By: Kazim Ali Kazim

The Shia community is identified with its extreme dedication to and adoration of the fourteen immaculates of the House of the Prophet. The Shia culture and literature revolves around Ali's vicegerancy and Hussain's supreme sacrifice.

While the Shia literature and culture got its distinct identity the master craftsmen in the field of literature and poetry could evolve their works around the Tragedy of Karbala and the lives of the Great personalities. The Tragedy of Karbala has influenced the thinking of people in all times. Those men of letters who have produced works on the subject have produced masterpieces that it has given rise to a special branch of literature identified with Karbala.

Whenever any attempt was made to produce works in any branch of literature with reference to Karbala it emerged as a land-mark in that field.

In Urdu literature Soz ( elegies), Salams ( Salutations) and Marsias ( Requiems) play a major role in manifesting the tragedy and the supreme sacrifice of Karbala. It inculcates in the reader the feelings of sadness for the sufferers and abhorrence for the perpetrators of the extremes of hardship on the small group of Hussain at Karbala. The Nauha is one of the important branches of Karbalai literature which is a very effective tool for directly influencing the head and heart of the audience.

The way the poet gets deeply involved while penning a Nauha so too has the person who recites it to communicate the intrinsic thoughts contained in the poem with proper intonation and modulation of the words. The reciter of the Nauha has to present it with rhythm and at the same time he has to keep in mind that it doesn't sound like a song because singing is taboo in Islam. And if the rendering is flat it would not go well with the audience and all the efforts of the poet go in vain. This is why recitation of Nauhas is very difficult.

The Nauha Reciters have taken great pains in devising the tunes for the Nauhas in a very masterly way. They have succeeded in perfecting tunes which sound distinctly different from songs. The depth of feelings is reflected in the pathos infused into the intonations of the voice. This has been the spirit of the Hyderabadi Nauha.

The poets of the past who excelled in the field have been Naaji, Laiq, Masroor, Shoukat, Baqar, Ghayoor, Bismil, Hilmi. Even today the works of these great poets are appreciated.

The modern poets who have contributed to this branch of Urdu Poetry are Baqar Amanat khawni, Khawar Noori, Akhtar Zaidi, Sayeed Shaheedi. Mirza Adil Najmi, Rahat Azmi, Maqsood Javed, Zaki Bilgrami, Hijab Bilgrami, Rasheed Shaheedi, Mirza Fareed Baig. The nauhas of these poets are very popular. The main thing is that they have maintained the style of their predecessors in their attempts.

Anjuman Parwana-e-Shabbir specializes in rendering Urdu Nauhas. The tunes of the Nauhas of this group are very popular. Hadi Ali Khawn Muslim leads the group in the rendering of Nauhas. They have adopted both the local tunes and those from other centers,

There are some Nauhas which have been rendered in Hyderabad for a very long time. The words and tunes of these Nauhas are a cultural heritage of the people of this city. The introductory couplets of some of the Nauhas are copied here.

Doosri Ko Jo Shabbir aaye Karbala Mein
Kya Kahun Ranj Kya Kya Uthaye Karbala Mein

Shabbir arrived at Karbala on the Second,
How do I relate the tribulations he had tobear at Karbala!

Bula Kar Sab Ko Hazrat Ne Kaha Ai Karbala Walo
Hamen Darkaar Hai Thodi Si Ja Aye Karbala Walo

Hazrat ( Hussain) Summoned the People of Karbala and Said
We need a little place here O People of Karbala

Abbas Se Kahti Thi Yeh Fauj e Sitam Ara, Darya Hai Hamara
Behtar Hai Agar Aap Karen Isse Kanara, Darya Hai Hamara

The Army of the Aggressors Was Saying to Abbas, 'The River is ours!
It Would Be Better If You Keep Away From It. The River is ours!

For the Sham-e-Gariban there is a special Nauha which is very profound in its meaning and leaves a deep impress when rendered on that occasion. It very vividly describes the scene of the dusk of the 10th of Moharrum after the 72 members of Hussain's Party were massacred and the camps were ravaged and burned. The remaining members of his entourage, the women, children and his only surviving sickly son, Zain al Abideen, were huddled together under the open sky with no light and the stars emitting the dull light which makes only the silhouettes visible to the people around.

I too have the honour of doing Nauha Khawni. I have been setting Nauhas to tunes in the traditional style of our forbears. I have been selecting the Nauhas very carefully with particular reference to their contents. Some years ago it was the custom in Hyderabad that the Nauha Khawn would sit on the first rung of the Pulpit and his group would sit in two rows facing each other on the floor in front of him. After the Nauha Khawni was over the main Majlis would commence. The lines of the Nauha were repeated not only by the members of the group but even the other people in the Majlis would do it in low tones. The Nauhas would serve for warming up the gathering for the main items on the agenda of the gathering. After the Oratory of the main speaker the Nauha Khawn and his group would once again render a few Nauhas appropriate to the occasion accompanied with chest beating by his group and others.


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