On Nazir Akbarabadi

Sajjad Zaheer

Nazir Akbarabadi, a contemporary of the above-mentioned poets (Mir, Sauda, Dard, all of the 18th century – ed. R.D.) belonged, however, to quite a different category. Whereas the former poets lived at Delhi and later at Lucknow, and breathed the atmosphere of decadent feudalism, Nazir lived away from all such influences amidst the common people of Agra. He was a poor man who earned his livelihood most probably by teaching the children of poor shop-keepers. His poetry stands out in this entire epoch as pre-eminently the poetry of the common people, dealing with the events of their everyday life, their festivals, their likes and dislikes. There is an amazing health and vigour in Nazir. He has offended punctilious critics by what they call his obscenity; but even in these obscene pieces of Nazir one finds a full-blooded expression of joy in sensual pleasures, rather than the morbid perversities of some of the disreputable poets of the Lucknow school (19th century).

The language used by Nazir came very close to the language of the common people. Words which were considered inelegant by the gentry (steeped in Persian and Moghul culture) – but which were in the common parlance of the folk below – Nazir has used freely and extensively. His Song of the Gypsies, the famous poem with the refrain,

Sab thath para rah jaega jab lad chalega banjara
(All your pomp will be of no avail, when the gypsy caravan (of life) packs up for the journey)

is still one of the most popular poems of our language.

Nazir has also written very good ‘ghazals’ in the traditional style. These are not of the same standard as those of the great masters (Mir, Sauda or Ghalib). The important thing about Nazir from the point of view of language is that in his enormous works altogether two lac verses (i.e., four lac lines) – he has left for posterity a whole treasure of words, phrases, idioms, not only of the Khariboli, but also of the popular indigenous words of Bhasha and the local Agra dialect which, unlike his more sophisticated contemporaries of Delhi and Lucknow, he never hesitated to use with dexterity. It is because of this fact that Nazir has been acclaimed by many modern nationalists as the first poet of Hindustani.

From: S. Sajjad Zaheer, ‘The Historical Background of the Problem of Hindi-Urdu-Hindustani’, ed., G. Adhikari, ‘Marxist Miscellany’, Volume Four, People’s Publishing House, Bombay, October 1945, pp. 110-111.

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