Prof. Jagan Nath Azad: Creator of Pakistan’s First National Anthem

Posted on June 5, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, History, People, Poetry
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Adil Najam

I am very glad that some of our readers did recognize Prof. Jaganath Azad in our recent ATP Quiz. I am not surprised that others did not. As I had mentioned in the post, I would not have done so had it not been for a wonderful post by Zakintosh on his blog.

I am ashamed that until recently I did not know who Jagan Nath Azad was, or what he did. I am glad that I now know. I hope you are too.

First, the basics: Jagannath Azad (1918-2004) was an Urdu poet, a Punjabi Hindu, and a scholar of Iqbal’s poetry who, on the direct invitation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wrote Pakistan’s first national anthem, which remained Pakistan’s official anthem for its first year-and-half and whose first lines were as follows:

Aé sarzameené paak
Zarray teray haéñ aaj sitaaroñ se taabnaak
Roshan haé kehkashaañ se kaheeñ aaj tayree khaak
Aé sarzameené paak

Jagan Nath Azad was born in 1918 in Isa Khel in the Punjab (later of Atta Ullah Khan Eesakhelvi fame), he studied at Gordon College in Rawalpindi, and the University of the Punjab in Lahore. At the time of partition in 1947, he was a journalist and a poet living in Lahore. Mr.  Jinnah asked him to write a new national anthem for Pakistan. The anthem was used for 18 months, until it was replaced (after Mr. Jinnah’s death). Some time after writing the national anthem, he migrated to India, where from 1977 to 1980 he was a Professor of Urdu and head of Urdu department at the Unversity of Jammu. Prof. Azad was a noted authority on the works of Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal. He was awarded the President of Pakistan’s gold medal for his services to Urdu literature.

After reading Zakintosh’s post on Prof. Azad, I tried to find out more about him. I could not find any lines to the original anthem beyond the ones he quoted (which are also quoted elsewhere), but I did find much interesting information, including this very interesting speech by him on India-Pakistan relations:

hum nay zameen taqseem ki hai, dillouN ko to taqseem naheen ki

Some more detail on the anthem was available in a report in the Daily Times (June 2005):

Days before his death last year, Azad recalled, in an interview, the circumstances under which he was asked by Jinnah to write Pakistan’s national anthem: “In August 1947, when mayhem had struck the whole subcontinent, I was in Lahore working in a literary newspaper.

All my relatives had left for India and for me to think of leaving Lahore was painful. My Muslim friends requested me to stay. On August 9, 1947, there was a message from Jinnah Sahib through one of my friends at Radio Pakistan Lahore. He told me ‘Quaid-e-Azam wants you to write a national anthem for Pakistan.’”

Why him? “The answer to this question,” Azad said in the interview, “has to be understood by recalling the inaugural speech of Jinnah Sahib as Pakistan’s governor general. He said: “You will find that in the course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

I asked my friends why Jinnah Sahib wanted me to write the anthem. They confided in me that “the Quaid wanted the anthem to be written by an Urdu-knowing Hindu.” Through this, I believe Jinnah Sahib wanted to sow the roots of secularism in a Pakistan.”

But the real gems were to be found in a very interesting article about Prof. Jagannath Azad in Dawn, by Ashfaque Naqvi, written in June 2004. It really is worth reading in full:

I saw Tilok Chand Mehroom when still at school in Lahore and was greatly impressed by his personality. A tall, robust, figure, dressed in a long coat with a ‘lungi’, he had long whiskers. He looked every inch a Muslim, but I was told that he was a Hindu and headmaster of a school in Mianwali, the place to which he belonged. And then I read his poems which happened to be in our Urdu textbooks. One was about the pathetic condition of the last resting place of the Mughal empress, Nur Jahan. I still remember two of its touching lines:

Din ko bhi yahan shab ki siyahi ka saman heh
Kehtey hein keh yeh maqbara-e-noor-e-jahan heh

Well, that was long before partition. Even in those days his son, Isakhel born, Jagan Nath Azad was counted among the prominent poets of the Punjab. It is not commonly known that after the establishment of Pakistan, the first national song (qaumi tarana as we like to call it) broadcast from Radio Pakistan was not by Hafeez Jallandhri or Faiz Ahmed Faiz but by a Hindu called Jagan Nath Azad. It ran like this:

Aey sarzameen-i-pak
Zarrey terey hein aaj sitaron sey tabnak
Roshan heh kehkashan sey kahin aaj teri khak

His devotion to Allama Iqbal has been intriguing for many. But then, he has himself said:

Merey yaqeen ko dekh amal par nazar na kar
Mera yaqeen heh daulat-eeman liye huey
Ahl-i-haram mujhey na hiqarat se dekhna
Kafir hun eik qalb-e-Musalman liye huey

I am grateful to Dr Syed Moeenur Rehman for sending me books which keep adding to my knowledge. It is never too late to learn, as they say. I knew a lot about Jagan Nath Azad but the book sent by him tells me much more about him. It is the thesis written by one of his students, Aasma Aziz, for her master’s in Urdu. Somehow, it has been printed and produced by Crescent House Publications of Jammu in Occupied Kashmir. It only deals with Jagan Nath Azad as a prose writer.

