May not enter tomorrow's!

Through whom shall I send him today's prayer?

Ambassador, air, and star - None visits

His abode!

Starting with these poetic verses, I believe that feminine imagination of profound love between man and woman is intrinsically eccentric, and remained buried under the dust of social stigma for centuries restricting women expression to standout vehemently. We will, however, remain centric to the subject of women poetry in sub-continent where the origins and transformation in female poetic vision has relentlessly thrown in subtle shadows. Historians will tell us unarguably regarding Mir, Ghalib, Haali, Sauda, Iqbal, Saahir, Dagh, on both eccentric and Sufi fronts, but women have been less written in the books of bold making their work a fair underdog.

In early times, there were certain misconceptions articulated by critics of educational excellence on the domain of “women and literature”; viewing women to be less literate to grasp the intellectual intricacy. We can create a more relevant notion. Historically, some of the work did show how women took over the profound self-realizations, put it together with modesty and crafted unique connotations with “Sufism”; the saint’s philosophy, considered to be one of most arduous forms of poetry. While it took some time for the poets to bow down to the love of man and woman, the women again stirred their heart and soul to transform vision and produced genuine pieces on the subject. Sadly, women were subjected to both social fallacies and patriarchal impediments that displaced their way to poetic apex.

Starting with it, we will specifically dig out the transformation in vision, which has been found embedded in works of female poets depicting romance for God, superseded by eccentric romance of modern times. We will also highlight the journey whereby an iconic expression emerged in poetic works for which Parveen Shakir is now known as Parveen Shakir.

“Sufism” has been considered the subject of Islam for quite along time and serves as foundation for mysticism either haqaqi or majazi. It is usually believed that teachings of Sufism got transmitted from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to those who have the capacity to acquire closeness of God in the mysticism of their insightful love and faith. Awis Al-Qarni, Hasan Basri and Harith Al-Muhasibi are famous male saints of early times. Men’s work here again dominated the rulings of this art. But among them, a woman, Rabia Basri, disciple of Hassan Basri, emerged as eminent Sufi poet and philosopher. As Muslims conquered various territories, Sufism was delivered into other cultural or religious dominions and multiple devotional styles developed with gnosis as a core element. In the Indian Subcontinent, Sufism also got entrenched in poetic vision of female saints. Some prominent works among them is of Lalleshwari also known as Lal Ded, (1320-1392) mystic of Kashmiri Shaivite sect. She is the creator of mystic poetry called Vatsun or Vakhs meaning “speech” composed in Kashmiri language.

It is important to question why women have not been dug up for their contribution in poetic transformation, as a lot have been found precisely associated to philosophical and poetic evolution in their respective times. When Sufism spread in the Indian subcontinent, its other versions shot off, throwing it out of “intellectual property right" of Islam. Nazam-ud-din Chishti, Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai, Baba Bulleh Shah and Ameer Khusro have major contributions to Sufism in the region. Women again were not recognized for their unfathomable mystical prophecies. Slowly, the Saint’s philosophy found its grounds in other religions and sects thus reaching Kashmiri Shaivism; one of Hindu philosophies. The poetic vision got transformed to a new horizon for which Lal Ded will always be remembered as an inspiring visionary. 

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It is important to notice if before the British Rule, recognition of eccentric feminine romance is seen in society or not. For this we need to comprehend what the cultural or court practices in the region were. It is generally deemed that an Islamic society, for which few kings at that time fought in sub-continent, would despise women’s practice of open expression. But considering this as a generalized outlook, we must look at ciphers which will help us realize why this viewpoint contradicts the depictions of early literature and culture work. It been found that the state of India has always been a flourishing center of performing arts, where, traditionally, the ladies used to dance and sing in the presence of the king or ruler. There, surprisingly, women, in widespread empires either Islamic or secular, were found to be a symbols of entertainment. The evidences of this insight came from Mughal and Persian miniature illustrations of courts by artists showing prior lifestyles of Indian’s emperors.

This makes one thing obvious, the “lifestyles”, which magnifies the reality that bold and open expression was prevalent within court realms. Also the singing practice by prostitutes and regional female singers shows the poetry being used with musical instruments. Undoubtedly, the emperors were fond of feminine music and art, despite the fact that outright outlook in Islamic dominions might restrict it. Considering the miniature art and its depictions, the then “fragile gender” was not the victim of religious prejudices. In addition to this, it is not established that no noticeable poetic work has been done by women in eccentric romance. Even if we don’t look closely, the evolution of female poetry did not lack progression, but suffices in providing rhythms in respective times.

