Ummid Assistant launches free MBA application form

IGNOU launches value education programme for teachers

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Views & Analysis

A note on Bharat Ratna for Ghalib

Tuesday January 17, 2012 02:03:12 PM, Asghar Ali Engineer

Related Articles

Online petition demanding Bharat Ratna for Mirza Ghalib

Taking forward the suggestion to the Indian govt mooted by Justice Markandey Katju to give Bharat Ratna to Mirza Ghalib, a Mumbai based organisation has filed an online petition requesting the President of India to confer the highest civilian ward on the late 19th century poet.  »

Justice Markandey Katju suggested that Ghalib be given Bharat Ratna and it appealed to me and several of my secular friends and so I initiated an online petition to collect signatures. It got quite a favourable response but few friends disagreed also whose secular credentials are as impeachable as of those who readily agreed for the petition. I am writing this note to explain our point of view as well as replying to the objections these friends raised.

Some friends pointed out that first we must study the act whether posthumous awards can be given. This objection was not very weighty as more than half a dozen posthumous awards have been given but then question arose what would be time frame for giving posthumous awards – why not to Tulsidasji or Kabir? Yes, there is weight in this argument and time frame has to be there otherwise it would go up to even say five thousand years ago too.

I think right now we are concerned with modern secular India and our engagement with modernity begins with British period which is also known as modern period in Indian history. Modernity created lot of conflict between rigid orthodoxy and liberal modernity. Modern India obviously could not have been built on rigid orthodoxy, though people are free according to our Constitution to believe in orthodoxy and thousands of them believe in it even today.

But our Constitution and our liberal secular ethos are the essence of our modernity and Ghalib represents this eminently. He was a poet par excellence and his poetry represents modern secular values along with the value of love. Ghalib’s poetry is ghazal poetry though he wrote in other genres also but he is mainly known for his ghazals which is basically love poetry. And he was follower of what is known as wahdat al-wujudi school of Sufism which is most liberal school among Sufis.

This school was founded by Muhiyuddin Ibn Arabi who says in one of his poems that my Deen (religion) and my shariat is love and love is the very foundation of my philosophy. Most of the Indian Sufis, though not all, belong to this wahdat al-wujudi school and it is liberal ethos of wahdat al-wujudi Sufis which created our composite culture and these Sufis whole-heartedly embraced local cultures and mainly wrote in local languages including Marathi, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, Gujarati and so on.

What is implication of philosophy of wahdat al-wujud? Wahdat al-wujud means Unity of Being i.e. real being is one and we all (whole humanity) are its manifestations and those who believe in this philosophy do not distinguish between one human being and the other and one religion and the other. Ghalib’s entire poetry is representative of these ethos.

In this respect Ghalib’s mathnavi (a form of long poem each verse of which has two lines) Chiragh-e-Dayr) i.e. lamp of a temple. This mathnavi is about Banaras the sacred Hindu city through which he passed on his way to Calcutta and he was so enchanted by its beauty that he wrote this poem in Persian which describes its charms so much so that he says that once anyone who saw the flowing Ganges of this city, his/her eyes will never by harmed. Describing its beautiful damsels he writes “Their dainty and silken touch beats the pearl softness”.

It is Kashi (Banaras) where springs of the world take refuge be it in hot summer or cold winter i.e. its weather is most suitable weather in the world. The poem is so full of praise for Babaras that there is no city like this in the world. There is so much poetic exaggeration in describing charms of Banaras. Not only this mathnavi but Ghalib’s entire poetry very eminently represents cultural ethos of India and particularly its composite culture.

Ghalib had friends among all communities of India, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and several of his disciples were Hindus. He has addressed several of his letters to his Hindu friends. He was so fond of unity of all human beings that when several of his friends were killed in war of independence he wrote in one of his letters that they say now we will meet on the day of judgment (Qiyamat) but what kind of meeting it would be? Sunnis will stand separately from Shi’ahs and Hindus separately from Muslims. Can it be called meeting together?

