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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

ZINDAGI KI HAWA NA HO

Kabhi yoon mile koi maslhat
Koi khauf dil mein jara na ho
Mujhe apni koi khabar na ho
Tujhe apna koi pata na ho
Kabhi dhoop de kabhi badliyan
Dilo jaan se dono kabool hai
Magar us mahal mein na kaid kar
Jahan zindagi ki hawa na ho
Woh hajar baagon ka baag ho
Teri barkaton ki bahar ho
Jahan koi shakh hari na ho
Jahan koi phool khilta na ho…
- Basir Badr

Yaad kisi ke chandani ban kar kothe kothe utari hai – Bashir Badr

Yaad kisi ke chandani ban kar kothe kothe utari hai
yaad kisi ke dhup hui hai zina zina utari hai
raat ke rani sahan-e-chaman mein gesu khole soti hai
rat-berat udhar mat jana ik nagin bhi rahati hai
tum ko kya tum gazalen kah kar apni aag bujha loge
us ke jee se pucho jo pathar ke tarah chup rahati hai
pathar lekar galiyon galiyon ladake pucha karte hain
har basti mein mujh se aage shoharat meri pahunchati hai
muddat se ik ladaki ke rukhsar ke dhup nahi aayi
isi liye mere kamare mein itni thandak rahati hai
Poet of the Poem / Ghazal or Nazam :Bashir Badr

YEH TERA PAAS AANA,

Har Bejuban Gull Mein Mahkane Lage Hain Hum,
Pise Gaye Toh Aur Mahkane Lage Hain Hum,
Garibi Bura Nasha Hai Isi Ka Asar Na Ho,
Ab Baat Baat Par Jo Bahkane Lage Hain Hum,
Mitti Ki Baas Apne Sarir Ki Badan Ki Bandi Thi,
Yeh Tera Paas Aana Hai Ki Mahkane Lage Hain Hum

-bashir badr

DARD KA CHAND AANSUON KE TAARE

Jakhm Yun Muskura Kar Khilate Hain,
Jaise Woh Dil Ko Chhu Kar Gujre Hain,
Dard Ka Chand Aansuon Ke Taare,
Dil Ke Aangan Mein Aaj Utre Hain,
Rakh Ke Dher Jaise Sard Makaan,
Chand Un Badliyon Mein Rahte Hain,
Aaino Ka Koi Kasur Nahi,
Unmein Apne Hi Photo Hote Hain,
Gour Se Dekh Khak Tanha Nahi,
Sath Phoolon Ke Rang Udhte Hain,
Unse Raat Ki Khabar Suno Sahab,
Badr Ji Raat Raat Ghume Hain…
- Basir Badr

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho

Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho
kya gham hai jis ko chupa rahe ho
aankhon mein nami hansi labon par
kya hal hai kya dikha rahe ho
ban jayenge zeher pite pite
ye ashk jo pite ja rahe ho
jin zakhmon ko waqt bhar chala hai
tum kyon unhen chede ja rahe ho
rekhaon ka khel hai muqaddar
rekhaon se mat kha rahe ho
-
 Kaifi Azmi

sunaa hai log use aankh bhar ke dekhte hain

sunaa hai log use aankh bhar ke dekhte hain 
so us ke shahr mein kuchh din Thehr ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai rabt hai usko Kharaab haalon se 
so apne aap ko barbaad karke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai dard kii gaahak hai chashm-e-naazuk uskii 
so ham bhii uskii galii se guzar kar dekhte hain 

sunaa hai usko bhii hai sheir-o-shaaiirii se sharf 
soham bhii maujzay apne hunar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai bole to baaton se phuul jharte hain 
ye baat hai to chal baat kar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai raat use chaand taktaa rehtaa hai 
sitaare baam-e-falak se utar kar dekhte hain 

sunaa hai hashr hain uskii Ghazaal sii aankhein 
sunaa hai usko hiran dasht bhar ke dekhte hai.n 