Third in line after the more famous Azads – Maulana Muhammad Hussain and Maulana Abul Kalam – Jagan Nath was born in 1918. After doing his MA in Persian from the Punjab University in 1944, he served in different capacities in some Urdu and English newspapers. He also remained assistant editor of the important Urdu journal, Adabi Dunya.

After serving for a while as a lecturer of Urdu at Lahore’s DAV College, he moved to Delhi after partition. Securing a job in the Press Information Department, he was posted to Srinagar. Offered the professorship of Urdu in the Jammu University, he moved there in 1977. After retirement, he continues to be there as professor emeritus for life.

Jagan Nath Azad has been attending mushairas and delivering lectures and has written about most of his foreign trips. However, while writing about Pakistan he never calls it a foreign country. Even Gen. Ziaul Haq told him that he should consider it to be his own country and come here whenever he felt like it. He openly accepts that the reception he receives in Pakistan is totally different from what he experiences in other countries. His love for Pakistan is evident from his verse:

Sham key saey mein Jamna ki ravani dekh kar
Mujhko aey Azad Ravi ka saman yad aa gaya

Jagan Nath Azad has won several awards from Pakistan, India, Russia and other countries. For the naats composed by him, he was given the Seerat-i-Pak Award by Bradford Publications of UK. Not only that, Jagan Nath Azad has written a long poem condemning the destruction of the Babri Mosque. Says he:

Hamarey dil ko tora hey imarat ko nahin tora
Khabasat ki bhi had hoti hey aey had torney waley

The books authored by Jagan Nath Azad include some on literary criticism while about eleven, both in English and Urdu, are on Iqbal. It would be interesting to know that soon after partition, Iqbal was almost banned in India. It was only through the efforts of Jagan Nath Azad that Iqbal is as highly respected there today as Khusrau, Meer or Ghalib. Even in Pakistan, it was Jagan Nath Azad’s whisper into the ears of Gen Ziaul Haq that led to the establishment of the Iqbal Chair in the Punjab University.

Many Indians, like Iqbal Singh and Hira Lal Chopra, have done extensive work on Iqbal. Dr Chaman Lal Raina has gone to the extent of converting his verses into Hindi. On his part, Dr Rafiq Zakaria, former chancellor of the Urdu University in Aligarh, has written a full book under the title, Iqbal: The Poet and the Politician, in which he has expressed surprise why Iqbal is not revered in India.

It goes to the credit of Jagan Nath Azad that he has all along tried to emphasise the fact that great and durable poetry transcends all barriers of caste, creed and colour. Being a humanist, Iqbal’s poetry echoes the sentiments and feelings of humanity at large. There is no denying that he has championed the cause of the exploited and oppressed people of the world.

I hope you read the above in full. Even as I read it for the third time, I am amazed at much of what is written here.

After reading that – especially the verses, one was left wanting more. So, let me leave you with this video of Prof. Azad from a mushaira – including some remarks and verses about Pakistan:

63 responses to “Prof. Jagan Nath Azad: Creator of Pakistan’s First National Anthem”

  1. Tariq Asmat says:

    Excellent writeup

  2. M. A. Hasnat. says:

    The national anthem of any country should be a piece of literature which should be understood and felt in the heart by person singing it. It should not be to show the poet’s command on the language. This is the precise reason that 80% of population of Pakistan, educated or uneducated alike, do not understand a word of it. How would the patriotic feelings arise in one’s heart ? Everything we do here in Pakistan is on our whims and without considering its ultimate consequences !! The present day politicians in Pakistan are an example who pose as patriots but damn care about Pakistan !! Each one of them are after their piece of cake. May Allah save Pakistan from these vultures ! Pakistan Zindabad.

  3. Mujib says:

    The majority of the then Pakistanis sang a mixed easy Urdu and Bengali composition ill the official anthem was introduced. That song ran somewhat as follows:
    Pakistan Zindabad/ Pakistan Zindabad/
    Chand tara sabuz aar qaumi nishan
    As a child in school at Dhaka I used to sing this every morning. All schools used this song.
    This text was understood by both Bengali and Urdu speakers. Then the official anthem arrived mid 1950s. Not only Bengalis but Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis, Balochis and even some Urdu speakers barely understood what they were singing. It is heavily Persianized and beyond comprehension of the common man.
    Indeed selection of a Persianized text rejecting the Dhaka text was a cause of feeling betrayed by the academia in the eastern wing.

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