1902 Encyclopedia > Afghanistan > Afghanistan - Language and Literature

(Part 19)

(19) Afghanistan - Language and Literature

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE. – Persian is the vernacular of a large part of the non-Afghan population, and is familiar to all educated Afghans. But the proper language of the Afghans is Pushtu, or Pukhtu (these are dialectic variations). Currency has been given to the notion that this language has a Semitic character, but this appears to be quite erroneous, and is entirely rejected by competent authorities, the majority of whom class Pushtu positively as an Aryan or Indo-Persian language. The Pushtu vocabulary preserves a number of ancient forms and connections with words that remain isolated in other Aryan languages. Interesting illustrations of this and other points connected with Pushtu will be found in a paper by Isidor Lowenthal in the J. of the As. Soc. Of Bengal, vol. xxix.

Poshtu does not seem to be spoken in Herat, or (roughly speaking) west of the Helmand.

There is a respectable amount of Afghan litereature. The oldest work in Pushtu as yet mentioned is a history of the conquest of Swat by Shaikh Mali, a chief of the Yusufzais, and leader in the conquest (A.D. 1413-24). In 1494 Kaju Khan became chief of the same clan; during his rule Buner and Panjkora were completely conquered, and he wrote a history of the events. But these works have not been met with. In the reign of Akbar, Bayazid Ansari, called Pir-I-Roshan, "The Saint of Light," the founder of an heretical sect, wrote in Pushtu; as did his chief antagonist, a famous Afghan saint called Akhund Darweza.

The literature is richest in poetry. Abdarrahman (17th century) is the best known poet. Another very popular poet is Khushal Khan, the warlike chief of the Khattaks in the time of Aurangzib. Many other members of his family were poets also. Ahmed Shah, the founder of the monarchy, likewise wrote poetry. Ballads are numerous.

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Afghanistan - Table of Contents

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