Mirza Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib

My sketch for Mirza Ghalib

Generally people associate Ghalib with dejection, separation, frustration, etc. All these feelings are quite apparent in his work. But the legend called Ghalib is much more than that. Even while displaying the same feelings of grief, separation, broken-heartedness, the words he used, and specially the linkages that he made of his feelings with phenomena of nature, beauty of his lover and sometimes religious and social dogma is really amazing.

 I’ll like to discuss about few of the amazing shayaris of Ghalib:

 1.  Harek baat pe kehte ho tum ki tu kya hai

This was the introductory ghazal for the TV series. It starts like this:

 “Hain aur bhi duniya me sukhanawar bahut achche,

kehtehain ki Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur”

Which means that though there are many poets and masters of words in the world, but the style of Ghalib was somewhat ‘different’. I dont think this was written by Ghalib himself, but it may be possible if we look at other works of Ghalib.

“har ek baat pe kehte ho tum ke ‘tu kya hai’ ?

tumhi kaho ke yeh andaaz-e-guftgu kya hai ?

 rago me daudte firne ke ham nahi qaayal

jab aankh hi se na tapka to fir lahoo kya hai ?”

Which means that ‘why do you boast yourself and disgrace others by belittling them.

The next line is a marvel. He says that I am no fan or admirer of something that is ‘able to flow through veins’ (like blood). If it can’t get out of eyes like tears, then whats so special about it? This beautiful verse tells that tears that a person sheds are more powerful than the blood that flows in the veins.

“chipak raha hai badan par lahoo se pairahan,

Hamari jeb ko ab haajat-e-rafu kya hai ?”

(pairaahan=clothes, haajat=requirement, rafu=mending)

Which means that clothes are attached with the body through blood, now what is the use of mending my pockets? He questions the materialism and money mindedness here. Being soaked in blood, and clothes sticking to body because of blood, signifies the state of pain, and mending of pocket signifies longing of worldly needs. The use of word ‘pocket’ is important as money is usually kept in pockets.

“Jala hai jism jahan dil bhi jal gaya hoga,

Kuredate ho ab raakh-e-justaju kya hai ?”

(raakh-e-justaju= ambitions reduced to ashes)

Ghalib says that heart along with its desires might have got burnt the same way as the body (burnt in pain) now what is the use of searching for any leftover ambitions? Quite simple but very effective

“Rahi na taaqat-e-Guftaar aur agar ho bhi,

To kis ummeed se kahiye ki aarzoo kya hai ?”

(Taaqat-e-Guftaar= strength to speak)

This is again one of the best of Ghalib. He says that ‘I no longer have strength to speak anymore. And even if I have, I cannot tell what my desire is, as I have no hopes left’. Which means that pain has left me speechless and hopeless.


2.Hazaron Khwahishe aisi

One of the most famous ghazal of Mirza Ghalib’s shayaris. The verses go like this:

“hazaron khwahishen aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikale,

Bahut nikale mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikale”

Ghalib says ‘I have plethora of desire, and each desire is such as ‘to die for’’. This means there is a deadly(strong) longing for those desires. He says that desires are never ending. Even if most of them get fulfilled, we still feel unsatisfied.

“Mohabbat me nahi hai farq jeene aur marne kaa,

Usi ko dekh kar jeete hain, jis kaafir pe dum nikale”  

(kaafir=infidel, liar)

Ghalib says that life and death in love, both are related to the beloved. Here life refers to the pleasure of being with the beloved and death refers to the pain of separation because the lover turns out to be a betrayer/liar. He says that the company of the same person gives life whose betrayal gives death, so there is not much difference between life and death in love.

“Nikalna khuld se aadam ka sunte aaye hain lekin,

Bahut be-abroo hokar tere kooche se hum nikale”

(Khuld=heaven, aadam=Adam, be-abroo=insulted, koocha=house)

Ghalib says that we have heard about the disgraceful banishment of Adam from heaven, but my banishment from your house (by your rejection/betrayal) was much more disgraceful.

