Historic mushaira at Red Fort to mark 69th Republic Day | Hindustan Times
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Historic mushaira at Red Fort to mark 69th Republic Day

Several prominent poets such as Waseem Barelvi, Munawwar Rana, Manzar Bhopali, and famous Hindi writer Kunwar Bechain will recite their poetry at the event. It will also be broadcast live on the Facebook.

delhi Updated: Jan 11, 2018 11:28 IST
Parvez Sultan
This year, the number of participants has been restricted just to 31.
This year, the number of participants has been restricted just to 31. (HT FILE)

The stage is set for the annual Jashn-e-Jamhuriat (celebration of the Republic) mushaira at the Red Fort. The event, highly popular among not only the connoisseurs of Urdu literature but also the general masses, will be held on Thursday.

The mushaira has survived, and in fact flourished, despite a waning number of Urdu-knowing population, and the debate over the survival of the language and its literature in the post-Independence India, the organisers said.

It is one of the most sought after literary events in national capital, attended by 5,000-7,000 people each year.

“Even for the shayars (poets), attending the Lal Quila Mushaira was an honour. Some of them used to go to the extent of calling up people in the government to ensure their name was on the list of participating poets,” said Wajeeduddin Shehpar Rasool, vice-chairman, Urdu Academy.

This year, the number of participants has been restricted just to 31. Several prominent poets such as Waseem Barelvi, Munawwar Rana, Manzar Bhopali, and famous Hindi writer Kunwar Bechain will recite their poetry at the event. It will also be broadcast live on the Facebook.

“At one of point of time, more than 60 poets used to attend the annual poetry event. The mushaira would continue till the crack of dawn to accommodate the full list of poets. But, the patrons would also stay till it is over. Their enthusiasm matched that of the poets. Daad (appreciation) would continue coming until the event is over,” said Rasool.

Poetic symposia in Delhi

The Lal Quila Mushaira is one of the many in the poetic congregations which began during the Mughal rule in Delhi. It is believed that the Lal Quila Mushaira was started by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, himself a poet. It continued for 80 years till 1857 rebellion. Nashists (poetic gatherings) were held at mansions of nobles and the residence of eminent citizens in the Walled City but they were meant for a private audience.

Celebrated poets of the day such as Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq, Mirza Ghalib, Momin, Nawab Mustafa Khan Shefta, and Mufti Sadruddin Aazurda regularly attended these assemblies.

“Such programme was held at Master Ram Chander and Brij Mohan Dattatriey Kaifi, which had august presence like Syed Ahmed Khan, and Mamluk Ali,” said Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a heritage activist.

Revival of Lal Quila Mushaira

After the independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru revived the custom at the insistence of city’s Urdu lovers. It soon became a permanent feature of the Republic Day celebrations, said former Urdu Academy secretary Anees Azmi.

The first mushaira in free India was held on February 6,1950, at Diwan-e-Aam (hall of audience) of the Red Fort. Present on the occasion were finest Urdu poets such as Bekhud Dehlvi, Jigar Muradabdi, Majaz Luckhnawi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Josh Maleehabadi, Trilok Chand Mehroom, Raaz Dehlvi, and Jagan Nath Azad.

Initially, the defence ministry managed the event. The Sahitya Kala Parishad took over the charge in 1968.

Post-Independence, the event was not organised on three occasions — during the Emergency (1976-1977), following the Red Fort terror attack (2001), and in 2016 when the Centre refused to grant permission due to security concerns.

The venue was changed from the Red Fort complex to 15 August Park, outside the Lahore Gate of the fort, because of the same reason. For three years, it was held at Talkatora Stadium after the terror strike in 2001. “The first mushaira at Diwan-e-Aam, inside Lal Quila, had entry by tickets. The cost of a ticket was one anna. It included two glasses of water, safety of footgear, and sitting arrangement,” said Azmi.