Persian Speakers Wanted 22

At least I think it is Persian. I have found a transliteration but not a translation of the poem on Shah Shuja’s coinage, and the parody of it by Kabul wits popular in 1840. It is from the Afghan historian Ghulam, recorded in Christine Noelle’s State and Tribe in Nineteenth Century Afghanistan. She transliterates it thus:

sikka zad bar sim o zar raushantar az khurshed o mah
nuur-i-chasm-i durr-i durran Shah Shuja al-Mulk Shah

was changed to

sikka zad bar sim o tila Shah Shuja -i armani
nur-i-chasm-i Lard Burnes o khak-i pa-yi Company

I certainly get the jist, but if anyone can have a go at translating I would be grateful. From experience the talents of readers of this blog are quite extraordinary!!

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22 thoughts on “Persian Speakers Wanted

  • JimmyGiro

    Sim sikka some bar that controls the mah raushantar less khurshed
    pearls-i-i-i-chasm nuur durran Shah Shah Shuja al-Mülk
    That from an Azerbaijani to Engrish translation, using Google.

  • JimmyGiro

    And using the transliterated form:
    Shuja Shah-i string bar thing that sikka tila Armani
    Burnes is probably a light-i-chasm-i-i-pa-yi khak Company.
    Again from Google Translate.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    While we’re waiting, ‘chashm’ is ‘eye’, ‘nur’ is ‘light’, ‘durr-i-durran’ is ‘pearl of pearls’ – commonly used for the kings of that particular ‘Durrani’ dynasty. ‘Kurshid’ is ‘sun’. ‘O mah’ is ‘mine’, as in ‘maather-i-mah’ (‘Mother of Mine’, remember that ?wonderful song?!!). ‘Armani’ is ‘desired (indeed it is!). I’ll get back once my pal has replied. ‘Bar’ can be ‘bosom’, I think. I think we get the jist, but we need the precise punch-line translation!

  • Roger Whittaker

    No: “khurshed o mah” is “sun and moon”. “sim o zar raushantar az khurshed o mah” is “silver and gold brighter than sun and moon”. “sikka” is “coin”.

  • Paul Johnston

    I think the parody is due to the change from nur -> nuur (نُر -> نور)
    As Suhayl says bar is either بَر or بار which is either “on” or part of the verb to take or win which seems more likely in this context.
    That’s the problem with a transliteration system which doesn’t always indicate long and short vowels.
    As Roger says for “raushantar az khurshed” “tar” is the comparative marker added to روشن (bright).
    I’m got my weekly Persian lesson at 1.15 so hopefully will have the answer then 🙂

  • Herbie

    Firstly, I think that “jist” ought to be “gist”.

    On the translation, I found this:

    “The Armenian Shah Shuja, the light of the eyes of Lord Burnes, the dust of the foot of the Company, put his stamp on silver and gold”

  • mary

    It’s no wonder that interpretations or nuances are given on the content of Ahmadinejad’s speeches.

  • Paul Johnston

    Hi Herbie, that’s exactly how my teacher put it.
    “Light of the eyes” is probably better translated as “apple of the eye”

  • Herbie

    Hi Paul,
    You’ll be way way ahead of me on this then. I merely lifted that translation from the 1937 book which I’ve linked above.
    Looks like quite an intimate relationship indeed.
    No wonder “it baffled investigation for years”

  • craig Post author


    That is a wonderful find. But it adds to the mystery. My source is plain that the original inscription on the coin is the first verse I give above, and that the second verse is a parody. The second source, which you have now found, indicates that there were actual coins struck with the parody verse on them. That may just be a misunderstanding, but there is a quote from a leading numismatist which seems to indicate he believed such coins existed. Were parody coins struck? I have a George Bush parody dollar somewhere. But my strong suspicion is that your source has gone down a blind alley and taken a report of the parody verse for an actual coin inscription.

    But I still need a good translation of the first, original inscription above.

    Why Shah Shujah is referred to as an Armenian is fascinating. he did not have an Armenian mother. His opponents had however characterised him as a puppet in the service of Christians. But I wonder if there is also a slur on his legitimacy, ie that he had an Armenian father?

    We s

  • Mojgan

    created an image on a silver and gold coin brighter than sun and the moon

    the light of eyes of pearl of pearls Shah Shuja al-Mulk Shah


    sim o zar =silver and gold




    nuri chashm= light of my eyes , light of my life , someone very dear


  • Nick

    I think the original legend on the coin translates as:

    Coin struck in silver and gold [that shines] brighter than than the sun and moon.
    Light of the Eye, Pearl of Pearls, Shah Shuja al-Mulk Shah

  • Nick

    Oh, and I think people are going down a cul-de-sac translating ‘armani’ as ‘Armenian.’ I suspect the transcription is actually of ارمانی, which translates as something like ‘remorseful, sorrowful’ etc (Armenian would be ارمنی).

  • Paul Johnston

    From the link by Herbie

    سکه رد بر سیم و طلا شه شجاع ارمنی
    بور چشم لارق برنس خاک پای کمپنی

    That would suggest “Armenian” not “remorseful”.
    Generally lots of effort is made in getting vowel length right and why wouldn’t there be Armenians in Afghanistan with their well known involvement in trading systems.
    Or as a really wild stab could it mean someone from the Caucasus area?
    As an aside getting the length of “a” is a problem I have, especially saying آن
    Saying “shit” when you mean “that” is a little embarrasing to say the least 🙂

  • craig Post author


    Armenian makes sense to me in context – his opponents had declared jihad against him, so to stigmatise him as a christian (and armenians were the native christian population of kabul) seems likely. But we are looking at transliterations from copies of handwritten originals…

    Wow this blog is erudite. Juan Cole eat your heart out!!

  • Tim

    As with everything in Persian poetry, “Armenian” is almost certainly figurative – as in the Shirazi “Turk” for whose “Indian” mole Hafiz would have traded Samarkand and Bukhara. I would guess, on no authority, that your “christian puppet” comment is what is meant by it.

  • Herbie

    Surely you have both translations now.

    It’s clear that the parodic version of the original is very much a sleight on Shah Shuja bona fides in his relationship with Burnes. But it also seems very specifically to link Burnes to an appropriation of the wealth, through the company. It’s suggesting he owns the currency. Shuja’s a puppet!

    All rather timely, I’d have thought.

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