Ajay Čand-nāma | Monography or Translations of known period | Language Manuals and Glossaries | Survey | Perso-Indica

Language Manuals and Glossaries

Monography or Translations of known period
Ajay Čand Bhaṭnāgar, Ajay Čand-nāma

The Ajay Čand-nāma, a versified vocabulary (niṣāb) of Arabic, Persian, and Hindawī terms, was prepared in 960/1552-3. The author, a Hindu kāyasth, describes himself in the vocabulary as “Ajay Čand, the slave of the court […] the son of Dīp Čand, the maker of poems” (shi‘r kunanda, an unusual Persian compound) and “resident of the city of Sikandarābād,” a town located fifty five kilometers to the east of Delhi in Bulandshahr district. Nothing else is known about him. Ajay Čand arranges its 375 distich verses into 36 sections, described in the text as the workshops (kār-ḫāna) of a king (pādšāh). The Ajay Čand-nāma is reminiscent of a classical mnemonic technology, the memory palace, whose invention Cicero and Quintilian attributed to the Greek poet Simonides (Yates 1966, pp. 1-4). Children committing the work to memory could do so by depositing verses into different imaginary rooms, and then, in recounting it, wander back through the palace to retrieve them.
Prepared in the final years of Sūr hegemony (1540-1556) and a few decades after Yūsufī’s Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī, the Ajay Čand-nāma is the third known niṣāb to provide Hindawī equivalents for Persian and Arabic terms (for a discussion of what may be the first of these works, the Ḫāliq bārī attributed to Amīr Ḫusraw, who died in 1325, see Hakala 2014). There exist two different versions of the Ajay Čand-nāma. A 375-verse manuscript of 21 folios was described in a 1961 essay by ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq, which he called Miṯl-i ḫāliq bārī (A ḫaliq bārī analogue) (Ḥaqq 1961, p. 199). From the introductory sections, he is able to determine the name of the author to be Ajay Čand, son of Danī Čand, and the date of completion 960/1552-3. While the copyist indicated a date of completion in the colophon, Ḥaqq was not able to decipher it (he reproduces it as ba-roz-i jum`a-yi tārīḫ-i rajab sana-i …) (Ḥaqq 1961, p. 207). This manuscript appears in 29 sections, the titles for which Ḥaqq found similar to those enumerated in the first book (The Imperial Household) of the Ā’īn-i akbarī (Ḥaqq 1961, p. 200; cf. Abū al-Fażl 1873). Ḥaqq transcribes only eight verses in their entirety. Unfortunately, he does not provide additional information about where this particular manuscript is housed, though it may be present in the Anjuman-i Taraqqī-yi Urdū in Karachi (cf. Amrohawī 1982). 
Naḏīr Aḥmad transcribed the complete text of a different manuscript copy (Aḥmad 2002). The manuscript, consisting of 506 verses on 19 folios, was preserved in Ḥamīdiya Library in Bhopal and transferred to the Mawlānā Āzād Central Library, also in Bhopal. The colophon of the Bhopal manuscript reproduced by Naḏīr Aḥmad is entirely different from that examined by Ḥaqq: “This book, the Ajay Čand-nāma, for the purpose of reciting, on [this] prosperous, pleasing day, [for] Bišṇ Rā’o Kišan, by the hand of Ḥakīm Jhīn Rā’e, was written on the 19th date of the lunar month of ramażān al-mubārak.” The name of the copyist, Jhīn, is unusual, even improbable, and Aḥmad ignored it (Aḥmad 2002, p. 123).
