A Gem in Urdu Literature

Art, culture and literature run in the veins of the citizens of the city of Nawabs. If we trace the history of the people who have made their mark in these fields, we will find a Lucknow connection to most of them. Many famous poets, writers and shayars from the city have contributed to the rich repository of Indian culture.

Be it the world renowned lyricist Javed Akhtar, or the legendary poet Ifthikhar Arif, all trace their roots back to Lucknow. Not just in Urdu, poets and writers from other languages were also inspired from the culture of this city. Hindi writers such as Gaurapant Shivani and Yashpal were a part of the city during their lives.

Kisi soorat se ho jaata hai
saaman-e-safar paida

Iraada kar hi leta hai
khud apni rahguzar paida

Gunaahgari ki neeyat ko
gunaahgari nahi kehte

Safar ke qasid se hoti hain
kab gard-e-safar paida

Zaroori kya ke barse aag
oopar se nasheman par

Khas o khashak mein ho jayenge
barq-o-sharar paida

Koi parsan-e-gham ho ya na ho
kya farq padhta hai

Aziyat khud hi kar leti hai
apna charahgar paida

‘Munawwar’ mujh pe shaam-e-yaas
ghalib aa nahi sakti

Ke har ummeed se hota hai
ek rang-e-sahr paida

This is an extract from the compositions of one such personality-Munavvar Lakhnavi.

Munavvar Lakhnavi was an Urdu Poet, and a translator, belonging to the old school. He penned ghazals and nazms. It was the pen name of Bisheshwar Prasad who was born in Lucknow in 1897 in a family of Urdu, Sanskrit and Persian litterateurs. His father, Dwarka Prasad Ufuq was a creative writer of prose and poetry. He studied in Lucknow and joined the Railway Accounts office in 1913 at Lucknow. He relocated to Lahore in 1927 and then to Delhi where he retired from service in 1957. After retirement, he decided to stay in Delhi where he purchased a house and founded a publishing house – Adarsh Kitab Ghar.

Munavvar Lucknawi gained fame and recognition as a translator with the publication of a translation of Bhagwad Gita in Urdu titled “Naseem-e-Irfaan” in 1936. In 1952, his translation of Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava and his translation of Durga Saptshati i.e. Devi Mahatmya in 1956, both in Urdu, were published. He also translated important aayats of Quran, select Persian shers of Hafez Sherazi, and Gitanjali by Rabindra Nath Tagore. His translation of the teachings of Gautam Buddha in Urdu titled “Dhampad ya sachi raah” published by the Anjuman-e-Tarraqi (Hind), Aligarh in 1954 is considered a masterpiece. Two collections of rubais and nazms, Nazr-e-Adab, published in 1929, and Kainat-e-dil, published in 1939, established him as a poet of note. A selection of his poems were conspicuously included in the book titled “Teen Shair” published by Likhaani Book Depot, Amritsar, and in April 1952 issue of Urdu Monthly “Seemab”, Delhi.

An appraisal of his life and literary works titled Munavvar Lakhnavi – ek mutala’ah by Shabab Lalit was published in 1996 by Modern Publishing House, New Delhi. Yet another appraisal titled Munavvar Lakhnavi – Shakhsiyat aur Shairi by Raj Narain Raaz was published by Nusrat Publishers, Lucknow. Munavvar Lakhnavi breathed his last in Delhi in 1970, aged 73 years.

The city gave such legends to literature and their creations are some of the best in Urdu repository but sadly we have failed our culture. Today, the number of Urdu readers is fading out slowly and very few people, most of them from the yesteryears, are interested in these writings. We have become fond of English literature and to some extent, Hindi literature, but the readers of Urdu literature have diminished greatly. With public libraries slowly losing their stature in the city, there is an urgent need to promote the language to ensure its survival. With Urdu being an important part of the city’s culture, it is high time that we rise to the occasion and make sure that the language survives the test of time.

Suchit Mathur
Writer is a student. Reading and writing are his passion.

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 3 Issue 5,August 2016)

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