Persian and Urdu homoromantic poetry from 13th-19th century South Asia
Poetry about same-sex love from South Asia, West Asia, North Africa, and Al-Andalus (Part 4)
What better way is there to transition from the previous post on West Asia to this post on South Asia than with the homoromantic spiritual love story of Sarmad Kashani, a West Asian merchant, and Abhai Chand, a South Asian man?
Sarmad Kashani, 17th century Iran, Pakistan, India
Sarmad Kashani was a Jewish Armenian from Kashan, Iran. He had an interest in spiritual matters, receiving a Jewish education in his youth before studying with Mulla Sadra, a Persian Muslim mystic.
When Sarmad was about 40, he came to Thatta (in modern Pakistan) as a merchant. There he fell in love with a young Hindu man, Abhai Chand, whom he heard singing at a Sufi concert. According to legend, Abhai’s family did not approve of their relationship and kept them apart until Sarmad stood naked outside Abhai’s house for 40 days and 40 nights in a show of devotion, after which Abhai’s parents relented and allowed the two to be together.
The pair then travelled from Thatta to Delhi, with Sarmad the naked fakir composing poems and Abhai singing them. Sarmad wrote of his beloved: 
I know not if in this spherical old world
My God is Abhai Chand or someone else
The two also translated part of the Torah into Persian. Sarmad became a popular spiritual teacher and found favor with Prince Dara Shikoh at the Mughal court. In 1659, Dara Shikoh lost the succession battle and was killed by his younger brother Aurangzeb. Sarmad was also executed by Aurangzeb in 1661.
Sarmad Kashani is still venerated today as a Sufi martyr. His tomb is in Delhi.
Bulleh Shah, 17th-18th century in what is now Pakistan
Bulleh Shah wrote poetry in honor of Shah Inayat, whom Bulleh Shah had sought out to be his spiritual master:
Bullah has fallen in love with the Lord.
He has given his life and body as earnest.
His Lord and Master is Shah Inayat
Who has captivated his heart. 
Amir Khusro, 13th-14th century India
Amir Khusro was born in 1263 in Patiyala in present day Punjab, India. A child prodigy who started composing poetry at a young age, he wrote in Persian and Hindavi. His work as a poet was honored by the King of Delhi when Khusro was age 36.
Khusro has given himself to Nizam
You made me your bride when our eyes met
Nizamuddin Auliya, who met Amir Khusro when Nizamuddin Auliya was about 23 and Khusro was 8, said that he would have wanted to be buried in the same grave with Khusro had it been allowed by their faith. After Auliya passed away at age 87, the grief-stricken Khusro followed shortly after and was buried near his spiritual teacher.
So are these Sufi masters and disciples gay or not?
If we have to label these spiritual same-sex bonds in modern Western terms, they might be regarded as queerplatonic or homoromantic. Haroon Khalid writes in From Bulleh Shah and Shah Hussain to Amir Khusro, same-sex references abound in Islamic poetry:
Firstly, these Sufi poets are seen as saints, hence any discussion on their character or sexual preference is seen as an affront to religion. The second problem of course is that the terms homosexual, gay and lesbian today are loaded and come with pre-packaged attitudes that leave no space for negotiations. These relationships in today’s context might appear as anomalies, yet they are celebrated by the devotees of these saints.
Perhaps these bonds of spiritual love should be considered their own category of committed same-sex relationships outside of modern Western models. They do not exclude heterosexual marriage. Nizamuddin Auliya never married, but Amir Khusro had a wife and children.
The wide age gap between parties in teacher-disciple relationships may not be palatable by modern standards if these relationships are framed as ‘romantic’, though it should be pointed out that when 21st century white heterosexual cisgender men hit on women young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters, their cross-generational transgressions are typically not used to demonize entire groups of people who share their racial background, sexual orientation or gender identity.
What about secular homoromantic poetry?
This brings us to the Rekhti genre of Urdu poetry – primarily written by men in women’s voices - exploring the everyday lives and desires of women across a range of social backgrounds. Carnal desire between women was explored by well-known male poets such as Sadat Yaar Khan Rangin (1757-1835).
However, it should be mentioned that women rekhti poets, although a minority, also wrote about lesbian love in their own voices:
Rashk-i-Mahal, 19th century Awadh State (in present day Uttar Pradesh)
Rashk-i-Mahal was a wife of Mirza Wajid Ali Shah, King of Awadh, a patron of poets. She wrote about a lesbian love triangle in this couplet, one of the few fragments of rekthi by women to have survived to the present day:
My du-gāna went as a guest to the sih-gāna’s house
I rolled on burning coals, and my life left me
For more info, read Ruth Vanita’s Gender, Sex, and the City: Urdu Rekhti Poetry in India, 1780-1870.
 Puri, Rakshat; Akhtar, Kuldip (1993). "Sarmad, The Naked Faqir". India International Centre Quarterly. 20: 65–78 – via JSTOR.
 Smaya Arts Foundation, Jonathan Gil Harris on the iconic Sufi saint, Sarmad Kashani - YouTube
 Sinh, Ranbir (2002). Wajid Ali Shah: The Tragic King. Jaipur: Publication Scheme. p. 144.