History of Urdu Literature

History of Urdu Literature

The same Khari Boli that gave rise to Hindi also gave rise to Urdu around the 11th century AD. The Western Sauraseni Apabhramsa is the source of the grammatical structure of Urdu though the vocabulary of the language, its idioms and literary traditions owe heavily to Turkish and Persian. The term ‘Urdu’ literally means ‘camp’. Amir Khusro was the first to employ the language for literary purpose. However it was in the Deccan in the Bahmani, Golconda and Bijapur courts that it first achieved literary status. Urdu poetry has a few literary genres—the masnavi, a long amorous or mystical narrative poem; qasida, something like an ode, a pan­egyric; ghazal, lyrical poem composed of self-contained couplets with a single metre and mood; marsia (elegies); rekhtis and nazm.

In the north Urdu literature flourished when political decadence came about in early 18th century and Persian lost ground. Names of notable writers are: Mirza Jan-­i-Janan Mazhar, Khwaja Mir Dard, Muhammad Rafi Sauda, Mir Hasan. Perhaps the best known name in connection with Urdu Ghazal is that of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib who “sang of life in all its phases, and was perhaps the most cosmopolitan and original poet in Urdu”.

Altaf Husain Hali was the pioneer of the modern movement in Urdu in the 19th century. His subject went beyond love and mysticism to hope, justice, patriotism. Poets like Brij Narain Chakbast, Durga Sahai Suroor, Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Mohammad lqbal used the medium of poetry to speak of social and cultural problems of the day.

Urdu prose was slow to develop and it was Syed Ahmad Khan who set the style with a plain, matter-of- fact prose. The tradition was carried on by talented writers like Krishan Chander, Sajjad Zaheer, K.A. Abbas, Ismat Chugtai. The field of fiction projects names like Ruswa (Umra Jan Ada) and Premchand.

Jnanpith Award winners for Urdu writing are Firaq Gorakhpuri (Gul-e-Nagma) and Qurratul-ain-Haidar (Aag ki Darya, Pathar kt Awaz).

Urdu, incidentally, is written in the Perso-Arabic script as well as the Devnagari script.