Urdu poetry or Shayari depicts creativity at its best. It is a beautiful, emotive form of writing that involves a lot of imagination and creativity laced with knowledge and command over Urdu language.
The writing finds its origin in the Arabic and Persian language. Shayari has been a medium to vent out the deepest of emotions be that of love, hatred, grief, joy or satire since ages. Urdu poetry has produced marvels that have rendered mystical and magical shayari to touch the profound emotions of human race.
Lucknow city, better known as “The city of Nawabs” has been the thriving ground for notable shayars since centuries. The soil of the city is known to have given stalwarts in the field of Urdu Shayari. The city still has shayars and will continue to produce more, who will continue to produce the beautiful concoction of words called shayari. The notable shayars of Lucknow are as follows:
Josh Malihabadi Sahab has been one of the most prominent and illustrious Urdu shayars in the history of Urdu Shayari. He was born on 5th of December, 1894, in a Muslim family of Afridi Pashtun in Malihabad. His real name was Shabbir Hasan Khan and he went to St. Peter’s College, Agra from where he passed his senior Cambridge Examination in the year 1914. He had spent six months at Tagore’s University at Shantiniketan and studied Arabic and Persian language. In fact, his family has a rich lineage of Urdu poetry with his great grandfather, grandfather and paternal uncle being Urdu poets of substance. He worked as a supervisor of translation in Osmania University, in the princely state of Hyderabad, but was banished from Hyderabad for writing a Nazm against the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Josh Malihabadi is also credited for bringing into existence a magazine named “Kaleem” (literally meaning “Interlocutor”), in which he wrote articles or the Independence of India from the British Raj. His writing “Hussain aur Inquilaab” (Hussain and Revolution) won him the title of “Shaair-e- Inquilaab” (Poet of the Revolution). The first assortment of his Urdu poetry was published in 1921 and includes his marvels such as “Shola-o-Shabnam”, “Junoon-o-Hikmat”, “Fikr-o-Nishaat”, “Sarod-o Kharosh”, and his autobiography “Yaadon Ki Baraat” among his other works. He also wrote songs for Shalimar Pictures. He was honoured with Padmabhushan in 1954. Josh Malihabadi Sahab migrated to Pakistan in 1958 and breathed his last on February 22, 1982.
Another eminent Urdu poet from Lucknow is Safi Lakhnawi, who was known for his simple and beautiful style of Urdu shayari. He was born on 2nd of January, 1862, in Lucknow. He received education at Canning Collegiate, Lucknow. After completing his education, he worked in the Revenue Department of the Government. He was into writing verses, from a very early age of 13. Safi Lakhnawi Sahab is known to have penned Urdu poetry without any guidance of an Ustaad (Teacher). The writing style of Safi LakhnawiSahab was distinct and had a reformist touch to it. People could easily identify and relate to his Urdu poetries which were woven intricately and beautifully. He was called as “Lassan-ul Qaum” (meaning “Exceptional Spokesperson of the people) in honour. Some of his writing marvels include “Aagosh-i-Madar”, “Tanzim-ul-Hayat”, and “Diwan-i-Safi”. His creative Urdu poetries form a part of the curriculum for Graduate and Post graduate Urdu Programmes.
Ameer Minai, another great poet from Lucknow, has been a source of inspiration for the admirers of Urdu poetry. Born in 1828, his full name was Ameer Ahmad Minai. Urdu Shayar, Ameer Sahab received education at Farangi Mahal, and achieved a high pedestal in Islamic Law. He also studied mathematics, medicine, law, geography, history, religion, philosophy, and logic. His poetry was in Urdu and Persian, and he was a person of diverse talent. He was a writer, a lexicographer, scholar, Sufi, translator, editor and an expert in languages.
Ameer Minai Sahab wrote around 50 books in Urdu and Persian, all of which could not be published. He was also known for his ghazals and Naat, which he used also as a medium to promote Urdu language. He got two sets of his ghazals published by the name “Mirát-ul Ghaeb” and later “Sanamkhana-e Íshq.
The noted Urdu poet was close to the other veterans and jewels of Urdu poetry, Ghalib and Daagh Dehalvi. He also nurtured and mentored Urdu poetry and poets such as Dil Shahjahanpuri, Muztar Khairabadi and Jalil Manakpuri. Ameer Sahab is also credited for being the founder and leader of the impressive project to produce multi-volume Urdu dictionary by the name “Ameer-ul-Lughaat”. However, the project witnessed a setback due to his demise in October, 1900, in Hyderabad. His work is admired by the lovers of Urdu poetry.
Mirza Hadi Ruswa
Mirza Hadi Ruswa was born in Lucknow in 1857. He was an Urdu poet and a writer of plays and fiction work. His first novel “Umrao Jaan Ada” was published in 1905 and was made into a movie “Umrao Jaan” starring Rekha in 1972 and was again brought on the celluloid in 2006 as “Umrao Jaan”, starring Aishwarya Rai. Mirza Hadi Ruswa Sahab is believed to have got assistance from the well-known Urdu Poet Mirza Salamat Ali Dabeer. Another acclaimed work of the writer is the novel “Akhtari Begum”.
Mohsin Kakorvi Sahab is another notable shayar from Lucknow whose creative work has won praise and admiration from across the world. He was into writing the Naat genre of poetry. He gave refuge to the renowned Urdu poet, Ameer Minai, when the latter was compelled to flee from Lucknow with his family, due to British atrocity in 1856-57.
Anwar Nadeem Sahab is another famous Urdu poet from Lucknow. He is an acclaimed writer, satirist, humourist, critic, dramatist, journalist, short story writer, screenplay writer and film and theatre actor. He is one of the popular faces on the Urdu poetry on the literary circuit of Lucknow city. He has won the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy Award, Bihar Urdu Academy Award, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad Memorial Committee Award among others. He has his writings published in some of the prominent journals namely, Shair, Insha, Imkan and Laraib among others. He has written more than 13 books and has his poems translated into English and published in Sahitya Academy’s bi-monthly journal and in Azad Academy Journal as well. He has also acted in the movie “Umrao Jaan”, directed by J.P Dutta, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. He played the role of Mirza Hadi Ruswa, and had been portrayed as both the author of the story based on the beautiful courtesan, as well as the narrator, in the movie.
There are many other notable shayars, who though, were not born in Lucknow, but spent their lives here for the love of Urdu poetry. These included Mirza Dabeer Ali, Mirza Babar Ali Anis, Mir Taqi Mir, Majaz Lacknawi, Mohsin Zaidi, Brij Narayan Chakbast among others. They lived in Lucknow, making the history of the city richer by their presence and their literary works.
Lucknow city is still known for its language, diction, tehzeeb and culture. Urdu Poetry has landed the city of Nawabs a place on the world map of creative literary works. The rich lineage of the city in Urdu Shayari needs to be renewed and promoted. The legacy must continue and the responsibility lies on us, heritage lover or not really a heritage lover, shauqeen or not really a shauqeen, Lakhnawi or not really a Lakhnawi.