The Bhopal manuscript is arranged in the following 36 sections: i) dafātir ḫāna (registers room, archives), ii) sarā-yi maḥrūs ḫāna (guarded apartments, harem), iii) ta`līm ḫāna (tuitions room, school), iv) tanbūl-dār ḫāna (betel leaf preparer’s quarters), v) `iṭrīyāt ḫāna (fragrance room, perfumery), vi) maṭbaḫ ḫāna (cooking room, kitchen), vii) āb-dār ḫāna (a repository of drinking-water, cistern), viii) ṭasht ḫāna (hand-washing basin room, bathroom), ix) ḫizāna ḫāna (treasure house, treasury), x) jawāhir ḫāna (jewels room, treasury), xi) jāmadār ḫāna (wardrobe), xii) pāy-gāh ḫāna (shoe-holding room, toilet, privy), xiii) šutur ḫāna (camel-stable), xiv) rikāb-dār ḫāna (stirrup-holding house, saddle-room, pantry), xv) farrāš ḫāna (chamberlain’s quarters, carpets room), xvi) silaḥ-dār ḫāna (armorer’s room, armory, arsenal), xvii) jang ḫāna (war room), xviii) šam‘ ḫāna (candle house, chandler’s quarters), xix) ṭās ḫāna (cupboard), xx) ḫayyāṭ ḫāna (tailor’s quarters), xxi) kitāb-dār ḫāna (library), xxii) šarāb-dār ḫāna (wine cellar), xxiii) šikār ḫāna (hunting room, hunting-hut), xxiv) mewa ḫāna (fruit-loft), xxv) `imārat ḫāna (mason’s quarters), xxvi) kaštī ḫāna (boat house), xxvii) gardūn ḫāna (chariot-shed, garage), xxviii) `alam ḫāna (flag room, room in which banners or flags are kept), xxix) nawbat ḫāna (kettle-drum house, watchtower, guardhouse, xxx) ṭabīb ḫāna (hospital, clinic, apothecary), xxxi) anbār-dar ḫāna (granary, storehouse), xxxii) mawāšī ḫāna (quadrupeds’ house, cattle shed), xxxiii) dār al-żarb ḫāna (mint), xxxiv) maḥbūs ḫāna (prison), xxxv) bewa ḫāna (widows’ quarters), xxxvi) yādgār ḫāna (memorial room, museum).
The opening section of the text (4 verses of which are included below) provides an elaborate series of verses that equate Islamic and Indic qualities of the divine: bārī ta`ālā nām-i gosā’ī / base buzurgī bahut badāʾī [for baṛāʾī] [1] // ḫāliq jin jag paidā kiyā / rāziq sab ko bhojan diyā [2] // wāḥid yik parastiš pūjā / lā-sharīk ko’ī aur na dūjā [3] // be-či-gūṅ [for be-či-gūnagī] jinhah [for jin kā] rūp nirekhā / be-namūṅ vah jāʾe na-dekhā [4]. Rendered in English, the text translates to “‘Almighty Creator’, the name of gosā’īn[‘Lord of the Senses’] / base buzurgi [‘very great, very noble’], much greatness [or ‘much honor [on the deity] // Creator (ḫāliq), who created the world / Sustainer (rāziq) gave food to all // Wāḥid, ‘one’, parastiš, / lā-šarīk [without an associate], there is no second // be-či-gūn [without quality, matter], whose form is not seen / Unshowing, that place unseen.” The author continues in this matter with his praise of the deity by pairing Persianate phrases, such as “without want” (be-niyāz), “without compare” (be-qiyās), “without place” (be-makān), and “without parallel” (be-mānand), with brief Indic explanations (compare with the similar phrases appearing in introductions of the premākhyān genre of Sufi romances written in the Avadhī dialect of Hindī, discussed in Behl and Doniger, 2012, 34-46).
Additional biographical details are recorded in verses 20 through 26, including references to the author as a “servant of the court” (bandah-i dargāh), his father Dīp Čand, and his residence in Sikandarābād, a city “Attached to the capital / Noble Dihlī of unique fame (muttaṣil-i dār al-mulk-i maqām / ḥaẓrat dihlī/ḥażrat-i dihlī-i nādir nām). Each section of the poem ends with a signature verse, whose brief references to the author are occasionally charming, as in this verse from the section mewa ḫāna (fruit-loft): bāġ gulistān ham bustān  / ajay čand ṣuḥbat bā dustān (“‘Garden’, ‘flower-garden’, also ‘scent garden’ / Ajay Čand, in the company of friends”).  
Ḥaqq points out that Ajay Čand refers to his language throughout as Hindawī, not once referring to it as Hindī (e.g., pūd fārsī hindawī bānā; “‘a weaver’s woof’, Persian; [in] Hindawī, bānā”) (207). Arabic terms are labelled tāzī (e.g., hai bādām ba-tāzī lawz; the [Hindī] bādām is in Arabic lawz). Both Persian and Hindawī serve as glossing metalanguages, sometimes in the same hemistich: ma‘rūf ast lafẓ-i ḫarbūza / hindwānah kahi’e  tarbūza (“Well known is the word for ‘marsh-melon’ [Persian metalanguage] / Watermelon, call tarbūza [Hindawī metalanguage]”). Both Persian- and Arabic-derived synonyms are frequently provided for single Hindawī equivalents (e.g., far` šaḫ sūn [=hai in Haqq 1961] ḍāl  bakhān bi-ḫwā, “Define as ‘branch’, far`,  ḍāl”), while occasionally only an Arabic equivalent is offered for a Persian term (e.g., ḫawḫ nām-i šaft-ālū jān, “ḫawḫ know as the name of ‘peach’”; ḫaiyat taḫayyat/ḫayyāṭ taḫayyuṭ darzī jānoṅ, “Tailor, sewing, know as darzī”), suggesting that the lexical incorporation of Persian terms into Hindawī had begun long before the composition of this text. Like Yūsufī in the Qaṣīda dar luġat-i hindī, the author of the Ajay Čand-nāma sometimes resorts to inexact Perso-Arabic equivalents for Indic flora and fauna (e.g., ‘andalīb hai ko’il kārī, “The nightingale is the ko’il [Indian black cuckoo]”).
