Khusrau, Amir

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KHUSRAU, AMIR (1253–1325), poet, writer, and musician Amir Khusrau was born in Patiali, in the Brajspeaking Indo-Gangetic Plain, in 1253, the son of a central Asian, Turkic-speaking father and an Indian mother. Sometimes known as Amir Khusrau Dihlavi or Amir Khusrau-e-Dihlavi, Khusrau was the most important poet, writer, and musician of his age and the subject of much musical speculation. His poetry, both in Persian and Hindi, remains popular both for its imagery and as a source of musical settings. His riddles, like his poems, draw on the sound and meaning of words and continue to entertain readers. Some have credited Khusrau with the creation of specific melodies and rhythms, of instruments such as the sitār and the tabla, and even of genres such as qawwālī and khayal. Although most of these attributions are mythic, Khusrau was influential in the fusion of West Asian (particularly Persian) musical ideas with those of India. (Some confusion may exist because of the similarity of his name to that of Amir Khusrau Khan, an important eighteenth-century Delhi musician.) Khusrau was influenced by the Sufi teacher Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya for whom music was an important mode of experiencing the divine.

Of the courts in which Amir Khusrau was known to have been active, that of Ala-ud-Din Muhammad Khalji, sultan of Delhi (r. 1296–1326), proved to be particularly fertile ground for cultural exchange. The Muslim rulers of late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Delhi attempted to raise the prestige of their courts by patronizing scholars and artists as advisers and courtiers. Probably as a consequence of his role as a courtier, Khusrau studied and described many musical theories and performance practices of his era.

Gordon Thompson


Miner, Allyn. Sitar and Sarod in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth

Centuries. Wilhelmshaven, Germany: F. Noetzel, 1993.