Persian paved way for secular, mass education in India: Historian

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 26, 2013 12:00 hrs

Hyderabad, Feb 26 (IANS) Persian language for the first time paved the way for secular and mass education in India, said historian and scholar Ziauddin Ahmed Shakeeb.

According to him, until the British rule was enforced, education in India was restricted only to Brahmins.

"Aside from Muslims, no other Indian of a caste lower than Brahmins had access to literacy. In such a situation Persian offered itself as a language open to one and all," he said while explaining why Persian and not an Indian language was used as an official language in India.

The former professor of Urdu and the history of Indo-Islamic art and culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, was delivering key-note address at an international seminar on Persian organized at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) here Tuesday.

Speakers from India, Iran and other countries are attending the three-day seminar on 'The contribution of Adil Shahis of Deccan in promotion of Persian language, literature and culture' organized by the H.K. Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies of MANUU in collaboration with Iranian consulate in Hyderabad.

Eminent art collector and historian Jagdish Mittal made a presentation to highlight the contribution of Bijapur painting during the period of Adil Shahis.

Shakeeb noted after shifting of capital from Delhi to the Deccan in 14th century, the Perso-Islamic culture by the end of 15th century was not in its pristine Iranian form as it had already assimilated a good deal of Indian influence linguistically and culturally.

"In almost a century and a half of Bahmani rule in the Deccan there had been a huge influx of sufis, poets, scholars who wrote in Persian language, administrators, architects, painters, calligraphers and other sections of the Delhi elite," he said while observing that it was a beginning of a major change in the administrative system in the Deccan.

Bijapur was a multilingual state with Kannada and Marathi as major languages but the official language was Persian not only at the court but throughout the state administration.

Out of two centuries of Adil Shahi reign in Bijapur, a hundred years each were covered by Shia and Sunni rulers.

"During the reign of Shias, Iranians known as afaqis dominated the court and naturally, Persian language and literature flourished. During the reign of Sunni sultans, local Deccanis and other native sections prospered which resulted in a wonderful linguistic phenomenon known as Deccani," Shakeeb explained.

MANUU vice-chancellor Mohammad Miyan noted that both Urdu and Persian were integral part of Deccan culture, which was cosmopolitan in nature. Describing Urdu as daughter of Persian, he said unlike others, Urdu adopted the culture and native languages.

Mohammad Sharaf-e-Alam, former vice-chancellor, MMH Arabic and Persian University, Patna, observed that Urdu would have no existence without Persian.

He did not agree that Persian is a dead language. "It is mother tongue and official language of four to five countries. It is a language of business in some Arab countries. It has made a special place for itself in modern Arab world," he said.

He explained that the scope for learners of Persian are huge given its use in tourism, embassies, business and relations among countries. He advised students to develop command over the language and hone their skills in reading, writing and interpretations to tap the opportunities.

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