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Great injustice has been done in our country to Urdu.  This great language, which has produced perhaps the best poetry in modern India* --   the immortal poetry of Mir, Ghalib, Firaq, Faiz, etc. ? this language which is a shining gem in the treasury of Indian culture, is today neglected and almost looked at with suspicion.  I cannot imagine a greater foolishness.

This injustice to Urdu was due to two false notions, which were propagated by certain vested interests (1) that Urdu is a foreign language, and (2) that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone. The first idea is palpably false.  Arabic and Persian are no doubt foreign languages (though I have great respect for them also, as I have great respect for all languages).  But Urdu is a language which is totally indigenous.  It was born here in India as the language of the Lashkar (camp) and of the market.In its simplified form (as Khariboli or Hindustani) it is the language of the common man in large parts of urban India.  Its prominent figures all lived in India, and they have made an outstanding contribution to our culture, dealing with the problems of the people, sympathizing in their sorrows, and touching the human heart.  Only ignorant people can call Urdu a foreign language.

The second notion, that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone, is also false.  In fact upto the last generation in our country Urdu was the language of all educated people, whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, in large parts of urban India.  In my own family upto my father everyone was highly proficient in Urdu.It is only from my generation that Urdu has disappeared, which I regard as unfortunate.

To restore pride in our culture I have given a judgment, (while a Judge in Allahabad High Court) Ramesh Upadhyaya  vs.  State of U.P. 1993(2) UPLBEC 945, recommending to the State Government that in every school for five years (from Class III to Class VII) Sanskrit and Urdu, our two great cultural languages, should be made compulsory.  In my opinion no country can progress if it overlooks its own cultural heritage.  And I may clarify here that I do not regard Kashmiri Pandits alone as my ancestors, I regard Kalidasa also as my ancestor, I regard Amir Khusro also as my ancestor, I regard Ashoka and Akbar, Sur and Tulsi as my ancestors, just as I regard Mir and Ghalib as my ancestors.  Real ancestry is cultural ancestry and not mere blood ancestry.

The notion that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone can only be attributed to the policy of "divide and rule".  Certain vested interests wanted Hindus and Muslims to fight with each other, and hence they give birth to the false notion that Hindi is the language of Hindus while Urdu is the language of Muslims.  As a matter of fact the spoken language of the common man (in urban areas) is Khariboli (or Hindustani), Urdu being Persianized Khariboli, and Hindi being Sanskritized Khariboli.Urdu has a national following in our country as it is spoken in 13 States of the country.

To give an illustration, I may give a personal experience. When Mr. Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy came as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court (he later became a Judge of the Supreme Court) he spoke to me in Khariboli (which is the simplified form of Urdu) in the same accent as a U.P. ite.  I asked him how he, a person from Andhra Pradesh, could speak such good Khariboli.  He told me that in Hyderabad every body could speak Urdu, and he himself had Urdu as his medium of education upto the University level.  

For those who do not have much idea about Urdu I would like to briefly narrate its basic features.

Urdu is the language which was created by the superimposition of some features and vocabulary of the Persian language on a Hindustani (Khariboli) foundation.  Thus, Urdu is a language created by the combination of two languages, Persian and Hindustani.  It is for this reason that at one time it was called "Rekhta" which means hybrid.Since Urdu was created by the combination of Persian and Hindustani, the question arises whether Urdu is a special kind of Persian or a special kind of Hindustani?  The answer is that it is a special kind of Hindustani, not a special kind of Persian.  This needs to be explained.

What determines the language to which a sentence belongs is the verb used in it (and not the noun, adjective, etc.).  For example, if I say : "Mr. Ram, you and your wife vkb?? tomorrow night for dinner at my home at 8 p.m." this sentence is a Hindi sentence and not a English sentence, although 15 out of the 16 words used in it are in English.  Why?  Because the verb (vkb??) used in it is a Hindi word, not an English word.In Urdu all verbs are in simple, colloquial Hindi (which is called Hindustani or Khariboli).  Many of the nouns and adjectives in Urdu are from Persian (or Arabic**), but the verb will always be from Hindustani.  If the verb was from Persian it would become a Persian sentence, not an Urdu sentence, and if the verb was Arabic it would become an Arabic sentence.

