Going native: Iranian Émigré poets and Indo-Persian

13 Dec 2017

Iranian men of letters who came to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal period contributed greatly to the development of Persianate culture in South Asia. Modern scholars who have addressed this migration have tended to assume that Iranians brought authentic knowledge of a Persian mother culture to Indians who struggled with some kind of inferior local product that was replaced by higher quality imported Persian as it was made available. This article addresses the neglected question of what features might have defined Indian Persian and more importantly what ideology accompanied it. We should historicize language ideology rather than assuming that so-called native speakers (an anachronistic concept for premodern times) control a cosmopolitan tradition like that of Persian. The scope for different affinities to language is clear from the experience of Qizilbash Khan Ummid (d. 1746), an Iranian immigrant who was reputedly so aware of the subtleties of Indian music that he would correct native Indian singers.