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Sheereen and Khusrau
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Sheereen and Khusrau

Translated from Kashmiri by Dr Mufti Mudassir

Glory to Him who created life
Earth, heaven, love and knowledge

Countless blessings to the Prophet
His noble companions and family

A thousand eulogies to his four friends
Who are the four pillars of the faith

Ovations offered, mark my words
A love tale of Sheereen, Khusrau and Farhaad

Nizami says so and we take him for his word
Khusrau was the cousin of Anushirwan

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Bubbling with youth and unsurpassed elegance
And matching the legendary Jamsheed in charms 2

At fourteen, with four crescent brows
He rose on the sky a full bright moon

With manners sublime, noble and refined
He outmatched Cyrus and Kaiqabad

Once he felt for a hunt on his own
A horse of his destroyed a paddy field

The news found way to the king
Who gave him a good bashing

The prince took this to heart
Though his friends consoled him

One of his close companions was Shapur
Privy to this closely guarded secrets

He passed him a piece of information
About a queen ruling over Arman

Known to all as Meheen Banu
Next to none in running the affairs

She has a niece, so dear to her
As if a houri descended from heavens



In stature like a swinging Cyprus
Her hands silvery bright, her arms so fine

Her hair is black and dense as night
It nestles doves so fondly within

A gold embroidered cap on the head
How elegant it looks on scented tresses

A bright sun piercing through darkness
A pinkish yellow rose among lilies

Her swinging tresses spread on her back
Like capturing nooses for those who see

Her tresses offer obeisance to her stature
Their length compares with the lovers’ longevity

Amidst the sandalwood coloured forehead
The elegant brows appear as bloodied swords

Her forehead reflects divine light
What words can describe her exquisiteness

A sweet scented mole betwixt the brows
A kingfisher darting through air

Her elegant eyes look like a gazelle’s
Uncanny enchantress, she binds all

Envy consumes the large-eyed gazelles
If they happen to have a glimpse of her eyes

Since those eyes have bewitched the gazelles
They have taken to the deepest forests

Those eyes have made the narcissus sick
Its head has dropped down in shame

Her eyes are two springs of wine
Her coquetry intoxicates all

Her winking is akin to lightning
What a spectacle, what a sight!

Her locks, the serpents guarding her treasure
Or like chains put round a prisoner

As she twitches her sword-like brows
Many  lover falls down slain

As her eyelashes make a slight gesture
Many a heart is shattered to pieces

Listen, if you can, to a wise saying
Stonehearted come out ripened from fire

How elegant looks the mole on her cheek
A snare for the poor lovers

Amidst the tresses her mole stands unique
A sprightly gazelle moving about freely

Her mole, a Negro king on his throne
Or a prince among fragrant flowers

The mole seated on the rose petal
Is lke the black stone in the Kaaba3

A speck on the pomegranate leaf
Or black pepper in a blazing fire

This is why the tulip’s heart is branded
This why the wild rue immolates itself

Listen carefully to what I say
Elegant earrings adorn her ears

Her jewellery hanging around her ears
Makes bright the day, brighter the night

The shining, swaying earrings
Make the restless more restive

Her ruby red lips outshine all jewels
Her speech puts eloquence to shame

Her lips as red as chewed betel leaves’
Or is the redness our blood’s stain?

Her teeth a string of pearls in the mouth
Or dew drops on the tulip leaves?

Her laughter illuminates the black night
The shining teeth are two pearl strings

Her nose looks like a flashing silvery dagger
Her mouth a narrow bud on the arch of Meem4

Below the lips sits the round chin
Like a silver apple cleft in two

Futile is the search for calm here
A well lies here beside a whirlpool

The chin has a well or is it a cavern of grief?
A paradisiacal pool or the well of Zamzam?5

The chin decorated by a breathtaking dimple
A crow among hyacinths or Haroot in the well6

Her stature drives the camphor candle to envy
It burns itself: ‘How can I match this refulgence?’

Swans fail to match her beautiful neck
The cypress falls to the feet in shame

Gazelles give up at a glimpse of her neck
Hyacinths are shamed as she unveils her tresses

Her chest, brighter than Aleppo’s mirror
What lucky man can recline on it?

