The beginnings of Urdu poetry can be traced as far back as the 13th century, when some poets of in the north of India started experimenting with the style. But the classic form of Urdu poetry that we modern humans have come to know did not really take on a final shape until the 17th century, when Urdu became the official language of the court in the Indian subcontinent.
Urdu poetry gained immense popularity in the 18th century when Urdu replaced Persian as the major language of the region. Urdu poetry has its linguistic roots etched in Persian, Turkish, and Arabic, and this colourful mix of cultural and linguistic conventions was one of the reasons why it came to be loved by so many people in the Indian subcontinent.
In the 18th century, there was a scarcity of newspaper, media, and public information, so Urdu poetry became a way for people to communicate with each other about the social and political woes of the time. One of the most common forms of this communication was called a “Mushaira”, which was a social event where poets gathered to read their works to the audience. The Urdu poetry that was read at these Mushairas adhered to very strict rules of rhythm that were often determined before the event took place. They were sometime also competitive, much like the competitions that were held in the ancient Greek and Roman empires.
At every Mushaira, there was a main, or presiding poet Love Shayari was usually the most appreciated and honourable poet at the gathering. In the Mushairas of the 18th century, a candle would be passed from the lowest ranking Urdu poet at the gathering to the presiding poet as a sign of respect. Urdu poetry became a highly esteemed art and members of royalty often sought the company of famous poets.
At so it is that the 18th century produced some of the most fascinating works of Urdu poetry. However, many of the most valuable poems of the time were lost because a poet’s works were only published after he achieved fame. With a striking similarity to the world of painted art, many of the most cherished works of a revered Urdu poet were only published several years after his death. The poems of Nazir, perhaps the greatest Urdu poet that ever lived, were only published 80 years after he died.
The study of Urdu poetry’s history is an amazing journey that is full of intrigue for the interested reader. But perhaps the most amazing thing about Urdu poetry is the way it continues to thrive as an art and a form of expression today. In line with the advent of internet, several online Urdu poetry communities have established themselves in cyberspace. Some of these include a Shayari portal of famous poets, an Urdu Poet forum and community, and a website that allows you to download Mushaira audio and video. Today’s fans of Urdu poetry come from many different parts of the world, and the art has received international recognition from some of the most respected literary figures of modern times.