Wednesday, May 11, 2016







Me  khizaan bhi huun me bahaar bhi
Meri zindagi hai woh zindagi,
Ke misaal e Barg e Gule chaman
Jo gaahe kafan gaahe Pairhan”.......( Firaq Gorakhpuri )

(I am the autumn,
I am the spring,
Such a protean life I lead,
Like the petals of a rose flower,
Now for the coffin,
Now for the wreath.)

Born  in 1896 in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur, Raghupati Sahay, better known by his pen name Firaq Gorakhpuri, is remembered for his Urdu poetry that has survived the test of time.  One of contemporary India's most prolific Urdu poets, Firaq Gorakhpuri was well known for his Ghazals, Nazms, Rubais and Qat'aa. His magnum opus, ‘Gul-e-Naghma’, won him the Jnanpith Award (1969), India's first highest literary honour for literature. The other awards bestowed upon him include the Sahitya Akademi Award (1960), Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Ghalib Academy Award (1981). Firaq is a poet of the labyrinths of emotions, the sensuousness and transcendence of beauty, and the merging shades of pain and ecstasy. The softness and suppleness of his voice does not have a parallel in Urdu poetry .About himself ,Firaq writes this :-

“ I was selected for the  prestigious ICS ( Indian Civil Service ) and offered the post of Deputy Collector by the British government .I left the job and joined independence movement under Gandhi Ji’s leadership. I went to the prison many times along with Maulana Hasrat Mohani , Moti Lal Nehru , Jawahar Lal Nehru ,and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai .My father had died so did my younger brother Tripurari Saran die of TB. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru wanted me to take the charge of Under Secretary-ship of the Congress party on a monthly salary of Rs250/. I accepted the offer. The work I was required to do , perhaps none could do though this work did not keep me much busy . I would spend quite good time in the company of Munshi Prem Chand and poet Majnoon Gorakhpuri . In Agra jail, I had met Hazrat Niaz Fatehpuri who was a loveable personality . This company awakened the poetic instinct and a serious drift towards literature within me .I worked with the Congress party for about five years from 1922 to 1927  and was frequently imprisoned along with other leaders of the country’s freedom struggleDuring this period , I also came to know the mighty personalities of Chitranjan Dass , Gandhi Ji and Maulana Azad . Gandhi Ji wanted me to join as professor at Gujrat Vidyapeeth as he had seen my command over written and spoken Urdu , Hindi and English. In 1930, after completing my MA in English , I joined Allahabad university as lecturer  wherefrom I retired in 1958. I taught English literature, wrote Urdu poetry and read everything that was produced by Hindi writers of my time.“

In 1969, an All India Urdu Mushaira was held at Srinagar. Firaq Gorakhpuri, Ali Sardar Jafri, Shaharyaar, Aadil Mansoori, Makhdoom Mohi ud Din, Puran Singh Hunar and many more leading poets of the country participated in this Mushaira. Firaq Gorakhpuri was a star attraction. Apart from a grand Mushaiara in the city, Prof Sarvari ( HOD Urdu ) from the University of Kashmir also organised a grand Mushaira in the university campus. Firaq also participated in the Mushaira held inside the unversity campus. Those who attended these Mushairas, still, remember how Firaq regaled the audience with his Gazals and Nazms. In the Srinagar city Mushaira, Firaq read his famous “Night Poems “ or poems like “Aadhi Raat ko”, “Raat Ka Pehla Pehar”, “Raat Gaye”, “Aadhi Raat Se Kuchh Pehlay” and “Pichhla Pehar” etc.  About Firaq and this Mushaira, Bashir Budgami, well-known media personality says this:-

“ Prof Abdul Qadir Sarvari , HOD Urdu, University of Kashmir advised me and my friend Shuja Sultan to invite all the leading poets for joining a grand Mushaira in the university campus. We went out to invite all the poets personally. We went to the Tourist Reception Centre first. Firaq Sahib was staying in the TRC complex. I had never seen Firaq Sahib nor even his photograph till then though I knew him as a towering Urdu poet of the country. While looking for Firaq Sahib’s room, I saw an elderly person in white Khadi Kurta Pyjama strolling in the gallery and engrossed in deep thoughts. I told my friend Shuja Sultan that this could be Firaq. He asked me as to how I had identified him. To this, I added that I had seen a strange fright in his eyes and thus concluded that this should be Firaq Gorakhpuri. We introduced ourselves to Firaq Sahib and spoke about the invitation to the university Mushaira. He was kind enough and asked us to come inside his room. He then asked Shuja to open one of his suit-cases that had many bottles of imported liquor. He asked Shuja to open one bottle and had his two pegs. Thereafter he asked Shuja to open his another suitcase that had his clothes. Shuja took out his dry cleaned black Sherwani and passed it to Firaq Sahib. Firaq Sahib wanted to visit Kamaal Ahmed Siddiqui’s residence. I arranged a taxi and we dropped Firaq Sahib over there.  Shaharyar, Aadil Mansoori and some more poets were already waiting for Firaq Sahib. The moment Firaq Sahib entered, liquor and poetry session started once more in full swing over there .”                               

