Friday 7 December 2012

The Chakki Nama and Charaka Nama

Bijapur has played a major role in the architectural and cultural map of India in the middle ages. During the Bahamani and Adil Shahi period (1400 to 1686), Bijapur became the centre of Muslim art, literature and Sufism.
During the Adil Shahi period, hundreds of Sufis made Bijapur their home and each one of them had a distinct and definitive role to play.  Some of the Sufis like Hashim Pir were close to the court of the Adil Shahis during the kingship of Ibrahim Adil Shah, the second, and Muhammad Adil Shah.
The Sufis wrote extensively and many of their works are still available. A large part of their literature was in the form of poetry. Sufi poetry is simple in language and easy to understand.
Many Sufi posts of Bijapur adopted the style and even the substance of  the poetry of Sayyid Mohammad Bande Nawaz  Gesu Daraz of Gulbarga, a notable Sufi poet, to highlight the virtues of  God.
Gesu Daraz composed many simple but beautiful and lyrical poems. These came to be widely sung by the rural populace of the Bijapur kingdom.
These short poems were to be sung when womenfolk were doing particular chores and they came to be known by different names.
If a woman sang while grounding millet or any other food grain, it came to be called as Chakki Nama. Chakki mans the grindstone and Nama means a poem.
The Sufi saints composed several hymns, each for an occasion and the namas or poems came to be called after them. Thus it was Chakki Nama for women grinding away on the grindstone, Charaka Nama of the women were spinning cotton and silk on the Charka or wheel.
If the women sang to make their children go to sleep, it was called Lori Nama. Marriages were a special occasion and songs sung then were called Shaadi Nama.
If the women were married and they sang, it was Suhagan Nama. There were thus many varieties of such Namas, each catering to a particular chore.
All the namas were simple in language so that they could be understood by the rural masses, particularly women. Each aspect of the chore was addressed to in the Nama. They could either be set to music or sung extempore.        
The first of these Namas can be traced to Gesu Daraz who composed them in Gulbarga. They quickly spread to Bijapur which soon became the centre of Sufi literature.
Gesu Daraz is perhaps the first composer of  Chakki Nama. A master of Dekkani, he was an eminent personality of Gulbarga who commanded hundreds of  students and fellow Sufis.    
The names became a “hit”  in Bijapur and its surrounding areas. Very soon, womenfolk took to it like fish to water. Whether they spun the cotton into thread, ground jowar into meal and rocked the children to sleep, the Nama had a central role to play.
Each of these household activities involved a steady movement of the hands which these namas assisted. The metres in which the were composed synchronized perfectly with the chores. Very soon, the chakki Nama and the charkha Nama, became the most widely composed, recited or sung form of  poetry.
However, it is to be remembered that folk poems and lyrics in Kannada and Marathi existed much before Sufis, particularly those of the Chisti order, made their stand in the Deccan. But, it was their arrival which gave an impetus to such poetry and it took “off like a rocket.”
Even today, books containing chakki-namas and charkha-namas have been printed in Kannada and Marathi. I have seen some of them in museums and bookshops in Hyderabad.  cheap lithograph editions which can still be found in the Deccan country- side.
An American author, Richard Eaton, speaks of several author, of course all Sufis, who have written Chakki and Charka namas. He has described a selection of Chakki Namas attributed to Amin al-Din A'la (1675).
Amin was an important Sufi saint of  Bijapur. Another Sufi who is credited with this category of compositions is Shah Hashim Khudawand Hadi (1704-05). Shah Hashim was a close friend of  Amin. Another collection of Chakki Namas is attributed to Faruqi who was not a Sufi saint but a follower.
Other compositions of Bijapur on Chakki Nama are by Ghausi and Fi’l Hal Quadri. A Sufi from Belgaum,  Shah Kamal-al-Din, has written Chakki Namas at the behest of his wife. He was in Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh, when he penned these poems.
One of the best compositions of Suhagan Nama is by a Sufi saint of the Chisti order, Shah Raj. This poet settled down in Hyderabad.
Bijapur produced some of the best Sufi literature of the times. However, some of the notable Sufi writers such as Shah Miranji Shams al-Ushshaq (1499), Shah Burhan al-Din Janam (1597) and  Shaikh Mahmud Khush Dahan (1617) did not compose many  namas. Their followers and devotes did but these Sufi greats did play their part in popularizing the Namas.
In one of his Chakki Namas, Burhan al-Din Janam says “In the case of the chakki, some other power is required, somebody's hand must be applied to move the wheel.
There are many people who use the chakki, yet only the power hidden in the hand actually turns the wheel.
That hand is 'arif al-wujud (God), and those who see that the power is in the hand are witnesses of the light; thereby they witness the essence, which is God.”
The Chakki Nama of Shah Hashim Khudawand Hadi also speaks of  the close bond between God and the chores. It ends beautifully by saying, “As we turn the Chakki, so we find God.”
The Charaka Nama is even more imaginative. One such Nama says, “Imagine Sister, your body is a spinning wheel. The tongue is the rim of the spinning wheel. Bring out the thread of breath and show it.”
The Chakki and Charaka Nama might have disappeared in Deccani after the demise of the Adil Shahi kingdom in 1686, but they have survived in the many forms of folk compositions in Kannada and Marathi in Bombay-Karnataka area.
I conclude this post with a simple Chakki Nama.
“As you take the cotton, you should do zikr-i jali.
As you separate the cotton, you should do zikr-i qalbi.
And as you spool the thread you should do zikr-i aini.
Zikr should be uttered from the stomach through the chest,
and threaded through the throat.
The threads of breath should be counted one by one, oh sister.
Up to twenty-four thousand.
Do this day and night,
and offer this to your pir as a gift.”

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