स्वागत خوش آمدید Welcome
This is an attempt to make Urdu literature, particularly Urdu poetry available to a wider range of audience, including those who cannot read Urdu script, may not be completely familiar with classical Urdu and need some help with background and classical metaphors and nuances.
Urdu poetry is very powerful not only because of its rich metaphors and musicality but also because of its content. The popular concept of Ghazal as it is sometimes sung in a performance can be crudely characterized as … “pila saaqiya, naach dilruba” … and is an insult to Urdu poetry.
This site offers an exposure to the richness of content which tries to answer this insult. It started as my personal attempt to learn urdu. Although it is my native language, I never learnt it formally. After retirement I began a serious attempt to learn and made ‘notes’ as I learnt from my ustad, moazzam siddiqi. These notes eventually took a slightly formal shape of this website.
There is a whole generation of native Urdu speakers who cannot read or write and have a limited vocabulary. I have also discovered that there is an even greater population of non-native Urdu speakers who greatly appreciate Urdu poetry, nod their heads in approval even when they understand only a part of what they hear, enjoy its musicality and power of expression. How much better it would be if they had access to more of Urdu poetry!
I daresay that even Urdu speakers and those somewhat familiar with the language will benefit from a discussion of the fine points of metaphor and subtlety, although I am NOT an expert is such discussion. More of that in “Who”.
This site also recognizes that oral rendition is an extremely important part of Urdu poetry and includes a recitation and oral discussion.
Finally there are several very good Urdu websites. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Prof. Frances Pritchett whose website http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ghalib/index.html inspired me to do UrduShahkar. I also strongly recommend www.rekhta.org. UrduShahkar site, though not scholarly like Frances Pritchett’s (not even in the same league), serves a purpose. It combines several valuable features that others don’t have … multiple scripts, word meaning, explanation and commentary and a sensitivity to two groups (a) those who do not claim Urdu to be their native language and (b) those who do, but who, like me, never received formal education in Urdu. But the site also attempts to retain the interest of those familiar with Urdu.
The selections on this site are mostly progressive or classical. There are a few exceptions to illustrate different (more conservative) points of view. The manager of this site is unabashedly biased (progressive) and the discussion of the reactionary/conservative compositions clearly reflects that bias.
The selections are grouped into and the following pages that are cross linked as appropriate. There is no rigour (I daresay that there cannot be) in the classifications. The following is a brief description of what you will get.
This grouping contains short to medium nazms and Ghazals, mostly progressive. Where more conservative pieces are selected, they are used (interpreted) with a strong progressive bias. There is a fair balance of light-hearted musical and romantic compositions as well as thought provoking compositions. I have made no attempt at withholding my bias. sahir, faiz, fahmida riaz, maKhdoom, jazbi, josh and many more … and the list will keep growing. Click on “Poet Index” to get a picture gallery of poets. Click on any poet to get the nazm/Ghazal of that poet posted on this site. Finally, click on any poem of choice.
There is an audio icon at the top and in some cases a musical rendering might also be available. urdu, hindi and English scripts are given in their respective tabs. In addition word meanings and notes are given in the “Notes” tab. If you click on any passage, meanings and discussion corresponding to that passage pop-up in a window. If you prefer an uninterrupted reading of the nazm/Ghazal in Roman script, you can get that without making the window pop-up. On the other hand, the “Notes” tab allows you to scroll down and see original text and meaning and discussion one below the other.
This is an attempt, by necessity arbitrary, to cross reference all entries into subjects e.g. labour movement under “mazdoor”, feminist themes under “aurat”, reflection of the dynamism of life etc. Any help in creating more cross-connection will be very helpful and I welcome your suggestions.
urdu has a painful history and an uncertain future in India. It grew organically in the north central regions of India. In early stages of development urdu (many times called reKhta, hindi, hindvi, hindustani) and hindi were the same language with two scripts. It was much later that communal tendencies created a divide and gave it a religious tinge. In learning urdu I found that there is a rich vein of poetry by non-Muslims, some of it going as far back as 1700 CE in the dakkan and to shahjahaaN’s court about 1600 CE to the very beginning of urdu as a language. I felt it necessary to highlight the contributions of non-Muslim urdu poets. They appear both in the main Poet Index and the Non-Muslim Poet Index and are cross linked.
