Mir Babar Ali Anis

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Urdu poet of Mughal era
Mir Babbar Ali Anis
Mir Babbar Ali Anis
Born 1802
Faizabad, Oudh
Died 1874
Lucknow, North-Western Provinces
Pen name Anis
Occupation Urdu poet
Nationality Indian
Period Mughal era
Genre Marsiya, Rubai
Subject Battle of Karbala

Mir Baber Ali Anees (Urdu: میر ببر علی انیس‎) was an Urdu poet, born in 1802 in Faizabad, Oudh now in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and died in 1874 in Lucknow, North-Western Provinces. Anis used [1] Persian, Hindi, Arabic, and Sanskrit words fluently in his poetry, and such quality distinguished him from his fellows. Anis wrote prolonged Marsias, which was a custom of his times, but nowadays only selected sections were narrated even in the religious ceremonies.

As a poet Mir Anis was doubtlessly great and prolific, His fame was not confined to Lucknow or Awadh alone, it spread in the length and breathe of India (undivided), wherever the poet went, he drew large crowds and his audience included men of all castes, creeds and religions. He was a poet of Ghazal too. Had he continued composing Ghazals, he would have perhaps earned a lasting fame in that field too. But there is a narrative that His father advised him to devote his talents to Marsia and Marsia lone. As an obedient son, he acted upon the advice of his father. His productive age was fairly long and he spent about 54 years in composing Marsias, Salams and Rubais. The Last few years of the life of Mir Anis were disturbed by the turbulent political events. It was the same period when the poet was faced with formidable economic difficulties. His health was fast deteriorating and he fell ill, and his illness took a serious turn. The great Poet breathed his last in the year 1291 Hijra, corresponding with 1874 A.D.[2]

Family and pedigree[edit]

Mir Babar Ali, 'Anis' was born in 1802 CE at Faizabad.[3] Mir Anis, a Musavi sayyed, descendent from the 7th Imam, Musa al-Kadhim, belonged to a family of poets. In his book ‘Khandaan- e-Mir Anees ke Naamwar Sho’ara’ (Famous Poets from the family of Mir Anis), Zameer Naqvi (Dr.Syed Zameer Akhter Naqvi) has listed twenty-two poets from Mir Anis’ family and their poetry. Mir Anis was a fifth generation poet and he has mentioned this fact in the first stanza of his famous Marsiya “Namak-e-Khwaan-e-Takallum hai Fasaahat meri.” He says:[4]

Mir Anis Couplet
Urdu poetry English Translation
Namak-e-Khwaan-e-Takallum hai Fasaahat meri My eloquence is the salt of the food of thought
Naatqein band hai’n sun sun ke balaaghat meri The eloquents are mute when my style they hear
Rang udte hain wo rangee’n hai ibarat meri Fly colours when the colour of my ink I jot
Shor jiska hai wo darya hai tabeeyat meri The sound of the seas are my ideas clear
Umr guzri hai isi dasht ki sa’iyaahi mei’n Hunting in this forest (for words) spent life I mine
Paanchvi pusht hai Shabbir ki maddaahi mei’n Praising Hussain, fifth in progeny line

His family was famous and known as family of poets. His grandfather, Mir Hasan, composed the monumental Masnavi “Sehrul Bayan”, which had immortalized his name, his father, Mir Mustahsan Khaleeq was also a poet. He grew up to be known as Homer, Virgil and Valmiki, of Urdu poetry. Mir Anis surpassed all his predecessors and contemporaries, and is still unrivalled in the realm of elegy (marsia).[3]

Education and learning[edit]

He may have learnt poetry from his father but his deep attachment to his mother is what inspires the emotions evoked by him in his poetry, particularly in the way Zaynab bint Ali, the sister of Imam Husain gently rebukes her two boys Aun and Muhammad similar to the way that the women of Lucknow talk to their young ones.[5] Anis's mother who was an educated and pious lady, played a significant role in shaping the personality of the boy poet. But above all, it was the boy's own instinctive urge for learning and literature that made him an accomplished poet, proficient in Arabic, Persian and Islamic scriptures, and well-versed in logic, literature and philosophy. Poetry came to him as ancestral heritage, for his forbears, going back to his great grandfather.[6]

Religious competency & military training[edit]

