Karabakh Famous Poet : Khurshidbanu Natavan


Khurshidbanu Natavan (Azerbaijani: Xurşidbanu Natəvan, born 15 August 1832, Shusha – September-October 1897, Shusha) is considered one of the best lyrical poets of Azerbaijan[1] whose poems are in Persian and Azerbaijani. Daughter of Mahdiqoli Khan, the last ruler of the Karabakh khanate (1748–1822), Natavan was most notable for her lyrical ghazals.

Natavan was born on August 15, 1832 in Shusha, a town in present-day Nagorno-Karabakh to Mehdigulu Khan (1763-1845) and Badir Jahan Begüm (1802-1861). Being the only child in the family and descending from Panah Ali Khan, she was the only heir of the Karabakh khan, known to general public as the "daughter of the khan" (Azerbaijani: Xan qızı). Her name Khurshid Banu (خورشیدبانو) is from Persian and means "Lady Sun". Her nom de plume Natavan (ناتوان) is also from Persian and means powerless.[2] She was named after her grandmother - Khurshud Begüm, daughter of Javad Khan.

After her father's death, she inherited vast amounts of lands from her father including 1,315 households, 41 nomadic territories and 7 villages at age of 14. She was put in care of her aunt Gawhar agha who taught her music, poetry and painting.[3] She probably married Kumyk noble Khasay Utsmiev in 1847. She inherited additional number of 9 villages from her mother Badir Jahan Begüm in 1861 after her death.[4] She founded and sponsored the first literary societies in Shusha and in the whole of Azerbaijan. One of them called Majlis-i Uns ("Society of Friends")[1] founded in 1864 became especially popular and concentrated major poetic-intellectual forces of Karabakh of that time.[5]

Natavan was closely engaged in philanthropy, promoting the social and cultural development of Karabakh. Among her famous deeds was a water main that was first laid down in Shusha in 1872, thus solving the water problem of the townsfolk. The local Russian "Kavkaz" newspaper wrote at the time: "Khurshud Banu-Begum left an eternal mark in the memories of the Shushavians and her glory will pass on from generation to generation".[6] The aqueduct built by Natavan from famous Shusha white stones were called by the townsfolks "Natavan springs" and were also considered historical monuments under protection.

Natavan also did a lot for the development and popularization of the famous breed of Karabakh horses.[citation needed] Natavan's Karabakh horses took part in the Exposition Universelle (1867), agricultural exhibition in Moscow (1869), in Tbilisi (1882) and were awarded golden medals and certificates of honour. Karabakh horses were also awarded at the Second All-Russian Exhibition in 1869: Meymun - silver medal, Tokmak - bronze medal. At the Exposition Universelle (1867) in Paris, Khan got a silver medal.[7]

Humanism,[when defined as?] kindness, friendship and love were the main themes of Natavan's ghazals and ruba'yat. These sentimental romantic poems express the feelings and sufferings of a woman who was not happy in her family life and who lost her son. Many of these poems are used in folk songs nowadays.

Natavan died in 1897 in Shusha. As a sign of respect, people carried her coffin on their shoulders all the way from Shusha to Agdam, some 30 km north-east, where she was buried in a family burial vault.

Her sons Mehdigulu Khan and Mir Hasan Ağa Mir both left a collection of poems in Persian.

Fate of Natavan's monument in Shusha
In Shusha, Soviet-era monuments of Natavan[8] (sculptress Hayat Abdullayeva) and other famous Karabakh Azeris including Hajibekov and Bulbul, which once decorated the central streets of Shusha, were severely damaged and dismantled. Polad Bulbuloghlu, then the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan bought the bronze busts from Georgian scrap metal yard and transported them to Baku.[9]

Thomas de Waal who saw the monuments in Baku, wrote:

"I saw the three bronze heads, forlorn and pocked with bullets, lying in the courtyard of the headquarters of the Red Cross in the center of Baku: the poet Natevan, an earnest girl in a head scarf reading a book, missing a thumb; the composer Hajibekov, a bullet-ridden gentleman in double-breasted suit and broken spectacles; and Bul Bul, a famous singer with a serious domed bronze forehead".[10]

The monuments are now kept in the yard of the Azerbaijani Museum of Arts in Baku.[11][12]

She probably married Kumyk noble Khasay Utsmiev in 1847 and had two children with him:

Mehdigulu Khan Vafa — Poet, lieutenant-colonel of Imperial Russian Army
Khanbike Khanum (1856-1921) — Poetess
She later married to a commoner named Seyyid Huseyn Agamirov (1833-1891) in 1866 with whom she had 5 children:

Mir Abbas Agha (1868-1885)
Mir Hasan Agha (1870-1903)
Mir Jabbar Agha (?-1914?)
Sara Begum
Hajar Bike (1869-?)