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Poetry Guide: Urdu Poetry

Like other languages, the history of Urdu poetry does not have a firm starting point and shares origins and influences with other linguistic traditions within the Urdu-Hindi-Hindustani mix. Literary figures as far back as Kabir (1440 - 1518) and even Amir Khusro (1253-1325 AD) deserve mention as influences later Urdu poets draw on for inspiration as well as intellectual and linguistic sources. The tradition is centered in the Indian subcontinent. Following the Partition of India in 1947, it found major poets and scholars residing primarily in modern Pakistan and India. Mushairas (or poetic expositions) are today held in almost every major metropolitan area in the world. Over this period, Urdu poets have produced a large number of primarily poetic works.


The major genres of poetry found in Urdu are:

Pen names (Takhallus)

In the Urdu poetic tradition, most poets use a pen name called the takhallus. This can be either a part of a poet's given name or something else adopted as an identity. The traditional convention in identifying Urdu poets is to mention the takhallus at the end of the name. Thus, Ghalib, whose given name was Mirza Asadullah Beg (the prefix Mirza and suffix Beg identifying him as a Chughtai) and official name and title was Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan is referred to formally as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or, in common parlance, as just Mirza Ghalib. An interesting sidebar to this is that some poets end up having a part of their name repeated; thus, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

The word takhallus is derived from Arabic, meaning "ending". This is because in the ghazal form, the poet would usually incorporate his or her pen name into the final couplet (maqta) of each poem as a type of 'signature'.


The most acclaimed Urdu poets include Ghalib, Mir, Dard, Daag, Iqbal, Faiz, Momin, Sahir, Wali and many more.

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