As is often the case with famous Urdu writers, little is known about Anis’s early life He was no doubt given a traditional Shia education.[7] However, the research of Dr. Nayyar Masood reveals that while in Faizabad, Anis learnt his lessons from two religious scholars; one was a Shia Scholar, Maulvi Mir Najaf and the other was a Hanafi (Sunni) Scholar, Maulvi Haider Ali Faizabadi. Dr. Nayyar Masood also points out that Anis was well versed in Persian as well as in Arabic. He had also taken the pains of undergoing military training and had thorough knowledge of old and new weapons.[8]


Mir Anis was invited to Lucknow where he reached the zenith of his reputation. Mir Anis did not like to move out of Lucknow apprehending that his art would not be appreciated elsewhere. Yet, after the annexation of Oudh by the British, he was persuaded to visit Azimabad (Patna), Dulhipur (Varanasi), Hyderabad and Allahabad.[9]

In 1870 Nawab Tahwar Jung invited Anis to Hyderabad where he declined to be presented at the court of Mir Mahboob Ali Khan,[3][10][11] the then Nizam of Hyderabad State, the Nizam himself went to the Majlis where the poet was to recite. While returning from Hyderabad, he sojourned at Allahabad in 1871 and recited his marsia in the Imambara of late Lala Beni Prasad Srivastava, Vakil, who was a devotee of Imam Husain.[9]

Mir Anees in Hyderabad in 1871

He died in 1874 CE and is buried at his own residence in Lucknow.[3]

Work and contribution[edit]

Mir Anis composed salāms, elegies, Nohas, quatrains. While the length of elegy initially had no more than forty or fifty stanzas, it now was beyond one hundred fifty or even longer than two hundred stanzas or bunds, as each unit of marsia in musaddas format is known. According to Muhammad Hussain Azad "The late Mīr Sahib must certainly have composed at least ten thousand elegies, and salāms beyond count. He composed as easily and casually as he spoke.".[12][13]

Portion of stanzas from Timsal Masud Presention of Mir Anis Ka ek Marsia.[14](one Marsia by Mir Anis), in Urdu and Hindi Language writing styles

Shamsur Rahman Faruqi in his research and published Essay “How to read Iqbal?” provided a comparison of Iqbal[disambiguation needed] with Nazeer Akbarabadi, by saying that "Iqbal was placed better because he had, among others, Bedil (1644–1720) in Persian and Mir Anis (1802–1874) in Urdu." He further asserts that, "The mention of Mir Anis may surprise some of us until we realize it that Mir Anis’s Marsiyas are the best premodern model in Urdu of narrative-historical, narrative-lyrical, and oral-dramatic poetry, and Iqbal’s poetry extends and exploits the possibilities created by Anis."[15]

Anis is also known as pioneer in Rubai, an Urdu poetry branch, and enjoys a famous position alike Mirza Sauda, Khwaja Mir Dard and Dabeer.[16] Besides being a master of the Marsia, Anis was also a specialist of the Rubai, the shortest complete poem in Urdu, containing only four lines. Mir Anees had an extraordinary capability for the writing of Rubais. He immeasurably enriched the contents of the Rubai, making it much more colorful and multi-dimensional. Anis introduced the tragic events of Karbala and their moralistic effect to Rubai. Thus, he widened the scope of Rubai to unfathomable limits. The inclusion of Karbala resulted in the florescence of the Urdu Rubai. Thus, many internal and external aspects of our life found their echo in the Urdu Rubai.[17] Anis.[18] was a master of simple, natural utterance, with a superb command on the language, which was always adequate to express a large variety of moods, scenes, characters and situations. He is especially notable for presenting the same scene or situation, over and over again, in different words or phrases, without letting it appear monotonous. The sub-parts of Marsia are called Noha and Soaz which means lamentation and burning of (heart) respectively. It is usually a poem of mourning. The form reached its peak in the writing of Mir Babbar Ali Anis.

Tribute to poet in Urdu literature[edit]

Muharram and Mir Anis have become synonymous in our part of the world. In fact, Mir Anis is a great teacher for the young generation if it wants to feed itself on the gems of Urdu poetry. Undoubtedly, Urdu derives much of its strength from the Marsias of Mir Anis.

couplet of Mirza Dabeer is the best tribute to the person who had been his lifelong rival

Mir Anis has drawn upon the vocabulary of Arabic, Persian, Urdu/Hindi/Awadhi in such a good measure that he symbolizes the full spectrum of the cultural mosaic that Urdu has come to be. No Urdu poet from Ghalib onwards has lagged behind in showering his eulogies on Mir Anis.

