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Remembering Maulana Hasrat Mohani: A Celebration Of The Diverse And Secular Culture Of India

His poetry reflected his passionate love for his country and his goal of total freedom from the British rule.

On our 72nd Independence day, let us remember the freedom fighter, revolutionary, the poet, the maulana, and the Krishna bhakt: Maulana Hasrat Mohani and celebrate the diversity of India in all its glory.

If the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States was fuelled by ‘We shall overcome’, in India that honour would go to ‘Inqilaab Zindabad’ coined by Hasrat Mohani (1875 – 1951). It became the chant of Indian revolutionaries.

Though Mohani is remembered today for his romantic ghazal Chupke chupke raat din, his poetry reflected his passionate love for his country and his goal of total freedom from the British rule. He along with Ram Prasad Bismil got the proposal for Poorna Swaraj (complete Independence) accepted by the Indian National Congress in 1921.

Rasm e jafa kaamyaab dekhiye kab tak rahe,
Hubb e watan mast e khwaab dekhiye kab tak rahe,
Daulat e Hindostan qabzah e aghyar mein
Be adad o be hisaab dekhiye kab tak rahe!

(How long will tyranny succeed, let us see
Till when will freedom be a dream*, let us see
Hindustan’s riches are in the clutches of plunderers
Till When will this continue, let us see.)
[*dream here alludes to awakening of Indians from their slumber]

Maulana Hasrat Mohani was a very complex but extremely interesting personality. He was born in a zamindar family in Mohan near Unnao (Uttar Pradesh) in 1875, and was named Fazlul Hasan. ‘Hasrat’ (longing) was his nom de plume or ‘takhallus’ and Mohani as he hailed from the village Mohan. His early education was in his village and he matriculated from Government High School, Fatehpur. He went on to join the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh (now Aligarh Muslim University).

Hasrat Mohani was a very active participant in the freedom struggle and was jailed many times. A lot of his poetry is composed during his imprisonment.

Hasrat Mohan was an ardent supporter of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and when he died, the poet penned these lines:

Jab tak wo rahe dunyaa meN raha ham sab ke diloN par zor unka

ab rah ke bahisht meN nizd-i-khuda huro’N pe kareNge raj Tilak –

(As long as he stayed in this world he ruled our hearts

Now in Paradise, closer to God, the houris will be his court.)

Although Hasrat was a romantic poet, he was an active member of the Indian NationalCongress, the Muslim League and the Communist Party of India.

One of his popular verses is:

Gandhi ki tarah baith ke kaate’nge kyun charkh

Lenin ki tarah de’nge duniya ko hila hum

Why should we sit and spin yarn on the ‘charkha’

Like Lenin we will shake the world.

The revolutionary was also a romantic poet and today no ghazal mehfil is complete without a rendition of his evergreen couplet:

“Chupke Chupke raat din aansoo bahana yaad hai

Ham ko ab tak aashiqii kaa vo zamaanaa yaad hai”

(Shedding tears in silence, day and night, I remember

Those days of being in love, I still remember.)

His appeal across nations can be judged from these two stamps by India and Pakistan.

We often talk about his role in the Independence Movement, and his romantic ghazals but rarely do we talk of his devotion to Shri Krishna. According to Prof C.M. Naim, he wrote his first poem on Krishna in Urdu, when he was in Pune during Janmashthami in 1923.

Hasrat Mohani also wrote many verses in praise of Shri Krishna in Bhasha. He visited Brindaban as many times as he went for Hajj to Mecca (11 times) such was his devotion to Shri Krishna.

So while on the one hand, he wrote:

Mose cheR karat nandlāl

lie Thāre abīr gulāl

DhīTh bha’ī jin kī barjorī

auran par rang Dāl-Dāl

ham-huN jo de’ī lipTā’e-ke Hasrat

sārī ye chalbal nikāl

Nandlal keeps teasing me without end;

There he lurks, ready to pour colors on me.

Having safely sprayed others so many times,

He is now set in his bullying ways.

But what if I should embrace him, Hasrat,

Then squeeze him dry of his fancy tricks?

( verse and translation C M Naim’s article ‘the Maulana who loved Krishna)

On the other hand, he wrote innumerable naats and munajats in praise of Prophet Mohammed.

Khyaal e yaar ko dil se mita do Yaa Rasool Allah

Khird ko apna diwaana bana do Yaa Rasool Allah

Remove all thoughts of any other than you O Allah’s Prophet

Make my intellect, crazy for you O Allah’s Prophet

(The answer can be found in his Sufi leaning and learning. Sufism is the path of Bhakti, which has bound Hindus and Muslims together in a syncretic culture, which we call Ganga Jamuni.)

He was a disciple of Hazrat Shah Abdur Razzaq Farangi Mahalli in the Qadria Sufi Order. Sufism believes in losing oneself in the Beloved to achieve salvation and the love of Radha Krishna is a beautiful example of the same.

We can find the answer in the “introductory note to Dīvān 7 where he refers to the god Krishna as Hazrat Srī Krishna ‘Alaihi-Rahma and claims that in doing so he is follow- ing the path of his spiritual mentors, particularly Hazrat Sayyad Abdur Razzaq Bansawi, whom he mentions.”

Hasrat’s poetry written near Makkah for pilgrimage:

ek khalish hoti hai mehsoos rag o jaan ke qareeb

Aan pahunche hai magar manzil e jaana’n ke qareeb

(A strange pain near my jugular vein I can feel

I have reached my destination near my Beloved)

The music we hear comes from one source, it’s just that we are unable to hear beyond the first few notes. Let’s pause and listen today. To my heart, to your heart and our beloved nation’s heart. I am sure they all want the same thing: peace, prosperity and glory of our great nation where we can live without fear and hatred.

Rana Safvi is an author, historian, blogger and is engaged in documenting of India’s Syncretic past. 

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