“Khuda ke vaaste parda na kaabe se utha zaalim,

Kahin aisa na ho yaan bhi wahi kaafir sanam nikale”


This one is amazing. Here Ghalib asks (probably religious people) not to unveil the shrine, as he might see his beloved beneath the shrine instead of God; the same beloved who had betrayed in love. It also means that Ghalib is saying that the truth which can hurt let it be untold. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ as the truth can be as disheartening as the betrayal of a lover.

“Kahan maikhaane ka darwaaza ‘Ghalib’, aur kahan waiz,

Par itna jaante hain, kal ho jaata tha ki hum nikale”

(maikhaana=place where wine is served, waiz=priest)

Here Ghalib says that, a person who is believed to be as pure as a priest, and a place which is believed to be as sinful as a place where wine is served, these two things cannot be related as per social norms. But he says that ‘yesterday when I was leaving that place (after drinking wine), the priest came in’. This does not, however, shows that the priests or religious heads are corrupt. It means that every person on this earth has weakness. If we go by the first verse, we can say that every person (even someone like priest, who can be considered as unearthly) has some desire which needs to be fulfilled.

3.  Achcha Hai…

This is also one of my favourites:

“Unke dekhe se jo aa jati hain yun muh par Raunak,

Wo samajhate hain ki beemaar ka haal achcha hai”


This is Ghalib at his best. He says if I smile looking at you you feel that I am alright, even if I am feeling pain at the core of my heart. It shows that sometimes people require something more than a sympathizing gesture.

“Dekhiye paate hain ushaaq buton se kya faiz,

Ek Barahman ne kaha hai ki ye saal achcha hai”

(ushaaq=lovers, faiz=blessings, barahman=a learned person)

This verse clearly distinguishes lovers from remaining (sane) people. Ghalib says that lets’ see what kinds of blessings we can get from the lovers, though the learned ones say that everything is going to be allright.

“Humko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeat lekin,

Dil ke khush rakhne ko ‘Ghalib’ ye khayal achcha hai”


This is my favourite. Ghalib says that even though we know the reality of the heaven, its good to live in its illusion. Here reality of heaven means that hopelessness has no end, but the illusion of heaven is somewhat a soothing feeling which says that everything is going to be allright.


4. Yun Hota to kya Hota

This one is also a famous ghazal by Mirza Ghalib:

“Na tha kuchh to Khuda tha kuchh na hota to Khuda hota,

Duboya mujhko hone ne, na hota main to kya Hota”

Ghalib says that when there was nothing, there was God and He will remain when there will be nothing. I am suffering because of my existence, what would have happened had I not existed.

“Hua jab gham se yun behis, to gham kya sar ke katne ka,

Na hota yun juda tann se to zaano par dhara hota”

(behis=tormented, tann=body, zaan=knees)

This is again a masterpiece. Ghalib says that when I am suffering so excruciatingly from grief and pain, that I won’t mind being beheaded. If not removed that way, my head will rest on my knees anyway. (The posture of crying while sitting with head bend on knees)

“Hui muddat ki Ghalib marr gaya par yaad aata hai,

Wo har ek baat pe Kehna, ki yun hota to kya hota”

Simple yet powerful. Ghalib says that when I will die people will remember me (as an insane) who used to say that what would have happened if this had happened….     

While searching for the deep meaning works of Ghalib, I c ame across many blogs. One such blog is here:


It contains the lucid narrations and meaning of the lyrics of some of the famous shayaris of Ghalib. Two of my favorite ghazals of the TV series on Mirza Ghalib, which used to come on Doordarshan long back, are beautifully explained here:

“Ye na thi hamari qismat, ki visaal-e-yaar hota”


“Baazecha-e-atfaal hai duniya mere aage”



About Mrinal Rai

I am a story teller. My unconscious self works a 9 hours a day in IT paying my due credits to my educational qualifications (read degrees). My conscious self is always busy 24X7 weaving new stories and trying to find out ways to tell them. I have authored a book, drawn few comic books, graphic novels and more are on the way :)
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61 Responses to Mirza Ghalib

  1. eternity002 says:

    nice sketch!

