Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī | Monography or Translations of known period | Survey | Perso-Indica

Monography or Translations of known period
Yusūf ibn Muḥammad Yūsuf Ḫurāsānī “Yūsufī”, Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī

The Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī (Ode on Hindi terms) is a short metrical text on Indian medical terms. The Hindi and Persian terms that comprise it are arranged in forty-four verses that share a single end-rhyme, corresponding with the qaṣīda poetic genre. The other titles by which this work is known are Qaṣīda ba-luġāt-i hindī (Ode on the Indian language, Ms. London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian Uncatalogued 6), and Qaṣida dar bayān-i ānki har čīzī rā az adwiya-yi mašhūr wa ġayrahā ba-zabān-i hind či goyand (Ode in explanation of how to say in Hindi all manner of famous remedies etc., Ms. Tashkent, Academy of Sciences, 1405/2, 575/6 and 11776/10). Its author, Yūsuf bin Muḥammad Yūsuf Ḫurāsānī, known by the pen name Yūsufī, was a poet and physician associated with the courts of the Mughal emperors Bābur (r. 1526-1530) and Humāyūn (r. 1531-1540 and 1555-1556). His father, Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf, was a respected physician in the court of Ṣulṭān Ḥusain Bayqarā (r. 1469-1506) of Herat and author of Baḥr al-jawāhir (Sea of jewels), an Arabic-Persian medical dictionary. Faḫrī Sulṭān Muḥammad of Herat describes the younger Yūsufī in his Laṭā’if-nāma (c. 927/1520) as “an affable, widely travelled, and well regarded man” (mard-i ḫẉuš-ḫulq wa jahān-gašta wa ṣuḥbat-dīda) who had authored three collections (dīwān) of ġazals (Storey 1971, p. 235). According to the Akbar-nāma of Abū al-Fażl (d. 1011/1602), “Maulānā Yūsufī the physician” was “among the illustrious men, courtiers and companions” who followed Bābur from Central Asia to the new Mughal court in India (Abū al-Fażl 2000, p. 280). Abū al-Fażl provides little additional information beyond describing Yūsufī as having been “sent for from Ḫurāsān” and “distinguished for good qualities, for dexterity as an operator and for assiduity” (Abū al-Fażl, 2000, pp. 280-281). A few years after Bābur’s death, in 940/1533-1534, Yūsufī prepared a collection of belles-lettres, the Badā’i‘ al-inšā’ (Wonders of letter-writing), for his son and other students (Sachau - Ethé 1889, p. 836; Storey 1990, p. 270). A recent bibliography gives 950/1543 as the year of his death (Munzavī, 1969, p. 265), though this is not supported by any contemporary source (see Azmi 2003, p. 15, n. 26).

Several scholars have surmised that the same Yūsufī may have compiled the Riyāż al-adwiya (Gardens of remedies) in 946/1539 and dedicated it to the Mughal Emperor Humāyūn (Elgood 1951, pp. 378-379; Verma 1970, p. 355; Siddiqi 1981, p. 23; Storey 1971, p. 240). Yūsufī’s earliest recorded work, Risāla-i ma’kūl wa mašrūb (Treatise on [items] eaten and drunk), was written in Herat nearly four decades earlier in 906/1501-1502 (Ḥabībī 1948, p. 3). The Jāmiʿ al-fawā’id (Collection of benefits) was completed in 910/1504-1505; several manuscripts provide a 917/1511-1512 as the date of completion (see Ethé 1903, p. 1261; Šīrānī 1944a, p. 7; Sachau - Ethé, 1889 p. 960; Storey 1971, pp. 237-238; Ms. London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian Uncatalogued 6). Yūsufī probably prepared the Qaṣīda following his arrival in India (Hakala 2015, pp. 226-227; for more on the life of Yūsufī, see also Verma 1970, p. 355; Siddiqi 1981, pp. 23; Bosworth - Berthels 2002; Berthels 1987; Azmi 2003, pp. 3-9).

The Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī belongs to a longer tradition of multilingual Persian medical vocabularies: Abū Bakr ibn ‘Alī bin ‘Uṯmān al-Kāšānī’s Persian translation in 611/1214 of al-Bīrūnī’s (973-1048) Arabic-language Kitāb al-ṣaydala fī al-ṭibb (Book on the pharmacopæia of medicine) “provides equivalent names for most of the herbs and minerals in Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Jurjani, Khvarazmi, Persian, Hindi, and Sindhi” (Alam 2003, p. 142). The Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī has typically been included as an early example of the niṣāb genre of multilingual vocabularies in verse, common to the literatures of Persian, Urdu, Panjabi, Pashto, and Arabic, among other South Asian languages, with Sanskrit analogues originating in the early centuries CE (Alam 2003, p. 142). The Niṣāb al-ṣibyān (The Portion of Youths, completed in 617/1220-21), from which the genre derives its name, is considered to have inaugurated the genre and provides Persian equivalents to Arabic terms (Farāhī 1923; Āh 1966, p. 66). By devoting 44 of its 200 total verses to descriptions of different Arabic and Persian meters, it also served as a primer for children on Perso-Arabic prosody.

