Lalla Rookh

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The Mughal imperial palace at Delhi (1701–1708), made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger[1]

Lalla Rookh is an Oriental romance by Irish poet Thomas Moore, published in 1817. The title is taken from the name of the heroine of the frame tale, the (fictional) daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The work consists of four narrative poems with the connecting tale in prose.

The name Lalla Rookh or Lala-Rukh (Persian: لاله رخ laleh rox/rukh) is an endearment frequently used in Persian poetry.

Name and background[edit]

The name Lalla Rookh or Lala-Rukh (Persian: لاله رخ laleh rox or rukh), means "tulip-cheeked" and is an endearment frequently used in Persian poetry.[2] Lalla Rookh has also been translated as "rosy-cheeked";[3] however, the first word derives from the Persian word for tulip, laleh, and a different word, laal, means rosy, or ruby.[4] Tulips were first cultivated in Persia, probably in the 10th century,[5] and remain a powerful symbol in Iranian culture,[6] and the name Laleh is a popular girl's name.[7] Rukh also translates as "face".[8]

Lalla Rookh is a fictional daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb; he had no daughter of this name.[9]

Moore set his poem in a sumptuous oriental setting on the advice of Lord Byron.[10] The work was completed in 1817 while Moore was living in a house in the countryside of Hornsey, Middlesex, and the house was renamed, possibly by Moore himself, after the poem.[11]


Engaged to the young king of Bukhara, Lalla Rookh goes forth to meet him, but falls in love with Feramorz, a poet from her entourage. The bulk of the work consists of four interpolated tales sung by the poet: "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan" (loosely based upon the story of Al-Muqanna), "Paradise and the Peri", "The Fire-Worshippers", and "The Light of the Harem". When Lalla Rookh enters the palace of her bridegroom she swoons away, but revives at the sound of a familiar voice. She awakes with rapture to find that the poet she loves is none other than the king to whom she is engaged.[12]

Allegorical meaning[edit]

Scholars have stated Moore, a friend of the executed Irish rebel Robert Emmet, depicts in the poem "disguised versions of the French Revolution and the Irish Rebellion of 1798, [and] condemns the former but justifies the latter".[13]


Lalla Rookh was the basis of number of musical settings, including a cantata by Frederic Clay & W. G. Wills (1877) featuring the famous song I'll Sing Thee Songs of Araby.[14]

The Fire-Worshippers is an 1892 "dramatic cantata" by Granville Bantock based on one of the tales.[15]

It is also the basis of the operas Lalla-Rûkh, festival pageant (1821) by Gaspare Spontini, partly reworked into Nurmahal oder das Rosenfest von Caschmir (1822), Lalla-Roukh by Félicien David (1862), Feramors by Anton Rubinstein (1863), and The Veiled Prophet by Charles Villiers Stanford (1879). One of the interpolated tales, Paradise and the Peri, was set as a choral-orchestral work by Robert Schumann (1843). Lines from the poem form the lyrics of the song "Bendemeer Stream".[citation needed]

The poem was translated into German in 1846, as Laleh-Rukh. Eine romantische Dichtung aus dem Morgenlande, by Anton Edmund Wollheim Da Fonseca,[16] and was possibly the most translated poem of its time.[10]

Lala Rookh, a 1958 Indian Hindi-language romantic-drama film by Akhtar Siraj was based on Moore's poem.[17]


The poem, which earned the highest price ever thus far for a poem (£3,000), enhanced Moore's reputation considerably at the time.[10]

The popularity of the poem and its subsequent adaptations gave rise to many ships being named Lalla Rookh during the 19th century.

Alfred Joseph Woolmer painted "Lalla Rookh" in 1861, depicting Hinda, daughter of the Emir of Arabia, in a tower overlooking the Persian Gulf, based on the story called "The Fire-Worshippers" in the poem. It is now housed in the Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.[18]

It is also credited with having made Kashmir (spelt Cashmere in the poem) "a household term in Anglophone societies", conveying the idea that it was a kind of paradise (an old idea going back to Hindu and Buddhist texts in Sanskrit.[19]

Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (founded 1889), often known as "the Grotto", a social group with membership restricted to Master Masons, and its female auxiliary, the Daughters of Mokanna (founded 1919), also take their names from Thomas Moore's poem.[20][21]

A tomb in Hassanabdal, Pakistan, dating from the Mughal Empire, is known as tomb of Princess Lalarukh. Some historians and others say that there is a woman called Lalarukh from the household of Emperor Humayun buried here after dying on a journey from Kashmir, while others claim that she was the daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb. The tomb was first recorded as the Tomb of Lady Lalarukh in 1905, which historians suggest was derived from Moore's popular work and named by British officers in the time of British India.[9]

In George Eliot's 1871/1872 novel Middlemarch, it is said of the character Rosamond Vincy, "Her favorite poem was 'Lalla Rookh'" (Chapter 16).


  1. ^ Schimmel, A.; Waghmar, B. K. (2004). The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture. Reaktion Books. p. 17. ISBN 9781861891853. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  2. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia. Vol. II. London: Bernard Quaritch. p. 661.
  3. ^ Murphy, Janet (30 April 2016). "Lalla Rookh- Marking the Indian Arrival in Suriname". NewsGram. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  4. ^ Moor, Edward (1834). Oriental Fragments. By the Author of the Hindu Pantheon. Smith. p. 128. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  5. ^ Christenhusz, Maarten J.M.; Govaerts, Rafaël; et al. (2013). "Tiptoe through the tulips – cultural history, molecular phylogenetics and classification of Tulipa (Liliaceae)". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 172 (3): 280–328. doi:10.1111/boj.12061.
  6. ^ "Politics and Art of Iran's Revolutionary Tulips". The Iran Primer. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Beauty unbound: Flowers in Iranian culture". Tehran Times. 15 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Word histories and Urdu". DAWN.COM. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b Iqbal, Amjad (3 May 2015). "Tomb of a fabled princess". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  10. ^ a b c "Thomas Moore". Encyclopedia Britannica. 24 May 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Lalla Rookh - house".
  12. ^ Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Lalla-Rookh" . The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
  13. ^ Vail, Jeffery W. (2006). ""The Standard of Revolt": Revolution and National Independence in Moore's Lalla Rookh". Romanticism on the Net (40). doi:10.7202/012459ar.
  14. ^ Michael Kilgariff (1998) Sing Us One of the Old Songs: A Guide to Popular Song 1860–1920
  15. ^ Liu, Josh (30 June 2017). "Granville Bantock's The Fire Worshippers". Thomas Moore in Europe (QUB Blog). Queen's University Belfast. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Laleh-Rukh. Eine romantische Dichtung aus dem Morgenlande..." Google Books. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  17. ^ Madhulika Liddle (2 February 2013). "Lala Rookh (1958)". Dustedoff.
  18. ^ "Lalla Rookh(from the poem by Thomas Moore)". Art UK. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  19. ^ Sharma, Sunil (12 May 2017). "At the threshold of paradise: Kashmir in Mughal Persian poetry". The Arts and South Asia. Harvard South Asia Institute. p. 45. Retrieved 30 January 2021 – via Issuu.
  20. ^ The Grotto,, 2007, retrieved 15 December 2009
  21. ^ Lalla Rookh Caldron, Daughters of Mokanna, Lalla Rookh Grotto, archived from the original on 31 October 2009, retrieved 15 December 2009

External links[edit]