The Ajay Čand-nāma is very similar to the Ḫāliq bārī, attributed to Amīr Ḫusraw, with some hemistiches nearly identical. Verse 207, quoted above, is similar to the eighth verse of Šīrānī’s edition of the Ḫāliq bārī: tānāñ bānāñ tāro pūd (“tānāñ, bānāñ: warp and woof”). Elsewhere, the lexical overlap appears entirely accidental. With its shorter meters, Ajay Čand often must express in two verses what the author of the Ḫāliq bārī accomplishes in a single verse. Both texts use a similar mixture of Hindawī and Persian as glossing metalanguages, with the Indic imperatives jān (know) and pahčān (recognize) and the Persian bi-dānī (know) and bi-ḫwānī (call) frequently paired as rhyme terms (Aḥmad 2002, p. 125). While the similarity of these texts does not in and of itself establish an early provenance for the Ḫāliq bārī, it does suggest a consolidation of the conventions of the niṣāb genre even at this early stage. 
Still, the apparent use of domestic spaces as organizing principle and possible mnemonic device does not seem to have been emulated by subsequent authors of niṣābs. The technique outlined in antiquity by Cicero and Quintilian of constructing memory palaces requires one to place the items (Latin res) that one intends to remember in memorable places (Yates 1966, pp. 8-9). To give an example, the penultimate “room” in Ajay Čand’s vocabulary is what he calls the bewa-ḫāna, or ‘Hall of Widows’. The items contained within it are not just the widows themselves, but also the paraphernalia associated with their traditional occupation, weaving: bewa ḫāna kahiye raṇḍ-sālā / baḫa [for barḫa] rū’ī bāġanda gālā (“The widow’s house, call raṇd-sālā [for raṇḍ-šālā] / Teased cotton, rū’ī, carded cotton, gālā”). Ajay Čand’s vocabulary is thus reminiscent of an elaborate doll house. The objects are stationary, isolated from the context of ordinary speech and fixed in place through interlingual equivalences. Their selection, however, tells us about what this particular individual thought to be worth preserving. For example, Ajay Čand poignantly names the final hall in his memory palace the yād-gar ḫāna, or ‘memorial hall’: yād-gār ḫāna kahiye saharotī  / irsāl-i ḫidmat baithonī // … // pahunā’ī kahiye mihmānī / ajay čand sauġāt nishānī (“Memorial-hall call saharotī / Also, a dispatch for service, baithoni // … // Call pahunā’ī hospitality / Ajay Čand’s keepsake, an offering”).
The relative paucity of manuscripts of this vocabulary, especially when compared with those of the Ḫāliq bārī, which number in the dozens if not hundreds, and the absence of references - whether implicit or explicit - to the Ajay Čand-nāma in subsequent works of this genre, suggest its readership to have always been limited. This was more the result of Ajay Čand’s relatively marginal status in the northern Indian hinterlands (and the fame of Amīr Ḫusraw, to whom the latter work was commonly attributed) rather than to the great inherent potential of his vocabulary as a pedagogical text. This early document of the variety of Hindi spoken in present-day western Uttar Pradesh remains a work of immense value, however, inasmuch as it provides us with glimpses of a wide variety of objects that populated the domestic spaces of a nobleman’s household (these may be fruitfully compared, for example, with those listed in Roy 1955).