“deen-e insaaniyat” is a collection of ‘quasi-religious’ poetry with a twist. It is a small portion of the purely devotional, effusive praise of miraculous powers or the emotional and prayerful supplication for relief, with a larger portion where the poet uses events or personalities in folk legend/history to make a point about univeral human values such as resistance to injustice, equality for all and acceptance of other faiths. In all cases the language and composition are exquisite.
This is also quasi-religious poetry with a different twist. It is cross religious. It is muslim poets writing paens to krishn, raam, Jesus or nanak and hindu and sikhs writing in praise of mohammed, ali and husain. There is a surprisingly high volume of such poetry and represents a different level of acceptance of other faiths.
A pleasureable experience is to have someone quote relevant “asha’ar” during conversation. This stream contains “popular and quotable” asha’ar that you may memorise and use. The selection is necessarily subjective. It requires wide reading to be able to pick and choose from the vast range available. Your contributions will be particularly valuable. Readers have found this “short attention span” reading of enjoyable bits of poetry to be valuable.
This is a small beginning and may take some time to populate. I am trying to produce videos of my own verse and that of other poets. At this time the primary purpose is to reach a wider audience through youtube and offer them the option of visiting the site.
Article and Books
This is also a beginning and will take time to populate. Articles that I have written for publication in other media as well as articles exclusively for urdushahkar are/will be posted here. The word “Books” is largely aspirational.
You have the option of offering comments on any individual post or on the whole site. If you scroll down, you see a form/section in which you can write your comments. These will come to me first and I accept them to make them a part of the site.
I (SM Shahed) am managing the web site but the real spirit behind the work is (1) the beauty of Urdu (2) the power of shu’araa (poets) and (3) the knowledge and wisdom of Moazzam Siddiqi (freely and generously shared with me).
I have received no formal education in Urdu. I do not recall how/when I learnt to read and write it. Moazzam has been very generous in holding my hand all the way. Even so, there are likely to be many mistakes. Besides, given my engineering background, the translation is purely “utilitarian” and far from “refined literary”. The idea is to convey the meaning or multiple meanings and let the reader return to the beauty of the original. Never-the-less, I have sought help in refining some of the translations. Badri Raina has done a lot of work on translations in spite of failing eyes and continues to help and encourage. I have also sought and received help from Syeda Imam in marking up my mundane translations and making them a tad better. Lately, my wife, Asha has worked hard at transcribing and re-formatting much of the material that I am posting. Her project too started as a way to teach herself Urdu.
Given all the shortcomings, what gives me the audacity to undertake this project?
گر تے ہیں شہسوار ہی مید ا نِ جنگ میں
وہ طفل کیا گریگا جو گھٹنوں کے بل چلے
गिरते हैं शहसवार ही मैदान-ए-जंग में
वो तिफ़्ल क्या गिरेगागा जो घुटनों के बल चले
girte hain shahsawar hi maidan-e-jung meN
vo tifl kya giregaga jo ghuTnoN ke bal chale
Only horsemen fall in the field of battle
How can an infant who crawls on its knees fall
All criticism/comments/suggestion is most welcome and I will use it to improve the blog. Thanks. In truth I started writing this because it was the most effective way to teach myself Urdu (with Moazzam’s generous help). I found it so rewarding that I thought other people in my situation would benefit from it and enjoy it. Hence this blog.
There are multiple ways to navigate through the site. The thin black bar at the top offer a navigation index.
Click on Poet Index to get a gallery of photographs of poets. Click on the photograph of the poet you want to read and you get a list of nazm/Ghazal of that poet. Click on the selected nazm/Ghazal and you get to the content of that nazm/Ghazal.
Each Post (of content) has multiple tabs Urdu-Hindi-English-Notes. In some cases it might have more (self-explanatory)
The Urdu and Hindi tabs contain the text/content in fonts that are close to Nafees Nastaliq and Mangal. The English tab has the text/content in Roman script and selected words in passages/stanzas have superscript numbers. These numbers correspond to meanings of those words. Meanings pop up in a window when you click on the passage/stanza. Meanings are contextual e.g. “aab” ordinarily means “water” but it is also used to mean “brilliance/shine” or “sharpness”. The pop-up window also has a discussion/prose translation and comments calling attention to metaphors and subtleties as well as to background information. Clicking again makes the window disappear. The “Notes” tab has the same content as the “English” tab except the whole thing is displayed without the need for pop-up windows. This also means that the reading of the original text is interrupted by meanings/discussion.