sunaa hai din ko use titliyaan sataatii hain 
sunaa hai raat ko jugnuu Thehr ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai uskii siyaah chashmagii qayaamat hai 
so usko surmaafarosh aankh bhar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai uske labon se gulaab jalate hai.n 
so ham pahaarh pe ilzaam dhar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai aaiinaa tamasal hai jabiin uski 
jo saadaa dil hain ban-savar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai uske badan ke taraash aise hain 
ke phuul apnii qabaaein katar ke dekhte hain 

sunaa hai uskii shabistaan se muttasil hai bahisht 
makeen udhar ke bhii jalve idhar ke dekhte hai.n 

ruke to gardish uskaa tavaaf kartii hai 
chale to usko zamaane Thehr ke dekhte hain 

mubaalaGe hii sahii, sab kahaaniyaa.N hiin sahii 
agar vo Khvaab hai to taabiir kar ke dekhte hain 

ab usake shehr mein Thehrein ke kuch kar jaaeiN 
"Faraz" aao sitaare safar ke dekhte hai.n

Saturday, 8 February 2014

tumako dekhaa to ye Khayaal aayaa

tumako dekhaa to ye Khayaal aayaa
zindagii dhuup tum ghanaa saayaa 
aaj phir dil ne ek tamannaa kii
aaj phir dil ko hamane samajhaayaa 
tum chale jaaoge to soche.nge
hamane kyaa khoyaa, hamane kyaa paayaa 
ham jise gunagunaa nahii.n sakate
vaqt ne aisaa giit kyuu.N gaayaa

-Javed Akhtar

ham to bachapan me.n bhii akele the

ham to bachapan me.n bhii akele the
sirf dil kii galii me.n khele the
ek taraf morche the palako.n ke
ek taraf aa.Nsuuo.n ke rele the
thii.n sajii hasarate.n duukaano.n par
zindagii ke ajiib mele the
aaj zehan-o-dil bhuuko.n marate hai.n
un dino.n faake bhii ham ne jhele the
Khud-kashii kyaa Gamo.n kaa hal banatii
maut ke apane bhii sau jhamele the

-Javed Akhtar

main aur merii aavaragii

phirate hai.n kab se dar_ba_dar ab is nagar ab us nagar
ek duusare ke ham_safar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii
naa aashanaa har rah_guzar naa mehar_baa.N hai ek nazar
jaaye.n to ab jaaye.n kidhar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

ham bhii kabhii aabaad the aise kahaa.N bar_baad the
bifikr the aazaad the masaruur the dil_shaad the
vo chaal aisi chal gayaa ham bujh gaye dil jal gayaa
nikale jalaa ke apanaa ghar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

vo maah-e-vash vo maah-e-ruuh vo maah-e-kaamil huu_ba_huu
thii.n jis kii baate.n kuu_ba_kuu us se ajab thii guftaguu
phir yuu.N huaa vo kho ga_ii aur mujh ko zid sii ho ga_ii
laaye.nge us ko Dhuu.ND kar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

ye dil hii thaa jo sah gayaa vo baat aisii kah gayaa
kahane ko phir kyaa rah gayaa ashko.n kaa dariyaa bah gayaa
jab kah kar vo dil_bar gayaa tee liye mai.n mar gayaa
rote hai.n us ko raat bhar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

ab Gam uThaaye.n kis liye ye dil jalaaye.n kis liye
aa.Nsuu bahaaye.n kis liye yuu.N jaa.N gavaaye.n kis liye
peshaa na ho jis kaa sitam Dhuu.Nde.nge ab aisaa sanam
ho.nge kahii.n to kaar_gar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

aasaar hai.n sab khoT ke imkaan hai.n sab choT ke
ghar band hai.n sab koT ke ab Khatm hai sab ToTake. 
qismat kaa sab ye khel hai andher hii andher hai
aise hue hai.n be_asar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii

jab ham_dam-o-ham_raaz thaa tab aur hii andaaz thaa
ab soz hai tab saaz thaa ab sharm hai tab naaz thaa
ab mujh se ho to ho bhii kyaa hai saath vo to vo bhii kyaa
ek behunar ek besabar mai.n aur merii aavaaragii
-Javed Akhtar

