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Amir Khusrow teaching his disciples

Dastangoi is a 13th century Urdu oral storytelling art form.[1] The Persian style of dastan evolved in 16th century. This form of the art was revived in 2005[2] and thousands of shows have been performed in India and abroad since then.[3] One of the earliest references in print to dastangoi is a 19th-century text containing 46 volumes of the adventures of Amir Hamza titled Dastan e Amir Hamza.[4]

The art form reached its zenith in the Indian sub-continent in the 19th century and is said to have died with the demise of Mir Baqar Ali in 1928.[2] Various artists has played significant roles in its revival in the 21st century.

At the centre of dastangoi is the dastango, or storyteller, whose voice is his main artistic tool in orally recreating the dastan or the story. Notable 19th-century dastangos included Amba Prasad Rasa, Mir Ahmad Ali Rampuri, Muhammad Amir Khan, Syed Husain Jah, and Ghulam Raza.[5]

A female dastango standing and reciting from the "Arabian Nights" while the audience sits around her -1911
Vyasa (sitting on high table), the common title for Indian oral storytellers, reciting epics among villagers, 1913
An Indian traditional oral storytller Dastangoi artist reciting the "Dastan-e-Amir Khusrau"


Dastangoi has its origin in the Persian language. Dastan means a tale; the suffix -goi makes the word mean "to tell a tale".[3]

Hindustani Dastangoi origin[edit]

Hindustani Dastangoi also known as Hindavi or Darbari Dastangoi. is an oral art of storytelling. 13th century. Legend has it that Amir Khusrow's master and Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya had fallen ill. To cheer him up, Amir Khusro started telling him a series of dastans Qissa-e-Chahār Dervish (قصه چهار درویش ' The Tale of the Four Dervishes / Bagh-o-Bahar (باغ و بہار, "Garden and Spring") (One Thousand and One Nights style dastan). By the end of the stories, Nizamuddin Auliya had recovered, and prayed that anyone who listened to these stories would also be cured.


Indian urban anthropologist Ghaus Ansari ascribed the origin of dastangoi to Pre-Islamic Arabia, and detailed how the eastward spread of Islam carried dastangoi to Iran and then to Delhi in India. From Delhi, dastangoi made its way to Lucknow in the 18th century, aided by the Indian Rebellion of 1857, during which several artists, writers and dastangos moved from Delhi to Lucknow.

In Lucknow, dastangoi was popular across all classes, and was regularly performed at diverse locations including chowks (city squares), private households, and afeem khana (public opium houses). "It became so popular among opium addicts that they made listening to stories an important element of their gatherings," wrote Ansari. "The prolonged intoxication and prolonged stories narrated by professional story-tellers was mostly combined. Each afeem khana had its own story-teller to entertain the clients; whereas, among the rich, every household used to appoint a dastango as a member of its staff."[6] According to Abdul Halim Sharar, the noted author and historian of nineteenth century Lucknow, the Art of dastangoi, was divided under the following headings:"War", "Pleasure, "Beauty", "Love" and "Deception".[7]

The early dastangois told tales of magic, war and adventure, and borrowed freely from other stories such as the Arabian Nights, storytellers such as Rumi, and storytelling traditions such as the Panchatantra. From the 14th century, Persian dastangois started focusing on the life and adventures of Amir Hamza, the paternal uncle of the prophet Muhammad. The Indian stream of dastangoi added storytelling elements such as aiyyari (trickery) to these tales.[8]

List of early Urdu Dastans[edit]

  • Nau tarz-i murassa‘ - Husain ‘Atā Khān Tahsīn
  • Nau ā'īn-i hindī (Qissa-i Malik Mahmūd Gīti-Afroz) - Mihr Chand Khatrī
  • Jazb-i ‘ishq - Shāh Husain Haqīqat
  • Nau tarz-i murassa‘ - Muhammad Hādī a.k.a. Mirzā Mughal Ghāfil
  • Ārā'ish-i mahfil (Qissa-i Hātim Tā'ī) - Haidar Bakhsh Haidarī
  • Bāgh o bahār(Qissa-i chahār darwesh) - Mīr Amman
  • Dāstān-i Amīr Hamza - Khalīl ‘Alī Khān Ashk
  • Fasana e Ajaib - Rajab Ali Baig Suroor
  • "Deval Devi-Khizr Khan"- The Vaghela princess and Delhi's Khalji King Romantic dastan. - Amir Khusrau
  • Khamsa (Khamsa-e-Khusrau) five classical romances dastan: Hasht-Bihisht, Matlaul-Anwar, Khosrow and Shirin, Layla and Majnun and Aaina-Sikandari. - Amir Khusrow

Dastangoi in print[edit]

Fort William College in Kolkata published an Urdu version of the dastaan of Amir Hamza in the beginning of the 19th century.[9] Munshi Nawal Kishore, a publisher in Lucknow, began publishing the dastaans by the 1850s. A few publications were also done in Persian.

  • In 1881, Nawal Kishore commissioned the print edition of the entire Hamza dastaan from three dastangos, Mohammed Husain Jah, Ahmed Husain Qamar, and Sheikh Tasadduq Husain. Over a period of twenty five years, the trio produced a collection of 46 volumes. Each volume could be read individually or as a part of the complete work.
  • Dastangoi', a collection of episodes performed by mahmood Farooqui and his team. 2012. = Mahmood Farooqui and mohammad Qazim.[10]
  • Dastan-e-Hind, the book is a Bunch of Syed Sahil Agha dastan's and Indian folklores, has been performed successfully by the various artists around the Globe.2010. = Syed Sahil Agha.[11]

Dastangoi in fiction[edit]

Attempts have been made to popularise the tradition of "dastangoi" in different languages. In International Kolkata Book Fair, 2017, a Bengali novel titled Dastangoi, authored by Abhisek Sarkar has been published by Trtiyo Parisar, a Bengali publisher. The novel chronicles the coming of age of a dastango amidst the political pell mell of 1990s in India. The fiction set in three cities Delhi, Kolkata and Aligarh keeps travelling between the real and the fantastic worlds of Shehnama, Hamzanama and Sikandarnama.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Walk Back In Time: Experience life in Nizamuddin Basti, the traditional way". The Indian Express. 29 November 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-03-18. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b Ahmed, Shoaib (6 December 2012). "Indian storytellers bring Dastangoi to Alhamra". Dawn. Archived from the original on 2012-12-14. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b Sayeed, Vikram Ahmed (14 January 2011). "Return of dastangoi". Frontline. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  4. ^ Thakur, Arnika (30 September 2011). "Dastangoi magic revives lost medieval tales". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  5. ^ Varma, Anuradha (29 July 2011). "″Dastangoi is a fun tradition: Mahmood Farooqui″". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  6. ^ Nas, Peter J.M. (1993). Urban Symbolism. Leiden: Brill. pp. 335–336. ISBN 9789004098558. Archived from the original on 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  7. ^ Harcourt, E.S (2012). Lucknow the Last Phase of an Oriental Culture (seventh ed.). Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-19-563375-X.
  8. ^ Farooqui, Mahmood (Autumn–Winter 2011). "Dastangoi: Revival of the Mughal Art of Storytelling". Context: Journal of the Development and Research Organisation for Nature, Arts and Heritage. VIII (2): 31–37. Archived from the original on 2016-07-22. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  9. ^ Krishnan, Nandini (4 May 2012). "Dastaan-e-Dastangoi". Fountain Ink. Archived from the original on 2012-11-14. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  10. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmood_Farooqui. Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  11. ^ http://www.karmpatr.com/2017/12/blog-post_650.html?m=1. Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)

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