Farsi or Dari








Dari Language

The word Dari refers to the language that is popularly known as Persian. Dari is also called Farsi or Parsi. These different names have been synonymously in use throughout history and refer to the same one language. There are two theories regarding the origin of the word Dari. One states that the word Dari came from the word Darbar which means court, courts of kings. It argues that this language was the very respected and chosen language for communications at royal courts of kings. Thus it came to be known as the language of courts or Darbari. Later in time the word Darbari was shortened and evolved to Dari which still has the same meaning as Darbari. The second theory relates the origin of word Dari to the word Dara or valley. Many accomplished language researchers, admit that the language Dari or Farsi itself was born in Khorasan, a mountainous land where people live in numerous valleys (Dara). Therefore, the name Dari came to refer to the language spoken by people of the valleys (Dara) or in the valleys.

Dari or Farsi is a widely used language in Central Asia. It is the official language of Iran, Tajikistan and what is known as Afghanistan. Dari/Farsi is a branch of the Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan) languages, a subfamily of the Indo-European languages. There are three different phases in the development of Aryan languages: Old, Middle, and Modern. Old Dari/Farsi and the Avestan language represents the old stage of development and were spoken in ancient Bactria. The Avestan language is called Avestan because the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism, Avesta, were written in this old form. Avestan died out long before the advent of Islam and except for scriptural use not much has remained of it. Old Dari/Farsi, however, survived and there are many written records of old Dari, in cuneiform called Maikhi, in Khorasan. Old Dari was spoken until around the third century BC. It was a highly inflected language.

Middle Dari was spoken from 3rd century to 9th and is related to several other Central Asian tongues such as Sogdian, Chrosmian and also Parthian languages. Parthian was the language of the Parthian Empire (Arsacid). Parthian, though left some influences on middle Dari, declined when the Sassanian power expanded. Middle Dari had a simpler grammar and was written in multivalent letters. Middle Dari declined after conquest of Arabs in the 7th century and much of its rich literature was lost or destroyed by the Arabs. However, a lot of it was also translated into Arabic.

Modern Dari began to develop by 9th century. It is a continuation of the Khorasanian standard language which had considerable Parthian and Middle Dari elements. It has much simpler grammar than its ancestral forms. After the conquest of Arabs in 7th century, it is written in arabic script, with few modifications, and has absorbed a vast Arabic vocabulary.

Dari literature is one of the richest in the world and composed of the body of writings in Modern Dari. After the Arab conquest of 7th century Islam replaced Zoroastrianism and Arabic became the language of law, religion and culture in Khorasan. However with the rise of Samanids and political revival of Khorasan, Dari emerged as a literary medium and became the established literary form of Dari language. During the period of Samanids a new era of literary began. The ancient tradition of Khorasan and Islam merged together. Dari was specially instrumental in freeing Islam from an exclusive Arabic attachment and universalized Islam thus helping to preserve it.

Dari poetry had began sporadically in Khorasan in 9th century. The earliest main genres are the epic, qasida (Purpose poem), masnavi (long narrative poem), and ghazal (lyric). By 10th century Dari had become an important and melodious medium- as the remaining works of Rudaki, a versatile poet, indicate. He is regarded as the father of Dari poetry. After Rudaki's death the epic tradition, with its sources in Avesta and Middle Dari texts, began. The first epic poet was Marvazi Samarqandi who composed a Shah Nameh (Book of Kings) in 910. Daqiqi Balkhi another poet of tenth century wrote a better known Shah Nameh in 975. However, Firdowsi Tusi composed another Shah Nameh (1010) which became the very best known epic in Dari literature.

Qasida, another form of poetry, was also first written by Rudaki. Mostly qasidas are panegyrics, sometime elegiac, didactic and occasionally they deal with philosophical or biographical literature. The average length of qasida is between sixty and hundred lines and they are written in couplets. Qasidas that are more than two hundred lines are also frequently written. The earliest exponents of this form of poetry Ansuri Balkhi, Asjadi, and Farrukhi were the greatest poets of their time. Of many panegyrists in the history of Dari literature, Anvari Balkhi was regarded as the foremost. In philosophical qasidas Naser-e Khosrow was very well respected. Omar Khayyan was another poet of this era who is considered to be of astonishing originality.

During the Samanid era the foundation of Dari prose was also laid. Several pieces of literature demonstrated the suitability of Dari language for sacred texts. Bal'ami, one of the vizier (high government official) of Mansur I Samanid, published a translation of the annals of Tabari. Also, in the same time, a group of theologian, made a Dari copy of Tabari's commentary on the Quran. These works and works of similar nature produced a clear demonstration that Dari was very suitable for religious works. In fact these works brought to an end the absolute domination of Arabic language over religious literature. Mansur I Samanid also commissioned the pharmacopeia of Abu Mansur Muvaffaq of Herat, the first Dari book on medicine. An extensive technical vocabulary, applicable to philosophy and science were also coined with the patronage of Samanids.

Thirteen and fourteen century were also a period when great poets lived and it is often called the golden age of Dari poetry. In this period, three great poet, Moulana Balkhi (Rumi), Sadi and Hafiz lived. They were excellent in a form o poetry called ghazal, a passionate mystical lyric form that is composed on a single rhyme. Ghazals were usually consists of five to fifteen couplets and they could be of variety of meters. The first mystic masnavi is believed to be written by Hakim Sanai of Ghazna and is known as Hadiqat al-Haqiqa (The Enclosed Garden of Truth). He was followed by Attar and Rumi. Rumi's Masnavi-e-Manavi consists of six books that contains 30,000 couplets. Masnavi's basic theme is love and Rumi in this book, is concerned with problems bearing on the conduct, meaning and purpose of life and the longing of the human soul for union with God. The Masnavi of Mawlana of Balkh is considered to be the most profound and the greatest work of Dari literature, and perhaps of all the Islamic literature. The Masnavi is often called Quran-e-Sani meaning the second Quran. Every page of it moves, absorbs and surprises the reader. Masnavi form of poetry was also suitable for epic and romantic stories. Of romantic masnavis the Khosrow -O-Shirin (Khosrow and Shirin) of Nezami is the best known.

"Dari" Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1996.
"Persian." Encarta Encyclopedia. 1996.