Her delicacy and sensitivity are proverbial
Even flower petals feel hard to her

The silver bowls filled with buttered milk
Or pomegranates growing elegantly

Her body, soft cotton flowers spread
She is the majestic ruler herself

The princes on her trail go mad
A glance denied to them is life denied

Her ivory limbs are elegant indeed
Her body immaculate and perfect

In brief, she is beyond all description
Her name is Sheereen, the sweet one

Khusrau, a silent listener till then
Became restive and lost his heart

His heart fell at this magical account
Asked Shapur to stop and say no more

Asked him to find a way to her
And fetch her for him at any cost

Shapur set off to fetch Sheereen
Reached Arman, laid a snare for her

Drew a portrait of Khusrau on paper
And hung it on a nearby tree

He hid himself under a bush
Waited for Sheereen to come

The dawn flowered with the plaint of bulbul
The passionate cry produced a scar on tulip

The Sheereen made her youthful entry
The garden blossomed with joy and mirth

Each flower received its due
Shine, scent and the hue

A fairy so charming among the humans
A flower blooming aloft in woods

Her presence made the sick to rise
Her fragrance nursed them back to health

The houris and fairies kissed her feet
Filled her way with thorn less roses

The air was filled with song and music
All were intoxicated by the songs of love

Sheereen got drunk and drenched in sweat
Past soberness, still sharp of sight

She saw a beautiful portrait hanging by a tree
Was that an angel, fairy, houri or a heavenly face?

The moment she saw it she fell into a swoon
She lost her freshness and turned pale

Her attendants rushed to help her
Pleaded with her to reveal her ailment

A magic, a dream, a trap for her
What confounds her, she asked her maids

She found herself miserable and lost
Is it beauty personified or her heart?

She hardly believed what eyes showed her
Desire or envy left her pale and dry

She waved at the portrait and gave a sigh
Is this a divine being, a spirit or what?

This man of beauty, I wish him here
He is my life, he needs to be here

Who is the artist of this portrait?
Didn’t he fall in love with what he drew?

I am yet to see a more handsome face
Is this a portrait of a living man?

I need him only and no one else
Have no desire for others

I am lost, hapless and confounded
Pray to God to remove my plight

Look for some old faqir to give us a clue
Have they ever seen a man like him?

Shapur disguised himself as a faqir
His ashen glow was just perfect

Sheereen saw him and hurried alone
And showed him the portrait in her hand

“My saint” she fell to his feet, distressed
“Have you ever seen such a man”?

Shapur measured her passion and took his time
Saw her alone and came closer

He softly raised his head from knees
“Ah, this is Khusrau, the legendary man”

“A prince from the line of Anu Sherwan the just
Compare the figures, you have them both

I reveal my secret, I came from him
He saw you in a dream and fell in love

He finds himself a breathing wood
You are his soul, his mission, his goal

He is in Madain restlessly waiting
Or may be already on his way to you

Sheereen and Shapur thanked each other
Sheereen’s grief changed into bliss

Shapur so described Khusrau’s person
That Sheereen was won by the charms

She asked Shapur to make arrangements
For her journey to the city of love

“Come Shapur, accompany me to him
I have other passionate suitors in wait

You are the guide and my secret-keeper
Take me to him who sent you here

Shapur said, “Time has come, rise
Take your horse Shabdiz, I will follow

You have to be a hunter after a game
I will follow your tracks behind

Take this ring as a sign
And show it to him on arrival

She hardly waited for Shapur to finish
Alighted her horse Shabdiz and was gone

She was soon negotiating deserts and dunes
And lost her way in the trackless sands

She was bird taken by whirlwinds
A scent frozen under the cold nights

Thirst and hunger left her tired and dry
A new moon hanging loosely by the sky

By chance she found a fresh water pond
And thought it best to freshen herself

She jumped into the pool and took a dip
Like a houri in a stream of paradise

Meanwhile Khusrau set off on his errand
Travelling through valleys and plains

He saw a houri from a distance
As if a fairy was bathing with Zamzam

Her locks unfurled to entrap lovers
The prince was stricken with desire

Her graceful hand was combing her tresses
A hand that could open the locks of paradise

Her silvery figure an embodiment of camphor
Looked like light upon light

Her immaculate eyes nestled in tresses
A moon sliding behind the clouds

Her hair makes hyacinths lose heart
Her two locks suffused with fragrance

Was it a spectacle or a fairy in sight?
Or a charm, a magic or dancing lights?

