Saturday, September 30, 2023







" Lyrical Movements, Historical Hauntings: On Gender, Colonialism, And Desire in Miraji’s Urdu Poetry" ...By Geeta Patel.


This is the first book in any language on the life and work of Miraji (1912-49), a member of the triumvirate of canonical Urdu poets of the twentieth century. Lyrical Movements. Historical Hauntings aims to unravel the mystery behind a modern Urdu poet who is widely regarded as difficult to comprehend and who being a Muslim, wrote under a Hindu woman`s name. His critics called him mad, perverse and voyeuristic. In 1947, he didn't go to Pakistan and stayed in Mumbai. He learnt Hindi, Sanskrit, and many European languages for his translation work. And not many of us know that he translated Damodargupta's Kuttanimata Kavya ( Sanskrit ) into Urdu titled ' Nigaar- Khaana". Kuttanimata Kavya was authored by Damodaragupta. Damodaragupta occupied a high position under the Karkota Kings of Kashmir during the 8th century AD.

 Miraji lived a bohemian life moving from city to city. Was his poetry ahead of his time? Did he suffer from a lack of readers?

 Ms Patel has done a superb job. She informs us that she sought help from very distinguished persons including Prof. Frances W. Pritchett, C. M. Naim, David Lelyveld, Prof. Ricardi and Akhtar ul Iman. Akhtar ul Iman provided her free access to what is known as Miraji papers apart from devoting his time to helping the author write this wonderful book on Miraji. The book needs to be read by lovers of world literature. Many facets of Miraji's personality, his translation work and poetry have been presented in English through this book. The author is teaching English at Virginia University, USA.

 To get s feel of his poetry in blank verse I add some lines from his poem Jatri ( Yatri or traveller )


“ Eik aaya gaya

Doosara aayega

Deir se dekhta huun

Yuun hi raaat ouss ki guzar jaayegi

Mein khada huun yahaan kis liye ?

Mujh ko kya kaam hai?

Yaad aata nahin..

Yaad bhi

Timtimaata huva ikk diya

bun gayi jis ki

rukti huyi aur jhijhakti huyi

Har kiran be-sada

Kahkaha hai

magar ,

meray kaanon ne kaise usse suun liya

Eik aandhi chali

Chal ke mit bhi gayi

Aaj tak meray kaanon mein mojood hai

Saanye saanye

Machalti huyi aur ubhalti huyi

Phailati phailati

Deir se mein khada huun yahhan

Eik aaya gaya

Doosara aayega….” ……Miraji





He was born into a well-off Kashmiri family from Gujranwala, Punjab. His real name was Mohammad Sanaullah Dar. He spent his childhood and youth in Lahore. His father was a railway contractor. His ancestors had migrated to Punjab from the Kashmir valley sometime during the 19th century. One of the few photographs of him, taken as a still for a movie to be made in Mumbai, brings him to life as a sadhu, mala in hand, long hair untamed and earrings dangling. He was a voluptuous reader, a philosophical poet in Urdu, an avid translator, an essayist, and an incisive, attuned and remarkably generous reader.

Noon Meem Rashid, Faiz and Meeraji changed the landscape of modern Urdu poetry. Both Rashid and Miraji are slipping into oblivion because of their unconventional and rebellious writings that once challenged the subcontinent’s conventional and confirmatory society in the second quarter of the 20th century. Meeraji is considered to be one of the pioneers of symbolism in Urdu poetry, and especially introducing Free Verse. Along with Noon Meem Rashid, he was a leading poet of the group Halqa-e Arbab-e Zauq, which broke away from the classic convention of radeef and qafia and explored the rich resources of blank verse and Free Verse .

Miraji translated throughout his life, while he was also writing essays and composing nazm, geet and ghazal. In his youth he translated the Bengali poet Vidyapati, Li Po, most of the symbolist poets, DH Lawrence, the Brontë sisters, Sappho, women poets writing in Japanese and Korean, and Heinrich Heine; he went on to translate Anna Akhmatova and Muriel Rukeyser, and towards the end of his life he compiled three books of translations, one each from Mirabai, Omar Khayyam, and Damodargupta.

Libraries became his avenues to other worlds, avenues he travelled inexorably, returning to Urdu from sojourns into translations from French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and, closer to home, from Bengali, Sanskrit, and Braj.

From amongst the French poets, Baudelaire and Mallarme, have been chosen by Miraji in his collection of critical articles, Mashriq-o-Maghrib ke Naghmay. The article, “France Ka Aik Awara Shair,” presents a critical study of Baudelaire with reference to his personality and poetry. Here Miraji has also provided translations of a few of Baudelaire’s poems. This reflects his deep involvement in the poetry of Baudelaire.

Miraji fell in love with a Bengali girl named Mira Sen. So much so that he became infatuated with her that he changed his name to Miraji. He lived an unconventional life and dressed like a Hindu ascetic.

In 1945, Meera Ji reached Bombay to try his luck in films. Later he went to Pune, where Akhtar-ul Iman was residing. He accommodated Meeraji with him with great affection. In Pune too he had no work and reluctantly returned to Bombay in October 1947. When Akhtar ul Iman returned to Bombay and published the magazine ‘Khayaal’, Meeraji was made editor on a monthly salary of Rs. 100 . Due to excessive drinking and irregular eating, his health deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to a government hospital. His last days were very painful. He passed away on November 3, 1949. At his funeral, there were only five individuals; Akhtar-ul Iman, Mahender Nath( brother of writer Krishen. Chander ), Madhusudan, Najam Naqvi, and Anand Bhushan. Despite many efforts, no Bombay newspaper published any news of his death.


"Nagri Nagri phira musaafir

ghar ka rasta bhool gaya

kya hai tera kya hai mera

apana paraaya bhool gaya" .....Miraji


(From town to town the traveller journeyed,

and forgot the road home,

what was mine,

what a stranger’s,

both lost to memory, )



( Avtar  Mota )


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