Dastan-E-Amir Hamza. It contained 46 volumes and has approximately pages. Though the first Mughal Emperor, Babur described the Hamzanama as "one long far-fetched lie; opposed to sense and nature", his grandson Akbar — , who came to the throne at the age of fourteen, greatly enjoyed it. He commissioned his court workshop to create an illustrated manuscript of the Hamzanama early in his reign he was by then about twenty , which was conceived on such an unusually large scale that it took fourteen years, from about to , to complete. Apart from the text, it included full page Mughal miniatures of an unusually large size, nearly all painted on paper, which were then glued to a cloth backing.
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The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down in Persian, the language of the courts of the Persianate world, in multiple volumes presumably in the era of Mahmud of Ghazni.
In the West the work is best known for the enormous illustrated manuscript commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in about The text augmented the story, as traditionally told in dastan performances. The dastan storytelling tradition about Amir Hamza persists far and wide up to Bengal and Arakan Burma , as the Mughals controlled those territories. William L. At least as early as the ninth century, it was a widely popular form of story-telling. Hanaway mentions five principal dastans surviving from the pre-Safavid i.
Of all the early dastans, the Hamza romance is thought to be the oldest. The romance of Hamza goes back — or at least claims to go back — to the life of its hero, Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib , the paternal uncle of the Prophet, who was slain in the Battle of Uhud CE by a slave instigated by a woman named Hind bint Utbah, whose relatives Hamzah had killed at Badr. It has been argued that the romance of Hamza may actually have begun with the adventures of a Persian namesake of the original Hamza: Hamza ibn Abdullah, a member of a radical Islamic sect called the Kharijites , who was the leader of a rebel movement against the caliph Harun al-Rashid and his successors.
This Persian Hamzah lived in the early ninth century, and seems to have been a dashing rebel whose colorful exploits gave rise to many stories. He was known to have fought against the Abbasid caliph-monarch and the local warriors from Sistan, Makran, Sindh and Khorasan are said to have joined him in the battle which lasted till the Caliph died.
After which Hamza left, inexplicably, for Sarandip Ceylon and China, leaving behind warriors to protect the powerless against the powerful. His disciples wrote the account of his travels and expeditions in a book Maghazi-e-Amir Hamza which was the original source of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza.
In his study of the Arabian epic, Malcolm Lyons  discusses Sirat Hamzat al-Pahlawan which is a parallel cycle of the nature of Amir Hamza in Arab with similarities of names and places like Anushirwan that corresponds to Nausheravan, the vizier Buzurjmihr who is synonymous to Buzurjmehr, the Persian capital Midan and also jinn of Jabal Qaf. But it is difficult to prove who has borrowed from whom.
The Hamza story soon grew, ramified, traveled and gradually spread over immense areas of the Muslim world. It was translated into Arabic; there is a twelfth-century Georgian version, and a fifteenth-century Turkish version twenty-four volumes long. It also exists in sixteenth-century Malay and Javanese versions, and in Balinese and Sudanese ones as well. Moreover, even in Iran the story continued to develop over time: by the mid-nineteenth century the Hamza romance had grown to such an extent that it was printed in a version about twelve hundred very large pages in length.
And by this time, the Hamza romance had made itself conspicuously at home in India as well. The earliest solid evidence, however, seems to be a late-fifteenth-century set of paintings that illustrate the story; these were crudely executed, possibly in Jaunpur , perhaps for a not-too-affluent patron.
The Hamza story left traces in the Deccan as well. In the course of countless retellings before faithful audiences, the Indo-Persian Hamzah story seems to have grown generally longer and more elaborate throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By the nineteenth century, however, Persian as an Indian language was in a slow decline, for its political and cultural place was being taken by the rapidly developing modern languages. It is in these languages that the dastan found a hospitable environment to survive and flourish.
The Hamza romance spread gradually, usually in its briefer and less elaborate forms, into a number of the modern languages of South Asia. Pashto and Sindhi were particularly hospitable to the Hamza story, and at least in Pashto it continues to flourish today, with printed pamphlet versions being produced. In Bengali it was popular among Muslims as early as the eighteenth century, in a long verse romance called Amirhamjar puthi which was described by its authors, Fakir Garibullah and Saiyad Hamja, as a translation from the Persian; this romance was printed repeatedly in pamphlet form in the nineteenth century, and even occasionally in the twentieth.
Various Hindi versions were produced too. But above all, the story of Hamza flourished in Urdu. It was probably translated from a Persian text. However, we have no evidence that Mahmud of Ghazni ever sponsored the production of such a work. Gyan Chand Jain thinks that Ashk in fact based his version on the Dakhani Qissa-e jang-e amir Hamza because his plot agrees in many important particulars with the early Persian Qissa-e Hamza , though it disagrees in many others.