Seemingly she is Sheereen, thought Khusrau
She has cast a spell on me, I am trapped

Would that it were Sheereen!
She would cleanse my heart of rust

Sheereen, on the other hand, was ruminating
“When will that handsome youth come to know me”?

Though he rides no steed and has no crown
His kingly demeanour is doubtless

Should I go near, he might know me?
I will draw him close, he unburden his heart

Should I touch him? But he is alone
What shall I tell him in this wilderness?

If this is not him, I might end up in error
Betray myself to a stranger and lose worth

She watched him anxiously and at last
Alighted her horse and sped off

Khusrau paused a little then rushed to the spot
Found nobody there and fell down exhausted

Love had sneaked secretly into both hearts
They saw and departed unknown to each other

Fate did not favour the two lovers
Brought them close yet threw them apart

As soon as Sheereen reached Madain
She found Khusrau gone and gave out a shriek

“O my God, what have I done?”
How have I let my love go?

Ill fate has undone me, alas!
I lost him after having him.

For whom I have given up everything
He has evaded me and left me distraught

For whom I left my parental care
In wilderness I wander aimlessly

Among my maids one was Malik Naz
She looks for me from dawn to dusk

I left them all and came to you
And now I am forlorn in your city

Pricked by thorns, the roses she missed
She found her peace in wilderness

She chose an enclosure on a hillock
Grieving and crying for her love lost

Unmindful of what he had and lost
Khusrau got busy in hunting

Hunting and trekking his way to Arman
He occasioned to see Shapur in grief

Distressed in pain and rolling in dust
Khusrau half understood Shapur’s pain

With a heavy heart he enquired about Sheereen
Waited anxiously for Shapur’s reply

Shpur wept and expressed his ignorance
Told him all about Sheereen’s passion

Khusrau was taken aback and depressed
Now where to find the love he missed

I had her so close and yet did not know
How terrible is the trick of fate?

Now she is all alone in wilderness
She has neither Shapur nor Shabdiz

He asked Shapur to advise him next
How and where to seek her best

Wild winds tossing around a loose page
She is away from her royal entourage

Now let bygones be bygones
Find her fast make good the loss

As Shapur tracked her into that prison
He found her broken, struggling to survive

Sheereen spoke to Shapur in bitter words
“You Shapur, you put me down to shame”

You know what I have left behind me
I preferred a prison-house to m mansion

Shapur said: “I am not to blame
You two were destined to see this

Khusrau has sent me to take you to him
Only an efficient physician can read a sick man’s pulse

Overjoyed, she saddled Shabdiz and galloped away
In a jiffy she reached her lover Khusrau

Face to face, their joy knew no bounds
At last they were free of grief and pain

Intoxicated with love, desire and passion
They treated each other with much compassion

Together they went out hunting
Sauntered through roses and hyacinths

At times Khusrau would take a cup
“Here my love, have a sip”

Drunk, they would fall in each other’s arms
Shower kisses and hold each other in embrace

Their ways of love were many and different
Their engagements refreshed their souls

The gazelles of their wishes were plenty
And so were arrows in their quiver

Wild flowers weaved cushions for the two
And fragrant breezes shielded them from sun

Cups of their eyes were filled with wine
They kissed their rims and licked them clean

The companions of Sheereen were alarmed
They knew that Khusrau was reckless

They asked Meheen Banu to warn her:
“Exercise restraint, let not the reins fall off

Khusrau is known for his intemperance
The Prince Khusrau only looks effeminate

A pretty girl near an effeminate man
Thinks herself safe and flings caution away

Don’t pursue men like the notorious Zulaikha7
Be patient in love like the famous Azra8

Your immodesty first led you to this courtship
Some day Khusrau will taunt you for this