We may take any Urdu couplet of any Urdu poet and we will find that the verb is always in simple Hindi (though many nouns and adjectives may be Persian or Arabic).

For example we may take a sher (couplet) of Ghalib :

Here we find that the verbs ns?? and lqu? are in simple Hindi, whereas the nouns and adjectives are in Persian.

Similarly, we can consider any Urdu poem of any Urdu poet, and we will find that the verbs will invariably be in simple Hindi.

Thus Urdu is a special kind of Hindustani (or Khariboli), not a special kind of Persian.  I am emphasizing this because had Urdu been a special kind of Persian it would have been a foreign language.  The fact that it is a special kind of Khariboli (or Hindustani) shows that it is a desi or indigenous language.

We must, now, first understand something about Khariboli (or Hindustani) which is the foundation on which Urdu was built.

Khariboli is simple or spoken Hindi, as contrasted to literary Hindi which is used by many writers and public speakers.  Khariboli is an urban language.  It is the first language of the common man in the cities of what is knows as the Hindi speaking belt (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, etc.) and is the second language in the cities of many parts of the non-Hindi speaking belt, not only in India but also in Pakistan.*** How did Khariboli come into existence? 

This is a cardinal point to understand if we wish to understand Urdu. Almost all cities in the world originated as market places (mandis).  This was only possible when the productive forces had developed to an extent that people were producing more than they could themselves consume, and hence the surplus had to be sold or exchanged.  In other words, commodities (i.e. goods for sale or exchange,  and  not  for  self  consumption)  began  to be produced.  Since the seller and the purchaser had to have a known place where the transaction of sale and purchase could take place, market places (mandis) were created, which later became cities. Now the seller and purchaser must have a common language, otherwise the transaction of sale would not be possible.  Hence Khariboli arose as that common language of the market.

To give an illustration, in Allahabad (where I have mostly lived) Khariboli is spoken in the city, but in the rural areas around Allahabad city the dialect spoken is Avadhi (in which Tulsidas wrote his Ramcharitmanas).  In Mathura city Khariboli is spoken, but in the rural areas around Mathura Brijbhasha (the language of Surdas) is spoken.  In Benaras city or the other eastern cities of U.P. Khariboli is spoken, but in the rural areas around these cities Bhojpuri is spoken.  In parts of northern Bihar Maithili is the rural dialect (in which the great poet Vidyapati wrote) but in the cities there also Khariboli is spoken.In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Khariboli is spoken in the cities, but in the rural areas local dialects are spoken which an outsider cannot understand.

This shows that in vast areas of north India the rural population speaks different dialects, but the urban population had a common language, Khariboli.  How did this happen? This happened because a vast common market had been created in India (due to the development of the productive forces) even before the coming of the Mughals.  A trader traveling from Bihar or Madhya Pradesh could easily sell his goods in a city in Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan or Punjab because there was a common language, Khariboli, which both seller and purchaser knew (apart from knowing their local dialects).  Thus Khariboli is the common language of the cities in large parts of India.  Even in many parts of the non-Hindi speaking belt Khariboli is understood and spoken as a second language.  Thus, if one goes to Kolkata or Bangalore or Gujarat or Lahore or Karachi or even in many parts of south India he can converse in Khariboli with people living in the cities (though there might be difficulty in rural areas).

Having understood the nature of Khariboli, we can now proceed to understand Urdu.

As I have already mentioned, Urdu is the language created by Persian superimposition on a Khariboli foundation.  This, too needs to be explained.

For centuries Persian was the court language of India.  This was because Persian had been highly developed in Persia by writers like Firdausi, Hafiz, Sadi, Roomi, Umar Khayyam, etc. as a language of culture, grace and sophistication, and it spread to large parts of the oriental world.

