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Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib: Andaaz-i-biyaN aur

Posted on June 1, 2007
Filed Under >Adnan Ahmad, People, Poetry, Urdu
64 Comments
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Adnan Ahmad

hoi muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya par yaad aataa hai
woh har ek baat pe kehna ke yooN hota to kia hota

From time to time at these very pages of ATP, we have disussed national and international personalities that are larger than life, including poets like Faiz, Faraz, Qasmi, Munir Niazi and others. In such context it is just apt that we share our thoughts on a man whose poetry has inspired millions of Pakistanis and has given root to Pakistani Urdu poetry and to our intellectual thinking at large.

One such person is Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Given his towering and well-known stature, instead of writing purely a biographic piece I will be short and mention a few of his verses and a few of the highlights of this wizard’s life.

Ghalib’s portrait to the right is from urdustan.com

Through earlier years of my life the name Mirza Ghalib invoked a stereotypical image in my mind about yet another old poet from the subcontinent writing on the classical subjects of romance and appearing thoroughly outdated in my world.



That was until I came across Gulzar‘s serial Mirza Ghalib and found outsides of Ghalib and meanings of his verses that I had not known before.

Here is a sample:



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The year was 1990 and someone in our family had gained access to the tapes that were not available in the market yet. Over the course of next few years of my high school I watched the serial over and over again, read his poetry and about his life, with each attempt increasing my fascination with the poet and his poetry. Photo to the left is the ‘haveli’ where Ghalib lived.

And there are still days when I find new meanings in his verses I had heard and known for ages. All this gets better when one considers the fact that the deewan-e-Ghalib, as we know it, was completed by age twenty-five (many argue that it was finished by age 19).

Image to the right is a postal stamp issued by Government of Pakistan in commemoration of Mirza Ghalib

This is the collection of poems about which a famous Urdu critic from the 19th century, Abdul Rehman Bijnori, once said that there are two books sent from the heaven to the sub-continent, one is Holy Geeta (muqqaddas Vaids) and the other is deewan-e-Ghalib. Still it baffles me to think how a 25-year old can express such mature sorrow in a verse like:

ghar meiN tha kia ke tera gham osay ghaarat karta
woh jo rakhtay the hum ik hasrat-e-taameer so hai

And another verse which goes like this:

hoa jab gham se yooN be-hiss to gham kia sar ke kaTnay ka
na hotaa gar juda tan se to zaanoo par dharaa hota

Photo to the right is a plaque at mazar-i-Ghalib

I think whatever he claimed for himself was an understatement. Many including myself, do consider him a philosopher, a great scholar and even a wali (saint) of his time. And on that tangent, I don’t think I’ve heard a better elaboration of tawheed (oneness of God) than his verse:

hum muwwahid haiN hamara kashe hai tark-e-rusoom
millateN jab miT gayeeN, ajzaa-i-imaaN ho gayeeN

In anoher instance he accepts God in a way few of us can:

jaaN dee, dee hoi osee kee thee
haq to ye hai ke haq adaa na hoa

Finally, a verse that stays with me all the time and unfolds itself in new ways each time I think about it.

hai kahaaN tammanna ka doosra qadam ya-rabb
hum ne dasht-e-imkaaN ko ek naqsh-e-paa paaya

Then, there is of course the letters Ghalib wrote. Here is a wonderful sample read by Zia Mohiuddin.

Recommended Website on Ghalib:
(1) There is a very good biography of Ghalib present at a webpage here.
(2) Best of Ghalib

64 comments posted

Comment Pages: [8] 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 » Show All

  1. S. M. W. Ahmed says:
    April 25th, 2011 12:37 am

    غالب کی عظمت کوئی کرے کیسے بیان
    نو ا ے سروش کا ہوتا ہے ایک الگ جہاں
    اقبال نے جب کہہ دیا گہوارہ علم و ہنر
    وکیل میں اب کچھ کہنے کی ہمت کہاں
    س م و احمد

  2. shoaib says:
    November 4th, 2009 8:41 pm

    Naeem, you have murdered the shaer :-)

    Na tha Kuch to Khuda tha, kuch na hota to khda hota
    DooboYa much ko honay nay, no hota maen to kia hota.

  3. Naeem says:
    June 17th, 2009 7:59 am

    Na tha kuch to Khuda tha, Na hota kuch to Khuda Hota
    Meray Honay nain daboya mujhko, Na main hota to kya hota!

  4. Hassan says:
    March 8th, 2009 11:24 am

    Somesh : Ghalib was not born in Delhi

    Anil Razdan: Chand tasveere Butaan was not written by Ghalib

  5. Anil Razdan says:
    August 6th, 2008 1:13 pm

    Here’s sort of Ghalib’s side not familiar to many.

    Kalkattey(Calcutta) kaa jo zikr kiya tumne hamnasheen,
    Ek teer merey seeney pey maaraa key hai hai.

    This was when Ghalib visited Calcutta, (Calcutta was the capital of British India back then), and he saw all these white gorgeous women walking around with their men, arm in arm, it overwhelmed him with desire. This was in line with his another couplet. It goes like this… and is quite famous…

    Chand tasveere butaan, chand haseenon ke khatoot,
    Baad marne ke mere ghar se yeh saamaan nikla.

  6. Anil Razdan says:
    August 6th, 2008 1:05 pm

    Here is parts of an English translation of one of Ghalib’s ghazals, one of my favorite. “Rahiye ab aiysee jagah chal kar jahaan koi na ho…”

    I long to live in utter loneliness
    With none to speak to, none to share my thoughts
    With none to tend me if I’m sick and prostrate
    And none to mourn me if I pass away.

    Man is a multitude of thoughts, even by himself
    I feel I have company around, when I’m most alone.

  7. Somesh says:
    May 14th, 2008 11:43 pm

    baazeechaa-e-atfaal hai duniya mere aage
    hota hai shab-o-roz tamaasha mere aage

    hota hai nihaaN gard meiN sehara mere hote
    ghisata hai jabeeN KHaak pe dariya mere aage

    Let’s enjoy the great weaver of words that “Galib” was..

  8. Somesh says:
    May 14th, 2008 11:40 pm

    Well, one of the greatest from the subcontinent. I would think that as long as you have good taste and a dictionary you can enjoy the poet. i don’t think i want to argu over this and it seems trivail detail but he was born in Delhi and was part of the Indian diaspora long before pakistan came into being.

Comment Pages: [8] 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 » Show All



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