This version proved extraordinarily successful. The Bilgrami version has almost certainly been more often reprinted, and more widely read, than any other in Urdu. In twentieth century, Abdul Bari Aasi rearranged this version by removing all the couplets from it and toning down the melodramatic scenes.
Owing to the popularity of the Ashk and Bilgrami versions in Urdu, Nawal Kishore also brought out in a counterpart work in Hindi called Amir Hamza ki dastan , by Pandits Kalicharan and Maheshdatt. This work was quite an undertaking in its own right: large pages of typeset Devanagari script, in a prose adorned not with elegant Persian expressions but with exactly comparable Sanskritisms, and interspersed not with Persian verse forms but with Indic ones like kavitt , soratha , and chaupai.
The Amir Hamza ki dastan , with its assimilation of a highly Islamic content into a self-consciously Sanskritized form, offers a fascinating early glimpse of the development of Hindi. The heirs of Nawal Kishore apparently published a page Hindi version of the dastan as late as During this same period Nawal Kishore added a third version of the Hamza story: a verse rendering of the romance, a new masnavi by Tota Ram Shayan called Tilism-e shayan ma ruf bah dastan-e amir Hamza published in At 30, lines, it was the longest Urdu masnavi ever written in North India, with the exception of versions of the Arabian Nights.
Yet Shayan is said to have composed it in only six months. This version too apparently found a good sale, for by Nawal Kishore was printing it for the sixth time.
In , Nawal Kishore finally began publishing his own elaborate multi-volume Hamza series. This version of the Dastan-e amir Hamza was an extraordinary achievement: not only the crowning glory of the Urdu dastan tradition, but also surely the longest single romance cycle in world literature, since the forty-six volumes average pages each.
Publication of the cycle began with the first four volumes of Tilism-e hoshruba "The Stunning Tilism" by Muhammad Husain Jah; these volumes were published between and , after which Jah had differences with Nawal Kishore and left the Press. These four volumes by Jah proved immensely popular, and are still considered the heart of the cycle. After Jah, the two main architects of the cycle, Ahmad Husain Qamar nineteen volumes and Tasadduq Husain nineteen volumes took over the work from to its completion around These writers were not the original creators of the tales and by the time the Nawal Kishore Press began publishing them, they had already evolved in their form and structure.
As these dastans were mainly meant for oral rendition, the storytellers added local colours to these tales. Storytelling had become a popular craft in India by nineteenth century.
The storytellers narrated their long winding tales of suspense, mystery, adventure, magic, fantasy, and the marvellous rolled into one to their inquisitive audiences.
Each day, the session would end at a point where the curious public would be left to wonder as to what happened next. The final arrangement of the cycle was into eight daftars or sections. Then came the fifth daftar , the Tilism-e hoshruba itself, begun by Jah four volumes and completed by Qamar three volumes. Though no library in the world has a full set of the forty-six volumes, a microfilm set at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago is on the verge of completion.
Like this purported Persian original, the Urdu version thus contains exactly eight daftars - even though as the Urdu cycle grew, the eighth daftar had to become longer and longer until it contained twenty-seven volumes. This astonishing treasure-house of romance, which at its best contains some of the finest narrative prose ever written in Urdu, is considered the delight of its age; many of its volumes were reprinted again and again, well into the twentieth century.
Although towards the end of the nineteenth century dastans had reached an extraordinary peak of popularity, the fate of dastan literature was sealed by the first quarter of twentieth century. It is available in an expanded version on the website of the translator. He took seven years to translate this thousand-page adventure. Farooqi has done a very close translation of the text without abridging the ornate passages.
His version contains 10 volumes and was published by Ferozsons also Ferozsons Publishers. The collection of Hamza stories begins with a short section describing events that set the stage for the appearance of the central hero.
In this case, the place is Ctesiphon Madain in Iraq, and the initial protagonist is Buzurjmehr, a child of humble parentage who displays both a remarkable ability to decipher ancient scripts and great acumen in political affairs.
By luck and calculated design, Buzurjmehr displaces the current vizier, and attaches himself first to the reigning king, Kobad, and then to his successor, Naushervan. Nonetheless, a bitter rivalry has been seeded, for the widow of the wicked dead vizier bears a son she names Bakhtak Bakhtyar, and he in turn becomes a lifelong nemesis of both Hamza and Buzurjmehr.
The latter soon relates a vision to Naushervan that a child still in embryo in Arabia will eventually bring about his downfall; Naushervan responds in Herod-like fashion, dispatching Buzurjmihr to Arabia with an order to kill all pregnant women. Emerging unscathed by this terrible threat are Hamza and Amar Umayya, who is destined to be Hamza's faithful companion. Unlike most Persian heroes, Hamza is not born to royalty, but is nonetheless of high birth, the son of the chief of Mecca.
