Syed Hamza

Syed Hamza (c 1755-1815) writer of bilingual puthi (a book of verse based on legends). Though Fakir Garibullah was the first to start composing the multi-lingual puthi, Syed Hamza was the second best and most popular poet in this genre. Syed Hamza's paternal house was in Udna, a village in Bhursut Pargana in the district of Hughli in west bengal. The devastating Damodar erosion took away all their belongings in 1792, which compelled them to take shelter at Basantapur village in Raira Pargana. He started teaching in this village.

His poetic genius was manifested at a very early age. His initial works were in the panchali (a Bengali dramatic poem often set to music) and Henyali (riddle) type rhymes. His first verse Madhumalati (1788) was in completely literary Bangla, although he used some regional words. He wrote this romantic poem well ahead of 'Kutban' and 'Monjhon' in Hindi and the works of the poet Mohammad in Bangla. Though those works were based on supernatural stories, religion, society, ethics, rites, embellishment etc, were issues not ignored.

The second book of verse composed by Syed Hamza was amir hamza (1795). It was based on the Persian work Dastan-e-Amir Hamza and was written in a mixture of the Bangla, Urdu, Arabic, and Persian diction used by Muslims in Bengal at that time. Syed Hamza was especially attracted towards this style of writing, which is commonly known as bilingual puthi (book of verse). He used the same style in his next two books; jaiguner puthi (1797) and Hatim Tai. The two puthis Amir Hamza and Jaiguner Puthi were written about the valorous acts of hazrat muhammad (Sm)'s uncle Amir Hamza and Hazrat Ali's son Abu Hanifa', while Hatim Tai was based on the Urdu epic Arayesh Mahfil. He used innumerable supernatural stories derived from Arabian legends, about the pious Hatim Tai. Both Amir Hamza and Hatim Tai are massive books of verse.

Syed Hamza's poems were published by popular presses. War, love, enjoyment, wealth, power etc, along with the importance of suppressing infidels and preaching Islam were dealt with at length in these books of verses. They were read with care till recently in Muslim homes. Both aristocrats and low-born Muslims felt proud about the heritage of Islam and were overcome by emotion.

We can learn about the language used in Bangla puthi literature from Madhumalati and Jaiguner Puthi by Amir Hamza. In his first puthi Madhumalati, Amir Hamza used mostly sanskrit words or words derived from Sanskrit, while in the second he used mostly Arabian or Persian words. Except these marked differences, both books of verse were written in the same metres. [Wakil Ahmed]