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Author: Mirza Ghalib
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Mirza Asadullah Khan, pen-name Ghalib (1797 1869), was a renowned classical Urdu and Persian poet of India.

He was born on December 27, 1797 in Agra to parents with Turkish aristocratic ancestry. He was always considered a free spirit, and the death of his father and uncle during his youth left Ghalib with no male-dominant figures. He then moved to Delhi and his house in Balli Maaran in the city is a national monument, although it is not as well-kept as a national monument should be.

Ghalib's early education has always been a matter of confusion. There are no known records of his formal education, although it was known that his circle of friends in Delhi were some of the most intelligent minds of the time.

Around 1810, he was married into a family of nobles, at the age of thirteen. He had three or four children, none of whom survived. There are conflicting reports regarding his relationship with his wife. She was considered to be pious, conservative and a God-fearing lady while Ghalib was carefree, unconventional and without any scruples.

Ghalib's closest rival was poet Ibrahim Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq. However, there was mutual respect for each other's talent.

Although Ghalib wrote in Persian as well, he is more famous for his ghazals written in Urdu. It is believed he wrote most of his very popular ghazals by the age of nineteen. His ghazals, unlike those of Mir Taqi Mir, a famous Urdu poet of 18th century, contain highly Persianized Urdu, and therefore not easily understood or appreciated by a vast majority of people without some extra effort. Before Ghalib, ghazal was primarily an expression of anguished love but he expressed philosophy, the travails of life and many such subjects, thus vastly expanding the scope of ghazal. This, in addition to his many masterpieces, will forever remain his paramount contribution to Urdu Literature and poetry.

Ghalib never worked as such for a livelihood but lived on either state patronage, credit or generosity of his friends.

Ghalib's fame came to him posthumously. He had himself remarked during his lifetime that although his age ignored his greatness, it would be recognized by later generations. History has vindicated his claim.

He died on February 15, 1869 in Delhi.

Last update: 10:33 AM Monday, March 6, 2006

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