India's Bidel Dehlavi as National Poet of Afghanistan: The Attempt to Define a Distinct Afghani National Identity

Khalilullah Afzali, UCLA

CISA Speaker Series.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Bunche Hall, Room 10383

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Abdul Qader Bedil (1642-1720), who lived in India but wrote in Persian, has become the most popular and beloved poet in Afghanistan over the past three centuries. The Afghan royal court, Persian poetry, Sufism and even music in Afghanistan were all significantly influenced by Bedil’s poetry and the philosophy it reflects. In this talk I will explore some of the impacts of “Bedilism,” including the scholarly understanding of Bedil’s work in Afghanistan. I will address the evolution of the court’s interest in Bedil’s poetry and explore two principal reasons for the growth of Bedilism in Afghanistan following Bedil’s death. First, Afghan nationalists—especially in the period of Mohammad Zaher shah (r. 1933-73)—used Bedil to distinguish Afghan national identity from that of its neighbors. Second, the people of Afghanistan found Bidel’s poetry to be distinctly suitable to their nature: the spirit of this Indian poet’s work matched well with the emotions and attitudes of the impoverished, simple Afghan population. This talk will elaborate on these reasons for the profound cultural impact of the Indian poet Bedil in Afghanistan.

Khalilullah Afzali is a specialist of Persian literature and manuscript culture. Currently, he is a visiting assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures) where he teaches graduate seminars and conducts research. He is the founder of the Baysunghur Research Institute in Afghanistan, which focuses on study and preservation of the literary, cultural, and historical heritage of Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Iran. In his research and teaching, he focuses on codicology, Sufism, literary history and Bidel studies. He published two books and more than thirty papers in Persian both in Iran and Afghanistan.

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia, Center for Near Eastern Studies