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Urdu

Urdu is probably the most poetic of all languages. Urdu language is spoken by more than 28 million heads in India. It is written in the Perso-Arabic script. The word Urdu (court or camp) stems from the Persianized Turkish word (Ordu) which meant ‘the camp of a Turkish army’. North Indian Muslims with their own dialects moved to South and Central India and settled among the Marathas, Kannadigas and Telugus. These dialects formed the basis of a literary speech known as Dakhni or the ‘Southern Speech’, and was spoken in the Deccan. Later, north Indian Muslims, who came with Aurangzeb for his conquests down south and some Dakhni writers, saw the possibility of evolving a new language. This language would be based on the literary traditions of Dakhni and have the Persian script alongwith generous usage of Perso-Arabic words, idioms and theme ideas. Shamsuddin Waliullah a famous poet of the Dakhni actually started the North Indian Urdu. Other poets also joined in this new literary upsurge and came to Delhi subsequently. Delhi style of Urdu thus took birth. Court circles, Persian and Arabic scholars and especially the Muslims of Delhi adapted this language with great eagerness and by the end of the 18th century the Mughal house turned only to Urdu. For the first 60 years or so the influence of Dakhni poets, Sufi thinking and Indianness of diction prevailed over Urdu. The term Four Pillars of Urdu is attributed to the four early poets: Mirza Jan-i-Janan Mazhar (1699-1781) of Delhi, Mir Taqi (1720-1808) of Agra, Muhammad Rafi Sauda (1713-1780) and Mir Dard (1719-1785). During this time Lucknow became a rival centre for the patronage of Urdu literature and masters of Urdu poetry received patronage from the court of the Nawab. The most illustrious poets of the pre-modern period were Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq (1789-1854) of Delhi and Nazmuddaulah Dabiru-i-Mulk. However, Urdu literature can never be complete without the mention of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869). A Sufi mystic, Ghalib wrote both in Urdu and Persian and through his letters he brought in literary history and criticism. The humane feelings, Sufi sentiments, simplicity of his lines and the depth of his observations made Ghalib the greatest Urdu and Persian poet.

Modern Urdu literature covers the time from the last quarter of the 19th century till the present day and can be divided into two periods: the period of the Aligarh Movement started by Sir Sayyid Ahmad and the period influenced by Sir Muhammad Iqbal. However, Altaf Husain Panipati (1837-1914), known as Hali or ‘the Modern One’, is the actual innovator of the modern spirit in Urdu poetry. Hindu writers of Urdu were not far behind, and among the earliest writers was Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar (author of Fisana-e-Azad) and Brij Narain Chakbast (1882-1926). One of the most famous poets of modern Urdu is Sayyid Akbar Husain Razvi Ilahabadi (1846-1921) who had a flair for extempore composition of satiric and comic verses. After 1936, Urdu picked up a progressive attitude and leaned more towards the problems of life. Poetry, novels, short stories and essays were the avenues of the liberal expression. The main exponents of this new line of approach were the short story writers Muhammad Husain Askari, Miranji, Faiz Ahmad ‘Faiz’, Sardar Ali Jafari and Khwajah Ahmad Abbas. Munshi Premchand, the greatest novelist of Hindi, began writing in Urdu and later switched to Hindi.

Inspite of Urdu being considered a little tilted towards Islamic lines, there were some great Hindu writers who made Urdu their very own, like Krishan Chandar, Rajindar Singh Bedi and Kanhaiyalal Kapur. Unfortunately, the lyrical language of Urdu no longer enjoys the same position that it used to. However, Urdu is still encouraged in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad. Present day Hindi borrows a lot from Urdu – for grammar, diction and idiom.


Nine Unknown Men

Nine Unknown Men are a two millennia-old secret society founded by the Indian Emperor Asoka.