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taKhayyul and taGhazzul :The Soul of Urdu Poetry By Irfan Abid
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taKhayyul and taGhazzul :The Soul of Urdu Poetry By Irfan Abid - 25th January 2013, 04:26 PM

Dosto janaab Irfan Abid saahab ka ek article post kar raha huuN is ummiid ke saath ke hum sab ke bohat kaam aayega :

The topic being discussed in this article is not new. However, I wanted to write something on it to relive the enjoyment I have had by reading some of my favorite Urdu poetry. In this process, if some of the readers’ knowledge and understanding of Urdu poetry get enriched, it will be a bonus for me.

‘taKhayyul’ means imagination. It is considered an important element of Urdu poetry, and of poetry in any language for that matter. A poet with extraordinary imagination can think of things that may never be conceived by an ordinary human being. ‘taGhazzul’, on the other hand, means poetic touch. A poet with such a touch can turn an ordinary thought or observation into a masterpiece of art. Such a poet has an outstanding control on language and a vast repertoire of words and idioms. A truly great poet is one who has both of these qualities. I will try to illustrate the concept by giving a few examples. Please note that the examples being cited are not a collective representation of the works of the poets included and definitely not of Urdu poetry in general.

Let us first look at some ash.aar that may not be illustrious for their literal construction, yet leave a lasting impression simply due to the uniqueness of thought behind them, that is the ash.aar with a high degree of ‘taKhayyul’.

aadam kaa jism jab ki anaasir se mil banaa
kuchh aag bach rahii thii so aashiq kaa dil banaa
- (Sauda)

Look at this sher and read it once, if you have not done it already. What makes it click? Certainly not its construction! The language is simple and there is no wizardry of words. But look at the thought! Sauda says that when God had finished making the body of aadam (man) with various elements, He found that there was some fire left. He used it to create the heart of a lover (the thing that is always burning). What a sher!

chalaa jaataa huuN hanstaa kheltaa mauj-e-havaadis se
agar aasaaniyaaN hoN, zindagii dushvaar ho jaaye
- (Asghar Gondvi)

This is another example of a shaair thinking in a totally unconventional direction. Usually, troubles (mauj-e-havaadis) are something that people like to avoid. However, Asghar Gondvi thinks that it is these troubles that keep you busy and going. But for these, it would be very difficult to live. What an idea!

mire TuuTe hue paa-e-talab kaa mujh pe ahsaaN hai
tumhaare dar se uTh kar ab kahiiN jaayaa nahiiN jaataa
- (Makhmoor Dehlvi)

Would you like to have your feet disabled? Perhaps not. But Makhmoor Dehlvi sees a benefit even in broken feet. According to him, they make him immovable and he can’t go anywhere from the doorstep of his beloved. What else would a lover want!

Now let us look at some ash.aar that are remarkable for their ‘taGhazzul’, that is ash.aar that may not have a unique thought behind them, but have a way of presentation that sets them apart from the ordinary.

baiThne kaun de hai phir us ko
jo tire aastaaN se uThtaa hai
- (Mir)

Mir is considered king of Ghazals. You can find thousands of examples of ideal ‘taGhazzul’ in his poetry. I picked this one at random. A lover is always in the evil eyes of the world and is never allowed to live in peace. There is nothing unusual about this fact, but the way Mir has composed it made it the treat to the eye and mind that this sher is.

na gayii tere Gham kii sardaarii
dil meN yuuN roz inqilaab aaye
- (Faiz)

The heart of a lover is mostly occupied by sorrow. This is a well known fact and an age old subject of poetry. But what a way to say it! Please note the use of the word ‘sardaarii’ which means supremacy. Faiz says that although there were many revolutions/changes in the (state of) heart, the sorrow of (separation from) the beloved always reigned supreme. For those who have not read much of Faiz, let me mention that ‘inqilaab’ was one of his favorite subjects. He used it so beautifully here to depict the state of a lover’s heart.

kyaa kahuuN deeda-e-tar! ye to miraa chahraa hai
sang kaT jaate haiN baarish kii jahaaN dhaar gire
- (Shakeb Jalali)

Crying leaves marks on the face. Is there anything unusual about it? Can you create a memorable sher on this subject? Well, Shakeb Jalali can. The way he uses the erosion of a stone under repeated spells of rain to depict the marks left behind on the face by continuous crying is marvelous. In other words, the poet has used the so called ‘tashbiih’, a popular and effective tool of poetry to create ‘taGhazzul’ here.

Finally, here are some examples of ash.aar that are rich in both ‘taKhayyul’ and ‘taGhazzul’.

Gham-e-hastii kaa ‘Asad’ kis se ho juz marg ilaaj
sham.a har rang meN jaltii hai sahar hone tak
- (Ghalib)

You can write books in explaining and praising this gem from the master poet that Ghalib was. However, I will restrict myself to a few lines only. Let us take the aspect of ‘taKhayyul’ first. Sham.a has always been seen as the unkind and ruthless killer of the parvaanaa or as the centerpiece of attraction in a mahfil full of husn and nuur. It takes the imagination of Ghalib to see the other side of this picture. He notices the utter darkness she has to face, the ever depleting oil/wax, the very source of her life that she is always worried about and above all, the pain of constantly burning herself. Now see the ‘taGhazzul’. Ghalib’s mastery over the language and presentation is visible all over the sher. He says that life is a pain that can only be cured by death. This is same as the fact that sham.a has to survive all of her pains and keep burning until dawn when somebody comes and puts her out, relieving her of the horrors of a torturous existence. By the way, the radeef of the sher, ‘hone tak’, is so haunting! It makes the sher even more poignant.

sadqe utreNge, aseeraan-e-qafas chhuuTe haiN
bijliyaaN le ke nasheman pe ghaTaa bhii aayii
- (Fani)

This one is typical Fani fare. He is known for the uniqueness of his thoughts as well as his exceptionally fluent and highly acclaimed literal constructs. Here, he is talking about the birds being released from the cage. This being a matter of joy, some sadqah (offering) is in the offing. For those who don’t know what sadqah is, it is the practice of sacrificing some of the things dear to you in order to ensure your welfare and happiness. Sadqah may be done by giving money to the poor or sacrificing an animal. In this particular sher, none other than the menacing clouds with lightening have gathered to complete the ritual of sadqah, which ironically may mean burning the nests of the poor birds or even their death. Now after you think about the paradox and the way it is used to depict a hopeless situation, will you do anything but admire Fani?

miTaa de apnii hastii ko agar kuchh martabaa chaahe
ki daanaa Khaak meN mil kar gul-e-gulzaar hotaa hai
- (Iqbal)

Iqbal’s intellect was unparalleled. His thoughts were very intense and his choice of words to mould these thoughts was excellent. This sher is just one example of many splendid ash.aar that he gave us. Here he challenges the reader to (be prepared to) loose everything (even his life) if he wants to attain a position of honor. He cites the example of a seed that has to fade into dirt in order to turn into a flowering tree.

As I said earlier, the ash.aar presented here are just a few drops from the vast ocean of Urdu shaairii. Hope this article provided interesting reading and prompted you to look for that unique sher when you read shaairii next time.

Irfan Abid


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