Dr Gopi Chand Narang, in a fresh study of Ghalib, has recently pointed out new sources hitherto untapped. So we see Ghalib interpreted in the light of a philosophical thought and a linguistic tradition seemingly alien to the poet. This study, under the title Ghalib: Ma’ni Afrini, Jadlujaati Waza, Shuniyata Aur Shariyaat, has simultaneously been published in India and Pakistan. In Pakistan Sang-e-Meel Publications has brought it out in a well-presented volume running to almost 700 pages.
Ghalib has in general been studied against the background of Persian in addition to Urdu. And this practice is in accordance to the demand of Ghalib’s poetry as the poet laid a lot of emphasis on his deep relationship with the Persian language and its highly acclaimed poetic tradition. But Narang has made a wide departure from this practice. In search of the roots of Ghalibian thinking, he has travelled to pre-historic India and after much research has discovered these roots in Vedanta and Buddhist philosophies. So we see Ghalib studied in the framework of Sanskrit philosophic traditions. Of course, the Persian link is also very much there. This link comes through Baidil, who stands tall among the poets belonging to the Indian school of Persian poetry.
Narang discusses Baidil in detail, with particular reference to Ghalib. As is generally known, Ghalib from his early years was greatly under the influence of Baidil. It was under this influence that Ghalib developed a complex expression in his verses, to the extent of being incomprehensible. But as he grew older, Ghalib came out from under this influence and began writing in an easier style.
Narang, however, differs from this opinion. He insists that Ghalib remained under this influence throughout his life. As for Baidil, according to Narang, he, along with his Islamic thought, also delved deep into ancient Indian wisdom so that he developed a synthesis of the two. It was for this reason that while Baidil grew incomprehensible for others, he became meaningful for Ghalib and served as a source of inspiration for him.
Narang refers to a Sanskrit and Persian scholar, Wagish Shukla, who has researched Baidil. His research unearthed Baidil’s involvement with ancient Indian thought. As Narang tells us, Shukla has in particular referred to a Sanskrit book of Vaidantic wisdom, Yoga Vasistha. This was Baidil’s favourite book. He borrowed much from it while writing his masnavis. Shukla explains that for Baidil is not a reality. When Baidil dismisses both knowledge and ignorance as illusions of the same category he is following the advanced text like the Yoga Vasistha.
Shukla’s research on Baidil remains confined to telling us how he employed in his poetry what he had learnt from Yoga Vasistha. It was left for Narang to go a step further and reveal Baidil as a source of inspiration for Ghalib. If this document recorded in Sanskrit had been translated in Persian not once but twice and was a favourite book of Baidil, Ghalib could not have remained unaware of it. So it is quite possible that Ghalib managed to obtain this document and read it.
Frankly speaking, we expect Narang to go a step further in his research and tell us whether Ghalib is indebted solely to Baidil for his ancient Indian wisdom or had he access to Persian translations of such works of Sanskrit, particularly to the aforementioned book. In other words, how far had Ghalib drawn inspiration from these ancient schools of thought through their Persian translations?
No doubt Narang has taken much pain to explain the intricacies of the two systems, Hindu Vedanta and Bodhi schools of thought, amalgamated in the term Shunyata. In this context he goes on to quote Ghalib:
These verses appear to be inspired from some thought-provoking statements in Yoga Vasistha, a book which, with its two Persian translations, is also available in a rare Urdu translation. But when Narang explains to us that in Bodhi system of thought “everything around us is shuniya, that is it has no existence,” we feel confused. How are the two systems Vedanta and Shunyata different from each other? Even after Narang’s explanation of the fine difference between the two systems people like me remain confused.