Literary history

Meet Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan, who was also the ‘bhakta’ poet Rahim Das

Rahim was a linguist, who spoke some Portuguese and wrote extensively in Braj, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian.

Rahiman gali hai sakri, dujo nahi thaharahi
Apu ahai to Hari nahi, Hari to aapun nahi

The alley is narrow, Rahim, it won’t take both of us
If I go, the lord can’t; and if the lord does I can not

Poet, statesman, soldier, one of Akbar’s navratna or Nine Jewels, an early-day proponent of a secular all-embracing all-encompassing culture of inclusiveness that has been “native” to this land long before the proponents of Akhand Bharat became clamorous, founding father of the movement to popularise the people’s language as the language of poetic and creative expression instead of the high-brow Persian and Turkish of the Mughal court, and patron saint of modern-day translators – Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan was all this and much more.

The son of Bairam Khan – Akbar’s uncle, tutor and regent after Humayun’s death – Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan (1556-1627) not only accompanied Akbar on his military expeditions, most notably the one to Gujarat, but also became Mir Ard, the one who heard the thousands of applications addressed to the emperor. More importantly, he is also the Rahim Das that most of us have encountered in Hindi textbooks in school along with the famous triumvirate of medieval Bhakta poets, Sur, Tulsi and Kabir.

Clearly a man of many parts, it is difficult to reconcile the bhakta Rahim Das – the Servant of Rahim (one of the 99 names name for Allah) – and the aesthete-courtier-military strategist seen in many gilded Mughal-era paintings. Yet, such a man existed. He lies buried in a vast and crumbling mausoleum on Mathura Road (once part of the Mughal Grand Trunk Road) at the mouth of Nizamuddin East in Delhi, in a grand edifice built by Rahim for his wife, making it the first Mughal tomb of its kind built for a lady.

Its proximity to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, the thirteenth-century Sufi saint, makes it part of a cluster of over 100 monuments, mostly mausoleums and mosques, that together comprise the densest ensemble of medieval monuments anywhere in India. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), having successfully undertaken repair and renovation work on Humayun’s Tomb and several other monuments in its vicinity, has now turned its attention to Rahim’s Tomb as part of its Nizamuddin Urban Renewal initiative. While the conservation work being undertaken by the AKTC, in collaboration with the Inter Globe Foundation, is of great architectural significance laying out as it is a blueprint for conservation projects elsewhere in India, the intention to revisit Rahim’s legacy is equally laudable.

On February 9, 1956, a function was organised by the Ministry of Communications to celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of Rahim Das. After this token sarkari felicitation of a man who strove to achieve the synthesis of Urdu and Hindi, the Rahiman of countless sweet and sage pronouncements was promptly consigned to the rubbish heap of history and his tomb, despite its vantage location on one of Delhi's busiest roads, rendered practically invisible.

Few have ventured inside its sprawling grounds (at some point “protected” by a tall fence built by the ASI and a five-rupee ticket) or marvelled at its perfect proportions. Originally faced with red sandstone relieved by the use of buff sandstone and marble, most of its finery was stripped for the construction of Safdarjung's tomb a century later. Yet, neither neglect nor pillage can rob it of its solemn grandeur – befitting the brilliant poet-statesman who lies buried here.

The poetry

The fact that three great poets lie within a bare kilometre of each other – Rahim on Mathura Road, and Amir Khuro and Mirza Ghalib close beside Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah –all of them among the greatest votaries of inclusiveness and multiculturalism, needs some attention. While the curtain of forgetfulness occasionally parts and the qawwali, geet and ghazal of Khusro and Ghalib make themselves heard, Rahim and his marvellous poetry have been largely neglected. It is laudable, therefore, that the conservation project has included within its ambit the documenting of Rahim’s contribution to culture; a compilation of his dohas (two-line pithy couplets) is in the works as is an edited volume of essays focusing on his multi-dimensional personality.

A poet and a patron of men of learning, Rahim was a bit of a linguist himself. He spoke some Portuguese (the first Jesuit mission had already reached Akbar’s court) and wrote extensively in Braj, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. He translated Babur’s autobiography Baburnama from Turkish to Persian.

Abdur Rahim was barely four years of age when his father Bairam Khan was assassinated. He, however, grew up into a fine young man under the fostering care of Akbar who later gave him the title of Mirza and made him commander of Five Thousand with the title Khan-e-Khanan. He was appointed tutor to Prince Salim and one of his daughters was given in marriage to Prince Daniyal. After Akbar’s death, he served under Jehangir for 21 years.