 Firaq' wrote a series of poems on Raat or night in 1944. These poems are, Aadhi Raat Ko, Raat Ka Pehlaa Pahar, Raat Gaye, Aadhi Raat Ke Kuchh Pehlay, Dalti Huyi Aadhi Raaat etc. Firaq read these poems in the Srinagar Mushaira. Many poets in the subcontinent have admitted that they are influenced by these poems. These poems describe different phases of the night and Firaq adds world affairs, feminine beauty, loneliness and many issues in these poems. The skill of the poet can be understood from the deft interweaving of the description of his loneliness in the middle of the night with world affairs. His loneliness wants the end of the Second World War, peace in the world and victory to the Russian forces. I quote some lines from one of these poems.

‘Jaga raha hai koyi aadhi raat ka jaadu—

Chhalak rahi hai khum-e-ghaib se sharab-e-wajood,

Faza-e-neem shabi nargis-e-khumaar aalood,

Kanwal ki chutkiyon mein bandh hai nadi ka suhaag

Guzar rahein hain kayi kaarwan dhundhalke mein

Ab inquilaab mein shaayad ziyaada deir nahin

Zamaana kitnaa ladaayi ko reh gayaa hogaa?

Meray khayaal se ab eik baj rahaa hogaa…

……………………………………….Sipah-e-roos hain ab kitni duur berlin se ?


( Over here, someone awakens the magic of the midnight,

The wine of existence overflows from some mystifying spring

In this ambience of mild darkness,

Intoxicated lies the narcissus flower too, 

The river‘s bridal delight lies wrapped in the folds of the lotus flower,

In this haziness,many Kaarwaans of thoughts keep passing through mind’s highway.

Perhaps the revolution is not far away now.

How much time is still left for these wars to vanish?

I believe it should be 1 a m now.

…………………………………………………. How far is the Russian army from Berlin Now ? )

 Firaq was always firm and fair in his conduct and dealings .It was very  difficult to influence him or prevail upon him for doing anything that he didn’t  feel suitable .It was Firaq who had recommended the name of Josh Malihabadi as the editor of Urdu magazine Aajkal published by Government of India . Firaq was made chairman of the appointment committee by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru .When some bureaucrats objected to this appointment , Firaq told Pandit Ji, “ What do these Bengali , Gujrati and Madrasi officers know about Urdu ? If their views were also to be taken into account ,what need arose to bring me as the Chairman of the appointment committee “. Pandti Ji had to abide by Firaq’s recommendations.

Like Faiz , Firaq too has a passionate engagement with humanity at large . Due to his strong commitment to Marxism, quite often, Faiz comes up as a spokesperson of the downtrodden . Firaq has nothing to do with Marxism. But then he is equally enchanting when he talks about people in night long wait for some one to turn up or about people managing their existence in suffering , pain  loneliness and separation .About Firaq and his poetry , Veeksha Vagmita writes this in WIRE dated 1st September 2019:-

“ Though he distanced himself from the trappings of religion, Firaq was firmly rooted in his culture. To him, culture was multi-layered: each epoch in history left its deposit in the soil of the country. He tried to embed Urdu within the fabric of India – the land of Himalayas, Ganga and Yamuna, Mira and Kabir, Ram and Sita – instead of rambling amidst the imaginary domes of Central Asia in a bygone era. He embraced his heritage without religious dogmatism or cultural assertion. Extolling Urdu as the language of ‘New India’, he tried to give his poetry an indigenous flavour. Firaq’s perceptive grasp of the “essential language of common experience” (as Hasan put it) contributes to the inclusive spirit of his poetry, even if his use of dialects was derided by critics as unrefined. He addressed (wo)mankind, eulogised childhood, celebrated nature and bemoaned the human predicament, much like Thomas Hardy. Despite his investment in the dream of a just, egalitarian society, he exhibited his share of cynicism. In ‘Hindola (Cradle)’, a long, sprawling poem, he enumerates the great figures, historical, literary, mythological and religious, that are a part of this ancient civilisation. “

