Epic Shahnama and Poet Moniruddin Yusuf
Prof. Nurul Amin Chowdhury :
Shahnama is one of the world's best, largest and greatest substantial ballad or epic or myth of the ancient history of trans-Arabian and Iranian religious, cultural, political, Inter-relational jeal and love affairs, thrilling, statement of wars, warriors, statesmen and emperor's prides and achievements written in Persian by Abdul Kashem Ferdousi, the great National Poet of Iran.
The literary platform of any country does not get it's fulfillment without comprising world class books' translation in the particular country's own language for its literature be-loving readers. In this context, it was too difficult to find anyone who could translate Shahnama from Persian to Bengali. Very fortunately there was the scholar and poet of Bowlai zamimderbari of Kishoregonj named Moniruddin Yusuf, grew up with all possible qualities, capacities and abilities of literary and poetic power who was known widespreadly among the high profiled literary figures of our country. Herediterily he had versatile knowledge in Arabic, Urdu and Persian.
In 1963 Poet Syed Ali Ahsan , the then Director of Bangla Academy, Poet Farrukh Ahmad , Abu Zafar Shamsuddin and others earnestly requested rather forced Moniruddin Yusuf to translate Shahnama in to Bengli from Persian. Moniruddin Yusuf politely told them that it should be done by the honourable Professors of the Department of Persian of Dhaka University who are expert in this language. They told him , they might he expert in Persian language, but none of them has poetic capacity which is essentially required to translate the epic Shahnama . At last to oblige their request and to enrich the treasury of Bengali literature Moniruddin Yusuf took this difficult responsibility on his shoulder.
Ferdousi was born in the town of Tush of Iran in 329 or 330 Hijri year. He became famous as a poet and at the age of 30-35 he started to write Shahnama. At the same time, the governor of Tush/ Nishapur came to know that Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was also intending to have the Shahnama written by some of his court poets. The Governor of Nishapur wrote a letter to Sultan Mahmud and informed that Abul Kashem Ferdousi is the fittest person to do this work. Then Sultan Mahmud called Ferdousi to Ghazni and offered this responsibility upon him. He started the work on condition that he will get one gold coin for one verse.
Ferdousi started to write Shahnama in the year 980 and finished it in 1010; i.e, he took 30 years to complete it comprising 60 thousand verses. But an unusual and unfortunate matter happened. When Ferdousi handed over this mega volume to Sultan Mahmud he offered 60 thousand silver coins and Ferdousi refused those with grief and sorrow. He got great shock by such tricky forgery of a Sultan which was quite unexpected from him.
In the night Ferdousi composed a long poem of contempt with sorrowful mind condemning Sultan Mahmud's mean mentality. At night Ferdousi pasted this poem in the front wall of the Royal Mosque as a poster and attached one copy with Shahnama which was preserved in the Royal Library and left Ghazni for Tush early in the morning. In the next day, when people of Ghazni and Sultan Mahmud himself witnessed the matter, he became ashamed and burned with repentance. A few verses of that poem are noted like this:
"....If sultan was not poor in nature/Then he would offer me to sit on the throne/ So, I hope any king may not be mean-minded./ Oh the mean-minded higher class elite (king)/I throw my spit on your mouth !/Many meaningful gracious jems of statements I have included in the epic..../By my statements I have fabricated the earth like a garland./None before could sow the seeds of words like me...../" After a few days with grief and sorrow Ferdousi died in Tush.
Here Sultan Mahmud realized his fault and sent some of his Royal servants with 60 thousand gold coins for poet Ferdousi. But when they reached Tush, the funeral of Ferdousi had started for burial. The poet's daughter refused to accept the coins.
We know that in the history of world literature there are four ancient episodes. Illiad , Oddisi , Ramayana and Mahabharat of which two belong to Greece and two belong to Bharat . And the fifth and largest one is Shahnama of Iran composed in the early middle age.
