History & Culture

Going Native: Ghalib goes to Awadh…

The statue of Mirza Ghalib at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena   | Photo Credit: Sandeep_Saxena

How does a nearly forgotten dialect still breathe life into the aesthetic and cultural realms of our life by getting the better of the dominant narrative of intolerance and rancour of the post-Modern world that harps on fragmentation? To resolve the riddle one has to focus on Awadhi, still spoken by 38 million people (2001 census). It is the language that produced some very popular and readily understood religious and cultural texts such as “Ramcharit Manas”, “Padamavat” and “Hanuman Chalisa”. Further some widely admired contemporary films “Laagan” and “Peepli Live” used its intense lyricism, sensuous imagery and easy to understand idiom extensively to win over the audience instantly.

Awadhi, the main dialect of the Eastern Hindi branch of Indo-Aryan group, said to be a link between Shaurseni and Magadhi. It became the dominant literary langue during the Bhakti period. It is the only modern language that produced the most admired narrative “Ramcharit Manas”, “Padamavat” and “Chandayan”. The court poet of Akbar, Rahim composed poems in Awadhi.

Contrary to widely held view that Awadhi is no longer used as a language of poetry, still prods the creative dexterity of many eminent poets.

Not long ago, a well-known Hindi scholar and poet Partap Narain Misra, who also happen to be a stalwart of the Bhartendu period, wrote his deeply soothing poems in Awadhi. This aside, scores of contemporary poets such as Pandit Banshi Dhar Shukla, Pandit Dwarka Parsad Misra, Daya Shanker Dikshit Paihati, Shive Dulare Tripathi, Nootan, Lakshman, Shiv Singh Saroj, Sumitra Kumar Sinha, Anoop Sharma, Sharda Parsad, Pandit Lakshman Shanker, Nasahank and Rama Kant Srivasti, etc. created new vistas of creativity through Awadhi to unlock unknown territory of culture aspiration for which many possess no entry.

Awadhi completely devoid of religious overtones is essentially a kaleidoscope of different cultural traditions and value system and is still the most effective medium of rubbing off angst, despair and anguish. Inheriting the rich heritage of Sufi literature Awadhi looks up to poets whose creative outpourings betray a candid portrayal of the incongruities of human life.

In line with this quest, the prodigious output of Ghalib wrapped in stimulating metaphor and satirical quips has been rendered into Awadhi. A noted Urdu scholar Noorul Hasan Hashmi rendered a hundred couplets of Ghalib into Awadhi.

The chosen couplets transform a myriad of experiences-sensuous, emotive mystical and intellectual into a united pattern of unfading experience. His book, “Saaz-e-Awadhi Mein Naghma-e-Ghalib”, comprises one complete ghazal, seven, Persian couplets and 86 couplets selected from various ghazals. Hashmi has not modelled his translation on the doha, for rhyme and end rhyme is not followed in every couplet. In other words, no couplet is made matla (the first couplet of a ghazal). Hashmi has tried to acquaint Awadhi readers with the creative dexterity of Ghalib and, therefore, has frequently picked up those couplets that unfailingly depict the frightening climax to an unnerving story of loneliness. Ghalib’s intent to highlight loss of values and man’s basic helplessness prompted the translator to select the couplets that betray the same emotions. Ghalib’s sophisticated and emotive diction looks far more impressive in the easy-to-understand vocabulary of Awadhi.


A translation of the first couplet of Ghalib will drive the point home eloquently:

Hai akle ran ki bipta na pooch no hirdaye ka batlai

Kali raaten parbat jaisi, katath katathy bhor ho jai

(One must not ask for the miseries of the night spent in loneliness, how the heart would tell

Dark nights resemble mountains, struggling somewhat leads to dawn)

Going ahead, Ghalib’s extremely popular couplet,

Go haath ko jumbish nahin, ankho mein toh dam hai

Rahne do abhi sagar-o-meena mere aage

(Though my hand cannot move, my eyes still approve

Let wine and glass stay before me)

It is rendered into unadorned and facile Awadhi thus:

Haathan ma to sakat nahin, nain jyoti nahin abhav

Abhai moe aaage seeti (se) mad ka pitala nahin haton

(Though the hands don’t move, the eyes are alive

Wine and goblet, let them stay in front of me) Translation by Rajinder Krishna

Awadhi still holds the distinction of being the most important literary dialect that binds various cultural and religious affinities together.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 10:49:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/ghalibs-verses-goes-to-awadh/article6360045.ece

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