Urdu-Hindi Literature Blossomed in Allahabad, the City of Confluences

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The 18th century is considered to be an important phase in terms of artistic and cultural developments in the nation. The century witnessed the rise of Indian poets who used Persian with maturity and self-confidence in their works. Going by historical facts, Emperor Shah Alam, who stayed in Allahabad for a long span was a well-read person and a master of many languages. It was under his reign that Rekhta (Urdu) gained importance in the literary scenario of the city. In the early 19th century, the socio-political culture of the city was charged up with the freedom struggle. In the year 1937 and 1938, the Progressive Writer’s Movement became a part of the movement and organised an Urdu-Hindi conference. The cultural scenario of Allahabad during the 19th century was labeled as a melting pot, teeming with poets and writers publishing their work in both Urdu and Hindi. Writers with mingling sensibilities interacted and worked together in a free cultural space giving birth to new approaches and themes in the literary perspective. Beginning this week, Sehar writes a regular column, on the Urdu-Hindi litterateurs of Allahabad, exclusively for Different Truths.

Like meaning in the word.
The way for new themes
Is not closed
Doors of poetry
Are open forever

The beloved
Whose name is meaning reveals
Herself, bright, when the tongue
Removes the curtain from
The face of poetry

Poetry is
Unique in the world, there is
No answer to poetry

(Vali, Kulliyat-e- Vali, p203, 177, 286). Extract taken from Early Urdu: Literature, Culture and History, written by Shamsur Rehman Faruqi.

Although Urdu Literature is considered to be one of the youngest forms of literature in the Indian subcontinent, yet its richness and lucid character has popularised it amongst Indian writers and it remains unquestioned till date.

Urdu Literature blossomed out of two prominent languages existing in the land of cultural diversities (India), Persian and Sanskrit. The amalgamation of these two languages into one helped to bridge many historical gaps and laid the foundation of the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb (Indo-Muslim culture). The language still forms an inseparable part of the contemporary Indian culture.

I would like to quote Firaq Gorkahpuri here, who encouraged and motivated his contemporaries to adopt and use Urdu as a language in his essay, Answer to a letter:

“What is needed is for him (poets and writers) to grasp firmly in his hands the inner veins of that language (Urdu) in the same way that Urdu, or Western Hindi was grasped by Mir, Dard, Sauda, Glaib, Anis, Atash and Dagh. They had clasped the inner veins of Western Hindi closer to themselves than their own jugular veins….”

The city of Allahabad has been known to provide an enriching intellectual space to not only the people having their roots in the city of confluence. But in the words of my colleague:

Kuch aisi fiza thi meri shehar ki

ki chand pal saans lenay se hi

iski fiza main ek ruhaniyat se jag uthti har insaan main.

(A few breaths in the city of Allahabad led to a kind of spiritual and intellectual enlightenment).

If we look at history, the literary culture of the city had flourished in phases with names like Munshi Premchand, Mahadevi Varma, Sumitranandan Pant, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Upendra Nath ‘Ashk’, and Harivansh Rai Bachchan being etched in golden letters in the history of the city.

Drawing one’s attention to Urdu literature specifically, the city became a hub of Urdu poets and short story writers with names like Akbar Allahabadi, Nooh Narwi, Tegh Allahabadi, Raaz Allahabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, and Asghar Gondvi rising to fame in quick intervals.

Frankly speaking, when I was asked to do a write up on the Urdu poets of Allahabad, a sense of excitement along with nervousness gripped me. To write about names that have inspired so many people (including me) and made a mark in the history of literature and the culture is surely a difficult task. Before I begin, my fingers are sweaty as they type the names of these prolific writers.

Apologies to everyone who would identify the missing gaps in my writing, this is just a humble attempt and I am not so scholarly or good with facts.

The 18th century is considered to be an important phase in terms of artistic and cultural developments in the nation. The century witnessed the rise of Indian poets who used Persian with maturity and self-confidence in their works. Going by historical facts, Emperor Shah Alam, who stayed in Allahabad for a long span was a well-read person and a master of many languages. It was under his reign that Rekhta (Urdu) gained importance in the literary scenario of the city.

In the early 19th century, the socio-political culture of the city was charged up with the freedom struggle. In the year 1937 and 1938, the Progressive Writer’s Movement became a part of the movement and organised an Urdu-Hindi conference.

The cultural scenario of Allahabad during the 19th century was labeled as a melting pot, teeming with poets and writers publishing their work in both Urdu and Hindi. Writers with mingling sensibilities interacted and worked together in a free cultural space giving birth to new approaches and themes in the literary perspective.

The liberal spirit of the city gave the intellectuals the right environment for conducting the much needed political discourse during that era. Many motivational Shayrs/Nazma and Ghazals emanated from the town of cultural confluence and liberal intellectual discussions.

The abode of Prof Naimur Rehman, housed a library which held within itself a wide spectrum of knowledge contained in books written in different languages. One of his tenants, Muhammad Hasan Askari soon turned out to be one of the most sought after Urdu writers. Coming from a western district of Uttar Pradesh, Allahabad gave Askari what no other city could, a place to not only survive but bloom in the most extraordinary manner.

An interesting character from the history of Urdu fiction, Askari was known for using Anglo-Indian characters in his writings, which was unusual to find in Urdu literature. The then called “Oxford of the East” provided Askari with the right environment and impetus to hone his talent and writing skills. According to books, within a short span of just four years Aksari’s name began to do the rounds in the literary sphere of the city.

He published two of his stories in the year 1938, Phislan and Kalej se Ghar Tak, which came to be known for their quirkiness, his literary career got a kick start and he became a popular short fiction writer. His initial works put him as a challenge in front of others who were trying to understand his unusual choice of characters and issues like alienation and grappling with the boundaries of good and evil. But his career faded away in the 1960s after a roller coaster ride from Delhi to Meerut to Pakistan.

©Sehar Siddiqui

Photo from the internet.

#UrduPoets #HindiPoets #VernacularPoets #Poetry #Literature #IndianPoets #VernacularLiterature #DifferentTruths

Sehar is a communication skills trainer, she has good experience in writing on various issues. She is a blogger, book writer and enthusiastic traveller. A native of Allahabad, she believes in experiencing the small things of life in a big way. Sehar likes to work in groups and learn new things. Her motto is to enjoy life in small packets.