Zafar’s Lament Immortalized

You may recall the familiar couplet penned by the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar:

“Lagta naheen hai jee mera ujde dayaar mein, Kiski bani hai aalam e na payedar mein;

Kah do in hasraton se kaheen aur jaa basein, Itni jagah kahaan hai dil e daaghdaar mein”

The extended poem and its translation (Ref: The Sufi Courtyard, by Sadia Dehlvi including the translation of Zafar’ lament by Rachana Rao Umashankar) reads as below:

“Lagta naheen hai jee mera ujde dayaar mein, Kiski bani hai aalam e na payedar mein;

Kah do in hasraton se kaheen aur jaa basein, Itni jagah kahaan hai dil e daaghdaar mein;

Umr-e-daraaz maang kar laaye the chaar din, Do aarzoo mein katgeye, do intezaar mein;

Kaanton ko mat nikaal chaman se, O baaghbaan, Yeh bhi gulon ke saath pale hain bahaar mein;

Kitna hai badnaseeb, Zafar, dafn ke liye, Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo e yaar mein.

(In this land so desolate I find now only pain; Has this impermanent world ever afforded gain?

Tell these desires to find another place; My heart is home now to only wound and stain.

For a long life I’d wished; was granted but four days; Two I spent in hope, the other two in vain.

O Gardener don’t remove the thorns from these flowers; They too, like the roses, have supped on Spring rain.

No lament from the Nightingale, the trapper has no regrets; For destiny has allotted some with only bond and chain.

How unfortunate you are, Zafar, for in your native land; There’s not even a plot of earth for your body to be lain)

Few days back, it was dear friend Late Sadia’s 64th birth anniversary – the same day I also received these two stamps – one of Gambia showcasing Zafar’s portrait and the other was the 1975 Indian issue, commemorating the 200th birth anniversary of Zafar.

The designer of the Indian stamp, instead of placing a much used portrait of the Emperor, had instead chosen exactly the same couplet, to highlight the literary persona of the Emperor:

Lagta naheen hai jee mera ujde dayaar mein, Kiski bani hai aalam e na payedar mein;

Kah do in hasraton se kaheen aur jaa basein, Itni jagah kahaan hai dil e daaghdaar mein…

In my photo of the Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli taken few years ago, the empty space or the “sardgaah’ near the tomb stones of the three earlier Mughal Emperors (Bahadur Shah I – 1701–1712), Shah Alam II – 1759–1806), Akbar Shah II – 1806–37), was identified by the Last Mughal Zafar as the place for his own tomb stone, in the vicinity of the sacred Sufi Dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki… however his death was destined to happen in faraway Rangoon , where he had been deported by the British post 1857. How prophetic were his couplets!

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