“Manzil milegi, bhatak kar hi sahi, Gumarah to wo hain, jo ghar se nikle hi nahin” – Mirza Ghalib
Shayari is one of the most loved forms of poetry, not only in India but also worldwide. A sher is essentially a poem written in Urdu, Persian or Hindi. And the poet who pens the sher is called a shayar. India has been fortunate to be the home of some of the most gifted and talented shayars, who have with their words, couplets, shers left an impact for generations to come.
The Magic of Shayari
There is almost a magical quality that shers possess. The rhythm and play of words, along with the sweetness of the language itself, have made shers a popular medium to express several emotions. From love to betrayal, to socially important ideas to a state of mind, this form of poetry has been adapted in different ways. Shayars quote their shers in ‘mehfils’ and some of the most poignant shayaris have been converted into songs and musicals.
Each word is steeped in meaning, and very often the listeners instantly exclaim, ‘Wah Wah,’ on the completion of the sher. The poetry is further elevated in style either in the form of soulful songs or ‘mushaira’, where stalwarts like Jagjit Singh have lent their voices or the shayars themselves have mesmerized the audiences with their diction and conviction.
The Shayars of India
When a sher itself is so powerful, how can one not admire the pen and person who composes them? There are some poets, all over the world, whose writings and poetry have survived the tides of time and remain lessons till eternity. Shayars have used the medium of language to bring forth umpteen human desires and emotions, be it love, sadness, happiness, hope, despair, longing and much more. Here is a look at the best shayars of India.
Born in the 13th century, Amir Khusrau is perhaps one of the earliest shayars in the world. He was a poet, scholar, composer who served the Delhi Sultanate. Though his works are mainly in Persian, he also wrote in Hindavi. His love poetry transcends into the divine and mystical, making him a pioneer of shayari in the country.
A list of best shayars of India has to start with none other than Mirza Ghalib. One of the most famous shayars, Ghalib wrote in Persian and Urdu. He started writing at a young age of 11 and his poetry is the hallmark of deep thought coupled with beautiful word play. However, sadly Ghalib in his lifetime hardly saw the fame or influence that his shayari would have for ages to comes. An orphan he changed his pen name from Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan to Mirza Ghalib and moved from Agra to Delhi. He passed away in 1869, but his poetry still lives on.
Mir Taqi Mir
Another poet who hails from the bygone eras, Mir Taqi Mir was a leading poet of the 18th century. Often called the best Urdu poet of all times who also helped in shaping the Urdu language. His shayaris on compassion and love are popular till date. He belonged to the Delhi School of ghazals in Urdu and one can learn more about him in his autobiography, Zikr-e-Mir.
Khwaja Haider Ali Atish and Imam Baksh Nasikh
Born in 1777, Khwaja Haider Ali Atish moved to Lucknow from Faizabad which happened to be the literary hub of poetry and poets. He lived on his own terms, not affiliated to any school or court. He wrote in Persian and Urdu and interestingly, he was the contemporary of another legendary poet, Imam Baksh Nasikh.
Imam Baksh Nasikh was born in 1776 and his rivalry with Khwaja Haider Ali Atish is well known. Both the poets had several followers and this era is often referred to as the golden period for Urdu poetry. Both are known for their amazing and thought provoking ghazals.
Muhammad Iqbal was born in 1877 and passed away before Independence. He is also known as Allama Iqbal, a title that means ‘learned’. Most of his works are written in Persian followed by Urdu. He has also been called the ‘Poet of the East’, and though he has a large repository of work, he is most well remembered for writing ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara’.
Raghupati Sahay was the real name of the renowned poet Firaq Gorakhpuri. His father Munshi Gorakh Prasad was also a poet and played an important role in shaping his son’s literary and creative genius. Firaq was an English professor who went on to write about 40,000 couplets. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan.
Rahat Indori or Raht Qureshi was born in 1950 was an Urdu professor and a poet. He is also a well known lyricist who has penned lyrics for popular Bollywood songs. Besides, Rahat Indori was invited for mushairas all over the world.
Sahir or Sahil Ludhianvi has been an influential song writer for Hindi cinema. He has written in Urdu, Hindi and English. The range of his poems and songs include romance, futility of war, materialism, social change and more.
The real name of Majrooh Sultanpuri was Asrar-ul Hassan Khan. Another popular lyricist, he has written a number of melodious songs that we continue to hum even today. From ghazals to songs, his command over the language was the fundamental on which his thoughts were conveyed.
A well known poet and lyricist, Nida Fazli is another common name that is often associated with the Hindi film industry. Awarded the Padma Shri, his poetry touches upon relationships, search for purpose and more.
Known as someone who paved the way for Urdu literature in Indian cinema, Kaifi Azmi is popular name in the world of shayari. Along with his contemporaries, Juan Elia and Pirzada Qasim he participated in various mushairas.
Gulzar is one of the stalwarts of Hindi cinema. However, his writings, shers and poetry talk about various aspects and emotions of life. Undoubtedly, one of the best shayars of our times, he dons multiple roles in the form of a novelist, poets, lyricist, dialogue writer, play writer and more. However, his work is not just limited to the entertainment industry, for he is also renowned as a poet respected by the literary world.
Javed Akhtar is an Urdu poet, lyricist, script writer, dialogue writer of this generation. Along with Gulzar, he has popularized shayari and shers for the current modern generation and thus contributed in keeping the love and respect for it alive.
Shayars from The Subcontinent
India gained Independence in 1947, however, there have been stalwarts poets who were born in India during the British rule, but became citizens of Pakistan after Independence. Though strictly speaking, they may not be counted as shayars of India, however, their poetry is well acknowledged by the people of both the countries. We cannot forget their contribution in shaping the future generations of Indian poets. Here is a look at some of them:
Faiz Ahmad Faiz
One of the modern shayars, Faiz Ahmad Faiz was born in 1911. He wrote in Urdu and Punjabi (Pakistan) and also wrote for the Pakistan Times after independence. Although Faiz Ahmad Faiz is a Pakistani, he was born during the British era and his poetry is thus acknowledged and loved by both the countries of the subcontinent. His life’s later works were dedicated to improving the social status of his country.
Born in 1924, Ada Jafri is known as the ‘First Lady of Urdu Poetry’. She has won many awards and accolades given by the Pakistan government and she is popular for her romantic shayari and ghazals.
Ahmed Faraz’s real name was Syed Ahmad Shah. Born in 1931 he was an Urdu poet and also a scriptwriter. He often criticized the military and its rule in Pakistan but was awarded posthumously the title Hilal-e-Pakistan for its unwavering contribution to Urdu poetry.
There are several other shayars whose works are deep and mesmerizing. Be it from the past, such as Hasrat Mohani, Daagh Delvi, Mirza Mohammad Rafi Sauda or Momin Khan Momin. Or from the later and more modern times, such as Nasir Kazmi, Munawwar Rana, Amrita Pritam, Wasim Barelvi, Juan Elia, Parveen Shakir, Bashir Badr and more. The history and present of India has some of the finest shayars and we cannot be more grateful for it.