In late nineteenth century Lucknow, two rival story-tellers, Syed Muhammad Husain Jah and Ahmed Husain Qamar, wrote a fantasy in the Urdu language whose equal had not been heard before, and which has never been rivalled since. It was called Tilism-e Hoshruba. The writers claimed that the tale had been passed down to them from story-tellers going back centuries: it was a part of the beloved oral epic, The Adventures of Amir Hamza which had come to the Indian subcontinent via Persia and had gained in popularity during the reign of Akbar, the Mughal emperor.
The Tilism-e-Hoshruba is the subcontinent's first wholly indigenous Indo-Islamic fantasy epic. It tells the stories of Amir Hamza's military forces, his grandson and his loyal band of tricksters (masters of wit and disguise) as they go to war with Afrasiyab, the sorcerer who rules the magical land of Hoshruba. Fantasy, the occult, adventure and romance play themselves out in a typically Indian setting as wizards, sorceresses, tricksters and royalty pitch themselves into the battle for Hoshruba. The characters of the epic are marvels of literary creation, and are much more colourful and dashing than those of the Amir Hamza cycle of tales.
The Tilism-e Hoshruba runs to twenty four volumes and will be translated into English for the first time ever by Musharraf Ali Farooqi, the acclaimed translator of The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Random House India will publish all the volumes starting with Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism, i.e. Book 1 of the series.