Revisiting Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib
Mirza Ghalib

Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan was born during the British colonial period in India. He is commonly known by his pen name Ghalib; another pen name of his was Asad. He was a poet at the court of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar II who conferred upon him the title of Mirza Nausha (Mirza the Bridegroom). Ghalib’s ancestors were of Turkish origin.

Ghalib lived in an era of turmoil, a period which saw the tragedy of 1857 and overthrow of the Mughals by the British East India Company. An aristocrat by birth and in attitude, Ghalib suffered severe hardships both economic and others during his life. In 1857 he saw the fall of Delhi and destruction of his beloved city. With the elimination of the Mughal court, he was left without patrons.

Ghalib wrote Ghazals, a popular Persian verse form. A ghazal is a love poem having several couplets, each of which is independent of others and complete in meaning. Best of Ghalib’s ghazals are written in Persian but the ones written in Urdu are more popular. Agha Muhammad Baqar says, “The theme or mode of the ghazal need not be the same throughout because it is simply a diamond of many facets.”

I am sharing here parts of some of the most popular ghazals by Ghalib which I have translated for the benefit of English readers. No translation may hope to reproduce the melody and the intensity of the Urdu versions in which these ghazals were originally written yet I have tried to make these somewhat intelligible.

Ghalib's Ghazals

Hazaron Khwahishen aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikley

bahut nikle merey armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikley

darey kyun mera qatil kya rahega uske gardan pey

Lahoo jo chashm-e-tar se umr bhar yun dum ba dum nikley

Nikalna khuld se Aadam ka sunte aaye hain lekin

Bade be-aabroo ho kar terey kooche se hum nikley


Of thousands of desires that I am dyeing for

Many have been fulfilled and yet they seem less

Why should my murderer be afraid? It’s not going to stay on his neck,

For my blood has incessantly flown from my wet eyes throughout my life.

We have heard about the Adam’s exile from heaven

But we were more humiliated when being exiled from your quarters*

*Here the poet compares his beloved’s quarters with heaven and his own humiliation and pain with that of Adam.


Ghalib's haveli
Ghalib's haveli | Source

Ye hum jo hijr me deewar-o-dar ko dekhtey hain

Kabhi saba ko kabhi naamabar ko dekhtey hain

Wo aayen ghar mein hamarey Khuda ki Qudrat hai

Kabhi hum unko kabhi apney ghar ko dekhtey hain

Nazar lagey na kahin uskey dast-o-baazu ko

Ye log kyun mere zakhm-e-jigar ko dekhtey hain

Terey jawahar-e-turfey kelah ko kya dekhen

Hum uuja-e-taalaey laal-o-guahar ko dekhtey hain


When in a state of separation from our beloved we watch the walls and the door

We are actually waiting for the breeze* and for our beloved’s messenger

They have come to our home; it’s a blessing of God

We look at our home and then at them in amazement

I am afraid that her hand and arm might become a victim of evil eye

Why do people look at the wound of my heart? **

What is there to see in the gems you have decorated the edge of your cap with?

I instead see the height of fortune of these gems. ***

* Acting as beloved’s messenger

**When people look at my wound they tend to praise the strength of the hand that has caused it.

***They are fortunate enough to sit on the beloved’s head.



Gham-e-duniya se gar payi bhi fursat sar uthaney ki

Falak ka dekhna taqreeb terey yaad aaney ki

Khulega kis tarah mazmoon merey maktoob ka ya rab

Qasam khayi hai us kafir ne qaghaz ke jalaney ki

Lipatna parniyan mein shoal-e-aatish ka aasan hai

Wale mushkil hai hikmat dil mein soze gham chhupaney ki

Unhein manzoor apne zakhmiyon ka dekh aana tha

Uthey they sair-e-gul ko dekhna shokhi bahaney ki


Even if I get some time from worldly affairs and raise my head skywards

The event of seeing the sky brings your memories

How is the content of my letters ever going to be perceptible?

The infidel* has sworn not to burn the paper. **

It’s easy to wrap burning coals in silken cloth

What is difficult is keeping the sorrow inside one’s heart

It was acceptable to them to visit their victims

And see what excuse they made while going out to do so, that they were going to visit the garden

*poet’s beloved

**She never read my letters but earlier when she used to burn my letters, the content used to become apparent in the form of flames but she has now discontinued even this practice.


Ye na thi hamari qismat k wisal-e-yaar hota

Agar aur jeete rehte, yahi intezar hota

Terey waede pe jiye hum to ye jaan jhoot jana

Ke khushi se mar na jate agar aitebar hota


It was not my destiny to meet the one I love

If I had lived more, I’d still be waiting

If you think that I lived because of your promise, know that it’s not true

Had I not died with happiness if I could believe you

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Comments 8 comments

makusr profile image

makusr 5 years ago from India


Good introduction of Ghalib to the hub-world. These are the gems of India which the world should know about. Thanks for doing that. One more personality needs to be told about. I am talking about Firaaq. When you find time do that, because you have a taste for Urdu. Your hubs have an incredible variety. Voted up!

Lots of Love,


TicksProfessional profile image

TicksProfessional 5 years ago from Lucknow India Author

Thankyou so much makusr both for the kind words and the suggeston. I'll definitely try that one!

shara63 profile image

shara63 4 years ago from Delhi

Ibn-E-Mariyam Hua Kare Koi

Mere Dukh Ki Dawa Kare Koi

Shura-O-Aain Par Madaar Sahi

Aise Qaatil Ka Kya Kare Koi

Kya Kiya Khijr Ne Sikandar Se

Ab Kise Rahnuma Kare Koi

Jab Tavaqqo Hi Uth Gayi “Ghalib”

Kyun Kisi Ka Gila Kare Koi !

An Incomparable poet! .......he was really Ghalib (Victorious) on every one in the writing business around him!

TicksProfessional, you have done a wonderful job of revisiting & remembering the great Poet over HubPages!

sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

sunilkunnoth2012 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

Excellent work. I am happy to see a topic like this here. I love Gazal and Hindustani music. Your effort is appreciated. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful text.

TicksProfessional profile image

TicksProfessional 2 years ago from Lucknow India Author

Thank you Sunilkunnoth for stopping by and for your kind words.

TicksProfessional profile image

TicksProfessional 2 years ago from Lucknow India Author

Shara63... Thanks for sharing yet another wonderful piece of Ghalib's poetry!

Clara 21 months ago

That's a smart answer to a tricky quseiton

Jimi 21 months ago

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