Mir Amman (later 17th and early
18th century): Mir
Amman is known for his tale Bagh-o-Bahar (The Spring
Garden). Bagh-o-Bahar is a qissa, a tale of fair length.
Mir Amman, an employee of the College of Fort William
at Calcutta, wrote it at the request of John Gilchrist,
the famous scholar. Mir Amman's tale is rather a retelling
- in simpler and more effective Urdu - of a linguistically
more elaborate and difficult Urdu translation of an
18th century Indo-Persian tale whose author is not known.
In Persian it is usually referred to as The Qissa of
Four Dervishes. Bagh-o-Bahar was prepared in 1801.
Taqi Mir (1723-1810): Mir Taqi Mir was the
first of the top ranking poets of Urdu. His fame and
greatness is based on his bulky volume of collected
verse, i.e. Kulliyat-e-Mir, almost all of it on themes
of love. His Muamlat-e-Ishq (The Stages of Love) is
one of the greatest known love poems in Urdu literature.
An aristocrat, courtier at the pre-1857 Mughal court,
wit, poet and prose-writer in both Persian and Urdu,
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was the greatest of all
the classical Urdu poets, and his Persian verse is of
the same high quality. His Divan-e-Ghalib has become
the touchstone of poetic taste. In 1828 he compiled
a combined selection of his Urdu and Persian verse Gul-e-Rana.
His Urdu Diwan was published in 1847. Ghalib was a prolific
writer of letters too. Ghalib's poetry is very philosophical
and rich in meaning. He was undoubtedly the heavy-weight
of Urdu poetry who ruled and continues to rule the hearts
of connoiseurs of Urdu literature. At times quite difficult
to decipher, his poetry has a depth that remains a benchmark
in this beautiful language.
Mohd. Hadi Ruswa (1858-1931): One of the
pioneers of Urdu novel in the modern sense of the term,
Ruswa was a versatile genius. He wrote fiction, poetry,
plays, treatises on Religion, Philosophy and Astronomy.
In his celeberated Umrao Jan Ada (a novel about a courtesan)
Ruswa achieved an artistic success unequalled in his
own time and for a long time afterwards.
Mohammed Iqbal (1877-1938): Born in Sialkot,
Iqbal obtained a Ph.D from Munich for his work on the
metaphysics of Persia. He developed his philosophy of
Khudi (Selfhood) in which influences of Rumi and German
Vitalism were assimilated into Quaranic thought. His
principal works are Bang-e-Dara (Caravan's Call) 1924,
Bal-e-Jibreel (Gabriel's Wing) 1935, Zarb-e-Kaleem (The
Blow of Moses) 1936 and Armughan-e-Hijaz (The Gift of
Hijaz) 1938. Some of his best known poems are Zauk-e-Shauk
(The Longing), Masjid-e-Qartaba (The Mosque of Cordova)
and Saqi Nama (Ode to Saqi).
(1880-1936): Premchand was born on July 31,
1880 in a village called "Lamahi", about four miles
from the city of Benares, to an ordinary working family.
He is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century
India who wrote both in Urdu and Hindi. A prolific writer,
he wrote some 12 novels and 300 short stories. He brought
into the ambit of literature the life of ordinary people
of India - the masses in the villages among whom he
lived. His best known works are Godan, Maidan-e-Amal,
Karmbhoomi, Nirmala, Gaban, Sevaasadan, Manorama, Premaashram,
Varadaan, Ranga Bhoomi, Prathijna, etc. Premchand's
writings have been translated not only into all Indian
languages, but also Russian, Chinese, and many other
foreign languages. He spent his life as an ordinary
school teacher, freedom fighter, social reformer and
Kalam Azad (1888-1958):
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the prominent
Indian National leaders, was an eminent Urdu writer
with a philosophical bend. His works include Tarjuman-ul-Quran
(Commentary on the Quran), Tazkirah (Autobiographical
Account) Ghubar-e-Khatir (The Dust of Memories). Universally
acclaimed for its literary merit, Ghubar-e-Khatir represents
Azad's versatile genius and multifaceted personality.
It has its own place in the genre of epistolary literature.
Gorakhpuri (1896-1982): Raghupati Sahai Firaq
is one of the major Indian poets of this century, both
in terms of contribution he made to the enrichment of
Urdu poetry and the influence he exercised upon his
age. Sublimation of pain and celebration of human love
are the characteristic features of Firaq's ghazal. Firaq's
first collection of verse is Gul-e-Nagma (The Music
Flower) won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1960.
