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Introduction to Urdu Poetry

by Basit Habib

Many of you may never have heard of Urdu Poetry before, and even fewer of you may know what Urdu Poetry actually is. This article is a humble attempt to give you some basic knowledge about Urdu Poetry.

An appropriate place to start at would be the Urdu language. Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken by an estimated 250 million people in India, Pakistan and neighbouring South Asian countries. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and is the major language in some Indian states. But the language is not confined to the sub-Indian continent; Britain has one of the biggest Urdu communities in the world today.

The Urdu language emerged in the 13th century in North India as a mixture of the Hindi language, other local languages, and the Persian language that was brought to the area by merchants and military men. Many Arabic and Turkish words have also been incorporated into Urdu. Its colourful mix of elements from many languages is the main reason for its highly poetic nature.

Urdu Poetry traditions are deeply rooted in time, but like with many other types of poetry, a firm starting point simply cannot be established. Some of the major literary influences for later Urdu Poetry can be traced as far back as Kabir (1440-1518) and Amir Khusro (1253-1325 AD).

Urdu Poetry is a melodic and elegant type of poetry whose major themes include human feelings, nature's beauty, and the passion for love. A majority of Urdu Poetry is written in Nasta`liq calligraphy, a beautiful Perso-Arabic script. Since Urdu Poetry is very popular in India, where there are many people who can understand Urdu but are unable to read the Nasta`liq script, many of the poems have been translated into the Devanagari script that is used by Hindi speakers. With the advent of globalization, there are even some Urdu poems that have been written in Roman Urdu. Roman Urdu is simply the Urdu language written using the Roman alphabet.

Poets of Urdu Poetry use a pen name which is called a takhallus. The takhallus will normally become a part of a poets real name and is added at the end of it. In Urdu Poetry, the takhallus is incorporated into the last couplet of the poem to act as a sort of signature.

Mushairas, or Urdu Poetry recitals, are entertaining events where poets perform their works. The Mushaira is a deeply-loved and cherished part of the Pakistani and North Indian cultures. At a typical Mushaira, several invited guest poets will sit along a long table at the front of the room, just like you would expect with a panel of judges. There is one host who will invite each poet to perform his work. The audience participates by calling out "va" at the end of important couplets.

An Urdu Poem is essentially composed of couplets, or pairs of versed lines that rhyme and have similar meters. One couplet is called a "Sher" and many couplets are called "Ashaar". Although Urdu Poetry is characterized by several basic ingredients, there are many different forms of Urdu poems.

The study of Urdu Poetry is an extremely intricate subject that simply cannot be covered in a single article. It has captured the interests of many people around the world and continues to thrive as a form of cultural expression. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into that intricate world of Urdu Poetry.

The Author writes articles on urdu poetry. More articles written by the author related to Indian and Pakistani poets, Urdu Poetry & Shayari Books and Urdu Poet Forum & Community which can be found on the web.

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