Urdu is a language whose fantastically complex linguistic and cultural records reflects the special role of Islam within the Indian subcontinent of South Asia. While linguistically associated with Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and the alternative languages of the Indo-Aryan circle of relatives (whose classical consultant is Sanskrit), Urdu is distinguished with the aid of the very excessive share of Perso-Arabic elements in its vocabulary. This Islamic cultural orientation is also meditated in its written shape, which makes use of the Perso-Arabic script with appropriate modifications to mark exclusive Indic features consisting of retroflex and aspirated consonants.
While its origins elude particular definition, Urdu truely commenced in medieval times from a aggregate of the nearby Indian dialects of the Delhi vicinity with the Persian spoken via the Muslim conquerors whose armies rapidly spread the new lingua franca across the subcontinent. Since Persian persisted to be the favored administrative and cultural language of the Delhi sultanate and the Mughal empire, it turned into best with the disintegrate of unitary Muslim political authority inside the eighteenth century that Urdu came to be cultivated in northern India as a literary language for a courtly poetry that constitutes the classical heritage of Urdu literature.
From the early nineteenth century, whilst British colonial rule become extended across northern India, Urdu came increasingly more to be used also as a written prose language. British policy itself favored the improvement of Urdu as an legitimate bureaucratic medium, and Muslim writers took enough benefit of the possibilities furnished by means of the colonial kingdom for the manufacturing of textbooks, newspapers, and really numerous prose writings. It is from this early current period, whilst British India become the scene of the most excessive debates approximately the definition of Islam inside the present day global, that Urdu have become a language of Islamic expression second handiest in worldwide significance to Arabic.
Throughout the twentieth century Urdu efficaciously retained this position as an Islamic language even as additionally growing as the medium of a present day secular literature an awful lot inspired via English. As an administrative and educational language, however, Urdu has steadily lost floor to modern trendy Hindi, the rival Sanskritized language promoted as a alternative for Urdu via Hindu nationalists. Since independence from British rule in 1947, Urdu has consequently increasingly more come to be marginalized in its Indian native land and diagnosed with Pakistan. Although spoken there as a mother tongue only by using Muslim immigrants from India and their descendants, Urdu is the authentic language of Pakistan, where languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, or Pashto have restrained local reputation most effective. As such, Urdu has been carried by way of the Pakistani diaspora to many other components of the arena, along with the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
Classical Urdu Poetry
Persian poetry became for plenty centuries one of the major arts to be cultivated throughout the jap Islamic international. The patronage of the outstanding Mughal emperors advocated a similarly improvement of Persian poetry in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century India by using each immigrant and local-born poets. While their works were officially forged within the long mounted traditional poetic genres, some novelty of expression came from their development of the brand new baroque manner referred to as the “Indian style” (sabk-e hindi).
The eighteenth-century transfer from Persian to Urdu as the desired language of courtly poetry in northern India were linguistically foreshadowed by way of the preclassical Urdu poetry produced within the southern Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan. But the dwelling way of life of classical Urdu poetry is recognized with the period while the empire had collapsed under the twin pressures of outside invasions and inner struggles into several successor states, appreciably the court of the Navvab-Vazirs of Avadh in Lucknow and that of the politically shadowy later Mughals in Delhi, each of which were maintained as puppet kingdoms with the aid of the British till the mid-19th century.
The carefully cultivated conscious rivalry among the “schools” of Delhi and Lucknow now seems less good sized than the commonplace capabilities of classical Urdu poetry, which is each the direct inheritor to the big creative history of Persian poetry (itself now linguistically inaccessible to maximum South Asian Muslims) and the leader vehicle for the public and private literary expression of an elite society going through major political and cultural challenges. Most of the poetic genres are of the famous Persian sorts, and are in addition based on rhyming verses composed in the regular love poetry in urdu Persian meters, usually ending with the incorporation of the poet’s pen call (takhallus) inside the very last signature verse. By a ways the maximum famous genre is the ghazal, the ever-present short lyric whose cultivated formal rhetoric effortlessly allows its expressions of personal feeling to attain big public outreach through recitation and musical performance in addition to written dissemination. The splendid classical masters of the Urdu ghazal are typically stated to be the very prolific Mir Taqi Mir (c.1722–1810), who is recognized for the poignancy of his direct expression of the sufferings of love, and the Delhi poet Ghalib (1797–1869), whose narrow collection (divan) of ghazals is an iconic masterpiece combining refinement of sentiment with the ironic intellectualism of the “Indian style.”
Of the longer public genres of Persian poetry, the narrative masnavi become extra successfully cultivated in Urdu for the duration of its pre-classical segment in the Deccan. Although Mir himself wrote some of hanging short masnavis on cutting-edge romantic topics, it’s far his flexible and revolutionary current Sauda (1713–1781) whose poetry addresses the greatest type of public subject matters, the use of the formal ode (qasida) in addition to various strophic bureaucracy to compose no longer handiest elaborately rhetorical eulogies and satires however additionally a number of placing elegies at the cultural and political devastation of Delhi in the mid-eighteenth century. In the qasida Sauda is later matched best with the aid of Zauq (1790–1854), the great rival of Ghalib for the want of Bahadur Shah II Zafar (1775–1862), the remaining Mogul “emperor” whose sad fate on the hands of the British has helped to guarantee a unique status for his own elegiac ghazals.
While the Lucknow poets are in popular considered much less wonderful for their thematic variety than for their cultivation of a proper Persianizing elegance, the Shi˓a allegiance of the rulers of the Avadh state encouraged the surprising flowering of the strophic marsiyya, the progressive Urdu style that deployed the total assets of the “Indian style” for the elegiac birthday celebration of the sufferings of Karbala celebrated inside the annual rituals of Muharram, and whose high-quality masters are Anis (1801–1874) and Dabir (1803–1875).
Modern Urdu Literature
While the transition from the classical to the cutting-edge duration can be sharply marked by using the annexation of Avadh by the British in 1856 and the destruction of a good deal of Delhi that observed their ruthless suppression of the Great Revolt of 1857, there has been additionally naturally a lot overlap between the 2. Under the patronage of different Indian Muslim rulers, some poets have been capable of keep operating inside the classical style, like Ghalib’s more youthful relative Dagh (1831–1905) who perfected a mastery of the light ghazal designed for making a song with the aid of courtesan artistes.
On the opposite hand, many of the developments maximum feature of later 19th-century Urdu literature together with the increasing significance of prose and of explicitly Islamic writing had already all started earlier than 1857, no longer least because of the emergence of an Urdu publishing industry based at the lithographic reproduction of professionally calligraphed texts. It changed into thru which means that a much broader public become located, for example, for such early masterpieces of Urdu prose as Ghalib’s elegantly informal letters.