‘Shairon ka Shahr’: Poets Who Made Lucknow a Hub of Urdu Ghazal

Date:

Vikas Dutta

Any discussion of Urdu ghazals, between connoisseurs, may bring up rival merits of “Dabistan-e-Dehli” and “Dabistan-e-Lakhnau”, or the Delhi and Lucknow schools of poetry, each with an array of accomplished master poets to boast of. But is the classification even valid, and if so, how can we distinguish between them?

The role of both the cities in Urdu literature is beyond dispute, but did they develop a characteristic, exclusive literary style, given their similarities – royal courts (for patronage), a syncretic culture (the “Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb”), and a receptive citizenry, including a class of sybaritic aristocracy.

Urdu scholar Frances Pritchett holds the division was created by some early Urdu literary historians, and it was held Delhi poets’ work was simple, austere, chaste and dignified and that of Lucknow convoluted, frivolous, sensual, and decadent. However, this does not bear ground, as Delhi’s ‘Momin’ and ‘Dagh’ could be sensual too.

However, later, literary critics, especially Shamsur Rehman Faruqi, questioned the very classification, more importantly, for ignoring the contributions of various other bits of India, say Bihar, Bengal, Hyderabad, Punjab, etc.

But if “Dehlvi” or “Lakhnavi” are just seen as a sense of identification or how the poets are known to posterity, Lucknow and its surroundings, leave apart the other erstwhile Nawabi dominions, hosted a significant number, of poets right from when ghazals became predominant down to the present, cutting across caste, class, and creed.

But outside Urdu scholars and the painfully few bilingual aficionados, none is as familiar as Delhi’s Mir, Ghalib, Zauq, or Zafar — not even the last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah “Akhtar”. It is difficult to list all bearing the ‘Lakhnavi’ appellation but a representative selection — including those who kept the name of their city’s suburb — can be offered below.

Before Wajid Ali Shah, Oudh’s Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider (r. 1827-37) was a poet of some promise, but the pioneers are taken to be the early 19th century’s Ghulam Hamdani ‘Mushafi’ (“Aasman ko nishana karte hain/Tir rakhte hai jab kamaan mein ham”) and his rival, the colourful Insha Allah Khan ‘Insha’ (“Na chhed ai nikhat-e-bad-e-bahari raah lag apni/Tujhe atkhelian sujhi hain ham bezar baithe hain”).

Then, there were Insha’s associates: Saadat Yaar Khan ‘Rangin’ (“Rishta-e-ulfat ko todun kis tarah/Ishq se main munh modun kis tarah”), Qalandar Baksh ‘Jurrat’ (“Mil gaye the ek baar us ke jo mere lab se lab/Umr bhar honto pe apne ham zabaan phera kiye”), and Nawab Syed Mohammad Khan ‘Rind’ (“Nuqsan jaan hai ‘Rind’ jo do gham bahm huye/Karte ho ranj hijr mein fikr sukhan abas”).

Khwaja Haider Ali ‘Aatish’ (“Zameen-e-chaman gul khilati hai kya kya/Badalta hai rang aasman kaise kaise”) and Imam Baksh ‘Nasikh’ (“Zindagi zinda-dilli ka hai naam/Murda dil khaak jiya karte hai”) were another set of rivals in the 1830s.

Others of the time included Syed Muzaffar Hussain ‘Aseer’ (“Khuda jaane yeh kis ki jalwa gah naz hai duniya/Hazaron uth gaye kasrat vahi baqi hai mehfil ki”), Faqir Muhammad ‘Goya’ (“Nishan ham be-nishanon kaa na paya/Saba ne muddaton tak khaak chaani”), Mirza Mohammad Taqi ‘Havas’ (“Dukh pahunche jo kuch tum ko tumhari yeh saza hai/Kyun us ke ‘Havas’ ashiq-e-janbaaz hue tum”), Mir Wazir Ali ‘Saba’ (“Aap hi apne zara jaur-o-sitam ko dekhen/Ham agar arz karenge to shikayat hogi”) and Syed Zaman Ali ‘Jalal’ (“Jis ne kuch ahsan kiya hai ek bojh ham par rakh diya/Sar se tinka kya uthaya sar per chappar rakh diya”)

Mir Babar Ali ‘Anis’ and Salamat Ali ‘Dabir’ are prominently known as ‘marsiya’ writers extraordinary, but also composed ghazals.