The Mughals were Turks, not Persians, but though their mother tongue was Turkish, they accepted Persian as the court language as it was more developed than Turkish****. Thus, though Babar wrote his autobiography, Tuzuk-e- Babri, in Turkish, his grandson Akbar got it translated into Persian and called it Babarnama.  His own biography, Akbarnama, written by Abul Fazl is in Persian, and so is the autobiography of his son Jehangir (called Jahangirnama) and the biography of Shahjehan (called Shahjehanama).

This phenomenon of a foreign language being accepted as the language of the upper class or the court is nothing unique.  For instance, French was the language of the Russian and German (and indeed much of European) aristocracy upto the time of Napoleon"s invasion (and even thereafter), as is evident from Tolstoy"s "War and Peace", and English is the language of the elite in India even today.

Persian was the court language of India for several centuries, and hence it exerted its influence on the common language of the cities, which as already mentioned above, was Khariboli.

How, then was Urdu created?  This is a fascinating question, and I will try to answer it.While the Mughal Emperors from Akbar to Aurangzeb were strong rulers, having control over large parts of India, their successors, the later Mughals, were mere phantoms or shadows of the departed glory of their ancestors.  Thus it is said : i.e. "the Empire of Shah Alam extends from Delhi to Palam".

These later Mughals were Emperors only in name, they were in fact pauperized, they had lost their Empire to the Britishers, the Marathas, and their Governors, who had really became independent rulers (like the Nawabs of Awadh or Nizam of Hyderabad). In their reign the court language gradually ceased to be Persian and instead became Urdu.  

Why did the court language which was Persian in the reign of the great Mughals become Urdu in the reign of the later Mughals?  This was because the later Mughals were not real Emperors but had become nearer to commoners or paupers with all the difficulties of the common man.  Hence they had to take recourse to a language nearer the common man.  Why then did their court language not become Khariboli, which was the language of the common man in the cities?  That was because these later Mughals, and their Lieutenants, the Nawabs and Wazirs, while having become pauperized retained their dignity, culture and self respect.  They still prided themselves in being Shahzade-Timuria i.e. descendants of Timur, the great conqueror, (who was Babar"s grand father"s great-grandfather) and descendants of the great Mughals.  Thus despite having become paupers they were not prepared to be treated as commoners.  Hence while they gave up Persian and adopted Khariboli, this was not the Khariboli of the common man but Khariboli of a special type, borrowing from the sophistication, polish and culture of the Persian language.  In other words they spoke a Khariboli which was coupled with the graceful features, sophistication and some vocabulary of Persian.  

Urdu is thus the language of aristocrats who had become pauperized, but who retained their dignity, pride and respect.The well known story of Urdu"s greatest poet Ghalib is that despite being in great financial distress he refused a job simply because when he went to offer his services no one was there to receive him.

The dignity of Urdu speaking people is best exemplified in the following line of Josh (Even on judgment day I will go in style And if not given respect, will turn back)

Thus Urdu is both an aristocratic language as well as the commoner"s language.  It is the commoner"s language because in fact the later Mughals had become almost (though not quite) commoners, having lost their Empire.  It is at the same time not a commoner"s language, because the later Mughals, despite being pauperized refused to be treated like paupers and insisted on being treated with respect as aristocrats, with all the graces, polish and sophistication of the aristocracy.  Thus Urdu has a dual nature; it is both the common man"s language and also the aristocrat"s language (the common man"s language being Khariboli).  This may sound a paradox, but it is true, and in fact this is the beauty of Urdu, that while it is the language of the common man, expressing all the problems, sorrows and hopes of the common man, it is also a language of grace, polish, sophistication and dignity.It has been mentioned above that Urdu is basically a combination of two languages, Hindustani (or simple Hindi) and Persian, the former being the common man"s language, while the latter being the aristocrat"s language. It has also been mentioned that Urdu is a special kind of Hindustani, not a special kind of Persian (because the verbs in it are all in Hindustani).  Continuing this analysis it may be stated that the content of Urdu i.e. the feelings and ideas expressed therein are that of the common man, but its form of expression is aristocratic.  In other words, Urdu expresses the troubles, sorrows, anxieties and hopes and aspirations of the common man, but its style (andaz-e-bayan) is not that of a common man but that of an aristocrat.