Mohiuddin (1908-'69): Born in a village in
Medak, a district of the former princely state of Hyderabad,
Makhdoom Mohiuddin grew up to become a poet of incredible
versatility. He is best known for his verse collection
Bisat-e-Raqs (The Dance Floor). His published works
include an essay Tagore amd his Poetry, a play, Hosh
ke Nakhun (Unravelling), an adaptation of Shaw's Widowers'
Houses, and a collection of prose essays. Bisat-e-Raqs
is a complete collection of Makhdoom's verse including
his two earlier collections Surkh Savera (The Red Dawn)
1944, and Gul-e-Tar (The Dewdrenched Rose) 1961
Ahmed Faiz (1911-84):
The Urdu poet who became a legend during his lifetime,
and who may be ranked next only to Ghalib, Mir, Firaq
and Iqbal is Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Poet, journalist and liberal
humanist Faiz was committed to the uplift of the downtrodden
and the oppressed. Faiz published seven collections
of verse, Naqsh-e-Faryadi being the first and the greatest.
His collected works, Sare Sukhan Hamare appeared from
London in1982 and Nuskha-hae-Wafa from Lahore and Delhi
Chughtai (1915-1991): A crusader for the
rights of women and the downtrodden, Ismat Chughtai
was a leading fiction writer in Urdu. Her major short
story collections are Kaliyan (The Buds), Choten (Injuries),
Chooi Mooi (Fragile), Ek Baat (A Point) and Do Haath
(Two Hands). Her novels are Tehri- Lakeer (The Crooked
Line), Ziddi (The Obstinate), Ek Qatra-e-Khoon (A Drop
of Blood), Dil Ki Duniya (Heart's World) and Bahroop
Nagar (The Deceptive Town)
Singh Bedi (1915-'84): Born and educated
near Sialkot (now in Pakistan) Bedi started his writing
career in Lahore where he worked for the All India Radio.
Two of his collections of short stories, Dana-o-Daam
(The Catch) and Grehan (The Eclipse) were published
before the Partition. His novel Ek Chader Maili Si (A
Sheet Soiled and Torn) first published in 1972 won the
Sahitya Academy Award.
Hyder (b.1927): A trendsetter in Urdu fiction.
She began writing at a time when the novel was yet to
establish itself as a serious genre in the poetry-oriented
world of Urdu literature. She lifted it out of its stagnation,
divested it of its obsession with fantasy, romance and
facile realism. She offered it extraordinary range and
depth and brought to its ambit, hitherto unexplored
terrains of human thought and sensibility. A prolific
writer, she has so far written some 12 novels and novellas,
four collections of short stories and has done a significant
amount of translation of classics. She received the
Jnanpith Award on her later novel, Aakhir-e-Shab ke
Hamsafar (Travellers Unto the Night). Aag ka Darya (River
of Fire) is her greatest novel which is a tour de force
in Urdu and possibly in Indian fiction as a whole.
Hasan Manto (1912-55), one of the few Urdu
writers who both shaped and flouted the prevailing ideologies
of his time, continues to speak in a fresh voice to
contemporary readers. A member of the Progressive Writers'
Movement, which swept through Urdu literature from 1935
to 1960, Manto was a very controversial figure. Although
he contributed to several literary genres, he was at
his best in his collections of short stories. These
stories written before Independence, reflect his genuine
concern for progressive aims and portray the goodness
of lower class characters who dwell on the fringes of
society. His stories boldly challenged the conventional
mores by unabashedly discussing male and female sexuality.
A recurrent theme of these works is the exploitation
of women by supposedly respectable men, focussing on
the decrepit lives of prostitutes. Manto, like many
of the Progressives, was deeply traumatised by the Partition.
and expressed his feelings in many of his stories. He
learnt to pen short stories by studying the works of
the 19th century French and Russian realists. His stubborn
upholding of his personal point of view and choice of
subject matter, in the face of public censure, continues
to inspire budding writers even today. Manto ke Numainda
Afsane (Short stories of Manto), has been translated
as Kingdom's End and other stories. Toba Tek Singh,
Khol Do, and Thanda Ghosht are some of his stories known
for the ambivalent depiction of man and his relationship
with man, country and woman.
Sardar Jafri (1913): Winner of the 1997 Jnanpith
award for his contribution to the enrichment of Urdu
literature, Jafri was born in Ballarpur town of Uttar
Pradesh. He is the third Urdu poet to have won the Jnanpith
award, the other two being Firaq and Quarratulain Hyder.
