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Urdu literature (Urdu: ادبیات اردو, "Adabiat-e-Urdu") has a history that is inextricably tied to the development of the Urdu language. While it tends to be dominated by poetry, especially the verse forms of the ghazal and nazm, it has expanded into other styles of writing, including that of the short story, or afsana. Urdu literature is mostly popular in Pakistan, where Urdu is the official language. It is also popular in India and is widely understood in Afghanistan.
|Modern Asian literature|
Urdu literature originated some time around the 14th century in North India among the sophisticated gentry of Persian courts. The continuing traditions of Islam and Persia marked their influence on the Urdu language given that both cultural heritages were strongly present throughout Urdu territory. The Urdu language, with a vocabulary almost evenly split between Sanskrit-derived Prakrit and Arabo-Persian words, was a reflection of this cultural amalgamation.
Amir Khusro exercised great influence on the initial growth of not only Urdu literature, but the language itself (which only truly took shape as distinguished from both Persian and proto-Hindi around the 14th century). He is credited with the systematization of northern Indian classical music, known as Hindustani, and he wrote works both in Persian and Hindavi. While the couplets that come down from him are representative of a latter-Prakrit Hindi bereft of Arabo-Persian vocabulary, his influence on court viziers and writers must have been transcendental, for a century after his death Quli Qutub Shah was speaking a language that might be considered to be Urdu.
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Urdu literature was generally composed more of poetry than of prose. The prose component of Urdu literature was mainly restricted to the ancient form of epic stories called Dastan (داستان) that were often originally written in Persian. These long stories have complicated plots that deal with magical and otherwise fantastic creatures and events.
The genre originated in Iran and was disseminated by folk storytellers. It was assimilated by individual authors. Dastan's plots are based both on folklore and classical literary subjects. Dastan was particularly popular in Urdu literature, typologically close to other narrative genres in Eastern literatures, such as Persian masnawi, Punjabi qissa, Sindhi waqayati bait, etc., and also reminiscent of the European novel. The oldest known Urdu dastans are Dastan-i-Amir Hamza, recorded in the early seventeenth century, and the on longer extantBustan-iKhayal (The Garden of Imagination or The Garden of Khayal) by Mir Taqi Khayal (d. 1760). Most of the narrative dastans were recorded in the early nineteenth century, representing the inclusion of 'wandering' motifs borrowed from the folklore of the Middle East, central Asia and northern India. These include Bagh-oBahar (The Garden and Spring) by Mir Amman, Mazhab-i-Ishq (The Religion of Love) by Nihalchand Lahori, Araish-i-Mahfil (The Adornment of the Assembly) by Hyderbakhsh Hyderi, and Gulzar-i-Chin (The Flower Bed of Chin) by Khalil Ali Khan Ashq. Other famous Urdu dastans include Nau tarz-i murassa‘ by Husain ‘Atā Khān Tahsīn, Nau ā'īn-i hindī (Qissa-i Malik Mahmūd Gīti-Afroz) by Mihr Chand Khatrī, Jazb-i ‘ishq by Shāh Husain Haqīqat, Nau tarz-i murassa‘ by Muhammad Hādī (a.k.a. Mirzā Mughal Ghāfil), and Talism Hoshruba by Muhammad Husain Azad.
Tazkiras, are compilations of literary memoirs that include verses and maxims of the great poets along with biographical information and commentaries on their styles. They are often a collection of names with a line or two of information about each poet, followed by specifics about his composition. Some of this Tazkiras give biographical details, and a little idea of the style or poetical power is transmitted. Even the large anthologies do not systematically review an author's work. Most of them have the names in alphabetical order, but one or two are ordered by historical chronology. The majority quote only lyrics, and the quotations are usually chosen randomly.
Urdu poetry reached its peak in the 19th century. The most well-developed form of poetry is the ghazal, known for its quality and quantity within the Urdu tradition.