dard ke phuul bhii khilate hai.n bikhar jaate hai.n

dard ke phuul bhii khilate hai.n bikhar jaate hai.n
zaKhm kaise bhii ho.n kuchh roz me.n bhar jaate hai.n
us dariiche me.n bhii ab ko_ii nahii.n aur ham bhii
sar jhukaa_e hu_e chup-chaap guzar jaate hai.n
raastaa roke kha.Dii hai yahii ulajhan kab se
ko_ii puuchhe to kahe.n kyaa ki kidhar jaate hai.n
narm aavaaz bhalii baate.n mohazzab lahaje
pahalii baarish me.n hii ye rang utar jaate hai.n

-Javed Akhtar

dard apanaataa hai paraa_e kaun

dard apanaataa hai paraa_e kaun
kaun sunataa hai aur sunaa_e kaun
kaun doharaa_e vo puraanii baat
Gam abhii soyaa hai jagaa_e kaun
vo jo apane hai.n kyaa vo apane hai.n
kaun dukh jhele aazamaa_e kaun
ab sukuu.N hai to bhuulane me.n hai
lekin us shaKhs ko bhulaa_e kaun
aaj phir dil hai kuchh udaas udaas
dekhiye aaj yaad aa_e kaun

-Javed Akhtar

Difference between Rubai, Ghazal, Nazm, Qawwali and Shayari

Introduction

I cannot explain these poetical forms without, talking about a bit of the history of the Indian Subcontinent. The Ghazals, Rubais, and Nazm had their origins in Persian (erstwhile Iran-Iraq). With the invasion of the Indian Sub-continent by the Mughal Emperors, the poetical forms from Persia, reached Indian shores. By 1700s several poets of Indian Birth had started writing in rubais, and Ghazals. Indian Ghazals were heavily influenced by an Islamic religious offshoot called “Sufism”. Sufism unlike their Arabic counterparts gave emphasis on singing and dancing. For them God was an experience, not a set of rules to be followed.
Over a period of a century, Indian and Pakistani Ghazals, attained a distinct characteristics.

RUBAI (plural Rubaiyat)

After the 11 century, The Persians refined their Rubais and developed it separately from their counterparts found in the Indian sub-continent. The Persian Rubais were quatrains. The most popular of them in the western world is the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”.
It’s hard for me to understand a Rubai, since it uses lots of Persian words. 

NAZM

The poems written in the Indian-subcontinent were of two basic genres: Nazm and Ghazal.
Nazm is more like a story telling. It has only one subject matter. it is less restrictive than Ghazal can contain philosophical, romance, love and similar themes.
and here I have translated a Nazm in Hindi by Pakistani Poet Zeeshan Sahil
ऐ परिंदों! किसी शाम उड़ते हुए
(Oh Eagle! Flying in the evening
रास्ते में अगर वो नज़र आये तो
If you find her on the path
गीत बारिश का कोई सुनाना उसे
Sing a song of rain to her
ऐ सितारों! यूं ही झिलमिलाते हुए
Oh Stars! When you shine like this
उसका चेहरा दरीचे में आ जाये तो
If you see her face in a window
बादलों को बुला कर दिखाना उसे
Call the clouds and show it to them
ऐ हवा! जब उसे नींद आना लगे
Oh Wind! When she is about to sleep
रात अपने ठिकाने पे जाने लगे
And the night takes her to it place
उसके चेहरे को छू कर जगाना उसे
Wake her up by touching her face
ख्वाब से जब वो बेदार होने लगे
When she moves from dream to wakefulness
फूल बादलों में अपने पिरोने लगे
And flowers will entwine itself with clouds
मेरे बारे में कुछ न बताना उसे
Don't tell her anything about me.)

