City Monument – Bedil’s Tomb, Near Purana Quila
The Bedil pilgrimage.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Torn, faded silk fabrics are lying like shrouds upon the ruined graves, sheltering these relics from rain, sunshine and dust.
And in one corner lies a grave with a roof.
Here sleeps a poet.
Nearly 300 years after his death, Mirza Abdul-Qadir Bedil is largely forgotten in our city but he commands a cult following in Afghanistan and in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
This explains the presence of a Russian-language signboard beside his tomb. Unveiled in 2006 by Tajikistan President, Emomali Rahmonov, it celebrates a legend who “was nourished by this blissful and fertile land of Hindustan” and whose “celestial verses had greatly benefited the evolution of the poetry of Persia and Tajikistan in the past centuries.”
Even the proud Ghalib — notorious for having a low opinion of every other poet — had profound esteem for Bedil. He once wrote:
Tarz-e-bedil mein rekhta kehna
Asadullah Khan, qayaamat hai
(To write Urdu in the style of Bedil,
that indeed is superlative, Asadullah Khan)
This afternoon, an elderly man is reverently stepping inside Bedil’s tomb. He shyly confesses that his name, too, is Abdul Qadir and that he has come all the way from Kabul to touch the “blessed ground” in which “my Bedil” lies buried.
Kneeling down on the grave, the Afghan pilgrim takes out a booklet from the breast pocket of his jacket. With trembling fingers, he jots down the Persian text inscribed on the poet’s gravestone.
He then gets up, straightens his frail figure, places his hand on his heart, and silently murmurs a short prayer. After some time, he goes away, gingerly walking towards the busy Mathura Road, leaving Bedil to the company of other graves.
A poet’s memorial