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It is a remarkable fact about Amir Khusrow (d.1325) – India’s best-known Persian-language poet, courtier to successive Delhi Sultans and the most famous devotee of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Awliya – that his Persian poetry is as little known in South Asia today as the Hindavi verse attributed to him is well-known thanks to qawwali singing and oral legends linking him to the origins of Hindustani music.
This talk will introduce listeners to Khusrow’s life and works before leading them into an exploration of one of his long Persian poems, The Alexandrine Mirror, where he re-tells the life of Alexander of Macedon. With illustrations of the poem from later Mughal manuscripts as well as verse translations of passages from the poem and some of his ghazals, we will ask why and how Khusrow told the life of Alexander as a lesson in the ethics of technology; and why he adapted for this purpose a tale from the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha, the key Advaitic text in his milieu.
Prashant Keshavmurthy is Associate Professor of Persian Studies in McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies. He is the author of Persian Authorship and Canonicity in Late Mughal Delhi: Building an Ark (Routledge 2016).