Knocksense Unwind | From Meer Taqi Meer to Majaz, Lucknow has been home to the finest of Urdu poets
Known for its nazakat, tehzeeb and nafasat, the City of Nawabs carries a rich lineage in the world of Urdu literature with a plethora of noteworthy writers, novelists and poets hailing from the city. The Lucknow school of poetry has always been famous for its exceptional treatment of language, making it stand out from its Delhi counterpart. Since time immemorial, the land of Awadh has been a hub of poetry, an integral part of its cultural heritage.
Check out the list of these 7 classic Urdu poets from Lucknow whose work is applauded by connoisseurs of Urdu poetry even to this day!
Meer Taqi Meer
Born in 1723, Meer was orphaned and left to subsist and survive on his own at the age of 11. After living in Delhi for a while, he moved to Lucknow on the invitation of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, where he lived till his demise in the year 1810. One of the pioneers of Urdu literature, Meer Taqi Meer (also spelled as Mir Taqi Mir) was a man without an address in life and death (his place of burial is untraceable now).
Reminisced for his poetic pathos and melancholy, Meer is revered as the 'Khuda-e-Sukhan' (God of poetry) in the world of Urdu literature. It is said that it was Meer who constituted a new elite language in Lucknow called 'Rekhta' or 'Hindui' which is an amalgamation of Urdu and Persian. Here is a heart-rendering verse from the legend that has been used multiple times by various lyricists and writers.
"Patta patta boota boota haal hamara jaane hai
Jaane na jaane gul hi na jaane baagh to saara jaane hai"
Famous works: Zikr-e Meer, Faiz-e Meer, Mu'amlat-e-Ishq, Kulliyat-e-Mir
Ameer Minai, a direct descendant of Shah Makhdoom Minai (renowned Muslim saint of the 15th century) was born in Lucknow to Sheikh Karam Mohammad Minai in 1829. An acclaimed Urdu poet, he was also well versed in Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit Theology and Medieval Logic. Famous for ghazals, Minai succeeded the reputed Urdu poet Ghalib as the official poetic mentor (ustad) of the then ruler of Rampur.
Many of his Na'aat (poetry in the praise of Prophet Muhammad) were recited by famous singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Qawwal Bahauddin Khan. Minai breather his last on October 1, 1900, while he was in Hyderabad to seek financial support for publishing his Urdu dictionary. Here is a couplet he wrote,
"Teer khane ki hawas hai to jigar paida kar
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna hai to sar paida kar"
Famous works: Ameer-ul-Lughaat, Gauhar-e-Intekhab, Sanam-khana-e-Ishq.
Mirza Hadi Ruswa
Born in Lucknow as Mirza Muhammad Hadi in 1858, this legend from the City of Nawabs wrote under the pseudonym 'Ruswa' in poetry and 'Mirza Ruswa' in novel writing. Ruswa sharpened his writing skills under the tutelage of Mirza Dabir and after his death, Ruswa sought help from his son Mirza Jafar Auj.
All of Mirza's literary writings, poetry, and other compositions were created in Lucknow before he moved to Hyderabad in 1920. Some of the writings that he is renowned for are based in Lucknow, for instance the novel based on Umrao Jan — the renowned courtesan of the city. Here's a couplet by the poet, who breathed his last on October 21, 1931,
"Dil lagane ko na samjho dil-lagi
Dushmanon ki jaan par ban jaegi"
Famous work: Umrao Jan Ada
Born as Syed Ali Naqi Zaidi in 1862, in a Zaidi Syed family of Awadh, Safi Lakhnavi started writing at the tender age of 13 under the pen name of 'Safi'. Back when having an Ustad was the norm for every writer, this literary legend used to write on his own without the help of a guide. Safi's poetry is known for its simplicity and sweetness. It reflects the prevalent socio-political and cultural state of Lucknow of his time.
His words, being reformist and innovative in their tonality, made him popular among the common folks as a people's poet. Safi, who breathed his last in 1950, gained his own distinctive identity by his unusual way of writing, unlike the traditional Urdu poetry. Here's a couplet by the poet that highlights his unique style of poetry,
"Dekhe baghair haal ye hai iztirab ka
Kya jaane kya ho parda jo uthe naqab ka"
Famous works: Aagosh-e-Maadar, Tanzeem-ul-Hayaat, and Deewan-i-Safi.
An eminent poet, an activist and a freedom fighter of the Indian independence movement, Syed Fazl-ul-Hasan was born in 1875. Famous as 'Hasrat Mohani', his allonym, this legendary poet played an important role in keeping the original form of ghazal alive at a time when it was being neglected. One of the first people to call for 'Azaadi-e-Kaamil' (complete independence) from the British rule in 1921, Hasrat coined the famous clarion call of Independence movement, 'Inquilab Zindabad'.
A staunch opposer of the partition, Mohani was a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Indian Constitution as well. Even after his demise on May 13, 1951 in Lucknow, his legacy lives on through his ghazals which have a classical yet modern appeal to it. Here is a couplet from his famous ghazal that featured in the movie Nikaah in 1970,
"Chupke chupke raat din aansu bahana yaad hai
Ham ko ab tak aashiqui ka vo zamana yaad hai"
Famous work: Mushahidat-e-Zindaan
Born in 1911, in a town of Lucknow (formerly called Awadh), Asrarul Haq was as a contemporary of some renowned names in Urdu literature like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sardar Jafari and Sahir Ludhianvi, among others. The poet wrote under the nom de plume 'Majaz'. His words, unlike others, were famed for being a slightly musical.
Majaz garnered fame for his lyrical poetry which was more adored at the time than Faiz's 'Mujhse Pehli Is Muhabbat' and Sahir Ludhianvi's 'Taj Mahal'. With his demise in 1955 in Lucknow, Majaz left a void in the world of poetry that couldn't be filled by anyone else. Here is a famous Sher by the poet known for his revolutionary and romantic poetry,
"Kya kya hua hai hum se junoon mein na puchhiye,
Uljhe kabhi zameen se kabhi asmaan se hum"
Famous works: Shab-e-taab, Aahang, Saaz-e-Nau, Aligarh Muslim University Tarana (Anthem)
Anwar Kamal Khan, born in Malihabad on 22 October, 1937, carried forward the legacy of his ancestors like Josh Malihabadi by committing himself to Urdu literature under the pseudonym 'Anwar Nadeem'. Anwar was not just an acclaimed Urdu writer and poet but also a satirist, humourist, critic, dramatist, journalist, theatre and film actor, short-story writer, screenplay writer and an actor.
Famous for his impeccable Lakhnavi accent, Anwar gave a power-packed performance in J P Dutta's film Umrao Jaan. Selected to play the role of Mir Hadi 'Ruswa', the author, he ended up doing the narration of the 2006 movie as well. Born and lived in Lucknow all his life, Anwar breathed his last on 9 August, 2017.
With more than 13 books to his credit, his work relishes the true essence of Lucknow which is loved and appreciated by the readers. Here is a timeless couplet by this multi-talented legend of Lucknow,
"Ho sakta hai koi humein bhi dhunde in banjaron mein,
Jaane kis ki khoj mein kab se phirte hain bazaron men"
Famous works: Safarnama, Maidan, Jai Shri Ram, Kirchein.
The vast and rich history in Urdu poetry stands for the valuable poetic vibe of Lucknow and remains as one of the things that makes you proud of the city. These names of the fore-bearers of literature are and will always be etched in the glorious hall of fame.