Still no memorial to Ghalib in city of birth

December 27th, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Dec 27 (IANS) Mirza Ghalib’s contribution to Urdu literature has perhaps been as significant as Shakespeare’s to English, but the mansion in Agra where he was born in 1796 bears no memorial to the Mughal era poet till date.For years, fans of Mirza Ghalib and literary experts have demanded a fitting memorial, but the assurances and promises from official quarters have not taken any concrete shape. And on no day was its absence felt more than on Saturday, observed as the poet’s 212th birth anniversary.

“When tourists from Pakistan and other countries ask to be taken to Ghalib’s birth place, we are very embarrassed,” said Sandeep Arora, a former president of the hotel and restaurant association here.

“The central and state governments should jointly build a fitting memorial and a library in Agra where Urdu poetry lovers can spend time and enlighten themselves,” Arora told IANS.

Mirza Asad Ullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ was born in the Kalan Mahal area of Agra in 1796. He moved to Delhi where his poetic talent blossomed and found new expression at a time when Bahadur Shah Zafar was Mughal emperor.

His rich contribution to Urdu ‘adab’ (language and literature) continues to inspire poets till day.

“The house where Ghalib was born should be converted into a national memorial for a poet whose contribution to Urdu literature has been as significant as that of Shakespeare to English literature,” Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, told IANS.

The society celebrates Mirza Ghalib’s birthday each year with cake-cutting and poetry recitation.

“Unfortunately despite our persistent demands over the years, this city does not have a proper memorial to noted figures of Urdu literature like Mir, Nazir and Ghalib, all three of whom had association with the city,” Sharma lamented.

Uttar Pradesh Governor T.V. Rajeswar three years ago suggested that Agra University set up a Mirza Ghalib chair to promote Urdu literature, but the varsity has been dragging its feet on the proposal.

Similarly, the house where Ghalib was born was to be acquired by the then Mulayam Singh Yadav government to be converted into a memorial, but the proposal faded away after he lost the 2007 state assembly elections.

“Urdu poetry has stagnated in modern times as new poets are not getting recognition. Had it not been for the Bollywood film industry, the Urdu language would have joined the ranks of dead languages,” said Nasir Mohammed, a journalist.

Syed Jaffrey, director of the Mirza Ghalib Academy in Agra, wants better facilities and support from government agencies to promote research in Urdu literature.

“Agra, which has given so much to the Urdu culture, should have a decent memorial for the poet. The municipal corporation has proposals pending to name a busy street or crossing after the poet, but there has been no follow up,” he added.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at

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