In the introducing chapter of the Bangla translation of Shahnama Moniruddin Yusuf illustrated that though Homer picturesqued illustriously the life and nature in Illiad and Oddisi, and the Ramayana and the Mahabharat are a kind of noble poetic episodes, but as a poetic episode, Shahnama is most different than those . In those episodes the picturesques rolled with the history of Troy and Trojan of Greece, Ajodhya, Lonka, Hostinarapur and Kuru-khetro. One defeated the other and showed the shrine of the power of the victory over the defeated. On the other hand Shahnama contained the eternal age. It is not a history only, it is a poetic epic. It has crossed the skeleton of the history where the poet's dream and imagination is being enshrined. Moreover, Ferdousi illustriously visualized the ancient to 11th century's historical characters, activities and achievements of kings, heroes, wars and the national victories of Iran. Especially the Heart-breaking self dialogue of the great Iranian warrior-cum hero Rustom touches and shakes the thought and imaginary arena of any reader.
"Oh My son !/ Praised everywhere by everybody/But murdered by me, very unfortunately/I could not recognize you./As I became blind/Due to my power of might, courage, strength/And victory".
Shahnama is the largest epic of the world. It is 4 times larger than the Illiad of Homer, which contains 60 thousand verses and one lac sentences , 62 episodes, 990 chapters. After finishing Shahnama, Ferdousi said, "With 30 years' hard labour, by this Persian book, I have revived Iran in the world".
Shahnama has been translated in many languages, partly, but the full and complete translation of it was done only in Russian language other than Bangla by great Moniruddin Yusuf.
Poet Moniruddin Yusuf is an exceptional fortunate person, who earned the highest honourable position as a Bengali poet, very successfully translated the larger world class episode Shanama. He enriched the treasury of Bengali literature for which we are exceedingly indebted to him.
How much financial benefit he earned is not known, but it is a wonderful matter that Moniruddin Yusuf completed this translation within 17 years in 6 volumes which proves that he was an extra-ordinary genious. Only 2 volumes were published by Bangla Academy in his life time and other volumes have been published after his death. He could not see its complete publication in his life time.
Moniruddin Yusuf was not only a poet and translator, he was a genius with versatile creativity in other branches of literature and cultural sides. He also translated the writings of World Poets Hafiz, Rumi, Ghalib, Sadi and Iqbal. Other than translation works, he wrote many features, articles and novels. He wrote 52 poems in the style of Ghazal and published in the book named 'Betos Pata Joler Dhara', which is most exceptional in the field of Bengali literature. He wrote his own biography 'Amar Jibon Amar Oviggota' (My life my experience). He wrote two remarkable novels 'Ponsher Kata' and 'Or boyosh jokhon egaro' in the light of our Independence War.
As a writer and a poet Moniruddin Yusuf had a special type of expression which is quite different from others. He had a power of kin observation of the nature and surrounding.
This genius scholar and poet Manirruddin Yusuf was born in Bowlai Sahebbari of Kishoregonj on 13 February 1919 and died at Dhaka Shohrawardy Hospital on 11th February,1987 and was burried in the intellectual graveyeard of Mirpur, Dhaka.
In his working life he served in Bangladesh Krishi Unnoyon Corporation as the Editor of The Monthly 'Krishi Shomachar.'
Total number of his published books are 40. He was the writer of the story dialogue and songs of the famous Bangla cinema 'Teer Bhaga Dhew' (1975).
Awards : Governor Gold Medal (1968), Habib Bank Literary Award (1968). Ekushe Award (Literature, Posthumous, 1993), Shilpacharya Award, whole Literature (Posthumous, 2014-15).
Moniruddin Yusuf left two sons and one daughter. His sons - Sultan Ahmed Shahid (a writer, has died recently), Sayed Ahmed Anis and his daughter Fatema Zebunnesa Giti have been trying their best to publish his literary works.
Moniruddin Yusuf could prove his noble individuality and established himself as a successful writer , poet, novelist, and a great translator.
This great literary figure with his command over Persian language with poetic genius successfully translated the immortal 'Shahnama' of great poet Ferdousi of Iran and contributed our literature for our posterity to enrich their thoughts and to feal proud of.
It is very regretful that after so many years of his death even Bangla Academy do not arrange his birth or death anniversary.
(Writer : Ex Principal of Bhulua College, Noakhali.)