Music The poetic structure of Urdu makesit suitable for music.
At the most, many of us are familiar with the ghazal, qawwali, dadra, tumri, in the lighter musical vein of Hindustani music, not to talk of the classical genre like drupad, khyal, etc. Most of these species originate from Urdu poetry handed down to us from Persia. The language itself is known for its musicality, grace, dignity and beauty which makes it most suitable for poetic expression which in turn finds articulation in music. Few of us know that the poetic structure of Urdu is bound by rigid norms which underline the meter, rhythm, rhyme scheme, alliteration and metaphor. There are as many as nine famous styles of poetic prescriptions in Urdu
Rubayi: Popularly referred to as Rubaiyat (Omar Khayyam) in western literature, the Rubayi is of Urdu-Persian origin. It comprises of four lines where the rhyme scheme is A-A-B-A, that is, the first, second and fourth lines have the rhyme. The content introduces one single idea which is further developed through similes in the first three lines and the fourth lines sums up the entire idea with an impact. Each line of the Rubayi conforms to a specific, basic, poetic meter called the ‘hazaj’ comprising four metrical units. The ‘hazaj’ has 24 variants.
The Golconda Sultan, Mohd. Quli Qutub Shah (16th -17th century) was the first Rubayi writer in Urdu. Some of the prominent poets in Rubayi writing are Omar Khayyam, Sarmad and Abu ul Khair. However, the Rubayi gained popularity with two poets of Lucknow - Babar Ali Aniis and Salamat Ali Dabiir.
Ghazal: A ghazal, by far the most popular art form is a series of couplets (also called sher/ashaar). Each couplet of the ghazal stands alone as a separate entity. However all the couplets of the ghazal conform to uniform meter (beher), rhyme (qaafiyaa) and conclude with the same words (radiif). The ghazal is usually subjective in content.
Qataa: A qataa is an independent poem consisting of four lines, in the form of two couplets/shers. However, unlike the ghazal couplets, the content of a pair of couplets is similar. Though Qataa has four lines similar to Rubayi, it does not entertain rhyme scheme of the Rubayi. Instead, it has a four-line rhyme and the content runs like a poetic comment on daily happenings, situations and issues, from the divine to social to political.
Nazm: Next to ghazal comes the nazm which is a form of poetry not bound by any grammatical norms like length of the verse or rhyme scheme. Nazm is an objective form of poetry where the thought is spelt out, developed and finally wrapped up keeping in mind the basic tenets of Urdu poetry of course. The subject usually philosophizes national issues or individual predicaments. . Although the existence of nazm can be traced to Qutab Shah (1565-1611) or to Nazir Akbarabadi (1732-1830), the modern nazm is said to have taken shape during the 19th century. Some of the famous poets of nazm are Akbar Allahabadi, Chakbast, Mohammed Iqbal (Shikwa), Faiz Ahmed Faiz, to name a few.
Marsiya: The word is an Arabic derivative meaning ‘weeping over the dead’. A Marsiya is form that express sorrow over the death of a great man or a deeply-loved person in verse. From a historical perspective, the traditional marsiya was composed to honour the self-sacrifice of Hazrat Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad at the battle of Karbala.
Marsia-writing attained prominence in the Deccan during the reign of Quli Qutab Shah and flourished in Delhi under the reign of Mohammad Shah (1719 – 1748). Some of the famous Mersia poets are Miir Taqii Miir, Sauda, Zamiir, Miir Aniis and Mirza Dabiir.
Qawwali: Qawwali originated in Persia and belongs to the Sufi devotional tradition. Originally performed at Sufi shrines/dargahs throughout South Asia, it has also gained ground with mainstream audience, poets and musicians.
Hamd: This is a verse/song in praise of God. A qawwali usually includes at least one hamd, which is traditionally the first song in a recital.
Naat: A naat is specific eulogy of Islamic prophet Muhammad. Many of the famous scholars in the earlier days of Islam penned naat. Those who recite naat are known as naat-khua-an or Sanaa-khua-an.
Masnavi: A Masnavi is a form of poetry in which two lines of a couplets follow a rhyme pattern. But then, each couplets has a different rhyming like AA, BB, CC etc. A masnavi is usually lengthier than a ghazal and can run up to hundreds of couplets/shers. Masnavi as a form of poetry is more prevalent in Persian language than in Urdu. The themes of Persian masnavi are epic in nature and mystic in content but most Urdu masnavi are romantic in language and nature.
Qasida: This is a laudatory and elegiac poetry usually penned in praise of a king or a nobleman (tashbeeb, duaa, madh). However, sometimes it may take the form of a satire. Qasida, a long poem, follows the same rhyming pattern of the ghazal. Actually it is said that ghazal was derived from the qasida. The qasida opens with a short prelude, the ‘tashbeeb’ which is elegiac in mood aimed at drawing the audience attention or that of the person in question (if eulogizing a great living person). Then, it passes on to the ‘gurez’ or transitory verse. There is a ‘duaa’ (blessing) towards the closing which is supposed to be a prayer by the poet for the ‘mamduh’ (great patron/noble/king). The qasida in Urdu was initiated by Mohd. Quli Qutub Shah, though, by then it was already prevalent as a Persian form of poetry. Qasida, as a literary form, declined with the extinction of the institution of monarchy.
Hijv-Madah : This is a lampoon and is not accorded dignity due to its content and tone. Contrary to this is the Madah which is eulogy of kings and nobles.
Mussaddas : Musaddas is a genre of Urdu poetry in which each unit consists of six lines. Hali's Madd-o-Jazr-e-Islam is an exemplar of this form.