  2. Raven says:

    there is one more stanza in this gazal which goes like:

    koi likhwana chahe khat unko to likhwayein hamse
    fir kan mein kalam lagakar ham nikle

    I have heard it somewhere but not sure of words and authenticity.
    If you know or come to know about it, please post it as well.
    BTw, the sketch is nice.

  3. Raven says:

    there is one more stanza in this gazal which goes like:

    jake bazaar se le aye agar tut gaya
    sagar-o-jam se mera jaam-e-wafa achchha hai

    I have heard it in the serial. You can post it as well.

    • Abhijeet says:

      jake bazaar se le aye agar tut gaya
      sagar-o-jam se mera jaam-e-wafa achchha hai

      unke dekhe se aa jati hai muh pe raunak
      woh samazte hai beemar ka haal achchha hai

    • YOgesh says:

      i think it is the other way around, sagar-e-wafa se mera sagar-o-jam accha hai , that in case my drinking glass breaks, i can get a new one from the market, unlike my love.

      But no offenses, i may be wrong, its just a perspective

  4. Rahil Arora says:

    Aur baazaar se le aaye agar toot gaya,
    saagar-e-jam se mera jaam-e-sifal acha hai

    Saagar-e-jam = baadshaah Jamshed’s cup
    jaam-e-sifal = clay cup

    Hope this makes it clear.


  5. sunil says:

    good yaar!…try n expand,good luck

  6. MUNAWER ALI says:


  7. MUNAWER ALI says:


  8. abida nahid says:

    neat stuff…thnx for the explainations…they were almost apt 🙂

  9. Ankur Mathur says:

    @Munawer Ali
    go haath ko jumbish nhi ankho me to abhi dum h
    rehne do saghar o meena mere aage
    means my hands are weak but still I can drink with my eyes

  10. Ankur Mathur says:

    But hamko kahe kafir allah ki marzi h

  11. manooshahulnair says:

    Hi Mrinal,

    Thank you very much for such easy interpretations of Ghalib’s shayari. Its not easy for most to understand it. I enjoyed reading it a lot.

  12. avinash sapkal NA says:

    there are many gazals so pls do as u can..we want 2 read..

  13. Ashutosh says:

    Great work .. Mrinal .. just one correction in a verse .. Its like this ..

    Jala hai jism jahan dil bhi jal gaya hoga,
    kuredte ho jo ab raakh, justju kya hai ..

    Which means, that while the body is burnt so must have the heart. With what desire you are pinching the ashes. In effect, he is taunting his beloved that you pinched (kuredna) my heart to cause it hurt while I was alive. Now even when I am dead and burnt, you are still trying to pinch my heart. Sweetheart, it also must have turned into ashes.

    • Ritesh Tiwari says:

      i agree with Ashutosh’s version.

    • YOgesh says:

      another version to this is , the explanation starts on reverse of the sher ,

      there could be a possibility, that the beloved has come back asking for him, but by that time he is dead, and in such anticipation he has written, that my heart has burnt so is my body, ur scratching my ashes to look for my heart, what r ur ambitions ????

      • Shamo says:

        Some similar thoughts
        Mere kebre pe na anna hum rah rakiban
        murde ko muslman jalaya nahe kerte

      • Sudeep says:

        Dead not in literal sense,By the time she realized his love and his continual request for her acceptancy he had moved on by burning his bodily desires and emotions ( kuredte ho ab rakh )

    • Mrinal Rai says:

      Thanks Ashutosh for the explaination !

  14. twe says:

    carry on the good work . shayari is a dying form of expression , it needs moreappreciation than it gets & such interpretations will take it closer to hearts!