The books that established him as a distinguished Indian
writer are Parwaz, Nai Duniya Ko Salaam, Khoon Ki Lakeer,
Asia Jag Utha, Patthar Ki Deewar, Ek Khwaab Aur, Pairahan-e-Sharar,
Lahu Pukarta Hai and Manzil.
Nath 'Renu' (1921-77), popularly known as
Renu, is one of the great Hindi novelists of the post-Premchand
era. An active political activist, one of Renu's masterpieces
is Maila Anchal (The Soiled Border, 1954), a social
novel that depicts the life of a region and its people,
the backward and the deprived. A trailblazer in the
post-Premchand period, the novel radically changed the
structure and narrative style in Hindi novels. The distinct
feature in the novel is that it does not possess a structured
plot or story in the conventional sense. After Premchand's
Godan, Maila Anchal is regarded as the most significant
Shukla (b.1925), an IAS officer, is renowned
for his objective and purposive satire in contemporary
Hindi fiction. In 1957, he published his first novel,
Sooni Ghat ka Sooraj (The Sun of a Desolate Valley)
followed by a series of satires Amgada Ka Pamva (Angada's
Foot) in 1958. His Raag Darbari (Melody of the Court,
one of the ragas, 1968) is the first satirical novel
of its kind in Hindi spanning a wide spectrum of post-Independence
rural India, specifically Avadh. It was Shrilal Shukla
who took wit, irony and sarcasm to great heights in
Hindi literature. Raag Darbari is generously peppered
with folk witticisms of Avadhi, the powerful dialect
in which Tulasidas, Malik Mohammad Jayasi and many Sufi
poets made their mark.
Rakesh (1925-72) was one of the pioneers
of the Nai Kahani movement in Hindi in the 1950s. Rakesh
made significant contribution to various genres, like
nove, short story, travelogue, criticism, memoirs and
drama. His Ashadha Ka Ek Din (One Day in The Rainy Month
of Ashadha, 1958) is a historical play suggestive of
the personal dilemmas of a present day writer. Ashadha
Ka Ek Din is one of the first major original plays that
revived the Hindi stage in the 1960s. Among his other
plays is, Adhe Adhure (The Incomplete Ones) is extremely
popular with the modern middle-class audiences, and
Lehron Ke Rajhamsa (The Swans of the Waves), a close
study of the renunciation of the Buddha, and its effect
on his own people.
Bharati (b. 1926) is a renowned poet, fictionist
and editor. Essentially a romantic humanist, Bharati
is famous for his poignant treatment of first love,
his lyricism and humanistic vision. One of his famous
works is Andha Yuga (The Blind Age or The Age of Darkness),
one of the most celebrated modern Hindi plays. Bharati
has been honoured with some of the highest literary
and State awards, including the Padma Shri.
Sahay (1929-90) was a versatile Hindi poet,
translator, short-story writer and journalist. The editor
of the weekly Dinaman, Sahay's five books of poems includes
Log Bhool Gaye Hain (They Have Forgotten, 1982) which
won him the Sahitya Akademi Award. The poet of the common
man, Sahay dealt with topics hitherto unexplored by
other Hindi male poets. His treatment of women in his
works is extraordinarily sensitive. His Atmahatya Ke
Viruddha (Against Suicide, 1967) comprises 36 poems.
A powerful democratic sensibility and great concern
for the dispossessed, especially women, is the hallmark
of his works. The marginalisation of the average person,
hypocrisy of the powers that be, and the brutish violence
that has crept into the system are some of his principal
themes. But perseverance and going on with life clearly
emerge as his mottos.
Verma (b.1929) together with Mohan Rakesh,
Bhisham Sahni, Kamleshwar, Amarkant and others, is credited
with introducing and establishing the Nai Kahani (the
modernist new short story) in Hindi literature. His
technical wizardry and cosmopolitan sensibility render
Nirmal Verma a one-of-a-kind artiste. Although he has
published four novels, six collections of essays and
cultural criticism, it is his short stories that beautifully
bring out his ethereal sensitivity, lyricism and profound
compassion. Kavve aur Kala Paani (Crows and the Black
Waters, 1983) translated as The Crows of Deliverance,
comprises seven of Verma's latest stories, which deal
with the spiritual ills that afflict his characters,
mostly from the urban middle class.