Later on, when imprisoned by her father Aurangzeb>, she assumed the pen-name of Makhfi (that which is concealed), representing her dark and Saturnine side. This was the period of time when the princess slowly turned into the poetess Makhfi. Her poetry now reflected the bitterness in her heart and a deep emotional resolution. Her poetry was now moving along divine planes, far from the misleading vanities of the world. Sufi Philosophy and religious concepts occupied centre stage in her poetry. She was always discreet to the extent of being mysterious, hence her pen-name, the Hidden One.
In the mystic poetry of her later days, periodic despair at her human frailties is a recurring theme. In her spiritual striving she describes herself as standing fearfully on the threshold of the temple, waiting and hoping to achieve a higher state of communion with the Almighty, but it seems that she is afraid of venturing forward to achieve her goal and awaits some sort of sign from God. She always seemed to be wary of committing herself wholeheartedly to love or allowing herself to revel in imperial glory before her fall. There is a quality of genuine modesty and humbleness about her; her humility is so great that she does not even dare to presume that she is worthy. During this forlorn period she dressed simply in white, wearing only one symbolic necklace of pearls around her neck. Now her alienation from the world became complete.
Her mystic poetry combines a number of different spiritual elements. In fact, it is a classic model of Sufi poetry, with some overtones of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. In a few verses she refers to the fire which consumes and purifies as in the Zoroastrian religion. In another, she describes a Brahmin ascetic thus:
"The knotted veins his wasted body bears, Are like unto the sacred thread he wears."
In yet another poem, she speaks of her own sacred thread, which is a purely Hindu concept. There is an element of Platonism in her writing as well, like in those poems where she is seeking the truth. Platonic learning is apparent throughout her works. Furthermore, there are also several references to Biblical themes. She compares herself with the suffering Ayub (Job) in one of her poems. There is the idealization of the psalms of David, King of Israel, Yaqub (Jacob) is mentioned several times, as well as Noah in. She is moved by Yousuf's (Joseph) legendary beauty, which she lauds. In the opening poem she hopes, above all, to see her prayers answered as Solomon's were, and further on she regrets that she will never be able to follow Abraham, Friend of God, to contemplate the Holy Kaaba.
Apart from the Sufi and religious concepts, there are historical references peculiar to the intellectuals of her times. She cites Alexander of Macedon opposing Darius, the Persian ruler, and poignantly compares her assumptions to that of this unfortunate King. She writes about Kaikobad, the Seljuk Sultan who was victorious in war and glorious in peace, and Firdausi's famous Persian hero, Rustom, features significantly. She dreams of herself being the Rustom of her age.
There are also the tales of famous lovers. Laila and Majnu's tragic story reminds her of her own. Majnu's beloved gets married to another, and he goes mad and wanders in the mountains for seven years, learning the language of birds and wild animals. Zebunissa interprets her poetic progress in this manner. In the fable of Shirin and Farhad, Farhad's rival uses magic to make a spring of milk burst from a mountain, then announces that Shirin has died; the faithful lover is so heartbroken he commits suicide. Zebunissa refers to the tragedy of this couple in her poems.
Apart from those who have died for love, Zebunissa also writes about martyrs to Divine love. She cites the example of Mansur Al Hajjaj, who was crucified and cut up into little pieces in Baghdad in the ninth century because he declared that he was one with God. The concepts of fate, luck, capricious princes, etc., often recur in her poems. Her sensibility reflects the chaotic history of her dynasty, and contemporary examples also inspire her.
Zebuniussa's mystic poetry has earned her an important place in Persian literature, wherein she is remembered as a mysterious and romantic figure. Her works were published long after her death when they were compiled and published under the title of Diwan i Makhfi. Once her complete works were brought out, people could appreciate the full depth and scope of this painful and passionate poetry, this dialogue of a soul with its creator. Imprisonment broke the lock of repression in her heart and gave a more turbulent and passionate quality to her verses, along with a higher divine striving.
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