Urdu poets influenced by English and other European-language poetry began writing sonnets in Urdu in the early 20th century. Azmatullah Khan (1887-1923) is believed to have introduced this format to Urdu poetry. Other renowned Urdu poets who wrote sonnets are Akhtar Junagarhi, Akhtar Sheerani, Noon Meem Rashid, Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi, Salaam Machhalishahari and Wazir Agha.
Initially, Urdu novels focused on urban social life, eventually widening in scope to include rural social life. They also covered the changing times under the progressive writing movement inspired by Sajjad Zaheer. However, the partition of India had a great impact on the novel, bringing up questions of identity and migration as can be seen in the major works of Abdullah Hussain and Quratul Ain Haider. Towards the end of the last century the novel took a serious turn towards the contemporary life and realities of the young generations of India. The most significant novels of the current generation of Indian novelists in Urdu, which demonstrate a new confidence in contemporary life, are Makaan by Paigham Afaqui, Do Gaz Zameen by Abdus Samad, and Pani by Ghazanfer. These works, especially Makaan, brought the Urdu novel out of the prevailing themes of partition and identity issues and took it into the realm of modern day realities and issues of life in India. Makaan had an impact on many English writers such as Vikram Seth, who turned to novel writing. These Urdu novels further impacted significant works such as Andhere Pag by Sarwat Khan, Numberdar Ka Neela by S M Ashraf and Fire Area by Ilyas Ahmed Gaddi. Paigham Afaqui's second major novel, Paleeta, was published in 2011 and depicts the tension of the political sickening of a common Indian citizen in the six decades after India's independence. Bewildered by the disappointing state of democracy and the transformation of Indian society into a mental desert the central character dies after leaving behind his writings which catch fire.
Rahman Abbas is a major name in post-modernist Indian Urdu novels. His first Urdu novel, Nakhalistan Ki Talas (2004), which examined politics and identity crises of young Indian Muslims, created a storm in conservative Urdu literary circles, and he was consequently forced to resign from his post and briefly jailed on obscenity charges. EK Mamnua Muhabbat Ki Kahani (A Forbidden Love Story) and Khuda Ke Saaye Mein Ankh Micholi (Hide and Seek in the Shadow of God) are two recent novels by Abbas published in 2009 and 2011, respectively, that have been claimed to represent the first major shift in the post-modern narrative in Urdu literature. EK Mamnua Muhabbat ki Kahani was awarded the 2011 Best Novel of The Year by the Universal Society for Peace and Research (Aurangabad). The trilogy was published in the year 2013 under the title Teen Novel.
- Mirat-al-Urus (The Bride's Mirror; 1868–1869) by Deputy Nazeer Ahmed is regarded as the first novel in Urdu. Within twenty years of publication over 100,000 copies had been printed; and was also translated into Bengali, Braj, Kashmiri, Punjabi, and Gujarati. It has never been out of print in Urdu. In 1903 an English translation was published in London by G. E. Ward.
- Bina-tul-Nash- (The Daughters of the Bier, a name for the constellation Ursa Major) is another novel by Deputy Nazeer Ahmed. It was his 2nd novel after Mirat-tul-uroos. Like Mira-tul-Uroos, this novel is also on the education of women and their character building.
- Zindagi (Everything Happens in Life; 1933–1934) by Chaudhry Afzal Haq describes the ups and downs of life for developing moral values and guidance of young people. His entire work is full of the teaching of moral values.
- Taubat-un-Nasuh (Repentance of Nasuh; 1873–1874) by Deputy Nazeer Ahmed also focused on moral lessons for youth.
- Fasaana-e-Mubtalaa (1885) was another novel for developing moral values and guidance for youth.