For instance, the greatest Urdu poet Ghalib had a horror of the commonplace in the mode of expression in poetry.  Regarding himself an aristocrat, he had an intense desire to be different from the common masses, and his poetry is marked by its originality and unconventionality.  Ghalib was of the firm view that the language of poetry should not be the same as the spoken language.  Hence he often expresses his thoughts not directly but indirectly, by hints and suggestions.The same is true of many other Urdu poets.  They often express their thoughts and feelings not in simple, direct language but by insinuations, allusions, indications, and in a roundabout way, the aim being to appear sophisticated and elitist, instead of being common place.  However, this sometimes makes the work difficult to understand (the great Urdu critic and biographer Hali regarded one-third of Ghalib"s verses too recondite to be regarded as being in Urdu), and sometimes several meanings can be attributed to them.

As long as there were strong Mughal Emperors in India, Persian was the court language and Urdu was never given respectability, and could never become the court language in North India, but instead found its haven or sanctuary in South India and Gujarat (where it was the language of the elite).  In a sense Urdu originated in South India and became popular there during the reign of the great Mughals, receiving patronage in the Southern kingdoms of Golkunda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, etc. where it became the court language.  Thus it is interesting to note that Urdu became the court language in South India and Gujarat during the reign of the Great Mughals but it could never displace Persian in the North as long there were strong Mughals.

In fact at that time Urdu was frowned upon in the North and looked down as an inferior language, the ideal language being regarded Persian, while in South India and Gujarat it became widespread (among the elite).  In this connection it is interesting to note that when the great Southern Indian Urdu poet Vali Dakhkhini***** came to Delhi in 1700 A.D. in the reign of Aurangzeb, he found that his fame had receded him and he was very popular in Delhi because his poetry could be understood as it was written in Urdu which the common man of Delhi could understand, while the Delhi poets were all writing in Persian, which the common man could not understand.  Vali, though a South Indian is often regarded as the father of Urdu because he revealed to the Delhi poets the possibility of writing poetry in Urdu, a language which the common man could understand, and this enhanced the prestige of Urdu.

It was only when the era of the later Mughals began (after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707) that Persian was gradually displaced by  Urdu  as  the  Court language (for the reason already mentioned above), though this was done very grudgingly,****** and an example of this is Ghalib who preferred his Persian poetry and looked down upon his Urdu poetry (though his greatness is entirely due to the latter).  Thus, in a letter to his friend Munshi Shiv Narain Aram Ghalib writes "My friend, how can I write in Urdu"  Is my standing so low that this should be expected of me??  Thus, writing in Urdu was regarded infra dig, and all respectable writers at that time wrote in Persian.

I may give another example.  My ancestor who came from Kashmir around 1775, Pandit Mansa Ram Katju, has made an entry in the Panda of Kurukshetra which reads: which  means  "I  have  come  in  quest  of  bread"  i.e. looking  for employment (which he got in the court of the Nawab of Jaora in Western Madhya Pradesh). Now the interesting thing is that he has written in Persian, not Urdu.  This shows that it was Persian which was used by the educated class in those days for writing.  Urdu may have been the spoken language, but the written language was Persian.Ghalib who prided himself in his Turkish ancestry, was very reluctant to write in Urdu, and preferred Persian.  Even his early Urdu poetry is highly Persianized and hence difficult to understand, and his best verses are his later ones when he began using more Khariboli.

The collapse of the Mughal Empire on the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 was a blessing in disguise for Urdu, for only then could it displace Persian as the Court language.  The heydays of Urdu was in the days of the later Mughals, and the high noon was in the time of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. Right upto 1947 Urdu was the language of the courts, and of the educated people in large parts of India.  At the same time, due to its dual nature, it was also(as Khariboli) the common man"s language in urban areas. Being the common man"s language in large parts of urban India Urdu borrowed from every language, and never objected to words of other languages.