GHAZAL

In India, Mirza Ghalib and his counterparts first wrote their poems in the Persian language. Later poets started writing in poems in Urdu (a language which is quite similar to Hindi, but it used mostly by Muslims and has a Persio-Arabic script).
Ghazal is a form with rhyming couplets and a refrain. Ghazals are usually about both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. A Ghazal contains 4-5 sher (couplet). Every sher will have the same meter and rhyme scheme, but can have different subject matter. Couplets may or may not have same thought. Ghazal usually have a strict rhyme and rhythm structure. Ghazals are usually much shorter than a Nazm. A sher can stand on its own, i.e., it will have complete meaning even if it is taken out of its context of a Ghazal.
The first sher of a Ghazal is a known as Matla and Makhta is the last sher which contains the pen name of the poet.
The most important Ghazal Writer, I believe is Mirza Ghalib. Here is two of his couplets which I translated into English:
Come yesterday and today itself you say you’re going,
Agreed though not forever, but well, some days more.
Its been long that I have entertained my beloved guest
Highlighting the meeting with gushing wine goblet.

Here are the first two lines of that Ghazal translated into English:
Mahol Bemaza hai tere pyar ke bagair
Kaise Piye Sharaab koi, Yar ke bagair
There is no fun in the ambience without your love
how can I drink wine, without a mate?
Here a video in Hindi, where famous Ghazal Singer Jagjith Singh talks about the difference between Ghazal and Nazm and then sings a Ghazal:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zzS6RDqXPI

QAWWALI

A Qawwali is more closer to music than poetry. Here a main musician along with accompanying harmoniums and Dholak (a drum like instrument) sings a song which involves rhythmical hand clapping.The most famous qawwali singer was late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. 

SHAYARI

The word shayari is taken from ‘sher’ which is couplet of a ghazal. Shayari is also a form of rendition of shers. The poems taken for Shayari is usually of romantic nature. It uses puns, humorous, and surprising use of words.
There are a few things that a western audience have to keep in mind when listening to any of these forms of poetry:
  1. Most of the Ghazals, Qawwali and Nazms may seem to have an outwards frivolous meaning, but they have deeper meaning. For example: Wine may refer to ecstacy ceated by God’s presence. A lover can be God himself. This inner meaning is more pronounced in Qawwali. A ghazal can be enjoyed without reference to this meaning.
  2. Most of these songs are rendered in Mehfils which usually a large home or palace. The audience have a much more active role to play here. They often clap the hands or say “wah Wah” and “Suhanallah” when they a encounter a beautiful usage in a poem.

Difference between Ghazal and Nazam .

Nazam and Gazal both are the form of Urdu poetry but have quite differences. When readers try to develop interest in Urdu poetry, while reading Nazam and Gazal they often get confused between Gazal and Nazam.  Both are very polite and meaningful forms of Urdu poetry. These are some common differences between Nazam and Gazal. 


Characteristics of the Gazal:
  •          Short in size
  •          Have Rhythm in phrases called matla.
  •          Ending point of Gazal used the poet name (pen name).  In Urdu it is called takhalus.
  •          Ends at makta.
  •          Pattern of all phrases have the same rhythm.
  •          Gazal divides into complete phrases or verses which gives complete meanings.
  •          By reading individually any verse doesn’t lose its meaning.
  •          Commonly verses are not dependent on each other.

Characteristics of Nazam:

  •          No size limits.  It can be very long or very short in size. For example Nazam Shikwa written by Urdu poet Allama Iqbal is very long. Another Nazam (poem) of Allam Iqbal is “Ram”. It is very short in size.
  •          Matla and makta are not compulsory for Nazam (poem).
  •          Verses of Nazam are bound to convey the complete theme.
  •          Verses cannot convey complete theme individually. They are interlinked.
  •          Nazam covers more areas than Gazal which is a descriptive form of poetry.  