The first verse of the Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī suggests it to have been intended for a Persian-speaking youth seeking to learn “the names of all things in Hindi”: nām-i har čīzī ba-hindī bišnau az man ay pisar / ḫāṣṣa nām-i har dawā’ī naf‘ bar dārī magar // “Listen, oh son, to the names of all things in Hindi / But benefit from each remedy’s special name.” While Yūsufi exclusively employs Persian as his glossing metalanguage, later authors of Indo-Persian niṣābs increasingly employed Hindi-Urdu as their glossing metalanguage, suggesting that later niṣābs were intended for those more familiar with Hindi-Urdu as a spoken language and written Persian as the target language (Hakala 2015, pp. 223-227). The third distich introduces a six-verse set on parts of the body: jīb wa kān amad [for āmad] zabān wa guš wa d’ārī rīš dān / mūč-rā mī-ḫẉān burūt wa kāna kūr wa bahra kar, “jīb and kān are ‘tongue’ and ‘ear’, and know dārī [for dāṛhī] [as] ‘beard’ / Call ‘moustache’ mūč [for mūčh] and kāna [kānā] ‘blind’, and bahra [for bahrā] ‘deaf.’” After the tenth verse, the topics that Yūsufī explores become more varied: verse ten lists domesticated beasts (‘sheep’, ‘he-goat’, ‘camel’, etc.); verses eleven to fourteen, foods (‘meat’, ‘bread’, ‘fenugreek’, etc.); verses fifteen and sixteen, luxury items (‘silk’, ‘collyrium’, ‘aloeswood’, ‘pearl’, etc.); verse seventeen, qualities and quantities (‘little’, ‘many’, ‘bad’, good’); and verse nineteen, weaving and travel (‘warp’, ‘spider’s web’, ‘travel provisions,’ ‘travel’). From verse twenty, a series of distiches devoted to medicinal plant products are punctuated with verses on insects (twenty-seven), fruits and vegetables (twenty-nine to thirty-one), milk products/fire (thirty-two), grains/robbery (thirty-three), metals/foods (thirty-seven), grains (thirty-nine), home/parental relationships (forty), times of day/sun and moon (forty-one), and weather (forty-two), before finishing with the concluding verses (forty-three and forty-four), containing the author’s pen name and a promise to the reader: yūsufī bahr-at darīn abyāt kardast ānčih ḏikr / gar kunī az bar turā har dam rasad naf‘ī digar // az żarar dārad madāmat dar panāh-i ḫẉēštan / ānkih dar ‘ālam ba-taqdīraš buwad naf‘ wa żarar //, What Yūsufī has done for you in these verses, if you remember it / From the heart, each moment another benefit will reach you // He has safety from harm forever in his own refuge / Whose worldly harm and benefit is by divine decree.”

As the final two verses of the Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī attest, the author’s Persian is as one would expect: fluent and typical of its time. His representation of hindawī terms, however, is idiosyncratic and accounts for the majority of variations in the manuscripts. The last letter of the term mūč for Hindi mūčh, ‘moustache’) from verse three, for example, though orthographically represented as ج (the letter jim of Persian alphabet) is pronounced with aspiration. Vowel length (e.g., bahūt for bahut, ‘many’, verse seventeen; lun for loṅ or lūṅ, ‘salt’, verse twenty-four), retroflex consonants (e.g., tīkrī for tikṛī, ‘hog-weed’, verse twenty-one), aspiration (e.g., metī for methī, ‘fenugreek’, verse eleven; meh for megh, ‘cloud’, in verse twenty-two), and other sounds (e.g., findukī for piṅḍukī, ‘turtle-dove’, verse eighteen; bardes for pardes, ‘foreign country’, verse nineteen; gazar for gajar or gājar, ‘carrot’, verse twenty) are recorded in forms that differ markedly from modern orthography.

