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Bisad-Sindhu


Bisad-Sindhu is a historical novel by meer mosharraf hossain. The theme of the book is the story of the battle of Karbala. It was originally published in three parts in 1885, 1887 and 1891 respectively. These were later published in a single volume.

The names of the major characters of Bishad-Shindhu are historical, but imaginary as regards character depiction and other details. There are some sub-stories in the book, which are not really historical. Meer Mosharraf Hossain had written in the preface: 'Bishad-Shindhu has been written after borrowing the gist of main events from Persian and Arabic books'. It is noticeable that the writer did not specifically mention the Persian and Arabic books from where the main events were extracted. Because of this lapse, the critics are hesitant about accepting the writer's claim as true. munier chowdhury expressed his qualified doubt about the claim by the author. He was certain after finding similarities between Bishad-Shindhu and the bilingual punthis (manuscripts of folkloric ballads) that Mosharraf based his narrative on popular Bangla 'punthis' on the subject of 'Karbala'. Golam Saklain was also holds the same view. Anisuzzaman and Mustafa Nurul Islam also held that the author was influenced by' the 'punthi' literature. Kazi Abdul Mannan is of opinion that Mosharraf had imported the themes of Arabic-Persian books with a view to generating respect and admiration among the Muslim readers.

The main subject-matter of Bishad-Shindhu by Meer Mosharraf Hossain comprised of the events responsible for the death of Imam Hossain, the grandson of Hazrat Muhammad (Sm). However, the events which took place after the death of Imam Hossain have also been described. The novel portrays different characters, the pains and anguish of human life, jealousy and hatred of humans and at the same time provides a historical background to the clash that ensued over a throne, struggles, blood-bath, killings etc. Observing the historical characters and signs of history, scholars did not hesitate to bestow it the status of a historical novel. But the novel also mentions some incidents which cannot be judged in the light of practical life.'

Bishad-Shindhu starts with a prediction by Hazrat Muhammad (Sm) and concludes with the materialisation of that prediction. Apart from this prediction, it contains some supernatural happenings. For example, the vanishing of the slaughtered head of Hossain before Yazid's eyes, bleeding of tree on the ground of Karbala, the coming to earth of Hossain's parents during his last rites and the imprisonment of Imam Hanifa between two hills. It is difficult to term books containing such incidents as novels, as they are supposed to depict pictures from real life. But these kinds of supernatural happenings in novels of the type of Bishad-Shindhu do not generate doubts among the readership. The place and time of Bishad-Shindhu was 7th Century Arabia. While judging the novel, some scholars have opined in favour of remembering that particular age as well as the faith of the people; it would not be surprising if the descendants of Hazrat Muhammad (Sm) believed in supernatural forces; because they believed that none can deviate from the course fixed by God. While reading Bishad-Shindhu, it may occasionally seem that Imam Hasan and Imam Hossain were not made of flesh and blood, because they were completely dependent on the supernatural force and they did not consider themselves responsible for the outcomes of their own deeds. On the other hand, although Yazid, Maimuna and Marwan were cruel, they appeared to be made of blood and flesh, because they thought the future events were influenced by their present actions. Yazid continued his struggles by entering into conflict with the descendants of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh); but he always relied on his own prowess and strategies. But Imam Hasan and Imam Hossain embraced death without any protest or resistance; because they believed that it was the will of God, and consequently they had to accept death.

Meer Mosharraf Hossain was born in the middle of the 19th century. He was brought up in an environment which nurtured existing practices, principles and faith of that time. Many researchers have compared Bishad-Shindhu with the epics and claimed that it had the huge canvas of an epic. It was not merely the story of clashes between individuals ' it was a confrontation between kings on the question of domination. The lives and destiny of many people were involved in this clash. It contained around one hundred characters. The story had branched out in many directions. The desires, longings and cruelty of people, steeped in hatred and jealousy, bloody struggles, and all these centering on the issue of a woman, are present in the novel. This kind of happenings had taken place in the epic of Greek literature The Iliad.

Most of the incidents of Bishad-Shindhu revolve around Zainab. The main reason for the clash between Yazid and Imam Hasan-Hossain was Zainab. Zainab was a chaste wife. After being deserted by her first husband, she entered into matrimony for the second time with Imam Hasan. Because of an irony of fate, she was imprisoned in Yazid's jail after the death of Imam Hasan. While a captive, she felt that she was responsible for the blood-bath at Karbala. These incidents would not have happened if she had accepted Yazid as her husband. In terms of literary value, Zainab can be compared with the character 'Sita' in michael madhusudan datta's Meghnad Badh Kabya.

Initially, Bishad-Shindhu became popular as a text-book and was widely read in the rural areas. Later, as a sequel to its popularity, it was assimilated in the question-answer sessions of competitive Jari-gaan (ballads) programmes of rural Bangladesh. After that, it used to be staged in the musical-dance presentations of 'Jari-gaan' after getting converted into the form of a ballad. Written by Meer Mosharraf Hossain in the prose style of modern Bangla literature, it was wholly adapted in the netrOkona region of Bangladesh in the shape of 'Jari-gaan'.

The writers and researchers can observe very clearly through a comparative study of Bishad-Shindhu and 'Jari-gaan' how Bishad-Shindhu written in modern Bengali literary style was assimilated in 'jari-gaan' sessions by the less-educated 'Bayatis' (singers), 'Jarials' or 'khelowars' (actors) and presented in such lively fashion at village gatherings. But it should be recalled from the history of assimilated readings of Bishad-Shindhu that it was presented in village gatherings after getting assimilated in two ways. According to the versions of 'jari-gaan' bayatis, Bishad-Shindhu was initially assimilated in 'jari-gaan' programmes as an attractive source for question-answer sessions during competitions; secondly, from these competitive 'jari-gaan' parties, it got transformed into rhythmic patterns emanating from the mouths of the Bayatis by entering into the realm of musical dance based 'jari-palas' (musical dramas). In the second phase, although short 'payar' (Bangali metre, with each line consisting of fourteen syllables) or long 'payar' were applied during transformation of Bishad-Shindhu into a rhythmic ballad by the creative Bayatis of 'jari-gaan', the choruses before and between the 'pala' or dramatic narratives added variety to it. Variegated poetical metres could be observed during choruses. Variety was added to 'jari-gaan' under the cover of metres like 'tripadi', 'choupadi', etc. above the traditional structures of 'pala' or dramatic narratives. Another ingredient pronounced by the chorus-players for adding variety to the musical-play during 'jari-gaan' sessions was called 'dak'.

In the 'jari-gaan' sessions of Bishad-Shindhu' which were fashioned according to the genre of musical-play, 'jari-pala' was presented before or after the shortened narratives in the form of ballad. Poet Hayat Mamud, Fakir Garibullah and Syed Hamza demonstrated maximum literary accomplishment by writing poetry on Karbala during the medieval age. The novel of Meer Mosharraf Hossain bears resemblance to the ones by Poet Hayat Mamud and Fakir Garibullah. But although he borrowed ingredients from his predecessor Fakir Garibullah, the selection of story for Bishad-Shindhu, its construction and characters are entirely those of Meer Mosharraf Hossain. [Saymon Zakaria]