  15. Ritesh Tiwari says:

    Ghalib & Mir…. two legends of Sher-o-shayari…… similar starting thoughts ..different conclusions..

    aarzuein hazaar rakhtein hain
    phir bhi hum dil ko maar rakhte hain…. (Mir)

    hazaaron khwahishein aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikle,
    bahut nikle mere armaan magar phir bhi kum nikle… (Ghalib)


  16. satish says:

    carry on guys..i have nbeen dying to find a forum like this where i could understand the best of the shair…

  17. daks says:

    beautiful !.. loved tha way of explanation. i really wana knw much bout GHalib saahb .,

  18. Amit says:

    Interpretation of Kuredte ho jo ab raakh, justaju kya hai… is slightly different, as the poet questions the people of the world, his critics that where his body has been burnt even the heart would have been reduced to ashes, so what is your intention behind scraping through the ashes???

  19. ranjana says:

    How beautifully interpreted….i admire the sense and sensitivity of your expressions!!…ranjana

  20. manu says:

    Great plate form to share something one enjoys——–away from earthly pursuits a real pleasure—–we must keep it up,guys…

  21. Asif says:

    Lovely blog, great work. Another excellent resource for all the admirers of Urdu poetry is Dr Frances Pritchett website. She is a professor at Columbia university in New York. She has done some really amazing work and a great service keeping Mirza Ghalib’s work alive. Just google her name

  22. Asif says:

    A couple of good sher’s from Ghalib:

    “Koi mere dil se poochey, tere teer-e-neemkash ko,
    Yeh khalish kahaan se hoti, jo jigar ke paar hota”

    Someone ask my heart how much pain I am going through, cause the arrow shot at my heart from your weak hands didn’t just pass through

    “Ya rab na wo samjhe hain na samjhengey meri baat,
    Dey aur dil unko jo na dey mujhko zubaan aur”

    She never understands me nor she ever will. O lord, at least give her a new heart if you don’t give me new tongue (speech).

    “Ishq par Zor Nahin hai ye wo atish Ghalib,
    Ke lagaye na lagey aur bujhaye na bane”

  23. rashmi pandit says:

    Awesome post mrinal!!! I just happened to stumble on your blog.. i thoroughly enjoyed the work of one of the most influential poet of Urdu and Dari language and of course the way you have interpreted his work is commendable….I would like to see more such posts in future, belief me there are hundreds of youngsters who are really interested in Urdu poetry, they would love it… Keep up the good work…

    Jab woh jamaal-ay-dil firoz, soorat-e-meher-e-neem roz,
    aap hi ho nazaarah soz, parday mein muh chupaye kyun.

  24. Jahangir Alam says:

    Thanks for the effort in keeping the legacy of Ghalib alive. Keep up the good work!

  25. Jawad says:

    Great work dear Mrinal!! I am too a big fan of Ghalib and made a dire attempt to translate one of his Ghazal

    Koee din gar zindagaanee aur hai
    Apne jee mein hamne thaanee aur hai
    The life goes on daily is something else
    The one I strive heartedly is something else

    Aatish-e-dozakh mein ye garmee kahaan
    Soz-e-gham haay nihaanee aur hai
    In fire of hell where is this intensity?
    The heat of passionate grief hidden is something else

    Baarha dekhee hain unkee ranjishain
    Par kuchch ab ke sar giraanee aur hai
    Anyway have seen her usual indifference
    But now her massive pride is something else

    Dekey khat munh dekhta hai naamabar
    Kuchch to paighaam-e-zabaanee aur hai
    Giving the letter the messenger stares at the face
    There must be oral message is something else

    Ho chukeen ‘Ghalib’ balaayen sab tamaam
    Ek marg-e-naagahaanee aur hai
    All the calamities of life ‘Ghalib’ is over
    Left just one sudden death is something else

  26. sudeep says:

    march 14 ke baad Oct 14 09 mahine baad kuch naya padhne ko mila thanx jawad and A big thanks to mrinal …Mirza saheb ke naam ki Shama jalaye rakkkhne ke liye ..