There is significant overlap of lexical content between the Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī and the Ḫāliq bārī (see below), especially for terms referring to foods, medicinal plants, and parts of the body. The first hemistich of the Qaṣīda’s twenty-first verse, for example, appears in the Istanbul manuscript as: herā [for heṛā] laḥm wa rotī [for roṫī] wa pānī ast nān wa āb hast, “herā is ‘meat’, and rotī and pānī are ‘bread and water.’” An eighteenth-century manuscript of the Ḫāliq bārī (Ms. London, British Library Ms. IO Islamic 1200) includes many of the same glosses: gūšt herā čarm čamarā šaḥm pih (for pīh) / “‘Meat’ is heṛā; ‘hide’, čamaṛā; ‘fat’, pih.” / nān ba-tāzī ḫubz rotī (for roṫī) hindawī // “‘Bread’ in Arabic is ḫubz, (in) Hindawī, roṫī” / ātiš āg āb hai pānīṅ (for pānī) / “‘Fire’ is āg; ‘water’ is pānī.” Like the Ḫāliq bārī, the Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī betrays no awareness of New World flora. Verses fifteen and twenty-three list two Old World varieties of filfil - the ‘long’ (filfil-i darāz or dār filfil) and the ‘round’ - but make no mention of the American Capsicum annuum - the ‘red’ or ‘chili’ pepper (see also Hakala forthcoming).

Yūsufī sometimes seeks to identify functional analogues among the medically useful plants of India rather than the precise genetic homologues of the flora available in Central Asia. In verse twenty-six, the red and black seeds of Abrus precatorius (Hindi ghuṅgčī) is equated with a Central Asian tuber (bahman), the Centaurea behen, a plant whose roots share with the Indian ghuṅgčī seeds the distinction of having both red and white varieties: sahgun wa asgun-čih bāšad bahman-i surḫ wa safīd / “sahgun (for kūṅč or gūṅč) and asgun-čih (for ghuṅgči) shall be the red and white bahman.” These lexical equations show on a micro scale a broader pattern of Muslim medical practitioners’ efforts to comprehend and disseminate Indian systems of medicine through Persian-language texts (see Speziale 2014, 2018).

It is commonly believed that prior to Yūsufī’s Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī, Amīr Ḫusraw of Delhi (d. 725/1325) authored a versified vocabulary of synonymous terms from Arabic, Persian, and what the text calls hindawī or prākr̤it. This vocabulary is most commonly known as Ḫāliq bārī (Creator and Originator) from the two Arabic terms among the ninety-nine so-called ṣifāt allāh (epithets of Allāh), both meaning “creator”, with which it commences in most manuscript copies. Though doubts about the authorship of the work have persisted (most notably voiced by Šīrānī 1944b), subsequent scholarship suggests that a core set of verses must have originated prior to the seventeenth century (Āh 1966, p. 81; Ḥusain 1975, p. 363; Nārang 1987, pp. 129-131; Hakala 2014; Hakala, forthcoming). The Ḫāliq Bārī follows the Niṣāb al-ṣibyān in employing a variety of meters but in distiches with varying rhymes. Following the precedent set by the Niṣāb al-ṣibyān, early manuscripts of the Ḫāliq bārī generally contain at least two hundred verses. The latter text’s use of both Hindi and Persian as glossing languages, inconsistent combinations of Arabic, Persian, and Hindi synonyms (sometimes drawn from a single language without a gloss in a second language), and lack of a thematically coherent macrostructure have added to the obscurity of its origins.

The Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī, in contrast, employs a single meter and constant rhyme in the second hemistich of each verse. The Qaṣīda is thus anomalous: subsequent niṣābs did not adopt Yūsufī’s choice of the qaṣīda’s monorhymed form, reverting instead to the looser structure of a maṯnavī’s varying rhymes. The lone exception is that Yūsufī himself prepared at least one other multilingual vocabulary in qaṣīda form: the Qaṣīda dar bayān-i adwiya consists mostly of Persian and Arabic terms, glossing the occasional Indic term as well (e.g., verse seventeen: ba-zabān-i ‘ajam buwad taṃbūl / pān keh bū’īhā’ī bad burd az dahān “In the language of ‘ajam [foreigners] shall be taṃbūl [Pers., betel-leaf] / pān [Hindi, betel-leaf] which removes bad odors from the mouth”). These greater stringencies of form explain both the shorter length and greater textual stability of Yūsufī’s Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī.

