Seven Spectacles
قتيل، محمد حسن. هفت تماشای میرزا قتیل. لکناو: مطبع نول کیشور، ١٨۷۵، ١۶۴ص

Qatil, Muhammad Hasan. Haft Tamasha-yi Mirza Qatil. Lucknow: Matbaʻ-yi Nul Kishur, 1875, 164pp.


Seven Spectacles

هفت تماشای میرزا قتيل

Haft Tamasha or Seven Spectacles (first published in 1875) comprises a Persian account in seven chapters of the popular and elite “customs and ways” of various Hindu and Muslim social groups of eithteenth and nineteenth centuries urban North Indians. Its author, Muhammad Qatil, was born a Hindu of the Khatri caste in Delhi in 1758, converted to the Twelver Shia sect of Islam at fourteen and died in Delhi in 1817, composing this text shortly before at the request of Mirza Muhammad Hussain, a visiting Iranian cleric. 

He singles out the textual sources of Hindu sectarian beliefs, treating Sanskrit mythology as historical documentation. He assigns distinct sections to what can be assumed to be personally observed detailed descriptions of the holy days in the Hindu calendar and Hindu festivals and rituals in the regions of Delhi and Lucknow, each time discussing the degree and nature of local Muslim participation, observing at one point that such participation had decreased lately owing to British strictures. 

He discusses marriage, birth and death rituals – including an account of sati, or the immolation of wives on the pyres of their husbands – among various upper castes of Hindus, assigning a separate chapter to a description of customs current among upper caste Indian Muslims, sometimes specific to Delhi, sometimes to the region of Lucknow, and often to communities of other regions. 

Qatil’s account furnishes a rich indigenous ethnography of the everyday “customs” – a term he defines as a freely performed and pleasing action – of vast swathes of North India’s populations with the proviso that he frames his account by a distinction between the Hindu and Muslim elites on the one hand and the poor ignorant masses on the other, his loyalty resting with the former.

Prashant Keshavmurthy
Keshavmurthy, Prashant. '"English abstract of 'Seven Spectacles'". Translated by Prashant Keshavmurthy. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 48. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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