Some of the most famous asha’ar in Urdu poetry

This is a purely personal and subjective effort at listing some of the  well-known shers in Urdu poetry. I do not make any claim that my choice is exhaustive but I can say it is fairly illustrative. To be fair, I will limit all the poets to one example (I may seek exemption in some cases). 

Lets start with an old one. Qais or more commonly Majnu (the one suffering junoon), the star-crossed unhappy lover, is frequently referred to in Urdu poetry. However, a bit of background about this couplet. Written by Raja Ram Narain ‘Mauzun’ (fl.1750-60s) soon after the battle of Plassey, it is an eloquent lament to Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah of Bengal, who was never seen again.

Ghazala tum to waaqif ho kaho Majnun ke marne ki
Agar deewana na raha to veerane pe kya guzregi

On similar lines, is one by … well someone who is yet to be identified. A variation of the second misra of this sher was for years used in the advertisement for a brand of whiskey made in India, and was recited by various actors of which Dharmendra, in his trademark drawl, was the most famous.

Qais jangal mein akela hoga, mujhe jaane do
Khub guzregi mil baithenge jab deewane do

Now, lets come to the Chacha. No, we’ll do this with propriety and the necessary protocol and begin with his monarch.

Kitna hai badnaseeb ‘Zafar’ dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi na mii kuu-e-yaar mein

This is the sher most associated with Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last of the Mughal emperors. One can well sense the pain and despair of the deposed and exiled emperor who has seen his realm and powers rapidly dimnishing, his progeny massacred and conscious that his place in history will be as the last of an illustrious dynasty. Also the chilling realisation he will not even getting the dignity of being buried in his own country, but will lie till eternity in a foreign land.

In a bid to redress history a bit and pay my respects, I will give another of his well-known shers, as he reflects on his own lack of importance despite his royal post.

Na kisi ki aankh ka nur hoon na kisi ke dil ka qaraar hoon
Jo kisi ke kaam na aa saka main vo ek musht-e-gubaar hoon

Now, its the turn of the emperor’s preceptor – his ‘ustaad’.  Now overshadowed by his contemporary poets, in his heyday, Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq was much more popular then anyone else as poetry was judged on the basis of usage of words, phrases and idioms, not style or content. Take this example, from a ghazal made famous in this … oops I mean, the last century by Saigal and Begum Akhtar.

Behtar to hai yahi ke na duniya se dil lage
Par kya kare jo kaam na bedillagi chale

And now we can now move to one of Zafar‘s most illustrious subjects – Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib himself. I dedicate this sher to some of my friends.

Hamko unse wafa ki hai umeed
Jo nahi jaante wafa kya hai

And I cannot resist this one – Ghalib’s tongue-in-cheek estimation of himself.

Hain aur bhi duniya mein sukhanvar bahut achche
Kahte hain ki ‘Ghalib’ kaa hai andaaz-e-bayan aur

One of an illustrious poet, who lived earlier that century.  Mir Taqi Mir, also lived through a Смутное время (oh, how did that get in here. I mean a time of troubles), which has coloured most of his poetry with a rare pathos and melancholy.

Naahaq ham majbooron par tohmat hai mukhtaari ki
Chahte hain so aap kare hain, hamko abas badnaam kiya

And Mir‘s status can be gauged by what Asad Chacha – who was never someone to bestow praise unnecessarily – said about him. 

Rekhta ke tumhi ustaad nahi ho ‘Ghalib’
Kehte hain agle zamane mein koi ‘Mir’ bhi tha

Hakim Momin Khan Momin was another luminary of Ghalib’s era, now largely forgotten except in those two ghazals of his, made famous by Begum Akhtar and Ghalum Ali. I wrote about this and him earlier. Those interested can read the posts before this save one.

Allah Re! Gum rahi buton but khana chorh ke
Momin’ chala hain Kaabe ko ek parsa ke saath

Now, we come to one who straddles the 19th and the 20th centuries. This is Nawab Mirza Khan Daagh Dehlvi, who had the opportunity of growing up in the heyday of Zafar, Ghalib, Momin and Zauq and all the others. Despite going through another Смутное время (How on earth does this get here….. I mean another time of troubles – 1857, the deposing and exile of the emperor and the dissolution of the court and the nobility, we hardly see the effect of any of this in Daagh‘s works and he remains an unbashedly a romantic poet. 

 I recited one of his shers to My Ustaad, who was unfortunately not impressed. When I – despite considerable disquiet – attempted to remonstrate with Her, and noted it was of Daagh, She was still not moved and remarked – “More of a dhabba then a daagh”. This is relevant here, because of the efforts to translate it resulted in a ludicrous outcome. But first the sher.

Aur honge tere bazm se uth jaane waale
Hazrat ‘Daagh’ jahan baith gaye, baith gaye

The translation resulted in: Mr Spot where sat where sat

Arriving well into the 20th century, I will take up Syed Akbar Hussain Akbar Allahabadi, whose biggest contribution was the introduction of  humour and sarcasm in Urdu poetry. This sher is from one of his famous ghazals, made more popular by Ghaulam Ali.

Har zarra chamakta hai anwaar-e-ilaahi se
Har saans ye kahti hai ham hain to Khuda bhi hai

And as a bonus, this sher I cite is quite popular. However, most people didnt know the author and in a number of books, it is just attributed as ‘Na-maalum’  (the Urdu version of the English Anon). Even Khusro sahab at Maktaba didnt know and  found when glancing through a book I bought. It is Akbar‘s.

Ham aah bhi karte hain to ho jaate hai badnaam
Woh qatl bhi karte hain to charcha nahi hota

To Be Continued…..


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pardeep yadav on November 21, 2011 at 19:13

    Dil khush kar diya bhai


  2. shubhaanAALLAH


  3. Posted by Fatima Hasan Abidi on August 26, 2015 at 20:11

    Superbbbb 👍👍
    A very beautiful description… 👍👍


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