Ghalib indeed was precursor of ethos of our modern secular liberal India, one of its architects. Our Constitution has been based on these values and minus these values our nationhood would be seriously weakened. These are representative values of our nationhood. Even in 21st century we are fighting among ourselves on the basis of religion, language, caste, region and so on. Our country is highly diverse, in fact bewilderingly diverse and to create unity in such diversity we have to strive very hard and need persons like Ghalib with their progressive and liberal values.

Urdu in which Ghalib wrote itself is a language of composite culture; it is product of several languages and dialects and Urdu is eminently qualified to express such progressive poetry as Ghalib composed. Urdu has been the language of love, not of hatred. Even today its ghazal poetry keeps millions spellbound even if they do not speak that language.

Ghalib, through his poetry raised it to new heights. Iqbal described him as Goethe of Urdu. It is because of Ghalib’s poetry that Urdu poetry can be compared with highs of world poetry. Ghalib represents beautifully the tension between tradition and modernity. He describes it as conflict between Ka’ba and Kalisa (church), Ka’ba representing tradition and Kalisa modernity. It is this tension which troubles Ghalib in the backdrop of 1857 war of independence which makes his poetry all the more relevant to us.

Here we are not saying that Ghalib alone deserves Bharat Ratna. Poets like Subramaniyam Bharti and others too are proud heritage of our country and they too must be given this award. These poets, writers and philosophers have made all of us proud and our country great. We shall ever by indebted to them. In fact their greatness is our greatness. There is nothing wrong in extending the scope of this award to the period with which our encounter with modernity began.

Let us not think that we are begging for award for Ghalib, we are only remanding Government of India and drawing their attention to the great sons of modern India who also eminently deserve to be honoured and in honouring them we will honour ourselves. It is not Bharat Ratna which will make these great sons of India great but it will certainly make us great in honouring them. Justice Markandey Katju’s suggestion eminently deserves country’s attention.




Bookmark and Share

Home | Top of the Page


Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of

Comments powered by DISQUS






Top Stories

'Islamic Finance in India can attract investments from Middle East'

Taking advantage of the situation arising out of the economic crisis in Eurozone and countries like United States, India should adopt the Islamic Finance System to pump-in investments from the Middle East. This interest-free and more inclusive system will in turn speed-up the financial inclusion of the Indian Muslims, an expert  »

Islamic Banking: Developed by Indians, flourishing in other countries

Islamic Finance: Separating myth from reality


  Most Read

Babri Masjid Demolition: Advani, others oppose CBI plea

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani and his colleagues accused in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case have told the Supreme Court that a CBI plea that challenged the quashing  »

China rejects rivalry, hold talks with India on border mechanism

Indian and Chinese officials Monday held talks to flesh out a border mechanism and to resolve their decades-old boundary dispute, with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo rejecting rivalry and predicting "a golden period" for India-China relations in days ahead. Dai and India's National Security  »


  News Pick

Three years of NIA: Only one terror case solved

It was formed three years ago and is working on 35 terror cases at the moment. But with only one incident solved so far, India's premier anti-terror probe body National Investigation Agency (NIA) has very little to boast of, say  »

130 Indians saved from Italian shipwreck, control room set up

India has set up a control room in both New Delhi and in its mission in Italy to help families find out about their relatives who were aboard a luxury liner which ran aground off the Tuscan coast in Italy. At least 130 Indians were aboard  »

Gilani offers to quit after apex court contempt notice

Pakistan slipped into further uncertainty Monday as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani offered  »

Pakistan's apex court issues Gilani contempt notice


Picture of the Day

Dr Shariq Nisar, Director of Research and Operations of India’s premier shariah advisory firm TASIS and one of the senior most professionals of Islamic Finance in India, was in Malegaon on Sunday to address a seminar on "Prospects of Islamic Finance in India".




RSS  |  Contact us


| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant



Science & Technology



About us




Government Schemes










Contact us




    Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

© 2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.