The language we know as Urdu developed from the local dialects spoken in and around Delhi called Dehalvi, which incorporated words from Turkish, Arabic and Persian in the 13th and 14th century.

Hindavi, Dehalvi, Gujri ,Dakhini, Rekhta were the names given to the language which evolved from Hindustani to today’s Hindi and Urdu.

The first writer to popularise Hindavi, which he referred to as Dehalvi, was the prolific and wondrous Amir Khusrau who is credited as being the father of Hindi and Urdu.

Khusrau baazi prem ki main khelun pi ke sang, Jeet gayi to piya moray, haari, pi kay sang.

As late as 18th century Mir Taqi Mir referred to the spoken language as rekhta or hindi.

Hindi was exchangeable with Rekhta till the 19th century as a name for the spoken language. Mushafi (1750-1824) himself was the first to use the word Urdu meaning a language in his first Divan. Till then it was called hindavi and Rekhta.

The word Urdu is derived from the same Turkish word ‘ordu’ (army) that has given English the word, ‘horde’.

In India Urdu poetry or shayri started surprisingly in the Deccan with with Quli Qutub  Shah in 1565-1611). He is the first poet to have a significant volume of work in Urdu. Wali Deccani (1635-1707) and Siraj Aurangabadi ( 1715-1763) followed in his glorious footsteps.

There are three major schools of Urdu shayri in India : Deccan, Delhi and Lucknow. Each followed the other. In 18th century came Mir Taqi Mir (1722-1810), Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869).

Romantic poetry or ghazal reached its zenith in Delhi under them. Other notable poets of the Delhi school were Mirza Mohammad Rafi Sauda (1713-80), Khwaja Mir Dard (1721-85),  and Nawab Mirza Khan Dagh (1831-1905).

After the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1739, by Ahmed Shah in 1769 and the First war of Independence in 1857 , Delhi lost its importance and Lucknow became the cultural capital. Poets such as Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi (1725-1824), Inshallah Khan Insha (1757-1817), Khwaja Haidar Ali Atish (1778-1846), Iman Baksh Nasikh (1787-1838), Mir Babr Ali Anis (1802-74) and Mirza Salamat Ali Dabir (1803-1875 flourished under the patronage of the Awadh Nawabs.

If Mir and Ghalib were masters of Ghazal, called Rekhta in those days, Sauda was known for qasida writing, masnawi grew with Mir Hasan and marsiya with Anis and Dabir.

To the uninitiated some of the terms may seem strange, so an explanation follows:

1. Ghazal or Rekhta : It’s an Arabic word that means “conversing with the beloved.”

It developed in Persia in the 10th century AD from the Arabic verse form qasida. A Qasida (Ballad) is a long poem in Urdu, Persian or Arabic which usually describes battles or written in praise of kings; princes or the poet’s patron.

The ghazal came to India in 12th century, courtesy the Sufi mystics and the Islamic Sultanates and it flourished here in Persian and later Urdu.

Traditionally a Ghazal contains minimum 5 couplets and goes up to15 , but typically most Ghazals have around 7.

A sher or couplet is independent of the rest of the ghazal and can be read alone, even though the poem may have a common refrain, which provides a link between the couplets.

But every poem which has independent couplets is not a ghazal.

The ghazal must have a certain structure :

The opening couplet of the ghazal is called a MATLA , which sets the tone of the entire poem.

In the first verse both verses of the couplet rhyme.

The second line of the rest of the verses must follow the rhyming pattern set in the Matla The last verse which contains the ‘takhallus’ ( penname) of poet is called the MAQTA

Matla : 1, hazaaron Khvaahishen aisii ki har Khvaahish pe dam nikale bahut nikale mere armaan lekin phir bhii kam nikale

Middle verse : 2. Nikalna Khuld se Aadam kaa sunate aaye hain lekin bahut be-aabaruu hokar tere kuuche se ham nikale

Maqta : Kahaan maiKhaane ka daravaazaa ‘Ghalib’ aur kahaan vaaiz par itnaa jaanate hain kal vo jaataa thaa ke ham nikale

Radeef is the word/phrase that is repeated at the end of the second line in every shair. In above example, it’d be “nikale’

Both lines of the very first sher (matla), usually end in the same radeef.

Qaafia is the pattern of word(s) that rhyme and come just before the radeef in the second line of a sher and here it is ” dam, kam, ham,”

2. Nazm : this is a ‘well organized, logically evolving poem ‘  with a central theme and each verse is related to it. A nazm can be written in rhymed verse, unrhymed verse, or even in free verse. Nazm was preferred by the poets of the Progressive Writers Association in the 20th century to spread their message of freedom and equality. Sahir Ludhianvi and Ali Sardar Jafri being shining examples of this style.

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai ke zindagi teri zulfon ke narm chaon mein guzarne pati to shadab ho bhi sakati thi ( kabhi Kabhi by Sahir)

3. Qasida : Its a panygeric, or poem written in praise of a king or a nobleman, or a benefactor. The opening verse of the qasida is a rhyming couplet, as in a ghazal and its rhyme is repeated in the second line of each succeeding verse. It can run into 50 lines.

4. Marsiya : The word ‘Marsiya’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘Risa’, meaning a great tragedy or lamentation for a departed soul. It is an elegy, a poem  of mourning which has now come to be  specifically associated with the tragedy of Karbala.

Marsiya generally consists of six-line units, with a rhyming quatrain, and a couplet on a different rhyme.

It  is characterized by six-line verses in an AA, AA and BB rhyme scheme.

5. Masnawi :  A long narrative poem – much longer than the ghazal – embodying religious, romantic or didatic stories. It is written in rhyming couplets, with each couplet having a different rhyme and radeef.

6. Rubaii : A self-sufficient quartrain, rhyming (a, a, b, a) and dealing generally with a single idea

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