This page offers the same functionality as the Poet Index, except it highlights the contributions of non-muslim poets. You click on the picture of the poet and it takes you to a list of nazm/Ghazal of that poet.
If you click on this index item it takes you to a page showing icons of various entries that quasi-religious but where the religious content is used to deliver a larger humanist message.
Click on this index item to get to icons showing cross religious compositions – muslims, hindus, christians and sikhs writing about other religious figures. Their compositions are collected under self-explanatory themes such as krishn bhakti or ishq-e ali
Clicking on this index item takes you to quotable ash’aar thematically grouped.
You can also navigate using the
There is a magnifying glass icon on the top right hand side of a page/post. Clicking on it gives you a box into which search criteria can be entered. You can enter a poet’s name, a snippet of a she’r or key words to search for what you are looking for. You can also enter your search criteria in Hindi or Urdu fonts if you have the ability to reproduce the fonts used on this website. There is a potential problem with search based on Roman script. There is no standard for transliteration and the one that I have used is arbitrary. So you may have to try several variations of spelling in transliteration. Thus the Urdu word for “far” is “door” but because it ends up being a common English word, I transliterate it as “duur” to help with pronunciation. Transliteration is heavily influenced by pronunciation. Thus the same word may be transliterated differently in different places depending on the pronunciation called for. So search function has to be used with some caution and your suggestions can help improve it.
I am including this brief note on the convention that I have followed because there is no standard convention and mine might be a little disconcerting.
Urdu script that I have used is Nafees Nastaliq and it does not work well in Explorer. I strongly recommend using Google Chrome for this site. I am somewhat limited in what I can do with the Hindi script. The transliteration routine that I use does not always give me exactly what I want. Particularly the gutteral “Gh” and “q” and the “Khai” are not always easy to get.
In transliterating into English, I have tried to use the following guidelines (not always consistently).
(1) No capitalization at the beginning of verse lines, because there are no capitals in Urdu and because I am using capitals in the middle of words and sentences for gutteral or nasal sounds.
(2) the same convention is carried to transliterating names … no capitalization. Names are capitalized when they appear in the context of English TRANSLATION but not in TRANSLITERATION. Thus “maKhdoom” also appears as “Makhdoom” depending on the context.
(3) Examples of transliteration are …
I have tried to use the apostrophe “ ‘ “ for “ ع “ but very awkwardly. The reader will have to use context in many places to get to it. A couple of frequent words are noteworthy … “shaa’er” for poet, and “sh’er” for couplet. I know that I have not been consistent and will be happy to take corrections. Some of the “convention”, I adopted after I had already much of the writing e.g. R for ڑ . I will go back and make corrections. Your help in locating errors will be greatly appreciated. Hopefully you will be able to read intuitively and spot the errors. Thanks.
The site and scripts don’t work well with Internet Explorer or with Microsoft Edge. It appears that Safari too has problems on mobile devices. Things work much better with Google Chrome.
The search function has to be used with many alternative spellings for transliteration such as sahr, sahar, sehar, seher etc. Your continuous suggestions on how to make this more standard will be helpful.
There are still several glitches with the site. The “text box” which contains the main content sometimes simply expands and covers up the side bar which can be used to convenient navigation. We are working on solving the problem but if it occurs for you, please do take a screen shot and let me know. Please let me know even you don’t take a screen shot.
There are many spelling mistakes in Urdu and Hindi. I would appreciate it if you can point them out and let me know.
There are inconsistencies in transliteration. Please help me make them more consistent even if there is no standard method … at least consistent within this website.
Please suggest content in terms of your favourite nazm/Ghazal.
If there are pronunciation problems in the audio, please let me know.
Any suggestions on improving the aesthetics, readability and functionality.
Any suggestions on how to increase the readership … if you want your friends to be added to the distribution list, let me know.
I would welcome any and all feedback including (1) correcting mistakes (2) adding your favourite suggestions (3) improving the interpretation (4) improving the translation (5) adding word meanings.
My contact information … firstname.lastname@example.org
I would eventually like to convert this into a cooperative effort. I am getting on in years (70+ but still running marathons) and it will be good if a group of “irfaaN” can take over the administration of the site. I invite the “a’arifeen” among you to please step up and let me know if you can join this cooperative effort.
Also, please help circulate this especially to the generation like me who received education in English and was formally taught Hindi and Telugu but not Urdu.