Aaina kyu na doon ke tamasha kahe jise

Aaina kyu na doon ke tamasha kahe jise
Aisa kaha se laau ke tujhasa kahe jise

Hasrat ne la rakha teri bazm-e-khayal me

Guldasta-e-nigaah suveda kahe jise

Phoonka hai kisne goshe mohabbat mein aye khuda

Afasuun-e-intazar tamanna kahe jise

Sar par hajum-e-dard-e-garibi se daliye

Wo ek musht-e-khak ke sahara kahe jise

Hai chashm-e-tar me hasarat-e-diidar se niha

Shauq-e-ina gusekhta dariya kahe jise

Darakar hai shiguftan-e-gul haye aish ko

Sub_h-e-bahar paba-e-miina kahe jise

"ghalib" bura na man jo vaiz bura kahe

Aisa bhii koii hai ke sab achchha kahe jiseme

-Ghalib

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Biography of Mirza Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib poet Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan (Urdu/Persian: مرزا اسد اللہ بیگ خان) was a classical Urdu and Persian poet from India during British colonial rule. His also known as 'Mirza Asadullah Khan Galib', 'Mirza Galib', 'Dabir-ul-Mulk' and 'Najm-ud-Daula'. His pen-names was Ghaliband Asad or Asad or Galib. During his lifetime the Mughals were eclipsed and displaced by the British and finally deposed following the defeat of the Indian rebellion of 1857, events that he wrote of. Most notably, he wrote several ghazals during his life, which have since been interpreted and sung in many different ways by different people. He is considered, in South Asia, to be one of the most popular and influential poets of the Urdu language. Ghalib today remains popular not only in India and Pakistan but also amongst diaspora communities around the world.

Family and Early Life

Mirza Ghalib was born in Agra into a family descended from Aibak Turks who moved to Samarkand after the downfall of the Seljuk kings. His paternal grandfather, Mirza Qoqan Baig Khan was a Saljuq Turk who had immigrated to India from Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan) during the reign of Ahmad Shah (1748–54). He worked at Lahore, Delhi and Jaipur, was awarded the subdistrict of Pahasu (Bulandshahr, UP) and finally settled in Agra, UP, India. He had 4 sons and 3 daughters. Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan and Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan were two of his sons. Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan (Ghalib's father) got married to Izzat-ut-Nisa Begum, and then lived at the house of his father in law. He was employed first by the Nawab of Lucknow and then the Nizam of Hyderabad, Deccan. He died in a battle in 1803 in Alwar and was buried at Rajgarh (Alwar, Rajasthan). Then Ghalib was a little over 5 years of age. He was raised first by his Uncle Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan. Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan (Ghalib's uncle) started taking care of the three orphaned children. He was the governor of Agra under the Marathas. The British appointed him an officer of 400 cavalrymen, fixed his salary at Rs.1700.00 month, and awarded him 2 parganas in Mathura (UP, India). When he died in 1806, the British took away the parganas and fixed his pension as Rs. 10,000 per year, linked to the state of Firozepur Jhirka (Mewat, Haryana). The Nawab of Ferozepur Jhirka reduced the pension to Rs. 3000 per year. Ghalib's share was Rs. 62.50 / month. Ghalib was married at age 13 to Umrao Begum, daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh (brother of the Nawab of Ferozepur Jhirka). He soon moved to Delhi, along with his younger brother, Mirza Yousuf Khan, who had developed schizophrenia at a young age and later died in Delhi during the chaos of 1857.

In accordance with upper class Muslim tradition, he had an arranged marriage at the age of 13, but none of his seven children survived beyond infancy. After his marriage he settled in Delhi. In one of his letters he describes his marriage as the second imprisonment after the initial confinement that was life itself. The idea that life is one continuous painful struggle which can end only when life itself ends, is a recurring theme in his poetry. One of his couplets puts it in a nutshell:

"The prison of life and the bondage of grief are one and the same
Before the onset of death, how can man expect to be free of grief?"

Royal Titles

In 1850, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II revived upon Mirza Ghalib the title of "Dabeer-ul-Mulk". The Emperor also added to it the additional title of Najm-ud-daulah.The conferment of these titles was symbolic of Mirza Ghalib’s incorporation into the nobility of Delhi. He also received the title of 'Mirza Nosha' by the emperor, thus adding Mirza as his first name. He was also an important courtier of the royal court of the Emperor. As the Emperor was himself a poet, Mirza Ghalib was appointed as his poet tutor in 1854. He was also appointed as tutor of Prince Fakhr-ud Din Mirza, eldest son of Bahadur Shah II,(d. 10 July 1856). He was also appointed by the Emperor as the royal historian of Mughal Court.