Since Urdu was the common man"s language it was loved by the common man, and is loved even today.This can be demonstrated by three facts :

(1) Even today Hindi film songs are in Urdu, for the voice of the heart will be in one"s own language, however, much some people may try to suppress it.  I remember when I was young my generation used to sing - and we never realized at that time that these film songs are verses from the great poet Ghalib.

(2) In railway bookstalls the books which get sold are works of  Ghalib, Mir, Faiz, Josh, Firaq, Hali, Dag, Majaz, Zauq, etc. (nowadays in Devnagri script) and not the works of Hindi poets.We are told that Hindi, not Urdu, is the language of the people.  Then why are works of Hindi poets like Mahadevi Verms or Sumitra Nandan Pant not sold in railway bookstalls, where the common people buy books, and instead Hindi speaking people buy Urdu poetry books?

(3) Hindi writers who have an Urdu background e.g. Premchand, Kishan Chand, Rajender Sing Bedi, Prof. Gopi Chand and Malik Ram are most accepted even in the Hindi world.

Urdu is loved by the people of India because it has grown among the people.  Urdu literature is a literature of protest, protest against the afflictions of the common man and against injustice.  We may consider this poem of Faiz :

The above is an example of protest against despotism and tyranny during martial law in Pakistan. Urdu is also the language of patriotism.  Everyone knows the famous lines of Ram Prasad Bismil : 

Urdu poetry has protested against ritualism, formalism, and oppressive or antiquated social customs (in this sense it can be said to be a successor to Kabir"s poetry, though of course it is much more sophisticated).  Thus Ghalib writes :

i.e. "The amulet (of a Muslim) or the sacred thread (of the Hindu) is not very material.  The test of a Sheikh or Brahman is his loyalty (to his ideals or principles)".

We may here also refer to the short stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, particularly about the horrors of partition e.g. "Thanda Gosht". Being the language of the common man in modern India Urdu is almost entirely secular, an exception being the later part of Iqbal"s poetry when he went over from nationalism to Pan Islamism (see "A History of Urdu Literature" by Muhammad Sadiq, 2nd Edition, pp 461-465).  Some of the greatest Urdu poets are almost anti-religious.Thus the great poet Mir writes :

Similarly Ghalib writes :

i.e. "Faith is stopping me, while atheism is pulling me forward.  Kaaba is behind me, the Church is in front." Here the word "Kaleesa" only ostensibly means "Church", but its real meaning is modern civilization.  Thus Ghalib, like many Urdu writers, is opposed to feudal civilization and commends modernism.

Ghalib also writes :      

i.e. "Below the mosque should be a wine shop".

Urdu literature has Sufi influence.  The Sufis were the liberals among the Muslims, and not the bigoted.  They spread the message of universal love among all humans, whatever their religion, caste, etc.

Among the modern Urdu poets Sahir Ludhianvi is outspokenly atheistic.  Consider the following lines : which means "Creeds are a delusion and religions merely false notions; From the beginning man"s mind has been a slave to superstitions" and again:i.e. "The world is sick of temples and churches;Pray for the safety of the traffickers in religion!Destructions are dancing in the courtyard of the world;Pray for the skill and safety of the Lord of Creation!Man is removing the veil from the face of life;Pray for the survival of the diligent sorceries of religion!Atheism is organizing a new world;Pray for the artful solicitations of temples and sanctuaries!" I venture to submit that no poetry in the world has expressed the voice and sorrows of the human heart in a manner Urdu has done.  Consider the sheer pathos in these simple words :  i.e. "When a person is habituated of sorrows  Then sorrows disappear So many difficulties fell upon me That everything became easy;. Some of the Urdu writers like Mir and Nazir have written beautiful poems on Holi, Diwali, Raakhi and other Hindu festivals and customs, which shows that Urdu was not the language of any particular religion.  A large number of Hindus have made their names in the front ranks of Urdu literature e.g. Firaq, Chakbast, Ratan Lal Sarshar, etc.  In Vali"s poetry the words Ganga, Jamuna, Krishna, Ram, Saraswati, Sita, Lakshmi, etc. appear frequently.