However, for all his loyalty, he was seen as a threat by Jehangir and treated shabbily. Jehangir ordered the killing of two of his sons at the Khooni Darwaza on the trumped-up charge that they were traitors. In this he was supported by Mirza Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, son of Akbar's wet-nurse, Maham Anagah. The bodies of the Khan-e-Khanan’s sons were left to rot and eaten by birds of prey, thus providing yet another leaf in the macabre history of Khooni Darwaza.

Coming to his poetry, Rahim wrote for every occasion. Here’s something on the need to must preserve every drop of water, for, a single drop saved inside the oyster’s shell, forms a pearl:

Rahiman pani rakhiye bin pani sab soon,
Pani gaye na ubare moti manus ehoon.

On the innate goodness of character that remains untainted, like the chandan tree that retains its purity despite the poisonous snakes twined around it:

Jo Rahim uttam prakrati, ka kar sakat kusang,
Chandan vish vyapat nahin, lipitay rahey bhujang.

On the transience of both ill and good fortune:

Rahiman vipida ho bhali jo thoray din hoye,
Hit anhit eeh jagat mein, jaan paday sab koi.

On placating, time and time again, those who are good at heart:

Ruthay sujan manaiye jo ruthay sau baar,
Rahiman phir phir poiye jo tootay tootay sau baar.

On the Small vs Big debate and the use of a needle when a sword is not required:

Rahiman dekh badein ko laghu na dijiye daar,
Jahan kaam awai sui, kahan karey talwar.

On birds flying off from a drying lake to seek another perch, but what of the poor wingless fish:

Sar sookhe, pachchi ure aure saran samae,
Deen meen bin pachch ke, kahu Rahim kahan jaye?

On using obviously “Hindu” imagery despite being a Muslim when declaring the only way to achieve salvation is through unconditional surrender to Ram (the all pervading consciousness):

Gahi sarnagati Ram ki, bhavsagar ki naav
Rahiman jagat udhar ko, aur na kachhu upaiy

And the most famous of them all, on the thread of love, that once snapped, forever bears a knot:

Rahiman dhaga prem ka, mat todu chatkai,
Tootey phir se na milay, milay gaanth padi jai.

The mausoleum

While it would be certainly be worthwhile to revisit the dohas, chaupais and kabits written by him that transcend their time and age and speak so eloquently of the co-mingling of cultures, it just might be equally worthwhile to drop by and visit his tomb, see the conservation work that is in progress. Watch the layers of grime and neglect being scraped away by a team of dedicated conservationists to reveal glowing, gleaming incised plasterwork. While large parts of the monument itself are cordoned off at present owing to the ongoing conservation, the parts that peep out from behind the scaffoldings nevertheless present an imposing sight.

A massive square edifice rises from a high platform faced by arched cells on all sides. Unlike Humayun’s Tomb, its predecessor and early prototype of the garden-tomb so dearly loved by the Mughals, the plan here is a plain square instead of octagonal.

The charbagh pattern, too, is here though simpler with paths instead of water channels. The lofty double-storied mausoleum rises from the centre of what was once a Mughal garden reduced to a patch of mangy grass over the years but with some handsome old trees still remaining. There is a high deeply recessed central arch on each side and several shallow arches on the flanks in each storey.

The interior of the tomb chamber has remains of beautifully incised designs in plaster and traces of paint work – all of which are being faithfully and painstakingly restored to its original colours. Four chhatris are strategically placed at the corners of the central dome giving it a perfectly balanced look, unlike, say, Safdarjung's tomb which suffers from a peculiarly compressed and elongated look.

The platform has shallow octagonal tanks connected by narrow drains – possibly for allowing rainwater to drain off. With the near-cannibalistic stripping of the marble and red sandstone from its facade to ornament other monuments in the vicinity and rampant pilferage and looting of its parapets and lattices, the tomb looks scarred and gouged, yet venerable. It is said that, along with Humayun's tomb, it provided the prototype for Shahjahan's architects to work on the spectacular Taj Mahal.

One hopes the “model conservation project” will bring a new lease of life to this grand monument to one of India’s ablest sons; in the process if it draws attention to his poetry one can only rejoice. For, surely it is time for Rahim to step out from the shadows of long-forgotten Hindi textbooks and take his rightful place among the great poets of Hindustan.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.