Facebook Icon podcast icon Join our mailing list Icon

Image for Poca Logo
Image for mpelevin_picture_ucla_2018-large-rv-kob.jpg

Pashto Literature in North India in the 16th-18th Centuries

Afghan Studies Lecture by Mikhail Pelevin, St. Petersburg State University

Monday, April 16, 2018
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall

Image for Calendar ButtonImage for Calendar Button

North Indian areas matching with the territory of present-day Uttar Pradesh were among few localities where Pashto literature continuously developed from its very inception in the early Mughal times up to the end of the classical period at the turn of the nineteenth century. Although Pashto in North India could never challenge the centuries-old dominance of Persian as a major inter-ethnic literary language and remained in an inferior position of a provincial idiom promoted by local military-administrative elites, the writings of Pashtun settlers and temporary dwellers in India turned to be crucial for the overall progress of Pashto national literature. Extant manuscripts indicate that the Pashto written verse meeting formal requirements of the Arabic-Persian poetics and keeping to the Muslim esthetical norms emerged on the banks of the Ganges rather than in the Pashtun tribal territories of the South-East Hindu Kush.

The talk is based on a paper which briefly surveys main developments in Pashto literature of North India from the early Roshani poetry in the late sixteenth century to the works of Pashtun litterateurs of Rohilkhand in the last decades of the eighteenth century. Along with the literary output of the Indo-Afghan diaspora under consideration are also innovative works composed in India under various, partly dramatic circumstances by such leading Pashtun men of letters as Khushhal Khan Khattak (d. 1689), Ashraf Khan Khattak (d. 1694/5), and ĘżAli Akbar Orakzay (b. between 1736 and 1747).


Mikhail Pelevin is Professor of Iranian Philology at St. Petersburg State University (Russian Federation). His main area of research is the early modern Pashto literature conceptualized as the most distinct and expressive element of social culture and ethnic self-identification of Pashtuns in the transition period from the late Middle Ages to modern times. Among his publications in Russian are books Khushhal Khan Khatak (1613-1689): the Beginning of the Afghan National Poetry (2001), Afghan Poetry in the First Half and the Middle of the Seventeenth century (2005), Afghan Literature of the Late Middle Ages (2010); a new book The Khattaks’ Chronicle: the Corpus and Functions of the Text is coming soon. Few recent articles are available in English, e.g.: “The Beginnings of Pashto Narrative Prose” (2017), “Persian Letters of a Pashtun Tribal Ruler on Judicial Settlement of a Political Conflict”, 1724 (2017), Daily Arithmetic of Pashtun Tribal Rulers: Numbers in The Khataks’ Chronicle (2016), “Ethnic consciousness of Pashtun Tribal Rulers in Pre-modern Times” (2015). M. Pelevin teaches courses on Persian, Pashto, the history of Persian and Pashto literatures. His other academic interests include Iranian dialectology and Muslim law.


This event is presented in collaboration with the Center for India and South Asia.