The art of Marsia in the hands of Anis has brought to itself the attributes of painting, music and photography. He convinces us that a great artist is at work, making us watch with a sense of wonder all that he has in his repertoire. The moment the bewitched readers or listeners of Mir Anis’s Marsias surrender themselves to the fascination they feel as if they have been transferred to the scene of action aboard the time machine.

Perhaps there is no other poet in the world who has looked after the aesthetic and spiritual satisfaction of his fans so completely as Mir Anis does. It is simply miraculous. [19]

Seminars and Symposiums[edit]

Anis and Dabir Academy, London organised an International Seminar on "Position of Anis and Dabir in Urdu literature" on the occasion of bicentennial birthday celebrations of Mir Anis and Mirza Dabir. Litterateurs and intellectuals from India, Pakistan, Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom participated in the seminar. In the inaugural session, Dr Taqi Abedi of Canada presented a review of Dabir’s quatrains. Prof. Muhammad Zaman Azurda presented an article on Dabir’s prose-writing in the second session. Dr Iqbal Mirza presented a comparative study of Anis and Shakespeare. Yawar Abbas of Britain and Prof. Qamar Jahan presented their articles in the last session followed by a poetic recitation. Youths besides senior litterateurs and intellectuals attended the seminar in a large number.[20]

A seminar titled “Mir Anis our Adab-i-Aalia” was jointly held on 19 April 2001 by the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi and Pak Arab Literary Society, with Dr Farman Fatehpuri in the chair and Mehdi Masud as the chief guest.[21] The Arts Council, Karachi, had also organized in April, 2002 an evening to commemorate the second birth centenary of Mir Anis. The literary figures who participated in the programme included Dr Zameer Akhtar Naqvi, Syed Javed Hasan, Prof. Seher Ansari, Dr Aliya Imam, Qasim Jalali and Mehdi Masood, and actor Talat Hussain and almost all appreciated the facility with which Anis wrote his lines in colloquial, everyday language.[22]

Two day National Seminar on “Mir Anis Ke Marsia Mein Jang ke Anasir” organized by Urdu Department, Hyderabad Central University in which Prof. Nusrat Ara Choudhary, Jammu University, India, presented research paper “Mir Anis ka Fann” on 23 August 2003.[23]

Subjective Rivalry

Comparison between Mir Anis and Mirza Dabeer in literary circles is not new. It began perhaps with the publication of “Mawazna-i-Anis-o-Dabeer” by Shibli Nomani around a century back. There was another side of the Mawazna put forward by Syed Taqi Abedi, while he was in Karachi in connection with his publication on Mirza Dabeer, a collection of the poet’s Salaams and Rubaiyats:

  • Mir Anis was born in the year 1802 and died 72 years later in 1874. Mirza Dabeer was born in 1803, a year later than Anis, and died in 1875, also at the age of 72. This chronological closeness is amazing.
  • The comparison theme, two masters had much respect for each other. With their literary and cultural sophistications, they were never disrespectful to one another.
  • The Lucknow of those years, a seat of culture but with an ornate lifestyle and mannerisms, had its meaner side also. As some persons began to admire Anis, others went to support Dabeer. Soon, two rival groups emerged. The masters did not like the development but supporters on either side wanted the controversy to continue, taking much perverse pleasure in deriding and ridiculing each other’s hero.[24]

Tribute - Digital[edit]

35 Marsiya video series based on event between 28th Rajab to 8th Rabi' al-awwal, titled Az madina ta madina was released on 3 January 2014, by "Mafss Noha Academy" Mumbai, India, and recited by Rahil Rizvi (Marsiya & Noha Khwan from India).[25] Video series consist 23 marsiya based on topic written by Mir Anis.[26] [27]


The Majlis of 25 Rajab, is historically important Majlis of marsiya in Lucknow, in this majlis Mir Anis used to recite Marsiya. After Mir Anis, well known marsiya writers of Mir Anis's family as Dulaha Sahab Uruj, Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab Rasheed, Ali Nawab Qadeem and Syed Sajjad Hussain Shadeed inherited the legacy of reciting marsiya.Every year in the month of Rajab,25th Allama, Dr. Syed Ali Imam Zaidi Gauhar Lakhnavi great grand son of Mir Baber Ali Anees recites self composed marsiya in this majlis at Imam Bara Nazim saheb, Lucknow.u.p,India.