He plays with boars, bears and deer
And kills them with little compunction

Don’t row your boat in a furious storm
When the wind is howling birds stay safe in their nests

You ran away from your clan, a shame
Soiling the honour and all your fame

Check yourself and listen to my word
You are not running water anyone may tap

Hold yourself back and try not to be
A loose kite falling in his hand

You are so frail and tender
He, a lion out on a prowl

You are a rose, he a lustful bulbul
Will suck your nectar and leave you dry

All day and night he is drunk
I warn you, be on guard

Listen to my sincere, motherly advice
Make him keep his lust under check

The admonishment made her very upset
She cursed her fate for the turn of events

She reached Khusrau with a heavy heart
He was already infuriated with impatience

He caught hold of Sheereen firmly
Her anguished soul felt roughed up

He charged her of ditching him
Pleaded with her to reveal her secret

Now, I cannot bear your separation for a moment
Desire is burning me, don’t ignite it further

You only can douse my fire with love
I am a wandering wind, you bind me now

You are Sheereen, the sweet one, sweeten me
Give up indifference and show some mercy

All creatures are made in pairs
Pair less angels settle no where

Merciless love oppresses all
Its power subdues all

A predator never consoles its victim
Fire never leaves gun powder unaffected

The rose, the bird, the music and wine-server
All are here, yet what a pity if there is no union

It’s the hour of leisure, make best of it
Let love be shared when others are gone

I implore you, your love has transfixed me
Come, who knows what might come next

Under this fragrant tree of love what fear?
I’ll clean sweep the webs of fear you have

In case you nourish some other in your heart
And keep him dear, tell me who is he?

Sheereen was shocked and fainted there
Her delicate feelings were bruised

She grieved for long and cried alone
How could Khusrau be so reckless?

I who have none in heart but him
Who guarded and kept myself for him

I kept my pearls pure for him alone
Hyacinths I weaved in wreaths for him

With an ingenious ploy she saved herself
And evaded Khusrau burning with desire

How much she needed Khusrau by her side!
And how he demanded a fee for that!

She kept him cool by her sweet words
I am your maid, you are Jamsheed or Darius

You have caged me with a bewitching smile
You are the midday sun, I, a midday lamp

I am a humble maid in your service
You, a noble heart, take pity on me

You are my wealth, my profit and loss
You are the key to my treasure trove

I am an offering lying at your door
My life is yours, take it or leave it

Let our two clans approve of our word
Otherwise a cursed soul I am

Today we are because of them
Listen, love is not a betrayal

Even if you take me to the slave market
I will not grudge it and accept your command

Khusrau could hardly be cajoled by words
He begged and begged for favour again

You have driven me crazy for so long
My fairy! What makes you mistrust me?

I can never leave you now
Caste me not away like this

You are the essence of all my wishes
I am a crestfallen man, lost to all

Your arrow has pierced my heart so deep
I offer you my life, don’t let me down

He lost his hope in Sheereen, his love
And admonished himself to give up on her

“She can’t fathom the distress of your heart”
With this he set off to Rome, heavy of heart

The Roman king had a daughter, Maryam
No less than Sheereen in beauty and charm

How charming and sweet were her ways!
The prince gladly acknowledged her favours

Khusrau enjoyed the blooming bud
And pleased himself with her charming youth

He forgot Sheereen without the help of a drink
Banished grief without giving vent to his heart

He took Maryam to Madain with himself
And began his rule with full majesty

The news put Sheereen on a thousand thorns
She wept aloud complaining of her lot

She cried to her friends and maids
“Alas, I lost the apple of my eyes”!

“How had he begged for my favour
How I ignored him and he went away

I did not understand his feeling
Nor recognised his wishes

Till winds of despair carried him far
My destiny always blinded my heart

I let go my game trapped so dearly
Pearls collected are now scattered

The rival in love can turn gold to dust
Casting spells she can rend lovers apart

It is the rival that has changed my gold to brass
It is the rival that has brought me to the ground

I don’t remember to have taunted anyone
Why has then my spring become winter?

His garden of love I decked with lilies
But the bumble bee destroyed the narcissus

I am defamed now in all places
The cruel one lost all sense of justice

I will call him, will he pay heed?
I am frenzied, will he remember me?