An auspicious horoscope prophesies an illustrious future for him. Hamza shows an early aversion to idol-worship, and with the aid of a supernatural instructor, develops a precocious mastery of various martial arts. He soon puts these skills to good use, defeating upstart warriors in individual combat, preventing the Yemeni army from interdicting tribute to Naushervan, and defending Mecca from predatory — but not religious — foes.
Naushervan learns of these sundry exploits, and invites Hamza to his court, where he promises him his daughter Mihr Nigar in marriage. The girl is thrilled at this match, for she has long yearned for Hamza, and has had one soulful but chaste evening with him. First, however, Naushervan sends Hamza to Ceylon to fend off a threat from Landhaur, and thence onto Greece, where Bakhtak Bakhtyar has insidiously poisoned the kings against him.
Hamza, of course, proves his mettle in these and other tests, but his marriage to Mihr Nigar is forestalled by the treacherous Gostaham, who arranges her nuptials with another. Hamza is seriously wounded in battle with Zubin, Mihr Nigar's prospective groom, and is rescued by the vazir of the Pari king Shahpal, ruler of the realm of Qaf.
The whole expedition to Qaf is to take eighteen days, and Hamza insists on fulfilling this debt of honor before his wedding. However, he is destined to be detained in Qaf not for eighteen days, but for eighteen years.
At this point, the shape of the story radically changes: adventures take place simultaneously in Qaf and on earth, and the dastan moves back and forth in reporting them.
While Hamza and his allies navigate various shoals of courtly intrigue, they also wage a prolonged war against infidels. Although the ostensible goal of these conflicts is to eradicate idolatry and convert opponents to Islam, the latter is usually related with little fanfare at the end of the episode.
Champions often proclaim their faith in Allah as they take to the battlefield, and sometimes reproach unbelievers for failing to grasp that the Muslims' past military success is prima facie evidence of the righteousness of their cause. After eighteen years, much suffering, and more divine intervention, Hamza does finally escape from Qaf; he makes his way home, and is reunited with his loyal companions. In the longest and most elaborate scene in the dastan, he marries the faithful Mihr Nigar.
But by this time, the story is nearing its end. Hamza and Mihr Nigar have one son, Qubad, who is killed at an early age; soon afterwards, Mihr Nigar herself is killed.
Hamza, distraught, vows to spend the rest of his life tending her tomb. But his enemies pursue him there, kidnap him, and torment him; his old companions rally round to rescue him, and his old life reclaims him. He fights against Naushervan and others, travels, has adventures, marries a series of wives.
His sons and grandsons by various wives appear one by one, perform heroic feats, and frequently die young. He and Amar have a brief but traumatic quarrel. Finally, he is summoned by the Prophet, his nephew, back to Mecca to beat off an attack by the massed infidel armies of the world.
He succeeds, losing all his companions except Amar in the process, but dies at the hands of the woman Hindah, whose son he had killed. She devours his liver, cuts his body into seventy pieces, then hastily accepts Islam to save herself.
The Prophet and the angels pray over every piece of the body, and Hamzah is rewarded with the high celestial rank of Commander of the Faithful.
Dastan-e-Amir Hamza Collection / داستان امیر حمزہ سیریز
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A page of the Dastan-i Amir Hamza (Hamzanama)
The Urdu dastan, or romance, tradition is often said to consist of stories of razm o bazm , tilism o 'ayyari -- "battles and elegant gatherings, enchantments and trickery. Elaborate tales about this hero were recorded and illustrated in the emperor Akbar's famous Hamza-nama ; it seems that Akbar also enjoyed personally telling the stories to the ladies of the harem. As the stories moved from Indo-Persian into Urdu, their popularity increased; by the later s oral dastan-go'i, or romance recitation, was enjoyed by aristocrats and commoners alike. The famous Naval Kishor Press of Lucknow called in the leading oral reciters of the day, and caused their Hamza stories to be written down.
Dastan-e-Amir Hamza Series
The Hamzanama was one of the earliest important commissions by the third Mughal emperor Akbar r. It tells the story of the adventures of Amir Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, and in its original form consisted of approximately folios. These were unusual for their large format and because they were painted on cotton cloth rather than paper. Each page had a painting on one side and text on the other, and the paintings were unique in their bold composition, rich palette and ornamentation. These artists introduced the artistic conventions of Persianate Islamic Central Asia to Hindu Indian painting, and in doing so created a new, distinctive Mughal style. Their contribution was initially seen in important imperial commissions like the Hamzanama and eventually, through the impact of these works on the painting styles of regional courts, influenced artistic styles through the subcontinent.