South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Diaries of a Dhaka Hakim: Urdu and Persian in Eastern Bengal, 1904-1947

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Sitting forgotten on the shelves of the manuscript library of Dhaka University is the diary of Hakim Habibur Rahman, in which he chronicled his daily experiments with Islamic numerology, poetry, and romantic advice at the turn of the twentieth century. Hakim Habibur Rahman was a medical healer in the unani tibb tradition of Indo-Muslim humoral medicine and a Urdu historian who lived from 1880 to 1947. Although Dhaka is a major center of the Bengali language, Hakim Habibur Rahman’s diary was not written in Bengali, but in a mixture of Urdu and Persian. Distinctive in content as well as in language, the spells, poems, and healing tips of this Muslim healer’s diary point towards a largely unstudied layer of twentieth-century vernacular scientific writing in South Asia. This paper investigates the diaries of Hakim Habibur Rahman in Dhaka to reconstruct how he used the everyday practices of Islamic numerology, poetry, and unani tibb remedies to make the case for Urdu’s scientific capabilities and geographic reach in the late colonial era. Habibur Rahman mixed Persian and Urdu and literary and medical genres to enrich Urdu scientific writing in the expanding urban center of Dhaka.More broadly, this paper excavates the ways in which Urdu promoters and Muslim healers in late colonial Dhaka commemorated (and imagined) a recent provincial ‘Persian Golden Age’ in Bengal as the historical backdrop for future-oriented Urdu-medium science writing. This history of Urdu medical writing in Dhaka also suggests alternative histories of Urdu in eastern Bengal beyond subsequent national frameworks.

Andrew Amstutz

University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Andrew Amstutz


Assets

2 - The Diaries of a Dhaka Hakim: Urdu and Persian in Eastern Bengal, 1904-1947



Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for The Diaries of a Dhaka Hakim: Urdu and Persian in Eastern Bengal, 1904-1947