He stole my heart and left me to waste
I will die before I am unfaithful to him

Her maids said: “A lover is yours only in sight
Away from you, he doesn’t belong to you

A resolve she made and called her maids
Repaired to Madain, claiming her place

Sheereen’s agony was carried to Khusrau
Her resolve and her love for him

He ran quickly to Maryam’s chamber
Seeking solace and her advice

“I hear Sheereen is back to fetch me
Where should I keep her, what’s the way out?

I swear by you I have made a resolve
Never to take her as long as I have you

Still, is it possible that you two put together?
Or keep her a maid, one among countless others?

No sooner had Khusrau uttered these words
Than Maryam was beyond herself with rage

Renounce her now or I call my father
The army of Rome will obliterate you

Can you bear an arrow between your eyes?
Can you bear bear being burnt alive?

Khusrau called for the trusted Shapur
“Come, Shapur, we have a task to do?”

Go, tell Sheereen to be calm and cool
Maryam is not the woman I want

My love for Sheereen is very deep
How deep, I will tell her myself someday

If she agrees bring her to me
Let her bless me with her presence

She is wise and knows my state better
She is at liberty to choose her stay

Shapur revealed Khusrau’s heart to Sheereen
She fell, a tree axed by the woodcutter

Shapur, I can’t go to him from here
Here I shall wait for him to come

If he deems fit, let him visit me here
Or else send me a lock of his fragrant hair

The meaning of his message I can intuit
He waters my leaves, axes my roots

Meheen Bano’s death was a big blow to me
I followed her advice and ruined my life

Now the past is past, let us start afresh
I am innocent, lead me to light

In the world of toils and misery
I am ablaze with the love of Parvaiz

Sinners will have their place in hell
Away from him I am burning here

Listen, my sole sustenance is sweet milk
But I have to have it before the day ends

Can you find me a skillful craftsman?
So, the self-effacing Farhaad was brought

Sheereen addressed him with respect
“Let you prosper by day and night!”

Sheereen observed his elegant stature
And spoke to him in private

She pleaded with him to listen
“I need to have milk each day

Bring out a milk canal from this mount
We shall be friends ever after”

Farhaad was much taken by her beauty
Tears of love issued from his two springs

He lost his senses and fell on his knees
His world was turned upside down

Sheereen stood him on his feet very kindly
“O you, known for your strength, do not act so”

He got down to work and dug out a canal
From her resplendent face he drew strength

The news travelled to Khusrau in no time
Farhaad, a young man, has done this for Sheereen

The stone cutter has performed an amazing task
He has pierced the heart of a mountain rock

And brought forth a milk canal by his craft
Now he enjoys the patronage of Sheereen

Even poison from her hand is sweet to him
He serves her like a faithful slave

His utter devotion to her is stunning
He is an angel in the human guise

In woods he sings in her praise alone
He composes ghazals for her

Sheereen too holds him in high esteem
She finds her solace at his place

Khusrau could hardly suffer the crown on his head
He called for Farhaad who was instantly brought

“What’s your name?” inquired Khusrau
“Names are but appendages hollow”

“Do you have parents?” Khusrau asked
“All I have is before you”, he replied

“Where do you come from” Khusrau went on
“I belong to no place”, came the curt answer

“What do you desire?”, Khusrau asked
“Majnoon wants Laila, no more no less”

“What will you take to give up on her?”
“Offer me the whole world, it is vain”

Khusrau said: “So, it is Sheereen that you want”
“A blind man wants two seeing eyes”, quipped Farhaad

“Speak truly, who are you?” asked Khusrau
“I am Farhaad, the mountain-cutter, Sheereen’s lover”

“Erase her from your heart”, thundered Khusrau
“Only when the eyes turn blind”, said Farhaad

“You don’t deserve Sheereen”, taunted Khusrau
“You are wrong, fathom your own being”

“Forget her”, Khusrau repeated himself
“Don’t give yourself airs, please”

Khusrau went on, “Do you have any worries?”
“None but that of Sheereen”, said Farhaad

Khusrau roared, “By God, I will slay you”
Farhaad shot back, “My head is on offer”

The repartee continued or some more time
Until Khusrau was fed up and let Farhaad go

Confounded, he addressed his courtiers
Never have I heard such witty retorts

My wise ministers, find some way out
He is about to take my Sheereen away

They deliberated and stumbled upon an idea
Farhaad had to be got by a trick

Farhaad was summoned and offered a deal
“Go and make a path through Mount Bistun”.

