Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Firdausi’s Letter to Ghazini Mohammad

Gurram Joshua (Translated from Telugu by B. Theodore)

(When the Sultan broke his promise of paying
the poet in gold for the epic.)

Translated from the original in Telugu by

[Firdausi (940-1032) was a famous Persian poet. He was also known as Abul Kasim Mansur. Mohammad Ghazini, Sultan of Afghanistan, requested Firdausi to write the story of his ancestors and promised to pay a Dinar (gold coin) for each couplet. Firdausi completed in thirty years the magnificent book - Shaanaame - containing 60,000 couplets. With high expectation Firdausi presented the great book to Sultan Ghazini. Instead of honouring the poet with gold coins, as promised, Ghazini sent him the coins in silver. Greatly humiliated and disappointed, Firdausi expressed his indignation in a letter to the Sultan in strong terms and refused to accept the silver coins. The infuriated Sultan ordered to behead Firdausi. Firdausi fled the kingdom to his native village Tulu. After a time the Sultan repented for his folly and sent the promised gold coins to Firdausi. But unfortunately by the time the persons with the coins entered the village through one gate, the corpse of Firdausi passed through the opposite gate to the burial ground. His daughter proudly refused to accept the coins and sent them to the Sultan. The Sultan, grieved at the tragic turn of events, built a choultry in the name of Firdausi at the village as a mark of expiation for his sin. The following is the English rendering of the verses from “Firdausi” a popular Khandakaavya by Padmabhushan G. Joshua, a renowned modern poet of Andhra Pradesh. -Editor]

O Sultan Mohammad! the spurious lightnings
I believed and built a palace of hope
which now has become an empty firmament,
Usurping my all, collapsed in hell,
In vain I stand in a world of grief.

The sin of offering my poetic nectar
To Sultans that possess stony hearts,
who offer humans as food to swords,
Reacted on me, how can I get
The money destroyed by willful sin.

Ink in my quill has remained to write;
mournful dillies devoid of rapture;
Unfortunate I am, my strength declined,
The demon of age enveloped my body;
These tears of despair have become the fruit
Of literary service for thirty years.

Each verse a drop of blood consumed
From my body; in vain I wrote;
Will the noble king thus utter lies?
Will he not pay my money he owes?
Alas! I knew not this truth before,
O! Sultan of Ghazni! Mohammad the great.

By Allah you promised O trickster! but tried
To pay me in silver for poesy of gold;
Will Allah be pleased with worship of yours?
He that keeps his promise, O king!
He is human and blessed on earth.

A beauteous palace I built for your fame,
Longevity I endowed to your family tree;
But now I retire with empty hands
Drowned in darkness; my peace has gone;
O Sultan! I wander hereafter in woods
Dreadfully dark and full of grief.

A slave I anointed forever on earth,
Pouring on him perfumes of Jasmines;
O rude heartless king! can gold be drawn
From counterfeit galloon on earth at all?
I poured myself down on my head
Everlasting burning coals of sorrow.

Now I repose on sepulchre beds
Along with Mohammadan kings that rest;
After a thirty-year drudge my heart is weary;
No place for peace in me from now,
My poesy that spread the moonlight bright
Mendacious king! O you have got.

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