Published on 17 Oct 2010 | over 7 years ago
'Dabeer-ul-Mulk, Najm-ud-daulah Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan (Urdu/Persian: مرزا اسد اللہ بیگ خان ), pen-name Ghalib (Urdu/Persian: غالب, ġhālib means dominant) and (former pen-name) Asad (Urdu/Persian: اسد, asad means lion) (27 December 1797 — 15 February 1869), was a classical Urdu and Persian poet from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule. During his lifetime the Mughals were eclipsed and displaced by the British and finally deposed following the defeat of the Indian rebellion of 1857, events that he wrote of. Most notably, he wrote several ghazals during his life, which have since been interpreted and sung in many different ways by different people. He is considered, in South Asia, to be the one of the most popular and influential poets of the Urdu language. Ghalib today remains popular amongst Urdu speakers not only in India and Pakistan but also amongst diaspora communities around the world
Mirza was born in Kala Mahal in Agra. In the end of 18th century, his birthplace was converted into Indrabhan Girls' Inter College. The birth room of Mirza Ghalib is preserved within in the school. Around 1810, he was married to Umrao Begum, daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh Khan of Loharu (younger brother of the first Nawab of Loharu, Nawab Mirza Ahmad Baksh Khan, at the age of thirteen. He had seven children, none of whom survived (this pain has found its echo in some of Ghalib's ghazals). There are conflicting reports regarding his relationship with his wife. She was considered to be pious, conservative and God-fearing.
Ghalib was proud of his reputation as a rake. He was once imprisoned for gambling and subsequently relished the affair with pride. Once, when someone praised the poetry of the pious Sheikh Sahbai in his presence, Ghalib immediately retorted, "How can Sahbai be a poet? He has never tasted wine, nor has he ever gambled; he has not been beaten with slippers by lovers, nor has he ever seen the inside of a jail." In the Mughal court circles, he even acquired a reputation as a "ladies' man".
He died in Delhi on February 15, 1869. The house where he lived in Gali Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk, in Old Delhi has now been turned into 'Ghalib Memorial' and houses a permanent Ghalib exhibition.
Ghalib was a very liberal mystic who believed that the search for god within liberated the seeker from the narrowly Orthodox Islam, encouraging the devotee to look beyond the letter of the law to its narrow essence. His Sufi views and mysticism is greatly reelected in his poems and ghazals. As he once stated:
" The object of my worship lies beyond perception's reach;
For men who see, the Ka'aba is a compass, nothing more."
Like many other Urdu poets, Ghalib was capable of writing profoundly religious poetry, yet was skeptical about the literalist interpretation of the Islamic scriptures. On the Islamic view and claims of paradise, he once wrote in a letter to a friend:
"In paradise it is true that i shall drink at dawn the pure wine mentioned in the Qu'ran, but where in paradise are the long walks with intoxicated friends in the night, or the drunken crowds shouting merrily? Where shall i find there the intoxication of Monsoon clouds? Where there is no autumn, how can spring exist? If the beautiful houris are always there, where will be the sadness of separation and the joy of union? Where shall we find there a girl who flees away when we would kiss her?".
He staunchly disdained the Orthodox Muslim Sheikhs of the Ulema, who in his poems always represent narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy:
"The Sheikh hovers by the tavern door,
but believe me, Ghalib,
I am sure i saw him slip in
As i departed.
He believed that if God laid within and could be reached less by ritual than by love, then he was as accessible to Hindus as to Muslims. As a testament to this, he would later playfully write in a letter that during a trip to Benares, he was half tempted to settle down there for good and that he wished he had renounced Islam, put a Hindu sectarian mark on his forehead, tied a sectarian thread around his waist and seated himself on the banks of the Ganges so that he could wash the contamination of his existence away from himself and like a drop be one with the river.
Contemporaries and disciples
Ghalib's closest rival was poet Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them. However, there was mutual respect for each other's talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of Meer Taqi Meer, a towering figure of 18th century Urdu Poetry. Another poet Momin, whose ghazals had a distinctly lyrical flavour, was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib. Ghalib was not only a poet, he was also a prolific prose writer.