Being a member of declining Mughal nobility and old landed aristocracy, he never worked for a livelihood, lived on either royal patronage of Mughal Emperors, credit or the generosity of his friends. His fame came to him posthumously. He had himself remarked during his lifetime that although his age had ignored his greatness, it would be recognized by later generations. After the decline of Mughal Empire and rise of British Raj, despite his many attempts, Ghalib could never get the full pension restored.

Poetry Career

Ghalib started composing poetry at the age of 11. His first language was Urdu, but Persian and Turkish were also spoken at home. He got his education in Persian and Arabic at a young age. When Ghalib was in his early teens, a newly converted Muslim tourist from Iran (Abdus Samad, originally named Hormuzd, a Zoroastrian) came to Agra. He stayed at Ghalibs home for 2 years. He was a highly educated individual and Ghalib learned Persian, Arabic, philosophy, and logic from him.

Although Ghalib himself was far prouder of his poetic achievements in Persian, he is today more famous for his Urdu ghazals. Numerous elucidations of Ghalib's ghazal compilations have been written by Urdu scholars. The first such elucidation or Sharh was written by Ali Haider Nazm Tabatabai of Hyderabad during the rule of the last Nizam of Hyderabad. Before Ghalib, the ghazal was primarily an expression of anguished love; but Ghalib expressed philosophy, the travails and mysteries of life and wrote ghazals on many other subjects, vastly expanding the scope of the ghazal. This work is considered his paramount contribution to Urdu poetry and literature.

In keeping with the conventions of the classical ghazal, in most of Ghalib's verses, the identity and the gender of the beloved is indeterminate. The critic/poet/writer Shamsur Rahman Faruqui explains that the convention of having the "idea" of a lover or beloved instead of an actual lover/beloved freed the poet-protagonist-lover from the demands of realism. Love poetry in Urdu from the last quarter of the seventeenth century onwards consists mostly of "poems about love" and not "love poems" in the Western sense of the term.

The first complete English translation of Ghalib's ghazals was written by Sarfaraz K. Niazi and published by Rupa & Co in India and Ferozsons in Pakistan. The title of this book is Love Sonnets of Ghalib and it contains complete Roman transliteration, explication and an extensive lexicon.

His Letters

Mirza Ghalib was a gifted letter writer. Not only Urdu poetry but the prose is also indebted to Mirza Ghalib. His letters gave foundation to easy and popular Urdu. Before Ghalib, letter writing in Urdu was highly ornamental. He made his letters "talk" by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader. According to him Sau kos se ba-zaban-e-qalam baatein kiya karo aur hijr mein visaal ke maze liya karo (from hundred of miles talk with the tongue of the pen and enjoy the joy of meeting even when you are separated). His letters were very informal, some times he would just write the name of the person and start the letter. He himself was very humorous and also made his letter very interesting. He said Main koshish karta hoon keh koi aesi baat likhoon jo parhay khoosh ho jaaye (I want to write the lines that whoever reads those should enjoy it). When the third wife of one of his friends died, he wrote. Some scholar says that Ghalib would have the same place in Urdu literature if only on the basis of his letters. They have been translated into English by Ralph Russell, The Oxford Ghalib.

Ghalib was a chronicler of this turbulent period. One by one, Ghalib saw the bazaars – Khas Bazaar, Urdu Bazaar, Kharam-ka Bazaar, disappear, whole mohallas (localities) and katras (lanes) vanish. The havelis (mansions) of his friends were razed to the ground. Ghalib wrote that Delhi had become a desert. Water was scarce. Delhi was now “ a military camp”. It was the end of the feudal elite to which Ghalib had belonged. He wrote:

“An ocean of blood churns around me-
Alas! Were these all!
The future will show
What more remains for me to see”.

His Pen Name

His original Takhallus (pen-name) was Asad, drawn from his given name, Asadullah Khan. At some point early in his poetic career he also decided to adopt the Takhallus Ghalib (meaning all conquering, superior, most excellent).

