Mirza Ghalib’s Contribution to Urdu Literature.

Mirza Ghalib and Urdu Literature.

Urdu literature may be said to find its provenance sometime around the 14th century in India amongst the sophisticated gentry of Persian courts. The presence of the Muslim gentry in a largely Hindu India, while clearly acknowledged, did not so nearly dominate the consciousness of the Urdu poet as much as did the continuing traditions of Islam and Persia.

The very color of the Urdu language, with a vocabulary almost evenly split between Sanskrit-derived Prakrit and Arabo-Persian words, was a reflection of the newness of cultural amalgamation and yet the insistence on retaining what was best and most beautiful about the lands of Afghanistan and Persia was an all time great classical Urdu and Persian poet of the Indian subcontinent.

Mirza Ghalib was 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 to be the most popular and influential poet of the Urdu language. Although Ghalib wrote in Persian as well, he is more famous for his ghazals written in Urdu. It is believed he wrote most of his popular ghazals by age nineteen.

His ghazals, unlike those of Meer Taqi Meer, contain highly Persianised Urdu, and are therefore not easily understood or appreciated by a vast majority of people without some extra effort. Numerous elucidations of Ghalib’s collection of ghazals have therefore, 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, together with his many masterpieces, will forever remain 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 beloved could be a beautiful woman, or a beautiful boy, or even God.

As the renowned critic/poet/writer Shamsur Rahman Faruqui explains, since the convention of having the “idea” of a lover or beloved instead of an actual love beloved, freed the poet protagonist Iover from the demands of “realism”, love poetry in Urdu from the last quarter of the seventeenth century on wards, consists mostly of “poems about love” and not “love poems” in the Western sense of the term. Ghalib’s poetry is a fine illustration of this Ghalib also excels in deeply introspective and philosophical verses.

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