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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Practice of Pederasty: Urdu poetry, homosexuality and medieval Indian culture

Initially, I wasn't keen to write a post on this subject but recently I have received many messages and emails after the online discussion among bloggers.

And, I decided that I should write on this subject. The reason is that a large number of people are not aware about that particular 'culture' of the bygone era.

'Classical homosexuality' or pederasty should not be confused with Gays. There is a difference. The discussion begun after Urdu couplets were wrongly interpreted. Also, Raghupati Sahay 'Firaq' Gorakhpuri's name came up [as always] in the discussion.

Firstly, we all know Firaq's son committed suicide because the legendary poet was 'aghlaam-baaz or amrad-parast viz. those who had sexual relations with young boys [teenagers]. Firaq had not spared his son's friend who had stayed for a night in his house.

Josh Malihabadi was also known for his 'amrad-parasti' and the sexual exploits. In his autobiography Yaadon ki Baraat he has taken great pains to describe both his pederastic as well as heterosexual affairs.

Basically, for centuries when women remained confined to houses, the men preyed on young boys. Not just ordinary folk but clerics, litterateurs and great educationists of the era were known to practice pederasty--from India to Iran.

In India, the social sanction to pederasty, ended suddenly in the decade of 40s. It is strange, how a 'culture' that thrived for centuries, suddenly came to an end.

In fact, it was bisexuality at its best. Legendary poet Mir Taqi Mir was madly in love with the son of an itr-seller. His collection has hundreds of couplets explicitly reflecting his sexual orientation and the uftaad-tibaa.

The situation was so bad in North India that after maghrib (evening), the boys were just not allowed to step outside their houses. The teachers, a majority of them, even in madarsas lured their pupil.

One has to just read legendary poet Akhtarul Iman's autobiography in which he has written how men exchanged their 'boys tutored in the art of sex' all over Delhi.

Or how a famous poet who was associated with All India Radio recalls in his autobiography that when he was ten or twelve [he was fair and had soft features] the situation was so bad in the city that groups of middle-aged men and youth were hunting for him.

His parents were asked to shift him to a southern city else he might have lost his 'virginity'. Today it may be difficult for our generation to understand what either of the sides enjoyed so much in this relationship but those familiar to this dark world are aware that once a 'master of this so-called art' trapped a boy, the latter also found it tough to get out. I don't want to be too explicit though.

Read 'Tazkira-e-Khush Muarka-e-Zeba' about the social life of Oudh during Nawabi era where almost every male on the street appeared bisexual. In fact, our society treated these subjects as taboos and the books in Persian and Urdu of that era gathered dusts, who is there to read them or even the new books about that era now?

Lack of familiarity for Urdu script has brought us here that we don't even know how different that period was. Mercifully though. But those living in old quarters of Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Delhi and other cities of UP, Bihar still know how widespread this amrad-parasti is.

I wonder how the eminent personalities like that great editor of a famous Urdu newspaper always kept 4-5 young boys for sexual gratification and when confronted about it, would laugh it off.

Like Hoor and Ghilman promised in paradise, this ghilman or young boy as sweet as pearls brought a hypocritical religious sanction for pederasty. If anyone wants to have a peep into that world he can read Gulistan of Saa'di where scores of pages are devoted to stories about young males in love, living like 'badaam mein do giri'.

And mind you, Gulistan was taught to Muslim boys all over the world for centuries.

It must have been deliberate process to make the young ones accept this as fate and condition their minds. Read Olympian Aslam Sher Khan's book in which he cites how no boy could play hockey at higher level until he submitted to his 'ustaad' in Bhopal. This book 'To Hell With Hockey' is available online.

And the poignant account of his life when an elderly person tried to bring him to couch. That man was his father's friend and Aslam Sher Khan was in tears. Hurt and angry, he threw hockey stick in disgust.

But homosexuality as our poets like Iftikhar Naseem of Pakistan 'Ifti' who claim is different from this pederasty. Like he says in India-Pakistan Shaadi is a purdah and Ifti claims he is a female trapped in a male's body but his relationship is with consent and with adults. There are finer differences. I think books can be written about this but it is useless.

More so in Persia (Iran) it was always the culture. Still, it [termed bachchabazi] is prevalent in Afghanistan. One of the kings in pre-Mughal earahad died in one such passionate session that reached heights of nonsensical perversion.

Not just Muslims, pederasty was practiced widely. In the first part of 20th century, it was common across North India. The book 'Chocolate' written by Pandey Bachan Ugra, reveals how pederasty was a fad.

We also know many RSS members including VD Savarkar or the killers of Gandhi viz. Karkare, Apte were homosexual. Read Freedom at Midnight's original unedited version where Savarkar's orientation is mentioned.

[I do not want to hurt anyone's sentiments. I have not gone into real details because it may shock people and it will not serve any purpose. I have no business to condemn any sexual attitude as long as it is not forced. As far as religion is concerned, it is not our job to judge a fellow Muslim or non-Muslim. Thanks]

5 comments:

luckyfatima said...

interesting stuff. a bit is too highly specialized so I don't get your references, but still very fascinating.

Maria said...

In the beginning of times it wasn’t a bad thing to have sexual partners of both sex and people tend to get marry as early as 12 or 13. So people who does it openly like public figures are not doing anything wrong atleast in their or societies eyes. Of course rights of many people were violated, especially the weaker ones. It was a common practice in Roman Empire and they were proud of it. See 1.

I am sure this still goes happens in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and else where. One can find such persons under the disguise of Catholic Priest (see2), Mullah, Rabbi, Hindu Priest, and Sports Coach and wherever there is no check. As it happens these people, lets call them Predators are always looking for a place where they can perform their business without attracting any attention and what could be a better place than religious setting; after all most people trust them.

We cannot find many cases such as 2 in backward countries as we know the problems there.

1.http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa072099.htm

2.http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/

P.S. BTW I am learning a great deal about India through your blog.

Suhail said...

That was quite some news for me(especially the link to Firaq/Josh)...surprising and amazing.

Anonymous said...

Read Saleem Kidwai's work (the whole section on Medieval Materials in the Perso-Urdu Tradition) in Same-Sex Love in India, ed. Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai (Palgrave, 2000; Indian edition Penguin India 2008), for a detailed analysis and translations of many texts on consensual sex between males in medieval India. Also see the sections on Rekhti (19th century Urdu poetry) for love between women in the Muslim world, Firaq, Josh Malihabadi etc. in the Modern Materials section of the same book.

akansha said...

i am glad this blog is so old.
it took me 10 years to stumble on it.i will read it all.