Popular legend has it that he changed his pen name to 'Ghalib' when he came across this sher (couplet) by another poet who used the takhallus (pen name) 'Asad':

The legend says that upon hearing this couplet, Ghalib ruefully exclaimed, "whoever authored this couplet does indeed deserve the Lord's rahmat (mercy) (for having composed such a deplorable specimen of Urdu poetry). If I use the takhallus Asad, then surely (people will mistake this couplet to be mine and) there will be much la'anat (curse) on me!" And, saying so, he changed his takhallus to 'Ghalib'.

However, this legend is little more than a figment of the legend-creator's imagination. Extensive research performed by commentators and scholars of Ghalib's works, notably Imtiyaz Ali Arshi and Kalidas Gupta Raza, has succeeded in identifying the chronology of Ghalib's published work (sometimes down to the exact calendar day!). Although the takhallus 'Asad' appears more infrequently in Ghalib's work than 'Ghalib', it appears that he did use both his noms de plume interchangeably throughout his career and did not seem to prefer either one over the other.

Mirza Ghalib and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

1855, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan finished his highly scholarly, very well researched and illustrated edition of Abul Fazl’s Ai’n-e Akbari, itself an extraordinarily difficult book. Having finished the work to his satisfaction, and believing that Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was a person who would appreciate his labours, Syed Ahmad approached the great Ghalib to write a taqriz (in the convention of the times, a laudatory foreword) for it. Ghalib obliged, but what he did produce was a short Persian poem castigating the Ai’n-e Akbari, and by implication, the imperial, sumptuous, literate and learned Mughal culture of which it was a product. The least that could be said against it was that the book had little value even as an antique document. Ghalib practically reprimanded Syed Ahmad Khan for wasting his talents and time on dead things. Worse, he praised sky-high the “Sahibs of England” who at that time held all the keys to all the a’ins in this world.

This poem is often referred to but has never translated in English. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi wrote an English translation.

The poem was unexpected, but it came at the time when Syed Ahmad Khan’s thought and feelings themselves were inclining toward change. Ghalib seemed to be acutely aware of a European[English]-sponsored change in world polity, especially Indian polity. Syed Ahmad might well have been piqued at Ghalib’s admonitions, but he would also have realized that Ghalib’s reading of the situation, though not nuanced enough, was basically accurate. Syed Ahmad Khan may also have felt that he, being better informed about the English and the outside world, should have himself seen the change that now seemed to be just round the corner. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan never again wrote a word in praise of the Ai’n-e Akbari and in fact gave up taking active interest in history and archaeology, and became a social reformer.

Personal Life

Mirza was born in Kala Mahal in Agra. In the end of 18th century, his birthplace was converted into Indrabhan Girls' Inter College. The birth room of Mirza Ghalib is preserved within the school. Around 1810, he was married to Umrao Begum, daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh Khan of Loharu (younger brother of the first Nawab of Loharu, Nawab Mirza Ahmad Baksh Khan, at the age of thirteen. He had seven children, none of whom survived (this pain has found its echo in some of Ghalib's ghazals). There are conflicting reports regarding his relationship with his wife. She was considered to be pious, conservative and God-fearing. Ghalib was proud of his reputation as a rake. He was once imprisoned for gambling and subsequently relished the affair with pride. In the Mughal court circles, he even acquired a reputation as a "ladies man". Once, when someone praised the poetry of the pious Sheikh Sahbai in his presence, Ghalib immediately retorted:

“How can Sahbai be a poet? He has never tasted wine, nor has he ever gambled; he has not been beaten with slippers by lovers, nor has he ever seen the inside of a jail."

He died in Delhi on February 15, 1869. The house where he lived in Gali Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk, in Old Delhi has now been turned into 'Ghalib Memorial' and houses a permanent Ghalib exhibition.

