Iranian notables, sources of global honor (117)
Welcome to this week’s episode of the series Iranian Notables, Sources of Global Honor. Today, we continue to discuss the life and works of the famed and acclaimed Iranian poet of the Safavid era, Abu-Taleb Kalim Kashani, who is considered as one of the pioneers of Indian literary style in poetry.
It was said that Kalim was one of the poets, contemporary to the rule of Safavid King, Shah Abbas, who also gained entry to the royal court of Indian King, Shah Jahan. The biography of this renowned poet has largely remained unknown and has been overshadowed by his well-known poetry. His date of birth remains unknown, but we know that he was either born in Kashan or Hamedan, completing his studies in one of these two cities. He traveled to India at a young age, like many other poets and literary figures of the Safavid era, embarking within the royal court of the Indian King, Shah Jahan. Ultimately, he passed away in India’s Kashmir region in 1061 AH, and was laid to rest in Srinagar.
Literary critics have named Kalim Kashani as one of the leading poets, adopting the Indian literary style in composing poems, and have referred to this celebrated poet as one of the peers of the well-established Iranian poet, Saeb Tabrizi. Literary reviewers have in fact praised the simplicity and fluency of the words and terms which Kalim has used in his poems.
This renowned Iranian poet has left behind an unfinished Shah Nameh, which consists of 15,000 lines of poetry, in addition to a collection of poems that is comprised of 10,000 poetic lines, covering a whole range of different types of poetry such as odes, elegies, and quatrains.
Upon a glance at the works of this well-established poet, one realizes that he has tested his poetic skills in composing different poetic styles, but he was mainly talented and adept in composing odes. He also maintained a simple language in creation of elegies. Kalim Kashani was more influenced by the country of India and the Indian lifestyle than any other Farsi-speaking poet, which is widely evident in the Indian terms he has used in his collection of poems.
He has also applied a simple language in his other poetic styles. However, he rose into prominence mainly because of composing odes; in which he has coupled a simple and fluent language with relatively fresh themes and unique connotations. The themes of Kalim’s poems are mainly rooted in his social thoughts. Innovation of connotations and imaginations has granted an especial delicacy to his odes. The adages and colloquial terms that have narrowed the gap between the language of odes and the views of common people are widely evident in this Iranian poet’s works.
Kalim is one of the pioneers of Indian literary style. According to researchers and scholars of the Indian literary style, Kalim has managed to establish the foundations of this literary style with his innovative approaches in composition of poems. His strong sense of imagination, precision in details, presentation of fresh connotations, humanization of objects, and unique and poetic images, coupled with a simple and fluent language, are some of the characteristic features of Kalim Kashani’s poems, which are also evident in the poems of others poets of Safavid era, and other followers of Indian literary style in poetry.
Kalim’s contemporary biographers have mentioned Kalim in their books in one form or another. Some have spoken of his works and poetic style via ample descriptions and similes, and others like Reza Qoli Khan Hedayat, and Azar Bigdeli have also mentioned his name. Researchers believe that via reference to these biographies, one can discover a variety of analyses and criticisms which were made about Kalim and his Indian literary style within his lifetime.
A prominent author and critic opines that Kalim has blended his taste with beautiful connotations, presenting it to readers of his poems.
Kalim is also known for creation of a diverse range of connotations. In fact, upon reading his poems, it is certain that he maintained a creative mind, to an extent that he even created poetic images from non-poetic topics, astounding the readers. His precision, sharp mind and ability to shape creative images enchant every reader, encouraging them to re-read his poems.
Kalim’s huge capacity in creation of images even enabled him to create several images from a single topic, compelling the readers to realize that his sense of imagination is never-ending.
His poems are also characterized by his theoretical and philosophical mindset. He maintained in-depth ideas and thoughts, and philosophical questions are asked in all of his poems, especially throughout his odes.
Meanwhile, irrespective of all of the positive aspects of his poetry, there are also a few shortcomings in his poems; some of which we enumerate.
Contradictions in connotations and images are apparent in some of Kalim’s works. It seems that he was also aware of this shortcoming and had attributed it to his disillusionment.
One of the other shortcomings of his poems is the sense of despair which governs his poetry. According to one of the researchers of Kalim’s works, Shams Lankaroudi; Kalim’s collection of poems is mired in despair. His poems show that in contrast to his contemporary poets, Kalim had sensed sorrow and despair, first hand.