There were also Pandit Daya Shankar ‘Naseem’ (“Guzra jahan se main to sun ke yaar ne kaha/Qissa gaya, fasaad gaya, dard-e-saar gaya”), Munshi Amir Ahmed ‘Amir Meenai’ (“Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqaab ahista-ahista/Nikalta aa raha hai aftaab ahista-ahista”), Mirza Rajab Ali Beg ‘Suroor’ (“Itni chhaani hai khaak tere liye/Chaa raha hai ghubar ankhon mein”) and Ram Sahai ‘Tamanna’ (“Apni yehi tamanna hai aap se ‘Tamanna’/ Meri nazar ke aage rahiye kitaab hokar”) among others.

Lala Madhur Ram ‘Jauhar’ (“Bhanp hi lenge ishara sar-e-mehfil jo kiya/Tarhne wale qayamat ki nazar rakhte hai”) was another noted exponent.

The 20th century saw Mirza Mohammad Hadi ‘Aziz’ (“Uthaye jaake kahan lutf-e-justju koi/Jagah voh kaunsi hai tu jahan nahi hota”), Mirza Zaakir Hussain Qizilbaash ‘Saqib’ (“Zamana bade shauq se sun raha tha/Hamin so gae dastan kahte kahte”), Bisheshwar Prasad ‘Munawwar’ – son of another noted poet Dvarka Parshad ‘Ufuq’ (“‘Munawwar’ mujh pe shaam-e-yaas ghalib aa nahi sakti/Ke har umeed se hota hai ek rang-e-sahr paida”), and Pandit Brij Narain ‘Chakbast’ (“Agar dard-e-mohabbat se na insan aashna hota/Na kuch marne ka gham hota na jeene ka maza hota”).

Other luminaries included Syed Ali Naqi Zaidi ‘Safi’ (“Dil se nazdeek hai aankhon se bhi kuch dur nahi/Magar is pe bhi mulaqat unhe manzur nahi”), Syed Anwar Hussain ‘Arzoo’ (“Do tund hawaon par buniyad hai tufan ki/Ya tum na haseen hote ya main na jawan hota”) — also one of the first poets to write cinema lyrics for Calcutta’s New Theatres — and Nawab Jafar Ali Khan ‘Asr’ (“Zindagi aur zindagi ki yaadgar/Parda aur parde pe kuchh parchhaiyan”).

Syed Fazl-ul-Hasan Maulana ‘Hasrat Mohani’ is, despite his religious appellation and radical politics, known for some sublime romantic ghazals like “Chupke chupke raat din..”, suggesting he had a very colourful youth, or at least a very colourful imagination.

There were Hakim Saeed Ahmed ‘Natiq’ (“Koi na sun saka mera qissa zamaane mein/Itna asr bhi ho na kisi ke fasaane mein”), Siraj ul-Hasan ‘Siraj’ (“Aap ke paaon ke niche dil hai/Ek zara aap ko zahmat hogi”) , Naubat Rai Saxena ‘Nazar’ (“Lakhnau hum par fida hum fida-e Lakhnau/Kya hai taaqat aasman ki jo churhae Lakhnau”), and Mirza Mohammad Jafar ‘Hayat’ (“Kahin par thehre to ham us se koi baat karen/Hawa ki tarah hamesha safar mein rahta hai”).

Closer to our time, were Sardar Ahmad Khan ‘Behzadi’, Shabbir Hasan Khan ‘Josh Malihabadi’, though more known for his nazms, Asrar-ul-Haq ‘Majaz’ – the epitome of the romantic, tragic poet, and Anand Narain ‘Mulla’ (“Voh kaun hain jinhe tauba ki mil gai fursat/Hamen gunah bhi karne ko zindagi kam hai”).

In modern times, Krishan Bihari ‘Noor’ (Sach ghate ya badhe to sach na rahe/Jhoot ki koi intiha hi nahi), and Sardar Khushbir Singh ‘Shaad’ (“Ek ham hai ke paristish ke aqeeda hi nahi/Aur kuch log yahan ban ke Khuda baithe hai”) kept up the tradition.

Then, there are Abdul Razzaq ‘Dil’ (“Dil ki maano to ek kaam karo/Hoke badnaam khub naam karo”), Syed Hasan ‘Latafat’, Aftab-ud-Daula ‘Qalq’, Mir Ausat Ali ‘Rashk’, Bishan Narain Dar ‘Abr’, Jai Narain Varma ‘Asr’, Shankar Dayal ‘Farhat’, Raja Jia Lal ‘Gulshan’, Tribhuvan Nath ‘Hijr’, Bansi Dhar ‘Himmat’, Hakim Mahdi ‘Kamal’, Kunwar Sen ‘Muzaffar’, Lalta Parshad ‘Shafaq’, and many more, who only survive in ‘tazkiras’ (poetic histories). -IANS

Surely, it’s time to resurrect them?

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

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