The famous marsia writers who inherited the tradition of Mir Anis among his successive generations are Mir Nawab Ali Munis, Dulaha Sahab Uruj, Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab Rasheed, Syed Muhammad Mirza Uns, Ali Nawab Qadeem, Syed Sajjad Hussain Shadeed and Allama Dr.Syed Ali Imam Zaidi Gauhar lakhnavi great grand son of Mir Baber Ali Anees.

Books on Mir Anis[edit]

Given below is description of some books published by various researchers and publishers of Indo-Pak:

  • (1) Two books [8] (i) Marsiya Khawani Ka Funn & (ii) Marka-i-Anis-au-Dabir in Urdu language by Dr. Nayyar Masood, Professor and head of department (computer science) Muhammad Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad, Pakistan [28] and son of well known Urdu literature research scholar Syed Masood Hasan Rizvi.
  • (2)Urdu Marsiye K a Safar: This voluminous book numbering in more than twelve hundred pages has been published by England’s Ashoor Kazmi Foundation in cooperation with India’s Educational Publishing House, which has published it from Delhi.[29]
  • (3)Tajzia-i-Yadgar Marsia, Research and compilation by Dr. Syed Taqi Abedi [30]
  • (4) Intikhab-e-Kalam: Mir Anis Compiled by Muhammad Reza Kazimi, a former Editorial Consultant of the Oxford University Press. This book contains a selection from the Marsias (elegiac epics) of Mir Anis, hailed as the greatest exponent of this form, as well as one of the greatest poets of the Urdu language. All British historians of Urdu literature are united in according him a very high stature in Urdu Literature.[31]
  • (5)Another interesting work was produced by Ghulam Imam of Lucknow, a lawyer by profession. The title of the book is “Shakespeare and Anis”, 1950, Lucknow. In this work, the author has listed selections from Mir Anis poetry and has found comparable work from Shakespeare. It is an interesting book.[32]
  • (6)“ Rubaiyate-e-Anis” Compiled By Mr. Mohammad Hasan Bilgrami and “Anis Shakhsiyat Aur Fun” by Mr. Fazl-e-Imam published by UP Urdu Akademi, India.[33]
  • (7) Books by Dr. Alama Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi “Mir Anees Ki Shairi” (in Urdu Language) & “The poets in the family of Mir Anis” (published in 1996) 2nd Book is about the life history of 22 family members of Mir Anis that were poets and their poetry.[34]
  • (8)“The immortal poetry & Mir Anis” with the versified translation of a Marsia of Mir Anis: by Syed Ghulam Abbas. Published in 1983 by Majlis-e-Milli, Pakistan in Karachi - Written in English.
  • (9)The battle of Karbala 90 pages book on poetry (Elegiac poetry-Urdu ): a Marsia of Mir Babbar Ali Anis Translated by David Matthew (ISBN 8171672132, 9788171672134) Original from the University of California Digitized 27 Feb 2008 Publisher of 2nd Edition: Rupa & Co., 1994 [35]

World recording (without ranking)[edit]

Mir Anis is the only poet in the history of poetry all over the world whose family had produced eight poets successively and no language could claim that credit except Urdu language. A well known 21 Century’s researcher in Urdu Literature Dr. Syed Taqi Abedi ( Taghi Abedi, now settled in Canada [36] ) has explored that family of Mir Anis had served the poetic literature for a period over three centuries, first in Persian and later in Urdu poetry.[37]

