An enigma to fans, this deeply religious bard’s scholarly pursuits can be seen in the wide canvas of shayeri and ghazals he penned.

A poet first and a ruler next. He possessed the rare qualities of head and heart in abundant measure. That’s Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad for you. He carried the love and fervour of shayeri of the sixth Nizam, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan and the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, under whom he served twice as the Prime Minister. A childhood friend of the Nizam, he was conferred the title of ‘Yamin us Saltanat’ (right hand of the realm).

Pershad, who wrote under the thakallus ‘shad’, was always surrounded by a cluster of poets and writers. He appreciated and encouraged talent and was in touch with all big Urdu poets. Even a poet of the stature of Allama Iqbal was fond of Pershad’s scholarly pursuits and his pleasing disposition. Though he wrote in all genres of poetry, he stands out as a ghazal composer. Apart from the traditional ways of ghazal writing, Pershad also gave it a sufi touch. This is clearly borne out by these verses:

Ye kis ka hai roop, kis ka hai rang

Ye kis ki umang, kis ka hai dhang

Mujhe to kaam hai is se, jahan rahe na rahe

Zameen rahe na rahe aasman rahe na rahe

Jazbae nazara hai, aankh ki khata kya hai

Kaabe mein sanam dekha, dair mein Khuda paya

Short of becoming a Sufi, Pershad was deeply religious. Usually, people turn to mysticism in their twilight years, but, he was drawn to it right in the prime of his age. Pershad was apparently influenced by his maternal grandfather, Maharaja Narender Pershad, and great grandfather, Maharaja Chandulal Shada who were all inclined towards tasawwuf (mysticism).

Pershad, who traces his roots to Raja Todar Mal, one of the ‘Navratnas’ of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court, opened his eyes in a literary ambience. His parents paid a lot of attention to his early education and training. He benefitted from great scholars of his time like Meer Lutf Ali, Mirza Ali Baba Shirazi and Moulvi Syed Khaleel, and gained expertise in Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and English.

The poetry bug bit Pershad at an early age. And his canvas of shayeri grew wide with his age. When in the mood, he would write verses by the dozen in all genres – rubai, qasida, khita, nauha and salam. In the ghazal format, of course, he has left a rich treasure.

A study of his poetry shows that Pershad was a true ‘mohid’ (believer in the oneness of God) and justifies his attachment to ‘dair’ and ‘kaaba’ (temple and Kaba). True to his sufiana thinking, he remained detached from power and pelf. A proponent of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, he loved to give away whatever he possessed. As a poet, he was deeply influenced by Dagh Dehlvi so much so that it becomes difficult to differentiate whose verse it is. When the sixth Nizam appointed Dagh for correction of his poetry, Pershad too accepted him as his ustad. He also took guidance from Amir Minai and Jaleel Manakpuri. Sample these verses with distinct Dagh touch:

Dil ko kis naaz se pala tha magar kya kijye

Wo bhi kambakht meri jaan ka khwahan nikla

Gul-rukhon ko phool se tashbeeh dena hai ghalat

Rang accha hai magar booe wafa kuch bhi nahin

Pershad was guided by humanist ideals and he did not hesitate to take digs at the priestly class and self-righteous custodians of morality. See how he targets the shaikh in his inimitable style:

Damane shaikh pe hain daghe riya mehshar mein

Pak nikla bhi to rindon hi ka daman nikla

Hai lab pe shaikh ke tauba, sharab peeta hai

Ajab tareekha nikala hai parsai ka

Apart from mystic and romantic poetry, Pershad gave vent to his feelings on the socio-politico situation prevailing in his time. Commenting on the political upheavals taking place in India during the second half of the 20th century, he wrote:

Hind main chalne lagi hai kya hawae inqhilab

Shad sach hai ye jagh rehne ke ab khabil nahin

He was deeply moved by the communal riots taking place in the country. Being a poet, he turned to shayeri to express his anguish and pain:

Jidhar dekho rashk wo hasad wo taasub

Jahan mein Ilahi ye kya ho raha hai

Hain Hindu wo Muslim ke jhagde

Tamasha yehi jabaja ho raha hai

Four volumes of Pershad’s ghazals have been published which go by the name: Baghe ShadBiyaze ShadNaghmae Shad and Ghamkade Rehmat. Recently, Ghazliate Shad was published by the Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy. It contains ghazals available with Dr Narain Raj whose family had close links with Pershad’s family. This apart, Pershad also penned Hindi verses in Braj Bhasha.

However, to his fans and lovers, Pershad remains an enigma. Though a staunch Hindu, he looked every bit a Muslim in his thoughts and attire. He himself clarifies this riddle in one of his nazmPrem Darpan, thus:

Main hun Hindu, main hun Musalman

Har mazhab hai mera imaan

Shad ka mazhab Shad hi jane

Azadi azad hi jane

I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim
My faith reposes in every religion
Shad alone knows of his religious beliefs
As none but the free can fathom freedom