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Philosophy in Urdu poetry

There is a misconception that Urdu poetry is all about women and wine. In fact, many Muslim Urdu poets are exponents of ancient Indian philosophy.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 12:09 IST

There is a misconception that Urdu poetry is all about gul-o-bulbul, shama-parwana, women and wine.

In fact, many Muslim Urdu poets are exponents of ancient Indian philosophy. You have only to go deep into their verse and evaluate it. Ghalib says, for example, Asale shahood-o-shaido mashood ek hain/Haran hoon phir mushaida kis hasabe mein (You and He whom you are searching for are in fact the same person. I wonder what this search is going on for). This is the Vedantic concept Aham tvam asmi (I and You are the same).

Iqbal uses the first line of this verse as such and then asks Ghalib ka qaul such hai toh phir zikr-e-ghair kyoon? (If what Ghalib says is true then who is ‘mine’ and who is not?). Again, Ghalib says, Ishrat-eqatra hai darya mein fana ho jana (A restless drop of water gets solace only when it condenses into the river). Ancient Indian philosophy has it that a person gets solace only when he becomes one with Brahm  (the Supreme).

Iqbal believes in the continuity of life. In his poem Kinar-eRavi, he says that the surface of the waters of the Ravi is never without a boat. If one boat disappears from sight in one direction, another one appears from another side. It is the same with the caravan of life. In his long poem in memory of his dead mother, Iqbal comes nearer to the idea of awagaman (rebirth).

He says, Maut is gulshan mein juz sanjeedan-par kuchh nahin (Death is just like a bird sitting on the branch of a tree to shuffle and rest its wings so that it can fly away again). His imagery of the bird is akin to the concept of Atman (soul). In his poem Naya Shivala (A New Temple), Iqbal says, Shakti bhi, shanti bhi, bhagton ke geet mein hai (Both power and solace abide in the songs of devotees). In the Vishnu Puran, God tells Narada that he lives neither in Baikunth nor in the minds of yogis, but where devotees sing of Him!