Religious Views

Ghalib was a very liberal mystic who believed that the search for God within liberated the seeker from the narrowly Orthodox Islam, encouraging the devotee to look beyond the letter of the law to its narrow essence. His Sufi views and mysticism is greatly reflected in his poems and ghazals. As he once stated:

“The object of my worship lies beyond perception's reach;
For men who see, the Ka'aba is a compass, nothing more."

Like many other Urdu poets, Ghalib was capable of writing profoundly religious poetry, yet was skeptical about the literalist interpretation of the Islamic scriptures. On the Islamic view and claims of paradise, he once wrote in a letter to a friend:

“In paradise it is true that I shall drink at dawn the pure wine mentioned in the Qu'ran, but where in paradise are the long walks with intoxicated friends in the night, or the drunken crowds shouting merrily? Where shall I find there the intoxication of Monsoon clouds? Where there is no autumn, how can spring exist? If the beautiful houris are always there, where will be the sadness of separation and the joy of union? Where shall we find there a girl who flees away when we would kiss her?”

He staunchly disdained the Orthodox Muslim Sheikhs of the Ulema, who in his poems always represent narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy:

“The Sheikh hovers by the tavern door,
but believe me, Ghalib,
I am sure I saw him slip in
As I departed."

In another verse directed towards the Muslim maulavis (clerics), he criticized them for their ignorance and arrogant certitude: "Look deeper, it is you alone who cannot hear the music of his secrets". In his letters, Ghalib frequently contrasted the narrow legalism of the Ulema with "it's pre-occupation with teaching the baniyas and the brats, and wallowing in the problems of menstruation and menstrual bleeding" and real spirituality for which you had to "study the works of the mystics and take into one's heart the essential truth of God's reality and his expression in all things".

Ghalib believed that if God laid within and could be reached less by ritual than by love, then he was as accessible to Hindus as to Muslims. As a testament to this, he would later playfully write in a letter that during a trip to Benares, he was half tempted to settle down there for good and that he wished he had renounced Islam, put a Hindu sectarian mark on his forehead, tied a sectarian thread around his waist and seated himself on the banks of the Ganges so that he could wash the contamination of his existence away from himself and like a drop be one with the river.

During the anti-British Rebellion in Delhi on 5 October 1857, three weeks after the British troops had entered through Kashmiri Gate, some soldiers climbed into Ghalib's neighbourhood and hauled him off to Colonel Burn for questioning. He appeared in front of the colonel wearing a Turkish style headdress. The colonel, bemused at his appearance, inquired in broken Urdu, "Well? You Muslim?", to which Ghalib replied, "Half?" The colonel asked, "What does that mean?" In response, Ghalib said, "I drink wine, but I don't eat pork."

Views on Hindustan

In his poem "Chirag-i-Dair" (Temple lamps) which was composed during his trip to Benaras during the spring of 1827, Ghalib mused about the land of Hindustan (the Indian subcontinent) and how Qiyamah (Doomsday) has failed to arrive, in spite of the numerous conflicts plaguing it.

“Said I one night to a pristine seer
(Who knew the secrets of whirling time)
"Sir, you well perceive
That goodness and faith,
Fidelity and love
Have all departed from this sorry land
Father and son are at each other's throat;
Brother fights brother, Unity and federation are undermined
Despite all these ominous signs, Why has not Doomsday come?
Who holds the reins of the Final Catastrophe?
The hoary old man of lucent ken
Pointed towards Kashi and gently smiled
"The Architect", he said, "is fond of this edifice
Because of which there is color in life; He
Would not like it to perish and fall."

Contemporaries and Disciples

Ghalib's closest rival was poet Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them. However, there was mutual respect for each other's talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of Meer Taqi Meer, a towering figure of 18th century Urdu Poetry. Another poet Momin, whose ghazals had a distinctly lyrical flavour, was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib. Ghalib was not only a poet, he was also a prolific prose writer. His letters are a reflection of the political and social climate of the time. They also refer to many contemporaries like Mir Mehdi Majrooh, who himself was a good poet and Ghalib's life-long acquaintance.

Mirza Ghalib's Works:

Urdu Letters of Mirza Asadullah Khan Galib, Translated by Daud Rahbar, SUNY Press, 1987.