Persian Ramayanas

The story of Ramayana is one of the most ancient and sacred stories of India. It was originally composed in Sanskrit by Valmiki and later translated in Awadhi by Tulsidas.

However, besides the famous Ramayana in Sanskrit and Hindi there are no less than twenty-three Ramayana in Indo-Persian Literature. Some of these versions are translated from the original Sanskrit, while others are based on the Ramayana of Tulsidas.

ramayana 2

The Ramayana translated by Badayun
According to Abul Fazl these translations were ordered by Emperor Akbar to dispel the fanatical hatred between the Hindus and the Muslims, as he was convinced that it arose only from mutual ignorance.

This statement is as relevant today as it was then for all communities. It is important we read each other’s scriptures and make an effort to understand each other’s religion, culture and beliefs. It is very easy to hate in ignorance or get taken in by hate filled propaganda by bigots and fanatics.

After all there is just One Supreme Being, we just call Him by different names and worship in different ways

The first Ramayana in Persian was by Mulla’ Abdul Qadir Badayuni. In A.H. 992/A.D. 1584 Emperor Akbar asked him to translate this story from Sanskrit. Badayauni though reluctant to translate it, spent four years on this assignment and finished it in A.H. 997/A.D. 1589.

It was beautifully illustrated unlike the original Sanskrit Ramayana and contains 176 illustrations. It is kept in the Sawai Man Singh, Jaipur Museum

According to B.N Goswamy in “Another Ramayana” “the manuscript seems to have belonged once to the mother of the emperor Akbar, Hamida Banu, often referred to with the title of Maryam Makani’, ‘dwelling at the same loftiness as the Virgin Mary’. There is increasing evidence that Hamida Bano was a collector of books in her own right, for some very early manuscripts —dating back even to the days when Humayun had just conquered India again— bear her name, and the impression of her seal, indicating her ownership of these.”

On the flyleaf of this Ramayana, too, there are numerous seals and inscriptions, among them a note that this manuscript, completed in 1593, was viewed by Maryam Makani in August 1604, apparently when she was on her deathbed. There are other seals and dated notes on the leaf, including inspection notes by the emperors Jahangir and Aurganzeb, in their respective hands. Apparently, this was no ordinary manuscript. For, to its intrinsic value as a work of art (one note records the price of the work as 550 gold mohurs) had been added — in the eyes of the two emperors — the immeasurable value of the fact that the hands of a revered ancestor of theirs had once touched it.


ramayana 1

At the bottom of the page there are two seals of the librarian of emperor Shah Jahan, who studied the manuscript in 9th regnal year (1635 AD). Both the seals read as “Abdur-Rashid Delami Banda-i (servant of) Shah Jahan” and close to the seal the autograph note of the librarian mentions “having been perused by the Emperor on 26th Asfandar (name of Turki month) 9th regnal year.

Zayn al’-‘Abidin , (Indian, Mughal dynasty

Khan e Khana’s copy – 1597-1605

Freer and Sackley

(Smithsonian Museum for Asian Art)
It was also repaired in Shah Jahan’s reign in 1652, which shows extensive perusal and handling of the manuscript

A.K. Das also writes that two painters did each miniature. Though the painters were mostly Hindus, well versed in traditions of the Ramayana, their challenge was to paint Hindu religious themes in Mughal court style. So we have the figures from Ramayana sometimes in the setting of Fatehpur Sikri and in Mughal dresses.

(source: A.K. Das : Asian Variations in Ramayana)

A duplicate of this made by Abdur Rahim Khan e Khana with Akbar’s permission is preserved at Freer Art Gallery, Washington. A very important feature of this Ramayana is page note on the flyleaf in the hand of Abdur-Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, testifying that this manuscript was his personal copy and it was prepared with the permission of Emperor Akbar. He goes on in this strain, speaking of how Naqib Khan wrote the text, translating it with the help of Devi Missar, a Brahmin, who was learned in Sanskrit.


Also to be found are gold coins (presently are in the State Museum, Lucknow; Bharat Kala Bhawan, Varanasi; the British Museum and Russia) issued by Akbar of having portraits of Rama and Sita going to the forest.

