The Romance of Laur-Chanda by Medhavi Gandhi from The Heritage Lab

Love stories never go out of fashion, especially when they are narrated using songs and drama. The story of Laur and Chanda, is one such story. The folklore is performed till date in Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh and some parts of North India. Many moons ago, somewhere around 1377-78 AD (the Sultanate Period), a Sufi poet, Maulana Daud composed this narrative in Avadhi, giving birth to the first surviving Indian Sufi romance.

A reason why I am drawn to museums is because they are a storehouse of  stories. I chanced upon the story of Laur and Chanda at the Government Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh. A delicate set of folios, the Museum has a great book on the collection.

THE STORY & ITS CHARACTERS

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Laur enters Chanda’s bed chamber.

The narrative begins with the birth of a beautiful Chanda to King Sahadeva of Govar. While still very young, she is bound in wedlock to a blind and impotent Prince. The great beauty that brought her this lamentable fate also releases her from it, for the unhappy maiden catches the eye of a wandering ascetic, Bajir. Bajir sings her praises wherever he goes and sets the story in motion. His songs arouse the lust of King Rupchand so much so that he forcefully tries to forge an alliance with King Sahadev. This is when our hero, Laur is brought in by the King, to overcome and kill Rupchand; but he falls in love with Chanda, though not before achieving his goal.  Chanda engages her confidante, Brihaspati in arranging secret meetings with Laur. But the story isn’t as simple because Laur is married to Maina – who comes to know about her husband’s illicit love and devises ways of winning him back when he elopes with Chanda. Chanda and Laur’s elopement itself is ridden with challenges – snakebites, thieves and the King Mahipat – who invites Laur to a game of dice and wins everything including Chanda. He is, however, outwitted by Chanda and they journey on. Maina on the other hand, entrusts Sirjan, a caravan leader with the task of locating her husband. Eventually, Laur and Chanda return but the lovers’ plight does not end with confrontation and Chanda ends up as Laur’s second wife.

THE CHANDIGARH MUSEUM FOLIOS

The folios of Laur-Chanda are rare and significant in artistic terms. A set of 24 folios has survived, of which 14 lie with the Lahore Museum in Pakistan, and 10 in India’s Chandigarh Museum. The poem by Maulana Daud testifies to his genius as a great storyteller. The artist pays tribute to this very genius by placing him in every folio – almost reminding the viewer of the origins of the story. You will notice him in white with a holy book in every frame.

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More: http://www.theheritagelab.in/laur-chanda/#comment-7

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During the Anjundan period Nizari Imams took on Sufi names

Interesting facts about History of the Middle East.

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The post-Alamut period in Nizari Ismaili history comprises the first two centuries after the fall of Alamut (1090-1256) and the Anjundan revival from the mid-fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

After the fall of Alamut, the Imams remained in hiding for almost two centuries in order to avoid persecution and to safeguard the community; only a handful of trusted da’is had physical contact with the Imams. Imam Sham al-Din Muhammad for instance, was concealed under the nickname ‘Zarduz’ (embroiderer).*

Illuminated pages from Diwan of Hafiz, late 18th century. produced for the 44th Imam Sayyid Abu'l Hasan. (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History) Illuminated pages from Diwan of Hafiz, late 18th century. produced for the 44th Imam Sayyid Abu’l Hasan. (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History)

The Nizari communities scattered over a wide region from Syria and Persia, Central and South Asia, developing locally and in isolation from one another. The Imams and the community disguised themselves under the mantle of Sufism that was spreading widely in Persia, appearing as a Sufi tariqa, using…

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mystery of alif – a painting based on sufi text

Resize of mystery off alifRead only Alif, it will liberate you
The Alif multiplied and became two. three and four
It multiplied again and became a thousand, a million, a billion.
Then it multiplied itself into an infinite number,
This mystery of Alif is wonderous!

Why do you read bundles of book?
Your head is loaded with sin;
Now you look like a handman,
And the path ahead is hard and arduous!

You become Hafiz and learn the Qur’an by heart,
You purge your tongue by reading its text,
But you fix your attention on the luxury of the world,
You mind wanders like a mad madman.

O Bullah, the seed of the banyan tree was sown,
The tree grew big,
When it died,
The same Single Seed was left over again.

Here is description:The title comes from the poem/Kaafi of Baba Bulleh Shah. Fundamentally, the poem is about the Unity og Knowledge. Here is Bulleh Shah is the first person narrator in the poem and is first of all addressing a general audiance and, in the last verse addresses himself,”O Bullah”The poet himself communicates the symbolism of the Alif so simply and yet with such faih that it inspired me to depict the subject in painting form.In this poem the Alif is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet (corresponding to ‘A’) and it is the letter that begins the word ‘Allah’; here the Alif corresonds to Allah Himself and is the symbol of Unity. The subject of the poem is the Unity and Diversity of God – God is One and his gnosis and knowledge are One – all branches of knowledge flow from one and the same knowledge and all return t the One.The theme is that people who read and collect books, and those who memoris the Qur’an, those in fact who consider thmselves learned, are not actually the ones closest to God. Rather, it is the man who knows God in his hert, that is, who knows Alif, who i the one with a pure and sincere heart who stands upright before his Lord. On reading the poem, ven in English, it is the most beautiful language that says so much in such few and simple words. Besides decrying books and too much learning, the poet also criticises the hypocrisy of one who learns the QUR’AN and then goes an focuses his “attention on luxury of the world.” In fact, in the last vers the addresses himself, “O Bullah,” as if the whole poem were a reminder to himself of the Truth and a reminder of what he and all of us should centre our lives around. True knowlede, in fact, liberates the soul from the distractions of the world – it prevents our minds from wandering “like a madman.” And theremembernce of Allah, of the Mystery of Alif, is truly wonderous and always brings us back to the True Centre. In the last verse, the author mentions the seed of the banyan tree; the banyan tree is a very important and symbolic tree in the Indo-Pak Hindu and Muslim mystical tradition as well as in the Buddhist tradition. Not only did the Buddha sit under the banyan tree untill he attained enlightenment, but also mystics from Hindu and Muslim tradition sat under the banyan tree; and the Single Seed from which the tree grows represents Unity to which all things, all multiplicity eventually returns.