Dr Makhmoor Kakorvi: On the mission to collect all the ‘chronograms’ on epitaphs

Chronogram is an ancient art. 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 the 'Abjad' system that represents the date or year of death. Poets like Dr. Makhmoor, who can compose chronograms or write 'Qita-e-Tareekh' are few

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
has a two-and-half-decade-long journalistic career. He worked with Indian media houses like Hindustan Times and DB Post as well as contributed to international organizations like Huffington Post. His bylines appear in The Wire and The First Post among others. The poetry lover scribe, covered crime extensively and uncovered some scams too.

Lukhnow: One would be surprised to see the passion of 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 the year of a person’s demise. This art is termed ‘Tareekh-Goi.’

It’s an ancient art and such skilled poets who can compose chronograms or 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 the ‘Abjad’ system that represents the 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 meters and as per traditional and hard standards of prosody, it is even more difficult to find someone who writes chronograms.

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 dictionaries—Noor-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 were 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.

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
has a two-and-half-decade-long journalistic career. He worked with Indian media houses like Hindustan Times and DB Post as well as contributed to international organizations like Huffington Post. His bylines appear in The Wire and The First Post among others. The poetry lover scribe, covered crime extensively and uncovered some scams too.

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