After the period of Akbar, among the literary masterpieces of Jahangir’s reign are the two translations of the Ramayana by Masihi Panipati and Girdhardas.

Mulla Shaikh Sadullah, pen-named Masih, was born at Kairana, but since Kairana is on the border of Panipat he became known as Panipati. Masih spent twelve years in Banaras studying Sanskrit literature. The poet regards the story of Ram and Sita as the story of love; and love transcends the limits of religion and faith.

Ramayan e Masih

Published in 1899 by Munshi Naval Kishor Press, Lucknow

The Persian abridged poetical translation of the Ramayana (5407 couplets) by Masih begins with the couplet:

Khuawanda za jaam e ishq kun mast, ke der masti fishanam bar jahaan ast

O God, intoxicate me with the wine of love. So that I radiate intoxication wherever I tred.

(translation by Usman Ghani @ugpk)

Some of the lines of this masnawi have been highly appreciated and quoted by men of literary taste. The following couplet in praise of the Prophet reveals the extraordinary mind of the poet:

Dil az ishq e muhammad roaish daaram, raqaabat ya khudaai khoyaish daaram

Dil ishq e Muhammad mein mubtala hai. Raqaabat, aey Khuda tujh sey hai The love of Mohammed has pierced my heart: God Himself has become my rival.

(Urdu translation by Usman Ghani @ugpk

English translation by Prof A.H.Abidi )

The following couplet in praise of Sita’s purity has been quoted by the tazkira writers and is considered to be the best in the whole masnawi.

Tanish /tanash ra pairahan uryaan na deeda / chu ( jaise )

jaan ander-e-tann wa tann-e-jaan na deeda

Her nakedness was not revealed even to her garments; For she was in her robes like an unseen soul in a body.

The author of Kalematush-Shuara says, “He composed such a beautiful couplet in praise of Sita’s purity that all other poets were astonished, and they have said that this one couplet is worth a hundred thousand verses. None else has the power to compose it’s like.” The third couplet portrays Sita’s disappearance into the earth:

Garebaan zameen shud nagahaan chaak, Dar aamad humchuu’n jaan dar qaalib khaak.

Suddenly the earth gaped, And, as a soul enters a body, she was taken in.

The Ramayana of Masih is a true exposition of our composite culture, and innumerable words and allusions related to the Quran and Iranian literature have been used to enrich this Mathnawi and to lend colour to the story alongwith Sanskrit and Hindi words “sanyaasi, darshan, jharoka, rasta and paan,have been assimilated to enrich Indo-Persian literature and made indispensable for Persian if it is to serve as a mirror to reflect our sentiments and environment.

Masih was targeted by fanatic Muslims for writing the Ramayana and had to justify his stance in the beginning of the book under the heading Dar Mazammat-e-Hussad (condemning the jealous).

Masih’s Ramayana was in the style of a Persian masnavi and not in the tradition of Valmiki’s division into cantos or kandas.

Another important translation is written by S. Mohar Singh who was employed in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army. It was published in 1890 by Ganesh Prakash Press, Lahore.

Valmiki’s Ramayana by S. Mohar Singh

Both the Ramayanas are based on Valmiki’s original text but are not exact translations.While Masih portrayed Shri Rama as a human with divine qualities, Mohar Singh described him as the divine being with human qualities.

Both have done a great service to humanity by their translations adding to India’s composite culture.

Another rare Persian translation of the Ramayana by Prince Dara Shukoh is with a Jammu businessman,Sham Lal Angara.

“>He said the book has a deep underlying meaning, apart from the historical and religious significance. “This is a unique Ramayan, as it starts with Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim – the same verse with which the Quran starts. When a Ramayana can have the same start as the Quran then why cannot Hindus and Muslims can live together in peace?” he said.

“This is a lesson for the religious fanatics who are hell bent on creating a divide between the communities on religious lines,” Angara said.

Read more at:

Some more translations are listed below:

Girdhar Das also composed an abridged version of the Ramayana (5900 couplets).

Gopal, son of Shri Gobind, translated the Ramayana into Persian prose and completed it in A.H. 1092/A.D. 1681 or A.H. 1097/A.D. 1685-6.

