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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Átar by Shrii P R Sarkar - Shabda Cayanika' I


Átar by Shrii P R Sarkar - Shabda Cayanika' I


The original Farsi word is iitr. Iitr means “essence”. If this essence has food value then the word rúh is used in Farsi, and in the case of a pleasing scent iitr is used. The word átar came into use due to distortion and confusion, but in subsequent times the word gained acceptance through usage.

Koh means “mountain”. The mountain of iitr or sweet scent is known as kohiitr (koh + i + iitr). This kohiitr is the name of a well-known variety of mango from Murshidabad. We mistakenly say kohitur.

Iitr was first discovered by Empress Núrjáhán. Jáhán means vishvabrahmáńd́a(3). Núr means “light”. Koh-i-núr means “mountain of light”.

I think it is important to mention here that the diamond which is known as kohinúr [Koh-i-Noor] was the locket [pendant] on Shrii Krśńa’s jewelled necklace. After many battles and campaigns it came into the hands of Nadir Shah, and after that, Punjabkesharii Ranjit Singh. After him, Jhindan got it, and finally it came into the hands of the East India Company. They had it cut and polished in Holland and then had it set in the British Royal Crown, although some people are of the opinion that it was not set in the crown but was preserved in a different place. Whatever may be, Krśńa’s kaostúbhamańi and the kohinúr are one and the same.

Now let us come back to the actual subject. By mixing rose essence with water, Núrjáhán invented the process of preparing rosewater. It is said that she used to bathe daily in rosewater. By mixing rose essence with sandalwood oil she invented rose iitr. Later she started to prepare other types of iitr by using flowers other than rose.

Núrjáhán was a Persian lady. This uncommonly beautiful woman was sold by her father in India. Her real name was Meher-Un-Nisá. During Akbar’s time, Burdwan(4) was the capital of Bengal. It was during this time that she was married to the governor (or subedar) of Bengal, Sher Afgan. Selim, the son of Akbar’s Rajput wife (later known as Jáhángiir after ascending the throne), put pressure on Sher Afgan to surrender Meher-Un-Nisá to him but Sher Afgan did not agree and so there was a fierce battle in Burdwan between Sher Afgan and the Mughal army.(5) Sher Afgan was slain in the battle (his grave is still in Burdwan city) and Jáhángiir forcibly abducted Meher-Un-Nisá by force. At first Meher-Un-Nisá refused to marry her husband’s killer, Jáhángiir, but later, under the pressure of circumstance, she agreed.

After her marriage to Jáhángiir her new name became Núrjáhán. Jáhángiir was an unstable drunkard; India was actually ruled by Núrjáhán. Both Rájiyá Begum during Pathan rule and Núrjáhán during Mughal rule, became famous as especially skilled female administrators. But the name of Núrjáhán is more famous for iitr. Núrjáhán was also a highly skilled poet(6) in the Farsi language.

Notes:

(3) The entire universe. See page 4, brahmáńd́a. –Trans.

(4) At that time Burdwan was given the name Shariifábád or Bár-e-Diiván, however, ultimately the name did not last. In the pre-Jain era the city’s name was Ástikanagar or Atthinagar. Since the Jain era it has been called Vardhamána [British spelling Burdwan] after Vardhamána Maháviira.

(5) This battle took place between Curzon Gate and what is now the railway station of present-day Burdwan. There was a great loss of life and for a long time afterwards the people used to be afraid to go there alone after dark.

(6) Kavi [poet] in feminine gender is kavyá or kavii.

Shrii P R Sarkar
Shabda Cayanika' I

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