“We promise you Sheereen if you succeed
You will have you reward when you are finished”.

Farhaad was elated and pounced upon the deal
He took a pickaxe and started hewing the rocks

First he carved an image of Sheereen in rocks
A beautiful image, a replica of the damsel

At lunch time he would feast his eyes on the image
He would lose himself to its spectacle

For days Farhaad kept working eyeing his reward
And constantly prayed for Sheereen to come

At last his prayers were answered
And Sheereen came to see him

She found him in the dust exhausted
Days of toil had taken their toll

She screamed to see him in a terrible state
“Farhaad, why have you gone this far for me?”

But for Farhaad a mere glimpse was all
He regained his strength by her magical touch

Farhaad escorted Sheereen with care
It was clear, the two were in deep love

It is said that when Khusrau got to know
Farhaad’s victory over rocks and her heart

He was perplexed and called his counsellors
“I have promised him Sheereen for this feat

Now he will have her, tell me a way out”
“There is only one way to deal with this

We will announce that Sheereen is dead”
They enstrusted an old woman the task

She was dispatched to Bistun to seek Farhaad
As she neared it she sent out a terrible shriek

“Farhaad, listen to the calamitous news
Your Sheereen is dead, your love is no more”

Farhaad stood chilled but at last uttered a cry
“What is this that I hear? My great God!

My promising youth has retracted its steps
I filled rocks with water, now it’s gone

Crying, he threw himself on Sheereen’s image
And cursed himself in pain and agony

And then, suddenly he took his pickaxe
And struck his head hard with it

Farhaad fell down, dead by his own hands
“In death alone will I be one with her”

The news reached Sheereen, and Khusrau too
Sheereen burst into tears of inconsolable grief

She knew her life would never be the same again
Her beloved had sacrificed himself at her altar

“Your purity in love will be remembered
This will earn you a high station in lovers”

Come, Mahmood, wind up your story
Keep learning from the stories of love.


  1. Written in imitation of the great Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s (1141-1209) famous masnavi Khusrau Sheereen. The poem relates a love affair that takes place in a historical setting. Throughout the centuries many poets have tried to compose imitations of Nizami, either in the form of self-contained narrative poemson the legend of Farhaad and Sheereen, or within the wider frame of the Khusrau and Sheereen romance. Perhaps the most successful among the latter group was Amir Khusrau of Delhi (d.1325).

Khusrau Parvez, the Sassanid ruler (r. 591-628), Sheereen, the beautiful princess and Farhaad, Khusrau’s rival in love.

  1. Jamsheed, mythical king of Iran.
  2. The black stone fitted in a wall of Kaaba in Mecca.
  3. The letter meem in the Arabo-Persian script resembles the half of a curved arch with a round head.
  4. Zamzam is a famous well near Kaaba in Mecca and sacred to Muslims.
  5. Haroot and Maroot are two (fallen) angels according to tradition who were chained and imprisoned in a well in Babylon. The well was at the summit of the hill. Seekers of forbidden magical arts went there to be instructed by the fallen angels.
  6. The famous lover of Yusuf in Islamic legend and literature.
  7. Azra, the beloved of Vamiq in a famous love story Vamiq u Azra.

Dr Mufti Mudassir teaches in the Department of English at the University of Kashmir.

Mahmood Gami (1765-1855) introduced in Kashmiri the Persian forms of the Masnavi and Ghazal. He is noted for his work Yusuf Zulaikha, a poem which is a major contribution to Kashmiri literature. It is the first and the most popular masnavi in Kashmiri. It comprises 700 verses and has also been rendered into the German by the famous 19th century European scholar Fredrich Burkhard. 

Courtesy: Sheeraza English (Jan-Mar 2018 Issue).

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