Short stories (afsanah nigari)
Urdu literature has included the short story form for slightly more than one hundred years. During this period it has passed through some major phases including the early romantic period, progressive writings, modernist writings, and the current phase. Although a number of male and female writers wrote short stories during the first phase (including both romantic stories and social criticisms), the short story crystallized as a regular part of Urdu literature in the growth of the writings of Munshi Premchand. His notable short stories include "Kafan" and "Poos Ki Raat". The Urdu short story gained momentum with the phenomenal publication of Angare, a collection of many writers towards the end of the life of Premchand. Writers like Ghulam Abbas, Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander and Ismat Chughtai, to name but a few, turned the short story into a major genre of Urdu literature.
The next generation of Urdu short story writers included Qurratulain Hyder, Qazi Abdul Sattar and Joginder Paul. The short story tradition continues with younger generation writers like Zahida Hina, Paigham Afaqui, Syed Mohd Ashraf, Salam Bin Razzaq and Moinuddin Jinabade.
Urdu short stories have dealt with a wide range of the dimensions of life, but the most famous stories concern the trauma of the partition of the sub-continent and the violence generated out of it. Towards the end of the last century, short stories became grounded in the complexity of daily life which can be seen in the unique collection of short stories in Paigham Afaqui's Mafia. An entirely different approach is seen in the collection of short stories T'abir by Moinuddin Jinabade and Taus Chaman Ka Maina by Nayyer Masood.
Urdu drama evolved from the prevailing dramatic traditions of North India raas as practiced by exponents like Nawab Waj Farman Fatehpuri id Ali Shah of Awadh. His dramatic experiments led to the famous Inder Sabha of Amanat and later this tradition took the shape of Parsi Theatre. Agha Hashr Kashmiri is the culmination of this tradition.
Urdu theatre traditions have greatly influenced modern Indian theatre. Among all the languages, Urdu (which was called Hindi by early writers), along with Gujrati, Marathi, and Bengali theatres have remained popular. Many Urdu dramas have also been made into films.
Classic playwrights include Prof Hasan, Ghulam Jeelani, J. N. Kaushal, Shameem Hanfi and Jameel Shaidayi. Danish Iqbal, Sayeed Alam, Shahid Anwar, Iqbal Niyazi and Anwar are a few of the post-modern playwrights actively contributing to Urdu drama.
Sayeed Alam is known for his wit and humour in plays like Ghalib in New Delhi, Maulana Azad and Big B.
Danish Iqbal's Dara Shikoh, directed by M S Sathyu, is considered a modern classic for its use of newer theatre techniques and a contemporary perspective. His other plays are Sahir, on the famous lyricist and revolutionary poet; Kuchh Ishq kiya Kuchh Kaam, a Celebration of the Faiz's poetry, featuring events from the early part of his life, particularly the events and incidents of pre-partition days which shaped his life and ideals; and Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan, another play inspired from Faiz's letters written from various jails during the Rawalpindi Conspiracy days. He has written 14 other plays including Dilli Jo Ek Shehr Thaa and Main Gaya Waqt Nahin hoon.
Shahid's Three B is also a significant play. He has been associated with many groups including 'Natwa'. Zaheer Anwar has kept the flag of Urdu Theatre flying in Kolkata. Unlike the writers of the previous generation, Sayeed, Shahid, Iqbal, and Zaheer do not write bookish plays but rather their work is a product of a vigorous performing tradition. Iqbal Niyazi of Mumbai has written several plays in Urdu. His play Aur Kitne Jalyanwala Baugh?? won several awards. Hence this is the only generation after Amanat and Agha Hashr who actually write for the stage and not for libraries.
Progressive Writers Movement
The modernist movement started in Urdu literature around 1960. This movement laid more stress on symbolic and other indirect expressions as opposed to direct and clear expressions. The most well-known names in this movement included Shamsur Rehman Farooqui and Gopichand Narang and the poets Noon Meem Rashid and Meeraji. Apart from them, a number of other poets like Zafer Iqbal, Nasir Kazmi, Bashir Bader and Shahryar are related to this movement.
