The Parabloic Journey of the Ghazal between East and West: Agha Shahid Ali’s English Ghazals

By Anjana Neira Dev and Syamala Kallury.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Long before the idea of India as a political entity emerged, multiculturalism began to be seen as an aspect of its core culture, of which now studies are being made on a wider scale during the last half a century. One can say India’s multiculturalism mainly stems from the multiple forms in which its ancient texts were perceived in its different and distinct regions. But this is only one side of the story. Traditions of vastly different hues have also emerged from the historical and at times accidental interactions that have occurred in its long history with invading armies, emigrant tribes, contributing to its diverse traditions.
This paper attempts to mainly focus on the English Ghazals of Agha Shahid Ali. In an attempt to understand his fascination for this unique literary genre with its roots in Persian and Arabic, an attempt is also made to trace briefly the emergence of the Ghazal as an art form in India and its evolution in the hands of geniuses like Khusro, Ghalib and Faiz.

The blossoming of this art into myriad forms has been accompanied by a concern of the poets about not only the craft but also the language of poetic expression and the changes it is undergoing.
Urdu itself is one such language that has taken shape and got rooted in India’s cultural history. Ghazals in their various literatures are one such genre which Urdu literature popularized. In India today Ghazals are written mainly in Urdu in the northern region, but we see that ghazal writing has also become popular in regions and domains where the Islamic rule and cultures have flourished. We also see how a form like the ghazal changes the often taken for granted relationship between a language and a religion.

Keywords: Ghazal, Agha Shahid Ali, Arabic, Persian and Urdu, English Ghazal

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.243-254. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 621.537KB).

Dr. Anjana Neira Dev

Associate Professor, Department of English, Gargi College, University of Delhi, Delhi, India

I teach in an undergraduate women’s college and my areas of interest include literature and language as well as the pedagogy of teaching English especially to those for whom it is a second language. Having done my doctorate from the Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi; my orientation to teaching is an inter-disciplinary one and I have a great interest in interacting with fellow academics from across the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Dr. Syamala Kallury

SSO1, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Delhi, India

I am a teacher of English in an educational institution that trains young men and women to become engineers. In addition to working in an inter-disciplinary department, my life’s mission is also to bring the best of Telugu literature to a wider audience of readers and towards this end I have translated both poetry and fiction into English. I am also engaged in inculcating a love for their mother tongues in my students, by encouraging them to read its literature in the original.


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