An amazing collection of links related to Hindi and Urdu; I’ve just scraped the surface and have already found a pearl beyond price: an online version of Platts’s great Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. It’s one of the classic works of lexicography, and I waited for years before finding an affordable copy at the Strand; now you can access it at no cost, and you don’t even need to download fonts—it provides transliterated entries as well. And the language-and-literature page is just part of Prof. Frances Pritchett‘s website, which has pages for maps (check out this map of Ottoman Constantinople, which gives alternate Greek names for everything and identifies Topkapi Palace as the “New Seraglio”), South Asian Islam, art and architecture, and much more, including her mother’s page on the Igbo (Ibo) language! A deep bow in the direction of Nancy Gandhi, from whom comes this cornucopia.

Somewhere on the site (it’s so varied I’ve already gotten lost in it) I found a collection of anecdotes from Akbar-Birbal joke books; none of them are what I’d call rib-ticklers, but here’s one with linguistic interest:

One day Akbar Badshah was fishing by the edge of the river. And someone from somewhere had presented to the king some honey by way of a formal gift. The king was licking it. Birbar went out from the king’s presence. On the road, some Muslims who were very respected and venerable, and were on their way to pay obeisance to the king, inquired from Birbar, “What is His Auspicious Majesty doing?” Birbar said, “He is babbling nonsense (jhak marta hai) by the riverbank, and licking up dung.” Those Muslims were very much displeased….The Badshah said, “In fact he did not lie, but told the truth. For I was hunting (=marna) fish, and fish in the Shastr are called ‘jhak.’ And as for honey, it is well known that it is the dung of honeybees, thus I was licking it. So don’t be displeased.”

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