, Metropolitan Museum of Art

See also


  1. ^ Sharma 2017.
  2. ^ a b Rashid, Omar (23 July 2012). "Chasing Khusro". The Hindu newspaper. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Amīr Khosrow | Indian poet". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 5 August 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  4. ^ Mehta 1980, p. [page needed].
  5. ^ Bakshi & Mittra 2002, p. [page needed].
  6. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Vivek Ranjan (1982). Famous Indian sages: their immortal messages. Sagar Publications. Archived from the original on 2 July 2023. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  7. ^ Latif 1979, p. 334.
  8. ^ Powers & Qureshi 1989, pp. 702–705.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schimmel, A. "Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Eisenbrauns Inc. Archived from the original on 17 May 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  10. ^ a b c d Iraj Bashiri. "Amir Khusrau Dihlavi profile". Angelfire. Archived from the original on 20 May 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  11. ^ a b Pickthall & Asad 1930, p. [page needed].
  12. ^ a b c Misra 1981, p. 2.
  13. ^ Sharma 2017, p. [page needed].
  14. ^ a b Misra 1981, p. 3.
  15. ^ "Alexander is Lowered into the Sea". Archived from the original on 14 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Hazrat Mehboob-E-Elahi (RA)". Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  17. ^ Rajan, Anjana (29 April 2011). "Window to Persia". The Hindu newspaper. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  18. ^ "Zubin Mehta's concert mesmerises Kashmir". Business Standard, India. Press Trust of India. 7 September 2013. Archived from the original on 9 September 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2023 – via Business Standard.
  19. ^ a b "Zubin Mehta's concert mesmerizes Kashmir - The Times of India". The Times Of India. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  20. ^ "Shalimar Garden | District Srinagar, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, India". Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  21. ^ Blake 2002, p. [page needed].
  22. ^ a b Safvi, Rana. "Who really wrote the lines 'If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this'?". Archived from the original on 8 May 2020. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  23. ^ "'Aaj rang hai' - Qawwali revisited". Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2013., Retrieved 16 September 2015
  24. ^ a b Misra 1981, p. 4.
  25. ^ Misra 1981, p. 25.
  26. ^ Singh 1975, p. 276.
  27. ^ Misra 1981, p. 5.
  28. ^ Misra 1981, p. 6.
  29. ^ a b c Sharma 2005, p. 79.
  30. ^ Saeed, Yousuf. "Amir Khusrau and the Indo-Muslim Identity in the Art Music Practices of Pakistan". website. Archived from the original on 2 July 2023. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  31. ^ Majumdar, Abhik (30 June 2013). "Amir Khusro & His Influence on Indian Classical Music". Archived from the original on 3 February 2022. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  32. ^ Dihlavī 2011, p. [page needed].
  33. ^ Khusrau's Hindvi Poetry, An Academic Riddle? Yousuf Saeed, 2003
  34. ^ Keith Brown; Sarah Ogilvie (2008). Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7. Apabhramsha seemed to be in a state of transition from Middle Indo-Aryan to the New Indo-Aryan stage. Some elements of Hindustani appear ... the distinct form of the lingua franca Hindustani appears in the writings of Amir Khusro (1253–1325), who called it Hindwi[.]
  35. ^ Tariq, Rahman. "Punjabi Language during British Rule" (PDF). Journal of Punjab Studies. 14 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2012.
  36. ^ Habib 2018, p. [page needed].
  37. ^ a b c Dihlavī 1975, p. [page needed].
  38. ^ Devy 2018, p. [page needed].
  39. ^ "How Amir Khusrau's 'rung' inspired the film and music culture of South Asia". Firstpost. 26 November 2017. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  40. ^ "Amir Khusro". Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  41. ^ Rahman, M. (15 June 1988). "Rajbans Khanna's TV serial Amir Khusrau attempts to clear communal misconceptions". India Today. Archived from the original on 22 January 2021. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  42. ^ "Amir Khusro". nettv4u. Archived from the original on 22 January 2021. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  43. ^ Ramnath, Nandini (9 April 2019). "Kashmir films have always been about the location – but are now making room for locals". Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  44. ^ "Amir Khusro Dehlavi - The mystic Sufi poet". The Free Press Journal website. 12 July 2014. Archived from the original on 20 July 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  45. ^ Niazi 1992, p. 5.
  46. ^ Shīrānī, Ḥāfiż Mahmūd. "Dībācha-ye duvum [Second Preface]." In Ḥifż 'al-Lisān (a.k.a. Ḳhāliq Bārī), edited by Ḥāfiż Mahmūd Shīrānī. Delhi: Anjumman-e Taraqqi-e Urdū, 1944.

Works cited

Further reading