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The Ghazals

by Prakash Burde
First Online: $FirstONline$
Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

Ghazals as Popular Form of Hinustani Music

It is extremely interesting to note that Ghazals originated in Persia, is today one of the most popular form of Hindustani music of the Indian subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

From "Qasida" of Persian origin to the present day poetic and musical form, Ghazals made a romantic journey through Serveral centuries, and traveled across Afghanistan, Sindh, Punjab to Bijapur in the deccan and go back again to Delhi in its present Avatar! In the 12th century, Ghazals were merely known as a literary form of poems written in praise of the rulers. In those days each Ghazal had more than 100 couplets and were written in Persian. It is often said that Amir Khusrow in the 13th century experimented writing Ghazals in Urdu and later over the centuries Urdu became the chosen language.

The credit of making more recitation of poems into musical form goes to the Muslim rulers of Bijapur. Naturally thus, Ghazals became the offshoots of Indian ragas like Thumris and Dadras. Thus poems written in praise of their rulers and masters evolved into romantic songs of unreciprocated love, madness and what is more at times of mystical reflections.

Thus original Qasida of Persia became a Ghazal –‘The dialogue with the beloved'-albeit one sided! The poetic content is always romance, more often than not unfulfilled hence there is always an undercurrent of black humour throughout each Ghazal.

‘Ghazal' word comes from "Gazelle". Gazelles are too shifty, fickle and quick in movement, so are the Ghazals with full of twists and turns.

Unlike in classical music or art music where music is of utmost importance, in Ghazals lyrical beauty has equal footing. The phrases and nuances are precariously balanced; some times with double entendre bringing an unexpected appreciation form the audience. Infact, receptive audience too is necessary quite often to punctuate the recitals with appreciative Wahs and Suban-allahas !

A Ghazal comprises of 2,3,5,7 shers or couplets, meaningful couplets with matla, rhyming shers. The singer male or female gives credit to the poet and recites the song in prose highlighting the meaning of the word, to attract the connoisseurs and then recites the Ghazal set to a raga or ragas. The listeners are carried away as the singer presents the theme with total involvement. After the each end of the sher, there is almost like a brilliance of lightening like for example, "Bhuj gaya dil hayat baki hai-chhup gaya chand raat baki hai". Loosely translated this means “The heart is dead, long live the body, the moon has disappeared, yet the night is young”!

From the Tawaif (singing courtesans) days of 19th century, today Ghazal is the most popular form of music in the whole subcontinent. Indian Ghazal singers like Jagjit Singh, Anup Jalota, and Pankaj Udhas are very popular in Pakistan, while Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali and Runa Laila of Bangladesh are very popular in India.

- Truly, Ghazals bring the neighboring nations artistically together and also religions together. It is a matter of pride that Ghazal poets like Raghunandan Sahay a Hindu and extremely popular poet known as Firaq Gorakhpuri (1896-1982). Who can, forget Mirza Ghalib and Bahadur Shah 'Zafar' – the last Moghul?

See Also:

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