28th August 1896: Renowned Contemporary Urdu Poet Firaq Gorakhpuri is Born


On 28th August 1896, noted contemporary Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.


Firaq Gorakhpuri was the pen name of Raghupati Sahay, who apart from being a prolific poet was also a writer and critic. Till today, Gorakhpuri remains one of the most well known and significant Urdu poets in India. Gorakhpuri wove magic with his pen and earned a name for himself among his peers, such as Josh Malihabadi, Yagana Changezi, Muhammad Iqbal and Jigar Moradabadi.


Firaq Gorakhpuri was born in a Hindu family in Gorakhpur in 1896. Born into an aristocratic family, Gorakhpuri was drawn towards Urdu from a young age and began writing Urdu poetry when he was still a teenager. Gorakhpuri studied at the Lucknow Christian Degree College and went on to earn himself a master’s degree in Urdu, Persian and English literature. He was later selected for the Provincial Civil Service (PCS) and the Indian Civil Service (ICS), but he chose to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement instead, due to which he was later jailed as well.


At the age of eighteen, Firaq Gorakhpuri was married to Kishori Devi, but theirs was an unhappy marriage and there was always a lot of friction between the husband and wife.


Gorakhpuri joined the University of Allahabad as a lecturer of English Literature, which is also when he began writing most of his Urdu poetry, including his most famous work Gul-e-Naghma, for which he received the highest literary award of India, the Jnanpith Award in 1969 (This was the first Jnanpith Award for Urdu Literature). Eventually, he took on the pen name (as was common among writers back then) of Firaq Gorakhpuri. Firaq Gorakhpuri was also a Research Professor at the University Grants Commission and was also Producer Emeritus in All India Radio.


Firaq is remembered for promoting secularism throughout his life and spoke up against the Government when it tried to label Urdu as a Muslim language. He also worked towards allocating funds to develop Urdu as a language. Gorakhpuri was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for his tireless work towards promoting secularism, communal harmony and literature.


Firaq Gorakhpuri’s poetry is heavily influenced by Urdu poets such as Mir and Momin and also the romanticism of English poetry. Hindi and Sanskrit literature also had a great influence on Gorakhpuri, which is why his writing is so rich and unique.


Gorakhpuri was also known for his open depiction of the female body and his generous use of sensuality in his poetry. But despite that, Gorakhpuri’s poetry was never vulgar or demeaning and maintained its dignity. Gorakhpuri wrote from the point of view of a lover and compared a beautiful woman to the beauty of nature. Gorakhpuri was known for how he blended Hindi into his Urdu poetry so that it could be understood by everyone.


Throughout his career which spread over five decades, Gorakhpuri wrote hundreds of beautiful and soulful Urdu poems, including Urdu, Hindi and English proses as well.


This versatile poet and writer passed away on 3rd March 1982 in New Delhi, following a prolonged illness. He was 85 at the time.


Throughout his life Gorakhpuri was honoured with many awards, such as; Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu (1960), Padma Bhushan (1968), Soviet Land Nehru Award (1968), Jnanpith Award (1969), Sahitya Akademi Fellowship (1970) and the Ghalib Akademi Award (1981).


Also on This Day:


1904: The first car rally was held from Kolkata to Barrackpore.

1986: Bhagyashree Sathe was the first woman to earn a Grand Master norm in Chess.

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