Halqa e Arbab e Zauq
Halqa e Arbab e Zauq was a literary movement begun in Lahore, British Raj, India in 1936. Early members included poets Noon Meem Rashid and Meeraji, brought to the meeting by his friend, Qayyum Nazar, an active member of the group. The Halqa was the second modern literary movement in Urdu poetry in the 20th century, founded just a couple of years after the leftist Progressive Writers' Movement, and is considered to be the most influential group on modern poetry in the Urdu Language.
Post-modernism was introduced to Urdu literature by Gopi Chand Narang. Many other critics in Urdu literature are also attached to this approach to criticism. Post-modernism does not claim to be a movement and does not demand any writer to adopt a particular style of writing. It generally concentrates on a method of understanding contemporary literature in the light of its content—mostly examining features like feminism, dalit, regional and other types of literature as opposed to seeking uniformity in the global literature on the basis of internationally established trends.
By the end of the 1980s the atmosphere in Urdu literature became very depressing. The progressive movement was almost dead and the modernist movement had started running out of ideas. But this was also the time for an upsurge of new creative forces rooted in the new life that was metamorphosing the socio-economic and political climate in the sub-continent. It was under this climate that the a new era of fiction started with the publication of Paigham Afaqui's novel Makaan. Afaqui and other writers refused to be identified by any movement and displayed complete independence in using personally developed styles and techniques for writing novels and explored their own philosophy and vision of life. It was a serious departure from the theme of partition which dominated writers like Qurtul Ain haider and Abdullah Hussain and the theme of existentialism which was the benchmark of modernism. Writers like Ghazanfer and Musharraf Alam Zauqi have further widened the horizons of new themes and concerns.
Theatre of the Absurd
Theatre of the Absurd is a new and somewhat rare genre in the history of Urdu Literature. The first play of the genre was written and published by the Pakistan research-writer, poet, lawyer and columnist Mujtaba Haider Zaidi in December 2008 under the title Mazaron Ke Phool (i.e. Graveyard Flowers).
- Encyclopedic dictionary of Urdu literature p.565 http://books.google.co.in/books?isbn=8182201918
- The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Five) p.4146 http://books.google.co.in/books?isbn=8126012218
- Ilm-o-Irfan Publishers, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore, Pakistan
- Muhammad Husain Azad: Ab-e hayat (Lahore: Naval Kishor Gais Printing Wrks) 1907 [in Urdu]; (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 2001 [In English translation]
- Shamsur Rahman Faruqi: Early Urdu Literary Culture and History (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 2001
- M.A.R. Habib: An Anthology of Modern Urdu Poetry in English translation with Urdu text. Modern Language Association (2003). ISBN 0-87352-797-6
- Alamgir Hashmi, The Worlds of Muslim Imagination (1986) ISBN 0-00-500407-1.
- Muhammad Sadiq, A History of Urdu Literature (1984).
- Alamgir Hashmi, ed. Rafey Habib, Faruq Hassan, and David Matthews, tr., Your Essence, Martyr: Pakistani Elegies Plainview (2011). ISBN 9789699670008
- The Annual of Urdu Studies, 1981-.
- “Urdu Afsana : Soorat o Ma'na” (Urdu) by M. Hameed Shahid National Book Foundation Islamabad Pakistan 2006-1.an eminent poet of moder age akhlaque bandvi.
- Noorul Hasnain- 'Naya Afsana-Naye Naam.ISBN 978-93-81029-29-9. Published by Arshia publication Delhi 110095. Edition 2012 (Article o n EK Mamnua Muhabbat Ki Kahani page 316 to 321)
- EK Mamnua Muhabbat Ki Kahani-by Rahman Abbas, Published by Educational Publishing House,Delhi-6 ISBN 978-81-8223-491-8
- Teen Novel-By Rahman Abbas, Published by Arshia Publication Dilshad Colony, Delhi-110095, ISBN 9789381029299. Year of publication 2013.
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Urdu|
- Urdu Wikipedia
- Columbia University: Urdu Language Sources
- Maḫzan al-asrār. Niżāmī raqm-i Muḥammad. Dessinateur 1538 AD