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Litterateur on the mission to document Urdu, Persian chronograms engraved on the epitaphs in Kakori

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL/LUCKNOW/DELHI: You would be surprised to see his passion but poet Makhmoor Kakorvi, who has several books to his credit, is quite often seen visiting graveyards and hospices, dargahs and mazaars.

He started the mission to collect all the 'chronograms' on epitaphs in Kakori, one of the most important towns of North India that is known for its litterateurs and writers apart from Sufis.

The master poets who have absolute command over language are able to write poetry in the manner that their numerical value, either of the stanza or a phrase, comes out as year of person's demise. This art is termed 'Tareekh-goi'

It's an ancient art and such skilled poets who can compose chronograms or are able to write 'Qita-e-Tareekh' are few. On the tombstone, along with the person's information, the poetry is inscribed and the last couplet or line has a numerical value as per 'Abjad' system that represents date or year of death.

And, this mathematical equation is also engraved, often, on the tombstone's plaque. In an era when people are no longer able to compose poetry in meter and as per traditional and hard standards of prosody, it is even more difficult to find someone who writes chronogram.

But till a few decades ago, it was common. When Makhmoor began registering the long verses and couplets carrying the chronogram on the epitaphs, he found that there were not a few but dozens of senior poets who had composed them over the last three centuries in Kakori.

In a town that has a population of barely 22,000 but has a history of producing one of the biggest Urdu dictionariesNoor Ul Lughaat, as well as being home to writers and poets of the calibre of Shah Turab Ali Qalandar, Mohsin Kakorvi, Furqat Kakorvi and scores of others, Makhmoor found that poets with the ability to write chronograms was exceptional, in fact, too many poets who were perfect in this art in Kakori in the past.

"I would go to the graves, clean the plaque and then try to decipher the verses. The last line or stanza or phrase is the poetic chronogram. I found more than 60 different poets who had written chronograms in Kakori alone. Many of them were poets of such stature and command over language that is not seen anymore.

Some of them wrote many chronograms and the terms used are fascinating as well as a reflection of their mastery over Urdu poetry", says Makhmoor Kakorvi, who is also a poet and has also written chronograms. He is, perhaps, the only person who can pen it, in the town now. However, he hopes to compile all these couplets and information about these poets of yore in the form of a book.