Firaq  married  Kishori Devi  in 1913. As per Firaq , it was a marriage by deception. It turned out to be an unsuccessful and unhappy marriage . Two daughters and a son were born through this marriage . Death of his only son and his elder daughter brought enormous pain in Firaq's life. And Firaq had no one close to him to share this grief .Firaq  informs :-

“Anyone in my place would have opted out for a second marriage or succumbed helplessly to the situation. But I did not. As a result, my whole life has been a tale of suffering and loneliness. I have always wished in vain that someone should treat me as  his  own or that I should have someone to call as my own."

 “Shiv ka vishpaan to suuna hoga

Mein bhi aey dost pi gaya aanssoo”

 (You must have heard Shiva's poison drinking feat

I too , O friend, was obliged to gulp down my tears.)


            ( Firaq seated with Dina Nath Nadim. Others in the picture are Prof Nilamber Dev Sharma. Rasool Pampore ,M Y Taing and Hasrat Gadda ) 

Equally fluent in Hindi and Urdu, Persian and Sanskrit, he incorporated elements from his deep, self-taught knowledge of the Vedic and Puranic ethos into his poetry.Firaq has enriched and indigenised his Urdu assimilating many words from Hindi, Sanskrit and Braj Basha. Words and symbols  like Shiva ,Ram, Ashoka , Sita, Nal,Damyanti , Radha , Mira , Ganga , Devi, Himalaya, Kumudini, Kamini ,Deepshikha, Agnikund, Vish, Pawan,Mukh,Kanwal,Vanvaas,Nirdhan,Roop,Shringar,Amrit,Savitri, Ravana, Mandap, Siddhartha, Mandir, and many more have been  frequently used by him in poems, Ghazals and Rubais. Firaq's  poetry is not divorced from the civilizational ethos of India and through  his work, he has contributed for  its continuity.He had a great  fascination for   English literature. Who else except  Firaq  could translate Homer, Virgil,  Wordsworth, Hardy and Wallace Stevens into  beautiful Urdu ? Firaq’s attempt to reform the language  of Urdu poetry by drawing it closer to Indian soil is in keeping with Wordsworth’s advice that language of poetry should be a ‘ selection of language really used by men .’ This effort of Firaq deserves appreciation and emulation. Through his Ghazals, he has fully explored the emotional, physical and spiritual dimensions of love as the fundamental emotion of  a human being. And  he has given his personal tint and tone to it. Rubais in Urdu poetry  were used by poets as tools of moral or philosophical reflections. Firaq uses them to present images  of feminine  beauty and grace. These images  have been created or captured in the homely roles of  a mother, daughter, sister , wife and beloved . About Firaq ,Vikas Datta writes this in Maeeshat (  issue April 30, 2023 ):-

“If he could proclaim: “Meri ghutti mein padhi thi ho ke hal urdu zabaan/Jo bhi mein kehta gaya husn-e-bayan hota gaya”, he could also pen: “Dilon ko tere tabassum ki yaad yun aayi / Ki jhilmila uthe jis tarah mandiron mein chirag”, or “Yeh kaifiyat o rang nazara yeh bijliyon ki lapak / Ki jaise Krishna se Radha ki aankh ishare kare”.Or take “Koi meri aankhon se dekhta teri bazm-e-naaz ki vusatein/Woh har ek gosha makaan makaan woh har ek lamha zaman zaman” to render the wonder of Arjuna as he sees Lord Krishna’s ‘Vishwaroop’ on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. And while he was friendly with all other Urdu poets, older, contemporary, or younger, he was also close to Munshi Premchand, Harivansh Rai Bachchan (an academic colleague), Mahadevi Verma, and Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’.”

 Firaq  was proud of his prowess and contribution to the world of poetry, and is known to have written about himself:-

‘Aane wali naslein tum par rashq karengi hamasron,

Jab ye khayal aayega unko, tumne Firaq ko dekha tha’


(Future generations will be envious of you

 when they think that you had got a chance to see Firaq.)


 ( Avtar Mota )

Based on a work at http:\\\.

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