Urdu poetry represents the diversity yet unity of India.  Many people and communities migrated into India and all got assimilated here.  As Firaq writes :i.e. "In the land of Hind , the caravans of the peoples of the world kept coming in, and India kept getting formed". The greatest damage to Urdu was done by the Partition of India in 1947.  Since then Urdu was branded in India as a foreign language, as a language of Muslims alone, so much so that even Muslims stopped studying Urdu to show their "patriotism" and solidarity with their Hindu brethren.  After 1947 Persian words which were in common usage were systematically sought to be replaced by Sanskrit words which were not in common use.  For example in a case which I was hearing in the Allahabad High Court an application entitled  was moved before me.  I asked the learned counsel what is the meaning of this word .  He said it meant a bail application.  I told him he should have used the words "bail" or "zamanat" which all understand instead of the word  which no one understands, not even Khariboli speakers.  On another occasion when I was on a morning walk I saw a board on which were written the words .  I could not understand the meaning, and I looked further up where in English it was written "Selection Centre".  In my opinion the words used in Hindi should have been "Bharti Daftar" or "Rozgar Daftar" instead of   which nobody understands.

This policy of hatefully removing Persian words which were in common use in Khariboli and replacing them by Sanskrit words which are not in common use resulted in creating an unnecessarily Sanskritized Hindi which the common man often finds it difficult to understand.  In our Courts of law it is often difficult to understand the Hindi used in Government Notifications.  Also this policy of hatred for Persian words resulted in almost genocide for Urdu. However, despite all hostile efforts the language which speaks the voice of the heart can never be stamped out as long as people have hearts.  The evidence that Urdu lives in the hearts of Indians even today can be seen from the surprisingly large crowds which "mushairas" attract, from all sections of society and in all parts of the country, north, west, south and east.  If Urdu is a foreign language it is very surprising that the people of India love it so much? In Allahabad an organization called the Sanskrit Urdu Academy was formed whose aim principally is to promote Sanskrit and Urdu, our two great cultural, but neglected, languages.  When the organization was formed some people said that Sanskrit and Urdu was a strange cocktail.  They little realized that 70% words in Urdu are from Sanskrit.  Sanskrit is the grandmother of Urdu (as it is of most other Indian languages), and when grandmother and grand daughter walk hand in hand both benefit.

I may mention that there is a misconception about Sanskrit that it is a language of the Hindu religion (just as there is a misconception that Urdu is the language of Muslims).  In fact Sanskrit is the language of free thinkers.  The range of philosophical schools in Sanskrit is astonishing, from deeply religious to totally atheistic.  The great Hindi writer Rahul Sanskritayan used to say that before he learnt Sanskrit he believed in God, but after he learnt it he became an atheist.  The great scientists of ancient India like Aryabhatta, Sushrut and Charak all wrote in Sanskrit, and so did philosophers, grammarians, playwrights, poets, etc.

My earnest appeal to those who wish to revive Urdu is that they should link it with Sanskrit and not go alone, and that way Urdu cannot be branded as a communal language.

Also, I suggest that the Devnagri script be also used in publication of works of Urdu poets, (as was done by Prakash Pandit) since that will enable those who do not know the Persian script to read it.  In my opinion one should not be too rigid about the script.****** What can be done is that in the left hand page the text can be published in the Persian script, while on the right hand page it can be published in the Devnagri script, with meanings of difficult words explained below in simple Hindi (Hindustani).  

In the end I would like to appeal to Urdu (and Hindi) writers to use simple language.  Often on reading some Hindi or Urdu work one finds it difficult to understand it.  But if what is written is not even understandable what use is there of such literature ?  Today the Indian people are facing terrible problems like poverty, unemployment, price rise etc.  Literature must contribute to the people"s struggles in the face of these problems, and that it can do by using simple language which the people can understand, like the war time speeches of Winston Churchill, or the stories of Premchand and Sharat Chandra.