This work concerns an undated, anonymous Persian qasida contained in a late seventeenth-century manuscript preserved in the library of the Biruni Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. The title of the work is not named in the manuscript; M. Szuppe follows the title assigned in the catalogue (SVR 6: 4050). All of the texts and fragments contained in the manuscript are within the Sufi milieu, most probably that of the Naqshbandiyya. The poem, which is written in clear nasta‘liq script, contains the descriptions of 27 ziyaratgahs of the saints (awliyya) located in Ghazna and the nearby vicinity. M. Szuppe proposes at the beginning of the work to address three primary issues: 1) the circumstances of the creation of the qasida; 2) the geographical and prosopographic information that is possible to glean from the text; and 3) its literary significance. Based on other texts and fragments contained in the volume that are dated 1096/1685, the author determines this date to be the terminus ante quem for the creation of the qasida [p. 1169]. Presented in the madh form or panegyric, the first 4 bayts contain the invocation. Bayts 7-37 describe the stages (maqams) of pilgrimage to the saints’ tombs, and in some cases, list the ziyaratgahs along with specific recommendations to the pilgrim. As the author notes [p. 1171], we have little information at our disposal on Ghazna, and even less on the vicinity of Ghazna [see pp. 1172-1174 for a review of sources on Ghazna], particularly for the sixteenth-seventeenth century, the probable period of the composition of the Qasida dar ziyaratgah-i Ghaznayn. To identify the shrines listed in the qasida, M. Szuppe relies largely on the recent work of R. Giunta on the funerary inscriptions of Ghazna [Les inscriptions funéraires de Ghazni, ive-ixe siecles, Naples, 2003], in addition to the Riyaz al-alwah mushtamil bar katibaha-yi qubur wa abniyya-yi Ghazna (Shaykh Muhammad-Riza, Kabul, 1346/1967), The Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan / Sites archéologiques d’Afghanistan [W. Ball, Paris, 1982], and the Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan, 6: Kabul and Southeast Afghanistan [L. Adamec, ed., Graz, 1985]. She breaks down the toponyms into three categories: those places that may be identified based on written or archaeological evidence; those places for which it is possible to propose a probable identification; and those places that remained unidentified [p. 1174]. Certain saints are designated as providing specific benefits to the pilgrim [p. 1175]. Of particular interest is M. Szuppe’s discussion of the “ritual geography” of the qasida. For example, the list begins with the tombs of the “eighteen sultans” (tombs of the Ghaznawid sultans and princes of the eleventh century and Timurids of the fifteenth century) located in the village of Rawza, northeast of Ghazna. M. Szuppe supposes that the list follows the prescribed order in which the pilgrim should proceed to complete the pilgrimage cycle [see pp. 1177-1180 for a complete listing of shrines along with identifying information when available]. She also reproduces a copy of the plan of Ghazna [fig. 1, p. 1196] that was drawn in nineteenth-century Calcutta [Survey of Indian Office, December 1878] and published by Giunta in 2003. Although the reduction of the plan makes it difficult to read it is useful to see the topographical layout of the shrines and, in particular, the location of the Ghazni-Rud as a dividing line between shrines and shrine complexes. The author’s final discussion of the literary characteristics of the Qasida dar ziyaratgah-i Ghaznayn poses provocative questions concerning the literary genre to which it belongs and the conventional typology of pilgrimage guides in general. The qasida of Ghazna, she argues, is situated on the border of two literary genres: the ziyarat-nama (pilgrimage guide) and the panegyric writing of the shahrashub type [pp. 1181-86]. Although the ziyarat-nama, which became particularly popular in the Timurid period, is normally written in prose, it shares the main elements of narrative content with the qasida under discussion. The author explains that the shahrashub, a courtly poetic form that originally described and praised young artisans from different trades, was quite widespread in the Persian poetry of the Ghaznawid period, and served later in the Timurid period as a bridge between eastern and western Turco-Iranian literary modes when it broadened to include other elements such as descriptions of natural phenomena or praise of a sovereign or governor. The key element of the later “non-conventional” shahrashub, however, is the listing of personages of a particular category, whether it be a particular social group or occupation. The author notes, however, that the qasida in question is not dedicated to any specific figure as is customary with the later shahrashub form, since it begins with a panegyric introduction of mystical content.
In addition to shedding light on the local history of Ghazna, this work is a significant contribution to our understanding of popular culture and the importance of local shrines and pilgrimage, a topic understudied in comparison with the better known urban shrines of the eastern Islamic world. The Qasida dar ziyargah-i Ghaznayn, moreover, demonstrates how the literary form of the ziyarat-nama was flexible in form and content, and developed in response to local needs in the context of diverse socio-cultural environments.