ĀRZŪ, SERĀJ-AL-DĪN ʿALĪ KHAN, major Indo-Muslim poet, lexicographer and litterateur (b. at Gwalior or Agra 1099/1687-88 or 1101/1689-90; see Storey, I/2, p. 834). On his father’s side he was descended from Naṣīr-al-dīn Maḥmūd Čerāḡ-e Dehlī, and on his mother’s side, from the Šaṭṭārī Shaikh Moḥammad Ḡawṯ Gwālīōrī. In 1132/1719-20, after finishing his early education at Agra, he went to Delhi. There he was befriended by the influential Hindu Persian poet, Ānand Rām Moḵleṣ, and he found generous patrons in Nawab Esḥāq Khan, the ḵān-sāmān of Moḥammad Shah, and the nawab’s sons, Naǰm-al-dawla and Sālār Jang. In 1168/1754-55 Ārzū went to Avadh with Sālār Jang and was presented by him to Nawab Šoǰāʿ-al-dawla who granted him a monthly stipend of 300 rupees. However, he died soon after on 23 Rabīʿ II 1169/26 January 1756, and his body was brought from Lucknow to Delhi for burial.

Ārzū was a first-rate scholar. His numerous writings include works on rhetoric (Mawhebat-e ʿoẓmā, ʿAṭīa-ye kobrā) and literary criticism as well as lexicons. He wrote detailed commentaries on Neẓāmī’s Eskandar-nāma, the qaṣidas of Ḵāqānī and ʿOrfī, and the Golestān of Saʿdī. His taḏkera, Maǰmaʿ al-nafāʾes, originally intended to be a preface to a projected but never completed anthology of some 1700 poets, is disappointing (Storey, I/2, p. 839 n. 1).

Of his dictionaries Serāǰ al-loḡa is the best known. Completed in 1147/1734-35, it lists the non-Arabic words used by classical Persian poets (motaqaddemīn) with definitions from the Borhān-e qāteʿ of Moḥammad Tabrīzī (compl. 1062/1652), together with lengthy and often critical remarks. According to Blochmann (“Contributions to Persian Lexicography,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 37/1, 1868, p. 25) “the Borhān should never have been printed without the notes of the Serāǰ.” Čerāḡ-e hedāyat, a dictionary of words used by later Persian poets (motaʾaḵḵerīn), is in fact the second volume of the Serāǰ. Ārzū wrote two other dictionaries: Zāʾed al-fawāʾed, a compilation of Persian verbs and abstract nouns based on ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Hānsavī’s Zawāʾed al-fawāʾed, and Ḡarāʾeb al-loḡāt, a corrected edition of Hānsavī’s Ḡarāʾeb al-loḡāt (Storey, I/2, p. 837).

Tanbīh al-ḡāfelīn is an essay in defense of Sabk-e Hendī (q.v.), especially as it had been developed in the poetry of Bīdel, Nāṣer-ʿAlī Serhendī, Ārzū, etc., which ʿAlī Ḥazīn, a contemporary of Ārzū, had satirized. It also contains some verses of Ḥazīn which Ārzū had selected for sharp criticism. Despite its emotional overtones, the Tanbīh has been commended by later historians of literature (e.g., Blochmann, op. cit., p. 2710).

In poetry Ārzū emulated Salīm Ṭehrānī, Aṯar Šīrāzī, Bābā Feḡānī and Kamāl Ḵoǰandī. The poems modeled after Aṯar’s seem to have been the most popular (Storey, I/2, p. 836 n. 1). Some biographers have attributed an Urdu dīvān to him (Ḥaydar Baḵš Ḥaydarī, Golšan-e Hend, Delhi, 1967, p. 24) and Moḥammad Ḥosayn Āzād quotes some lines from his Urdu poetry (Āb-e ḥayāt, pp. 137-38). But the overwhelming evidence is against such an attribution although he set up guidelines for the poets who wrote in Urdu and was the preceptor of such Urdu poets as Mīr Taqī Mīr, Mīrzā Maẓhar Jan-e-ǰānān, Mīrzā Rafīʿ Sawdā, and Ḵᵛāǰa Mīr Dard.



See also Ḡ. ʿA. A. Belgrāmī, Sarv-e āzād, Lahore, 1913.

M.-Ḥ. Āzād, Āb-e ḥayāt (Urdu), Fayzabad, n.d. M. G. de Tassy, Histoire de la littérature Hindouie et Hindoustani, 2nd ed., I, Paris, 1870, repr. New York, 1965, pp. 226-28.

R. B. Saksena, History of Urdu Literature, Allahabad, 1927, pp. 47-48.

Š. Qāderī, Qāmūs al-aʿlām (Urdu), Hyderabad, 1935, part 1, cols. 26-29.

Storey, I/2, pp. 834-40.

A. Schimmel, “Classical Urdu Literature from the Beginning to Iqbal,” A History of Indian Literature, ed. J. Gonda, VIII, fasc. 3, Wiesbaden, 1975, pp. 164-65.

Marshal, Mughals in India, pp. 81-83.

(M. Siddiqi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 16, 2011

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