The joy of Basant Bahar

Mawlidu n Nabiyyi (Arabic with literal translation Birth of the Prophet) or Eid e Milad un Nabi as is commonly called in Urdu in the subcontinent is the festival celebrated to commemorate the birth of The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Falling in the third month of the Islamic Calendar, Rabi ul Awwal, the festival particularly carries this mood of glee, joy and is celebrated with fervour amongst the Muslims in the various regions of the world.

Dear reader, of all the celebrations of the said event in the past and the way its preparations get underway at present, the one that inspired this post takes us back to a village in erstwhile East Punjab in the days of pre-partition India. It takes us back to a book “Kheil Tamashaa” by Ashfaq Ahmed. The book scantily written in the style of a factional (fact + fiction) autobiography craftily revolves around the main character, Master Baali (Baali Bhai), a Shehnai Nawaz (clarionet player) by profession and taken as a spiritual teacher, a ‘guru’ by Ashfaq Ahmed.

Coming back to the inspiration behind the current post, dear reader, Ashfaq Ahmed in ‘Kheil Tamashaa’ narrates an event, the celebration of the festival of Eid e Milad un Nabi in his village in his childhood days. The narration is not about the event, but all the details of the celebration are craftily put in place to introduce to the audience the part played by Master Baali in the day’s proceedings. It narrates the performance par magnificence, whereby Master Sahib, as a tribute to the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) played Basant Bahar on his Shehnai (clarionet). The relevant part from the book is excerpted and presented in pictures. I shall urge my readers to go through the pictures and enjoy the transcript in the words of the author before reading further this current post.

That day Master Baali played Basant Bahar in the honour of Eid e Milad un Nabi and my readers must have enjoyed a majestic account of the performance. Like you, dear reader, I too have to rely on the narrative of the said performance, and I apologize for being unable to present here neither Master Baali nor the masterpiece. Nevertheless, in an endeavor to experience a feel of what the proceedings must have been that day, dear reader, I take this opportunity to put you in audience with the ‘Basant Bahar’ being played by the Wizard of the Shehnai (clarinet), the Maestro, none other than Ustad Bismillah Khan.

… … … I don’t know whether the Ustad, while playing this tune was still or moving, I don’t know anything about his bodily posture or his facial expressions there. What I know, dear reader, is that this one tune has this trance, this particular feel…
… as if the surroundings have gone perfectly still and it’s the heart that gets to sway
as if there’s nothing in the universe but this soft and shrill tune chiseling the conscious and the subconscious alike
as if… a being, with all humility is presenting itself to be consumed in love but just can’t …
and has to linger on with this pain in the safe-keeping of life …

[lead xclass=”text-center”]صلى الله على محمد وآله وسلم[/lead]
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Imran Saeed

I am a teller of old tales. History, folklore, military, and more. Mostly covering Pakistan, my homeland, but also the Great White North, where I am currently settled.
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Noor Rauf Rathore

I came here to reread this one (like I do with the others) and realised I’d committed a cardinal sin in not leaving a comment. The bit I loved most was the narrative. Not because its from the pen of Ashfaq Ahmed, but because of the most beautiful hand writing I’ve ever laid eyes on.