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Aug. 23, 2021, 5 p.m. by Karuwaki Speaks ( 645 views)

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Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq was an Urdu poet who wrote poetry under nom de plume "Zauq", and was appointed poet laureate of the Mughal Court in Delhi just at the age of 19.Later he was awarded the title of Khaqani-e-Hind by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Zauq was a prominent contemporary of Ghalib and in the history of Urdu poetry the rivalry of the two poets is quite well known.

During his lifetime Zauq was more popular than Ghalib.

Zauq died in 1854, and his grave lies in a bylanes of Paharganj, Delhi. His grave was restored after the Supreme Court orders in early 2000s, but his home in nearby Nabi Karim area, was never identified.Even though much of his work was lost in the 1857 mutiny, he left behind a legacy of ghazal, qasida, and mukhammas.

Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq | Karuwakispeaks

In literature, Zauq is frequently mentioned in the poetry of Ghalib especially the, Deewan-e-ghalib.

"Humne maana ke dakkan mein hai bahut qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun jaaye Zauq par Dilli ki galiyaan chhod kar"!

"Tum bhulkar bhi yaad nahi karte ho kabhi
Hum to tumhari yaad mein sab kuch bhula chuke"!

What drives us towards Urdu poets is more than just their Poetry. It’s their style ‘ada’ and the romanticism of Life. Compared to the royal court's affluence that Zauq spent his life in, Ghalib lived most part of his life in dire straits. What kept him unique was his benovelence, ambition, wit, romance and relentlessness!

Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq | Karuwakispeaks

An epic battle of wits between the two rivals was seen at the last grand Mughal wedding, on April 2, 1852 - that of Jawan Bakht, Bahadur Shah Zafar's son by his favourite and youngest wife Zeenat Mahal, to Nawab Shah Zamani Begum.

Begum Zeenat Mahal asked Ghalib to write a 'sehra' for her son's wedding as the court poet, Zauk was unwell.

Ghalib wrote a 'sehra' whose maqta was:

'hum suKhan_fahm haiN, Ghalib ke tarafdaar nahiN
dekheN keh de koi is sehre se baRh kar sehra'

We are connoisseurs of poetry, not partial to Ghalib
Let's see if there's anyone who can write a better 'sehra'

The emperor, realising that this was a dig at his mentor Zauq, is said to have been annoyed as a slight to Zauk was seen as a slight to the emperor himself. He asked Zauq to write a 'sehra' too. Not one to let go of an opportunity, Zauq included these lines.

jin ko daawa ho suKhan ka yeh sunaa do unko
dekh is taraH se kehte haiN suKhanwar sehra
Tell those who claim to be eloquent

This is how poets write a sehra!

This round went to Zauq as the singers in attendance picked up the verse and spread it all over Shahjahanabad.

Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq | Karuwakispeaks

Ghalib then wrote his celebrated qat'a-e-ma'azerat' (letter of apology), in response to the emperor's reaction.

Shafi Inamadar played the role of Zauk in "Mirza Ghalib" tv series.

Ghalib and Zauq have inspired generations of poets who have expanded on certain couplets leading to many interesting interpretations.

Interestingly,Ghalib offered to trade his entire Diwan-e-Ghalib for just one couplet of Zauq,

"Ab to ghabra ke ye kehte haiN ki mar jayeNge
Mar ke bhii chainN naa paaya to kahaN jayeNge"

Panicked and fatigued, I seek death as my release... But if peace be not in death, whither then."

This was perhaps, one of the few times when Ghalib admitted to the superiority of Zauk's shayari.

Comments (4)

Swadhina15 10 months, 2 weeks ago
Abhijeet 10 months, 2 weeks ago
nyc post
AnonymousUser 7 months ago
Really a nice one

Mini 10 months, 1 week ago
Thanks for this interesting article... didn't know much about Zauk earlier.
Rumi 10 months ago
Very nice article!