Chandraman Bedil Kayasth, Madhuri, son of Sri Ram, wrote the story of Ramayana both in prose and poetry. The abridged prose translation was written in A.H. 1097 (A.D. 1685-6)

Later on in A.H. 1105 (A.D. 1693-4) at the age of sixty and at the instance of his friend, Khatal Das, Bedil wrote the story in verse and named it Nigaristan (about 4906 couplets).

It ends with the arrival and coronation of Rama in Ayodhya:

Nigaristan was printed by Nawel kishore in A.H. 1292 A.D. 1875, but by mistake has been ascribed to Mirza Bedil.

Amar Singh, too, in the same period rendered the Ramayana into Persian prose in A.H. 1117 (A.D. 1705-6) and named it Amar Prakash.

The book has been written in simple and fluent Persian.

At the end the translator has given a brief account of his kayasth ancestry, mentioning that one of the learned kayasths, Gobind Das, had translated the Ramayana of Valmiki into Hindi in the reign of Akbar.

Pandit Sameer Chand translated Valmiki’s Ramayana in1128 A.H./1718 the reign of Farrukhsiyar and the only manuscript copy of this translation, transcribed 1242 A.H/1826-27 A.D. by S.Amir Shah Rampuri, is in the Raza library Rampur . This beautiful manuscript contains two hundred forty seven miniatures of the Rajput School.It isinvaluable in its contribution of throwing a flood of light on the art, architecture, costumes, ornaments of the period besides highlighting the composite culture of India in the late medieval period.

Ramayana in Persian

(Brooklyn Museum)

Another translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana is by an anonymous writer and is written in a simple and lucid Persian prose, interspersed with appropriate and relevant verses.

The illustrated manuscript of this translation exists in the National Museum, New Delhi and consists of sixty-four illustrations, which belong to the Provincial Mughal School, probably Alwar.

Misr Ram Das Qabil wrote Ramnamah in 1864 A.D. (about 3097 verses).

Munshi Bankey Lal Zar, Son of Babu Lalla Prasad and the adopted son of Munshi Tansukh Rai, was the pupil of S.Niyaz Ahmad Niyaz. In A.H.1301/A.D.1884 he wrote a qasida, summarizing the Ramayana in 141 verses, and named it Khulasa-i-Ramain..

Munshi Gagan Kishore Husu Firozabadi, son of Munshi Rib Kishore, was born in a Bhatnagar (Kaesth) family in Firozabad in A.D. 1866 (A.H. 1282-3 who received his education in Persian and Urdu from Sh. Kallan and Moulvi Umrao Beg and was a Mukhtar by profession composed Nairang-i-Hun, known as Bahar-i-Ajodhya in A.h. 1304/ A.D. 1886 at the age of twenty-one.

Rai Munshi Parmeshari Sahai Masrur and Lala Chanda Mal Chand made an abridged translation of Tulsidas, Ramayana, entitled Wazifa-i-faiz (1523 couplets) .

Wazifa e Faiz
Munshi HarLal Ruswa, son of Ram Chander, son of Dib Chand, a Khattri by caste, belonged to the nineteenth century Delhi. His ancestors had held high positions in the Deccan, Ruswa was the Deputy Inspector of Police in Larsab, where, at the age of forty three, he began to translate the Ramayana of Valmiki and Tulsidas into Persian verse. He completed the work in A.H. 1299/A.D. 1881-82/Sambat 1939 and named it Ramayan-i-Farsi.

The Ramayana of Ruswa is not of a high poetic order. However, it shows the devotional character of the translator.

Deli Das (or Devi Das) Kayasth translated Tulsi Das’s Ramayana into Persian.

In the 12th or 13th century of Hijra Har Ballabh Seth wrote a qasida (242 verses narrating the story of the Ramayana )

Rai Mahadev Bali Daryabadi composed a qasida (159 verses) describing the story of the Ramayana .

NOTE : (Source of the number of Ramayanas and details of various authors are taken from a soon to be published articles of Late Professor Emeritus Dr. S.A.H.Abidi. Source given to me by his son Suhayl Abidi with permission to write an article based on it. All translations except where otherwise mentioned by Prof SAH Abidi)

Published in Tehelka

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