  27. Rajiv says:

    Pilaa De Oak Se Saaqii Jo Mujh Se Nafrat Hai
    Pyaalaa Gar Nahi’n Detaa Na De Sharab To De

    What is the meaning of oak here?

    • Sudeep says:

      in Rural India people use this style of drinking water specially in summers .By keeping folded palms close to the lips and then the water is poured directly to the folded palms,
      Hatheli ko chand ki tarah mod kar hothon se sataakar panee peena.

  28. karma says:

    jad do sone mein ya chandi main!
    aaiyena jhoot bol ta hi nahi!

  29. Yogesh Patil says:

    Thank u very much Mrinal for giving explanation of Galib’s shayari.Because most of time I can’t understand the meaning of Urdu words in Galib’s shayri.So plz continue to explain more. Waiting for more.Thanks a lot again.

  30. This is about your translation and explaination about the ghazal – Har-ek baat pey kahatey ho tum…. You said, “Kuredate ho ab rakh-e-justaju kya hai”. The correct wordings are, “Kuredate ho JO ab raakh, justaju kya hai.” This makes more sense in various ways. One, in your version, “kya hai” is basically a widowed construction. Kya hai is without the verb, noun or pronoun. “Justaju kya hai” makes more sens. Here, Justaju means wish, desire (why are you digging the ashes, what is your desire, need…). Also, without that little “JO”, the misra sounds incomplete. Now, that said, This shair refers to the hindu ritual of cremation after death. As he says, “Jalaa hai jism jahan, dil bhi jal gaya hoga”, means, when the body is cremated, the heart must’ve been burnt also. Obviously, Mirja is talking about love. Heart here is representing the heart, feelings of love, amour. As the hindu ritual goes, next day after the cremation is complete, the relatives of the dead, go and collect the ashes (phool). Hence, “Quredate ho JO ab raakh, justaju kya hai” So, when the body was burnt, the heart must’ve been turned to ashes also. Now that you are digging ashes (quredana refers to, when relatives try to pick with their fingers, the fragments and remnants of bones, which are hard to burn), what is it that you are looking for, or desire, or trying to find? Isn’t it little too late. Aparently, what mirza is trying to say is that while your love was alive, with you, available, you didn’t pay attention, didn’t care, but now, what is it that you want, and desire, or searching for? Isn’t it too late !!!

  31. Mrinal, “Ushaq” here means “quiet”, “lost”, or may even be “lifeless”. Therefore, it translates to, “Let’s see what Faiz gets from these lifeless statues (of gods, in temples), since some brahmin has told him that this is a good, favorable year.) Referring to, some pandit telling him that this is a favorable year, and he has the blessings of the gods (in temples)).

  32. Khuda ke waste parda na kabey se utha zalim….
    Kaaba, or Qaaba, is not just any shrine. Kaaba is Kaaba Muazzama, the building at the center of Al Masjid al Haram, in Saudi Arabia, where every muslim goes to perform Hajj. This building is covered with a black silk embroydered with gold curtain, called Kiswah, which is replaced every year. That is what Mirza is referring to in Parda na kaabey se utha zalim…
    Ghalib was not very “khuda-parast”, and was very disappointed with Khuda. In this shair, he expresses those feelings.

  33. Rupesh says:

    nice work dear…i was searching for meaning of zaan…i found here..thanks alot

    • Anil Razdan says:

      Translating Ghaleb literally, is like selling Mona Lisa with scrap! The depth of his thoughts can only be fathomed experiencing the feelings behind it

  34. Anil Razdan says:

    I long to live in utter loneliness, with none to speak to, and none to share my thoughts.
    With none to tend to me if I am sick and prostrate and none to mourn me if I pass away.
    Man is a multitude of thoughts, evev by himself.
    I feel, I’ve company around, when I am most alone.

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