Weaving ghazals on love

Weaving ghazals on love
- by Ashraf Faruqi

Ali Sikandar 'Jigar Muradabadi' has a special place in the history of Urdu poetry. A flamboyant and cavalier poet, he set many poetic meetings on fire with his style of recitation and rindana verses. He was born in Moradabad in 1890. The Mughal royalty in Delhi employed his ancestral family and late in 18th century, it moved to Azampur and Moradabad. Jigar had traditional education in Arabic and Farsi. He didn't really have a teacher or ustad and showed one ghazal to Dagh Dehlvi. But Dagh died on February 10, 1905. At this time Jigar was only 15 years old and had just begun to write poetry. Mazhar Jaleel 'Shauq Bachrayuni' a schoolmate of Jigar says in his book 'Yadgar-e-Jigar': "together we would consult Munshi Hayat Baksh 'Rasa Rampuri' for correcting our poetry…who later became his ustad".

As a young man, Jigar moved to Agra and was a traveling salesman for an optical eyewear company who sold his merchandise in towns and cities. He could also give eye exams. He had an intense personality. In his youth he picked up drinking. Alcohol captivated Jigar from 1920 through 1938. In mushairas he recited his poetry melodiously. Amazingly, he was also a deeply religious man and went for Hajj in 1953.

Jigar belonged to that middle class group which was deeply conscious of its historical past. It respected its culture and was aware of its religious and moral values. Jigar grew up in this environment. Emotionally he was inclined towards poetry and mentally he cherished his eastern values. For Jigar reality of life is beauty. However, there is no philosophical depth and no serious thinking in his poetry, which one finds in poems of Iqbal or Ghalib. So Jigar should not be compared with the standard of these two poets. He is closer to the poetry of Meer, Momin, Dagh and Hasrat, which is laced with intense emotionalism. Jigar by temperament worshiped beauty. His various love affairs taught him ups and downs of life.

When Jigar Muradabadi died in 1960, it appeared as though a pillar of modern Urdu ghazal had crumbled. He was a link that connected past with the present. Jigar was not only a great poet but also a great human being. The ghazal poetry that he created was really a wine, which could not stay in his glass. Ghazal was not his profession but his passion, which seeped from his nature and personality. It was in his temperament and amalgamation of his thoughts. If the veil covering his poetic signs is removed, it will reveal that his views on caring, feelings and emotions flowed from his heart.

Urdu ghazal has completed many strides from Vali to Meer, Firaq and Jigar. It has glittered in Mushairas and laced Urdu culture with its reputation. The 20th century produced four prominent poets: Hasrat, Asghar, Faani and Jigar who are considered pillars of modern Urdu ghazal. Urdu ghazal due to them reached new heights, respectability, and popularity. As a result of this gushing interest in poetry, mushairas suddenly erupted throughout the vast land, offering a delightful escape from the prosaic humdrum of daily life. It was a new realm, where fantasy embraced fact, and dreams merged with the realities of life. Poetry provided an additional world, or at least an extra dimension to life.

Poetry is part of an environment and many facets contribute to its richness. Ghazal of an era differs from other. Hasrat, Jigar and Fani were contemporaries but their style and thought process was different from each other. Jigar is a poet of love; Hasrat portrays the beloved, and while poems of Asghar reflects beauty. Jigar has introduced new signs, new colors of love and beauty by weaving and absorbing them in his ghazals. Ghazal is a fusion of feelings, emotions and imagination and to imbibe these into ghazal format is not an easy task.

Jigar is a poet of unfulfilled love, but he can find joy in the very experience of love. There is, as such, an element of buoyancy and mystic ecstasy even in situations, which are generally believed unhappy. He presents concepts of reality, romance, sunshine and shade like a dream. His love is romantic and beauty is not a shade but living reality. He presents life as it is. Jigar is not ashamed to leave his past behind. He had been in love many times and his ghazals often glisten with this feeling. He was gifted with the subtle art of combining lyrical verse with sublime melody that went straight to the listener's heart. The rhyming beauty of the soul-stirring couplets is simply overwhelming because Jigar was a great exponent of romantic passion.

Jigar's ghazals adhere to the traditional spirit and highlight contemporary values simultaneously. His ghazals reflect ideas, related to transformations in literature and the changing values of life, giving them new meaning, color and direction. His lyrical style, and words combination take the audience into a new magical world. When he comes to his peak he becomes a pied piper who takes his audience into a different world of magic. He is not inclined towards politics or social moments, and he concentrated on the subject of love. When Jigar became most respected and sought-after poet, he never thought of presenting himself as a guide or mentor to budding versifiers.

Nevertheless, there soon emerged young men who admired his poetic diction, his romantic imagery and his incomparably mellifluous style, and had also developed a great fondness for the affable and kind-hearted person that Jigar was. They emulated him and each one of them became famous. The list includes such names as Behzad Lucknavi, Shakil Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Ravish Siddiqui, Khumar Barabankvi and Nushur Wahedi.

His poetry collection Daag-e-Jigar, Sholey Toor and Atish-e-Gul has been published. There is a separate area at the Jamia University Library in Delhi called "Goshe Jigar". He was given an honorary doctorate of literature from Aligarh University. In 1955, he earned Sahitya Academy award on his book Atish- e-Gul. There was also a rare film on him in which he recites a couple of his poems.

Jigar Muradabadi occupies a lofty niche in Urdu literature's hall of fame. He belongs to that special breed of achievers who 'come, see and conquer' the world around them, and serve as a source of profound inspiration for a generation or two, leaving behind a beckoning imprint upon the field of their choice.