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GINĀN . A popularization of the Sanskrit word jñan ("contemplative knowledge"), the term ginān is used by the Nizārī Ismāʿīlīyah of Indo-Pakistan to refer to any one of the approximately eight hundred poems believed to have been composed by the Ismāʿīlī pirs or dāʿīs ("missionaries") between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries. Composed in several Indian dialects and employing popular folk meters and indigenous musical modes, the gināns vary considerably in length. The shortest ones consist of four to five verses, while longer ones, called granths and distinguished by specific titles, may have well more than a thousand verses. The gināns are still sung and recited today as an integral part of religious ceremonies. Usually all members of the community who are present at such ceremonies participate in the recitation of the gināns.

The gināns, which often have several themes, may be classified into five major types according to the theme of greatest importance:

  1. "Conversion" gināns portraying Islam and specifically its Ismāʿīlī form as the completion of the Vaiava Hindu tradition, and also including accounts that give Ismāʿīlī dimensions to traditional figures of Hindu mythology as well as hagiographic accounts of the great Ismāʿīlī pirs (the Das Avatar, for example).
  2. Gināns dealing with a wide variety of eschatological and cosmological themes (such as Brahmā Gāyatrī ).
  3. Didactic gināns imparting ethical and moral instruction for the conduct of worldly and religious life (such as Moman Chetāmaī ).
  4. Gināns connected with mysticism, including guides for an individual's spiritual progress, literary expressions of the composers' mystical experiences, and petitions for spiritual union or vision (Anant Akhāo and Satveī, for example).
  5. Gināns for recitation at certain religious rituals or at specific festivals such as the birthday of the Prophet or the Ismāʿīlī imam, Nawrūz (New Year), and so forth (Nawrūznā din sohāmaā, for example).


Asani, Ali S. "The Ismāʿīlī Ginān Literature: Its Structure and Love Symbolism." In Facets of Ismaili Studies. Edited by Hermann Landolt. London, 1985.

Ivanov, Vladimir A. "Satpanth." In Collectanea, vol. 1, edited by Vladimir A. Ivanov, pp. 154. Leiden, 1948.

Nanji, Azim. The Nizāri Ismāʿīlī Tradition in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent. Delmar, N.Y., 1978.

Ali S. Asani (1987)