i) Place of copying; ii) Period of copying; iii) Copyist; iv) Commissioner;
v) Information on colophon; vi) Description of miniatures/illustrations; vii) Other remarks; viii) Information on catalogue(s)

Karachi, Anjuman-i Taraqqī-yi Urdū, 3/697, ff. 21

, ii)

jum‘a, 8 rajab (no year)

, v)

tamām tamām šud kar-i man niẓām šud ba-ruz-i jum‘a-yi tārīḫ-i haštum-i rajab sana-i … (rest of text missing)

, vii)

16 to 23 lines per page

, viii)

Amrohawī 1982, pp. 152-153


Bhopal, Maulānā Āzād Central Library, 19 ff.

, ii)

19 ramażān (no year)

, iii) Ḥakīm Jain Rā’e, iv) Bishṇ Rā’o Kišan, v)

īn kitāb ajay čand nāma jihat-i ḫwānadan sa‘ādat-mand dil-pasand ruz bišn rā’o kišan ba-aṭṭ-i ḥakīm jain rā’e taḥrīr fī al-tārī-i nuwazdahum šahr-i ramażān al-mubārak sana-yi ālah nawišta šud. har kih ḫwānad du‘ā ṭama‘ dāram / zānkih man banda-yi gunah gāram

, vii)

16 to 19 lines per page, nasta‘līq script


Edition:  Ajay Čand-nāma,

Naḏīr Aḥmad, ed.

, New Delhi, Ghalib Institute, 2002, pp. 31. 

Abū al-Fażl,1873, Akbar-nāma, English translation: The Ain i Akbari, Vol. 1, H. Blochmann, ed., Calcutta, Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Aḥmad, Naḏīr, 2002, “Ajay Čand-nāma,” in: Maqālāt-i Naḏīr, New Delhi, Ghalib Institute, pp. 121–57.

Amrohawī, Afsar Ṣiddīqī, 1982, Maḳhṭūtāt-i Anjuman-i Taraqqī-yi Urdū, Karachi, Anjuman-i Taraqqī-i Urdū Pākistān, vol. 6.

Behl, Aditya- Doniger, Wendy, 2012, Love’s Subtle Magic: An Indian Islamic Literary Tradition, 1379-1545, New York, Oxford University Press.

Hakala, Walter N., 2014, “The Authorial Problem in the Ḵẖāliq Bārī of ‘Ḵẖusrau’,” Indian Economic & Social History Review, 51, 4, pp. 481-496.

Ḥaqq, ‘Abd al-, 1961, “Miṯl-i ḫāliq bārī: Ek qadīmtarīn kitāb,” in: Qadīm urdū, Karachi, Kull Pākistān Anjuman-i Taraqqī-yi Urdū, pp. 198–207.

Roy, N. B., 1955, “A Note on the Household Effects of an Ordinary Noble Man of the 18th Century A.D.,” Bengal Past & Present, 74, 2, pp. 147–50.

Yates, Frances Amelia, 1966, The Art of Memory, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Walter N. Hakala

Originally published: 15 November 2018
How to quote this article:

Hakala, Walter N., 2018, "Ajay Čand-nāma", Perso-Indica. An Analytical Survey of Persian Works on Indian Learned Traditions, F. Speziale - C. W. Ernst, eds.

available at http://www.perso-indica.net/work/ajay_cand-nama.

Download article
Work in verses
Main Persian Title: Ajay Čand-nāma
English Translation of Main Persian Title: The book of Ajay Čand
Alternative Title(s):
Miṯl-i ḫāliq bārī
Year / Period of Composition: 960/1552-1553

bārī ta`ālā nām-i gosā’ī / base buzurgī bahut badā’ī

Place: Northern India
Other Languages of Work: Arabic,  Arabic,  Old Hindi/Hindavi