Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, The Shah-Name Echoes in Sikh Poetry and the Origins of the Nihangs’ Name
The legacy of Iranian influence in Indian
literary culture is clear in the Sikh epistle in Persian verse, the Zafar-Name (“The
Book of Victory”), written by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, to
the Moghul emperor ‘Alamgir. The meter, the style with its
phrases, and occasionally the mood, reveal the Guru’s close familiarity
with the 4/10th century “Book of Kings” [Shah-Name]. An even more marked Shah-Name influence can be detected in the enigmatic Fath-Name (“The Book of Conquest”), preserved in fragmentary form.
The continued influence of the Shah-Name on Sikh thinking resulted, among other things, in the adoption by a Sikh martial community of a Shah-Name metaphor as its name. They called themselves Nahangs, pronounced in present-day Panjab nihangs, “crocodiles.” Nahang, which appears in early Persian dictionaries as an image of ferocious courage, is used with unique emphasis in the Shah-Name, where it appears repeatedly in connection with heroes of exceptional courage and strength such as Rostam.