Mir Amman was best known for his translation of Amir Khusro's classic epic "Qissa Chahar Dervish" (The Tale of the Four Dervishes) from Persian into Urdu. His translation is considered classic literature itself for its use of contemporary Urdu, and was performed on the request of Mr. John Borthwick Gilchrist, a famous English scholar of literature of those days. It in turn was widely translated into English during the 19th century.
Mir Amman relates his own history in the preface to his famous work, here given in the English translation by Duncan Forbes:
- But first this guilty being, Mir Amman, of Dilli, begs to relate his own story: That my forefathers, from the time of King Humayun, served every king, in regular descent, with zeal and fidelity; and they also (i.e. the kings), with the eye of protection, ever justly appreciated and rewarded our services. Jagirs, titles and rewards, were plentifully bestowed on us; and we were called hereditary vassals, and old servants; so that these epithets were enrolled in the royal archives. When such a family (owing to which all other families were prosperous) dwindled to such a point! which is too well known to require mention, then Suraj Mal, the Jat, confiscated our Jagir, and Ahmad Shah the Durrani, pillaged our home. Having sustained such various misfortunes, I abandoned that city, which was my native land, and the place of my birth. Such a vessel, whose pilot was such a king, was wrecked; and I began to sink in the sea of destitution! A drowning person catches at a straw, and I sustained life for some years in the city of Azim-abad, experiencing both good and bad fortune there. At length I left it also--the times were not propitious; leaving my family there, I embarked alone in a boat, and came in quest of a livelihood to Calcutta, the chief of cities. I remained unemployed for some time, when it happened that Nawwab Dilawar Jang sent for me, and appointed me tutor to his younger brother, Mir Muhammad Kazim Khan. I stayed with him nearly two years; but saw not my advantage [in remaining there any longer.] Then, through the assistance of Mir Bahadur 'Ali Munshi, I was introduced to Mr. John Gilchrist (may his dignity be lasting.) At last, by the aid of good fortune, I have acquired the protection of so liberal a person, that I hope better days; if not, even, this is so much gain, that I have bread to eat, and having stretched my feet, I repose in quiet; and that ten persons in my family, old and young, are fed; and bless that patron. May God accept [their prayers!]
Partial publishing history
- Bagh o Buhar, a Translation into the Hindoostanee Tongue of the Celebrated Persian Tale "Qissui Chuhar Durwesh," by Meer Ummun, under the superintendence of J. Gilchrist, Calcutta, 1804. This version was reissued as follows: 2nd edition, Calcutta 1813; 3rd edition, Calcutta 1824. Other editions: Cawnpore 1833; Calcutta 1834; Madras 1840; Calcutta 1847; Cawnpore 1860; Calcutta 1863; Delhi 1882; etc.
- Bāgh o Buhār; consisting of entertaining Tales in the Hindûstǎni Language. By Mir Amman of Dihli, one of the learned Natives formerly attached to the College of Fort Williams at Calcutta. A new Edition, carefully collated with original Manuscripts. . . . to which is added a Vocabulary of all the Words occurring in the Work, Duncan Forbes, London, 1846. Also reissued in multiple later editions and revisions.
- The Bagh-o-Behar, Translated into English, for the Use of Students, W. C. Hollings, W. Thacker & Co., St. Andrews Library, Calcutta, and London, 1851.
- The Bāgh o Bahār, or the Garden and the Spring; being the Adventures of King Āzād Bakht, and the Four Derweshes; literally translated from the Urdú of Mir Amman, of Delhi. With copious explanatory Notes, and an introductory Preface, Edward B. Eastwick, London : Sampson Low & Marston, 1852.
- The Hindústáni Text of Mír Amman, Edited in Roman Type, with Notes and an introductory Chapter on the Use of the Roman Character in Oriental Languages, M. Williams, London, 1859.
- George Abraham Grierson, A Bibliography of Western Hindi, Including Hindostani, Bombay Education Society Press, 1903. Page 32.