Adored for his classical style and a unique mystical flavour in writing, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, or Mirza Ghalib, as he was popularly known, was one of the greatest Urdu poets in the Mughal Empire, during the colonial rule of the British. He penned down some of the most beautiful verses in form of ghazals that have transcended generations and are still admired by millions.
Mirza Ghalib took birth in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, in a traditional Muslim family that had migrated to India from Middle East in the 18th century. He lost his father, who was a royal employee, at the tender age of five and was reared by his uncle, Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan. Ghalib started writing poems at the age of 11, and learnt Arabic and Persian along with philosophy and logic from a highly educated individual, Abdus Samad. However, his literary excellence was depicted through his unparalleled contribution to Urdu ghazals, which contained pathos and mysteries of life merged with philosophical musings. He was married off at 13, following the typical Muslim traditions, and shifted to Delhi.
Ghalib’s literary works earned him much recognition and several royal titles of his era. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, who himself was a literary genius, hired him as the tutor of poetry. Ghalib was entitled Dabeer-ur-Mulk as well as Najm-ud-Daulah by the emperor himself. These honours allowed him to be considered as a noble in the city of Delhi and established him as an important courtier as well as a royal historian in the courts of the Mughals. Ghalib was also bestowed with the title of Mirza Nosha, and that is how he gets his first name “Mirza”.
Ghalib had a great command over several languages, such as Urdu, Turkish and Persian. He added a different flavour to Urdu poetry that combined pathos, philosophy and pain, and gave a new dimension to the most significant emotions in human beings -- love. He could skillfully hide the gender as well as the identity of the narrator of the poem and could lift up the idea of love or being loved, along with the anguish that lies in separation from the beloved. He was known to have expanded the horizon of ghazals which were elucidated by several Urdu poets. The complete English translated version of his ghazals, Love Sonnets of Ghalib, penned down by Sarfaraz Niaz, stands as the bible for new poets.
Ghalib was a notable letter writer and gave a new dimension to the ornamental Urdu writing with a colloquial, easy-to-read touch. His choice of words and the smooth flow of prose glued the reader to the letter and made it interesting to read on. His letters were so popular that some of them have been translated in English.
Films, TV Shows and stage plays
Several movies and TV serials have been made on this literary genius in both India and Pakistan. Not only that, various theatre groups all across the country have staged numerous plays related to his personal as well as professional life, depicting the several phases of the life led by Ghalib.
Ghalib died on 15 February 1869 in Delhi at his house known as Ghalib ki Haveli, which is now being converted into Ghalib Memorial meant for exhibition of his literary works.
Also on this day
1921 – Radha Krishna Choudhary, Indian historian and author, was born
1948 – Subhadra Kumari Chauhan Indian poet, died