Some of them where amongst the most vigilant and respected warriors of their times. Razia Sultana was a woman that has been found wise, brave, organized, who showed deep regard for philosophical understandings. Similarly Durgavati and Nur Jehan (wife of Jahangir), have been observed as establishing intellectual frameworks for entire throne. The Mughal princesses Jahanara and Zebunnissa were well-known poets. Some of the poetesses that emerged from Bhakti movement, a movement tried to restore women status, were Mirabai, Akka Mahadevi and Lal Ded. Just like Lal Ded, Mirabai was also a follower of Sufism, (Lal came later), and she writes:

My beloved dwells in my heart all day,

I have actually seen that abode of joy

As we learned earlier, Indian Emperor Courts did became hubs of culture and literature later, where the rhythms were an outright manifestation of the poetic vision, which was subject to eccentric romance. In this regard, few women were dedicated to creating an expression that was inclined to Ishq-e-Majazi and integrated the folklores that penetrated the literary fronts. Zeb-un-issa's (1637 - 1702) works then became an insightful inclination towards eccentric romance. Princess Zeb-un-issa’s writing echoed the yearning for passion and love through her voice as following:

Though I am Laila of the Persian romance,

my heart loves like ferocious Majnun.

I want to go to the desert

but modesty is chains on my feet.

A nightingale came to the flower garden

because she was my pupil.

I am an expert in things of love.

Even the moth is my disciple

Women’s poetry later did fight the menace. It was subtle, but the evolution in societies helped the struggle for their expression in eccentric romance. However, all expressions were diverse and they worked on Ishaq-e-Majazi, keeping it subliminal yet expressive.

Little experimentation is attributed to poetic work after independence on the subject of Love of God. The literature and its principles voiced for the eccentric romancism and penetrated into different genres of rhythmic philosophy making it a central subject to works throughout the subcontinent. The men were, again, the mentors that led the subject and worked to rip the heart out of the matter. At the same time they adapted poetry to some social issues. However, researches show few women after the independence did have a visionary expression, mode of delivery and inspirational cradles, which experimented with eccentric romance Ishaq-e-Majazi, and produced the artwork which dominated the rulings of the literature for decades. None other than Noshi Gilani and Parveen Shakir made these rhythms the rhythms to knock books of bold and make it a picture of survival for female poetry. From the era of subcontinent, till the era after Partition, women did change subjects but the love of man and woman did not lose its grounds among the voices of many. For this reason Parveen Shakir chose this subject as full refection to its poetry.

The way she describes a woman loving a man, is indispensable for the acoustics in every genre of society. She defines his man in a way:

He is so simple

His world is so different from mine

So separate are his dreams and his preferences

He says very little

He writes,

this morning I saw some lovely flowers,

in the lawn and thought of you

I know I am at that dishevelled stage of life

when my face is not much like any flower

But I wish

—whatever he says—

I could believe it a while

[VANITY / Vanity Thy Name Is…]

It was bold, clear and daunting with fragrance of love spreading everywhere with an overwhelmed state of agony that comes from care. The agony is described as follows.

Pink flowers blossomed in the season I met you

With your attentions they are opening again,

Though these wounds had healed already

How long could the columns support these houses shaken to their foundations?

That old strangeness came back, as if our meetings had been done

The body was still hotfoot with its infatuations,

The feet bruised on the way

[PINK FLOWERS]

For this the love of man and woman has been long celebrated by the female poet. Later, the expression of Parveen Shakir emerged as an iconic work in the history of eccentric romance. Romance, therefore, did become the soul of women voice. She made people worship an expression which is now known as Parveen Shakir’s. We believe she towers from the existence, the existence which finds its way in the love stemming from it. The divinity and candor of these words show, why women like Ms. Shakir have never been forgotten where the subject of romance has been touched. She settled the dust, the dust that was long whirling around the works of women.

This makes us believe, despite all odds, women did find a revolutionary turn in the bold expressions where it travelled centuries to emboss that we belong to this vision.