Mirza Ghalib 223rd birth anniversary: 20 couplets by the Mughal era Urdu poet that capture the pathos of love

Hindustan Times, Delhi | ByZarafshan Shiraz
Dec 27, 2020 12:12 PM IST

Mirza Ghalib 223rd birth anniversary: Remembering the legendary Urdu poet and the epitome of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb with these 20 couplets that are sure to add all the missing romance to your love life and are also the best life coach

Occupying a place of pride in the world of literature, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, who wrote under the pen name ‘Ghalib’ is one of the most quotable Urdu poets whose sher or couplets relate with almost all situations of life. Born on December 27, 1797 in Agra’s Kala Mahal, Ghalib belonged to a family descending from Aibak Turks who moved to Samarkand (modern-day Uzbekistan) after the downfall of Seljuk kings.

Mirza Ghalib 223rd birth anniversary: 20 couplets by the Mughal era Urdu poet that capture the pathos of love
Mirza Ghalib 223rd birth anniversary: 20 couplets by the Mughal era Urdu poet that capture the pathos of love

He came to Delhi as a married 13-year-old boy and left behind a treasure of quotes that will long be memorised, narrated and cherished generations after generations. During the last years of the Mughal Empire, Ghalib was a prominent Urdu and Persian poet who was appointed as the poet tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II and of Prince Fakhr-ud Din Mirza, eldest son of Bahadur Shah II.

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Despite being made an important courtier of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II, Ghalib had proclaimed that he would gain fame only after his death and rightly so. The fame and glory that evaded him during his lifetime has now turned his poems and writings immortal as they act as the best life coach.

On Mirza Ghalib’s 223rd birth anniversary, here’s remembering the legendary Urdu poet and the epitome of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb with these 20 couplets that capture the pathos of love or are highly popular for holding relevance even today:

1. Ishq ne ‘ġhālib’ nikammā kar diyā

varna ham bhī aadmī the kaam ke

Translation: Ghalib, a worthless person, this love has made of me

Otherwise a man of substance I once used to be

2. Mohabbat meñ nahīñ hai farq jiine aur marne kā

usī ko dekh kar jiite haiñ jis kāfir pe dam nikle

Translation: In love there is no difference ‘tween life and death do know

The very one for whom I die, life too does bestow

3. Hazāroñ ḳhvāhisheñ aisī ki har ḳhvāhish pe dam nikle

bahut nikle mire armān lekin phir bhī kam nikle

Translation: I have a thousand yearnings, each one afflicts me so

Many were fulfilled for sure, not enough although

4. Ye na thī hamārī qismat ki visāl-e-yār hotā

agar aur jiite rahte yahī intizār hotā

Translation: That my love be consummated, fate did not ordain

Living longer had I waited, would have been in vain

5. Ishq par zor nahīñ hai ye vo ātish ‘ġhālib’

ki lagā.e na lage aur bujhā.e na bane

Translation: Love is not in one’s control, this is that fire roused

It cannot be willed to ignite, nor can it be doused

6. Na thā kuchh to ḳhudā thā kuchh na hotā to ḳhudā hotā

Duboyā mujh ko hone ne na hotā maiñ to kyā hotā

Translation: In nothingness God was there, if naught he would persist

Existence has sunk me, what loss, if I did’nt exist

7. Dil hī to hai na sañg-o-ḳhisht dard se bhar na aa.e kyuuñ

ro.eñge ham hazār baar koī hameñ satā.e kyuuñ

Translation: it’s just a heart, no stony shard; why shouldn’t it fill with pain

I will cry a thousand times, why should someone complain?

8. Aah ko chāhiye ik umr asar hote tak

kaun jiitā hai tirī zulf ke sar hote tak

Translation: A prayer needs a lifetime, an answer to obtain

Who can live until the time that you decide to deign

9. Ishq se tabī.at ne ziist kā mazā paayā

dard kī davā paa.ī dard-e-be-davā paayā

Translation: My being did, from love’s domain, the joy of life procure

Obtained such cure for life’s travails, which itself had no cure

10. Ham ko un se vafā kī hai ummīd

jo nahīñ jānte vafā kyā hai

Translation: From her I hope for constancy

Who knows it not, to my dismay

11. Aage aatī thī hāl-e-dil pe hañsī

ab kisī baat par nahīñ aatī

Translation: Nothing now could even make me smile,

I once could laugh at my heart’s own plight

12. Ham ne maanā ki taġhāful na karoge lekin

ḳhaak ho jā.eñge ham tum ko ḳhabar hote tak

Translation: Agreed, you won’t ignore me, I know but then again

Into dust will I be turned, your audience till I gain

13. Merī qismat meñ ġham gar itnā thā

dil bhī yā-rab ka.ī diye hote

Translation: If so much pain my fate ordained

I, many hearts should have obtained

14. Dard minnat-kash-e-davā na huā

maiñ na achchhā huā burā na huā

Translation: My pain did not seek favors from any opiate

I don’t mind the fact that I did not recuperate

15. Kitne shīrīñ haiñ tere lab ki raqīb

gāliyāñ khā ke be-mazā na huā

Translation: How sweet are your honeyed lips, that even though my foe

Was abused by you, is not, in an unhappy state

16. Jī DhūñDtā hai phir vahī fursat ki raat din

baiThe raheñ tasavvur-e-jānāñ kiye hue

Translation: Again this heart seeks those days of leisure as of yore

Sitting just enmeshed in thoughts of my paramour

17. āshiqī sabr-talab aur tamannā betāb

dil kā kyā rañg karūñ ḳhūn-e-jigar hote tak

Translation: Love has a need for patience, desires are a strain

As long my ache persists, how shall my heart sustain

18. Rone se aur ishq meñ be-bāk ho ga.e

dho.e ga.e ham itne ki bas paak ho ga.e

Translation: In love, bolder I became, once openly I cried

I was washed so thoroughly that I got sanctified

19. āshiq huuñ pa māshūq-farebī hai mirā kaam

majnūñ ko burā kahtī hai lailā mire aage

Translation: Though a lover I seduce my loved ones craftily

Laila speaks ill of Majnuu.n when in front of me

20. Jaan dī dī huī usī kī thī

haq to yuuñ hai ki haq adā na huā

Translation: Though I gave my life for Him, ‘twas His in any case

To speak the truth I couldn’t repay my dues to Him to date

(Couplets and translations credit: Rekhta org.)

Mirza Ghalib’s poetry and prose are distinguished for his sparkling wit, tough ratiocination and his innovations in technique and diction. He died in his rented accommodation in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran which was declared a heritage site by the Archaeological Survey of India.

This haveli, now known as Ghalib ki Haveli, was a gift to Mirza Ghalib by a physician or ‘hakim’ who was smitten by his work. It was this house that witnessed the poet pen his Urdu and Persian ‘diwans’ and after his death in 1869, the hakim would sit there every evening, refusing anyone to enter the building.

Located in the Gali Qasim Jan of Ballimaran, Old Delhi, the haveli’s walls are smeared with life-size portraits of the legendary poet and his couplets preserved in hand-written form or painted to house the memorial museum. Ghalib’s sculpture, books and other housing objects related to him also adorn the large columned-compound of the haveli.

Irrespective of your literary interests, you cannot be in Delhi and afford to miss the essence of 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib who was buried in Nizamuddin. Exuding the lifestyle and architecture of the Mughal era, which was on a decline then, Ghalib ki haveli or Ghalib’s mansion is a must-visit for all poetry lovers and travel enthusiasts.

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