The famous book [38] “Intikhab-e-Mir Anis” is a compilation of 41 Marsias, 33 Salams, 96 Rubais and 3 Nohas selected from the 6 voluminous publishing contents of Mir Anis poetic literature in Urdu Language. This book has been published since 1962 by an Urdu Literature Institution having its name “Bazm-e-Mir Anis”, Karachi, Pakistan. This book of above 300 pages, owns credit of more than 26 Editions, numbering to approx 60,000 copies published and distributed by its stockiest and distributor. The publishing institution “Bazm-e-Mir Anis" was sponsored by a well known philanthropist Mr. Haji Ali Akbar H. Ibrahim (died in 2003). After his death the book is being published by “Haji Ali Akbar H. Ibrahim Family Benevolent Trust”. The remarkable credit of this book is its 26 editions at a very nominal price (Price of last edition - Pk. Rupees 25/- in US $ .25 - quarter dollar) for attraction of book sellers. This subsidized publishing is a special tribute to Mir Anis by a devotee of Ahl al-Bayt and Mir Anis, a rare instance in the world of poetry.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/karachi/21-Nov-2011/t2f-moot-eulogises-poetry-of-mir-anis
  2. ^ http://www.pakistan.web.pk/threads/the-master-of-marsia-mir-babar-ali-anis.6939/
  3. ^ a b c d History (2005). "The Twelver Shîʻa as a Muslim Minority in India: Pulpit of Tears". History. Routledge. pp. 14, 18, 23, 63. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  4. ^ http://sirfshia.webs.com/aboutshiapoet.htm
  5. ^ http://www.thelucknowtribune.org/news.php?cat=873
  6. ^ http://www.poemhunter.com/mir-babar-ali-anees/biography/
  7. ^ Research contents from Dr. Syed Taghi Abedi - http://www.drtaqiabedi.com/
  8. ^ a b http://www.dawn.com/new/625039/column-the-life-and-works-of-mir-anis
  9. ^ a b "A History of Urdu Literature" by Dr. Ram Babu Saxena, Allahabad, 1927
  10. ^ Hussainia Nawab Inayath Jung
  11. ^ Lallana Rāya (2002). Legacy of the Nizam's. Vani Prakashan. p. 282. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  12. ^ About Mir Babbar Ali Anis in Aab-e-Hayat (Original Urdu)
  13. ^ Aab-e-Hayat (English Translation), Translated and edited by Frances W. Pritchett, in association with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
  14. ^ http://pdfcast.org/download/mir-anis-ka-ek-marsiya.pdf
  15. ^ How to Read Iqbal? Eassays on Iqbal, Urdu Poetry and Literary Theory by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
  16. ^ Extracted from: Rubai Aik Qadeem Sanaf-e-Sukhan (in Urdu Language) research of Dr. Younus Hassani, published in Midweek Magazine issued by the Daily Jang, Karachi in its issue of 09 July, 2014
  17. ^ http://www.urdushayari.in/2012/01/meer-babar-ali-anees.html
  18. ^ http://urduyouthforum.org/biography/biography-Mir-Babar-Ali-Anis.html
  19. ^ DAWN - Features; March 12, 2003 “Mir Anis and Karbala” http://www.dawn.com/news/1064293/dawn-features-march-12-2003#1
  20. ^ http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/2003/16-31Dec03-Print-Edition/1612200343a.htm
  21. ^ http://article.wn.com/view/2001/04/20/Mir_Anis_hailed_as_great_poet/
  22. ^ http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/national/14-Apr-2002/celebrating-mir-anis-s-bicentenary
  23. ^ Source: http://jammuuniversity.in/NAAC/urdu.htm
  24. ^ Source: Archive - DAWN - Features; 25 February 2004- http://www.dawn.com/news/1065655
  25. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6667527/ Marsiya Reciter - Rahil Rizvi
  26. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsiya#Modern_World - World's first 35 video series of marsiya based on topic
  27. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3896788/ - Az madina ta madina marsiya video album
  28. ^ http://www.jinnah.edu.pk/faculty/cv_fulview/param/142/dept/6
  29. ^ Dawn Magazine, January, 2007 – Dawn internet edition http://dawn.com
  30. ^ http://www.drtaqiabedi.com/
  31. ^ ISBN 9780195479133 9780195479133 published by Oxford University Press, Karachi Pakistan - http://www.oup.com.pk
  32. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20100822011919/http://www.umaamerica.net/magazine2005/magazine_poetry.asp
  33. ^ http://upurduakademi.org/eng/publication2.aspx
  34. ^ http://www.allamazameerakhtar.com/zameer_books.html
  35. ^ http://books.google.com.pk/books/about/The_battle_of_Karbala.html?id=fY90AAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y
  36. ^ drtaqiabedi.com
  37. ^ Source: Professor Baig Ahsas Article Archive published in the Daily Siasat, Hyderabad (http://www.indiapress.org/gen/news.php/The_Siasat_Daily/400x60/0) published on 15 June 2013. (An Urdu Language Daily – read the article on line http://www.drtaqiabedi.com/-/Aritcles/ARTICLE_2.pdf)
  38. ^ http://islamiclibrary.com/Scripts/BookReaderDemo/ViewPdf.aspx?cd=UR1256#page/6/mode/2up
  39. ^ Source: special annexure to Urdu Language book “Intikhab-e-Mir Anis 26th Edition – 2009 – Stockist and Distributor, Mahfooz Book Agency, Karachi, Pakistan

External links[edit]