Manuscripts of the Qaṣīda are known to exist in Istanbul, London, Lahore, Patna, Tashkent, and Teheran (this author has consulted digital images of the first two only). The multilingual nature of the text has, however, posed substantial challenges for would-be copyists. A manuscript held in the Wellcome Library (Ms. London, Wellcome Library, Pers. 292/D) apparently consists of the first three lines only (Keshavarz 1986, p. 96). The copyist of the Royal Asiatic Society manuscript (Ms. London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian Uncat 6) was not able to decipher the first pair of terms referring to bamboo-manna - a tonic for the respiratory diseases - appearing in the first hemistich of verse thirty-four: the text appears in the Istanbul manuscript as binzojan (for Hindi baṅs-ločan) dān ṭabāšīr (“know that baṅs-ločan is ṭabāšīr”). This copyist similarly neglects the second hemistich of the following verse (thirty-five), which the more intrepid copyist of the Istanbul manuscript (Ms. Istanbul, Nuruosmaniye 34 Nk 3495/7) represents as gu’ī tuḳhm-i ḳhurfa-rā lūnīka paž wa bar guḏar (Call ‘seed of purslane’ lūnīka paž [for Hindi lūniyā pushpa, lit. ‘purslane flower’?], and pass it by). Though he does not identify his source, Ḥāfiẓ Māḥmūd Šīrānī probably consulted the Lahore manuscript (Ms. Lahore, Punjab University Library, Šīrānī Collection, 4466/1416/4) for the twenty-one verses he reproduced in a 1933 journal article (see Šīrānī 1985, pp. 24-26; Ḥusain 1969, p. 394). The Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī continues to be of great interest both for its equation of materia medica from two different medical traditions and its distinctive orthographic representation in the Perso-Arabic script of terms drawn from a northern Indian language.

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)

Istanbul, Nuruosmaniye 34 Nk 3495/7, ff. 86b-87b

, viii)

Türkiye Yazmarları


Lahore, Punjab University Library, Šīrānī Collection, 4466/1416/4

, ii)


, vii)

included in Rasāʾil-i Yūsufī, a collection of treatises by ‘Yūsufī’ preserved in the Šīrānī Collection in Lahore, this forms the basis for Šīrānī’s published text, Šīrānī 1985, pp. 24-26

, viii)

Storey 1971, p. 239; Ḥusain, 1969, p. 494


London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian Uncat 6, ff. 2b-4a

, ii)


, v)

the year 1227/1812-1813 is given at the end of another item in the same codex (Qaṣīda dar ḥifẓ-i ṣiḥḥat). A colophon at the end is dated 18 Ramadan 917/9 December 1515 and gives Kashmir as the place of completion. According to Sandy Morton, the cataloguer, “This evidently belongs to the original composition [i.e., Qaṣīda dar ḥifẓ-i ṣiḥḥat] rather than the present MS.” The Qaṣidah dar luġāt-i hindī in this codex bears the title Qaṣīda ba-luġāt-i hindī. The colophon attached to the final work in the collection, the Jāmiʿ al-fawāʾid (written in a different hand than the Qaṣīda ba-luġāt-i hindī), gives 944/1537-1538 as the year of completion, though, again, it is unclear whether this refers to the original composition or manuscript copy

, viii)



London, Wellcome Library, MS. Pers. 292/D

, ii)

13th/19th century

, vii)

3 lines only, beginning nām-i har čīzī bahindī bišinau az man ay pisar

, viii)

Keshavarz 1986, p. 96


Patna, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library MS 1024/III, ff. 8a-10a

, ii)


, vii)

also listed as HL 1013/Urdu 437 in Ḳhudā Baḳhsh, 1995, p. 66

, viii)

Muqtadir, 1927, pp. 46-49; Ḳhudā Baḳhsh, 1995, p. 66


Teheran, Kitābḫāna-yi Dānišgāh, 2569/3, ff. 22v-24r

, vii)



Lithograph:  Baččoṅ ke ta‘līmī niṣāb,

Šīrānī, Ḥāfiẓ Maḥmūd, ed.

, Lahore, 1933,

The article “Baččoṅ ke ta‘līmī niṣāb” was originally printed in the proceedings of the first session of the Idārah-i ma‘ārif-i Islāmiya, convened in Lahore in April 1933; the 21 verses Šīrānī reproduced of the Qaṣīda include 17 of the first 18 verses and verses 41 to 44. Reprint: “Baččoṅ ke ta‘līmī niṣāb”, in: Maẓhar Maḥmūd Šīrānī, ed., Maqālāt-i Ḥāfiẓ Maḥmūd Širānī, vol. 7, Lahore, Majlis-i Taraqqī-yi Urdū, 1985, pp. 24-26



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Walter N. Hakala

Originally published: 13 July 2020
How to quote this article:

Hakala, Walter N., 2020, "Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī", Perso-Indica. An Analytical Survey of Persian Works on Indian Learned Traditions, F. Speziale - C. W. Ernst, eds.

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Work in verses
Main Persian Title: Qaṣīda dar luġāt-i hindī
English Translation of Main Persian Title: Ode on hindī terms
Author: Yusūf ibn Muḥammad Yūsuf Ḫurāsānī “Yūsufī”
Alternative Title(s):
Qaṣīda ba-luġāt-i hindī
Qaṣida dar bayān-i ānki har čīzī rā az adwiya-yi mašhūr wa ġayrahā ba-zabān-i hind či gūyand

nām-i har čīzī ba-hindī bišnau az man ay pisar

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