History of Urdu
It has a long and colorful history that is inextricably tied to the development of that very language, Urdu, in which it is written. While it tends to be heavily dominated by poetry, the range of expression achieved in the voluminous library of a few major verse forms, especially the ghazal and nazm, has led to its continued development and expansion into other styles of writing, including that of the short story, or afsana. It is today most popular in the countries of India and Pakistan and is finding interest in foreign countries primarily through South Asians.
Urdu literature may be said to find its provenance some time around the 14th century in Mughal India amongst the sophisticated gentry of Persian courts. The presence of the Muslim gentry in a largely Hindu India, while clearly acknowledged, did not so nearly dominate the consciousness of the Urdu poet as much as did the continuing traditions of Islam and Persia. The very color of the Urdu language, with a vocabulary almost evenly split between Sanskrit-derived Prakrit and Arabo-Persian words, was a reflection of the newness of cultural amalgamation and yet the insistence on retaining what was best and most beautiful about the lands of Afghanistan and Persia.
A man who exercised great influence on the initial growth of not only Urdu literature, but the language itself (which only truly took shape as distinguished from both Persian and proto-Hindi around the 14th century) was the famous Amir Khusro. Credited, indeed, with the very systematization of northern Indian classical music, known as Hindustani, he wrote works in both Persian and Hindvi, frequently engaging in ingenious mixes of the two. While the couplets that come down from him in are representative of a latter-Prakrit Hindi bereft of Arabo-Persian vocabulary, his influence on court viziers and writers must have been mighty, for but a century after his passing Quli Qutub Shah was seen to take to a language that may be safely said to be Urdu.
The Evolution of Urdu Literature in the 20th Century
Literature is the narration of time. Literature gives words to the thougths, emotions and desires of its age. So like time, literature too evolves and is not stagnant. The main force that gives literaure its fluidity are human thoughts. By effecting human thoughts, time makes literature. The 20th century was a turbelent time. The rapid increase in the pace of life brought with it a lot of changes in human life. Urdu literature like all the literature of the worlds was affected by it. It brought, new plot, different forms, style, and gave urdu literature a totally new trend.
India, the birth place of urdu, was a closed, simple and conservative society. Being an agrarian rural society, the pace of life was very slow or even stagnant. The simplicity and naturalism in life reflects in the stories of this region. The folk tales, love stories, legends, fables, myths and even the religious manuscripts of India are documentation of the thoughts of the society which existed. 20th century however changed all this.
Industrialization, mechanization of the capitalist society accelerated life. Now the time was no longer determined by the length of the shadow but by the alarms of the clock. The capitalist society broke the social fabric and made human being stand alone. In this society everything was weighed in terms of money, even human feelings. Man was reduced to a machine whose whole worth was the money he owned. Economic misery, social degeneration and cultural poverty were on the rise. Literature was greatly influenced by these two disiplines, and most of the advance in urdu literature came from the subjects of these two sciences.
Economic distress and financial
The miseries and hardships of the 20th century made human beings bold and rebellious. It gave them a voice to speak against the injustice and social evils. Instead of literature for the sake of literature, they wrote on life and its subjects. These writers were not afraid of rebelling against the establishment, nor were they reserved behind the veil of tradition and customs. They wrote what they saw and what they felt. Social unacceptance, ridicule, miss treatment and even law suites were not able to keep them quiet.
Literature in the 20th century became short, condense, powerful, rebellious and aggressive. The story was honest and the characters were realistic. In whole it became a distorted image of the society. The writers of the 20th century did not consciously attempted to create a new form in literature but rather it got established as an effective form of writing by itself. Every writer had different feelings about the society. There was a uniqueness and individuality of hopes, expectations, disappointments and desires. Each saw the world through his eyes and so gave his commentary on life as he felt it. The multitude and diversity of feelings gave literature the spectrum of forms and trends.
Prem Chand lived in a time when hope still lived. Leaders like Gandhi and Iqbal, gave the dream of a just world. The influence of the Freedom movement and the hopes associated with it effected Prem Chand. The desire to give a voice and freedom to all the unheard and down trodden sections of the society existed in that time. Prem Chand was the first to present this in Urdu literature. Being himself from a rural back ground he was effective in presenting the village life in a glorified or rather humanized way. Prem Chand was a realist but, like his time, he still had hopes. He can be called an idealist as he presented life as how it should be.
Time was seen differently be Krishan Chandar. He belonged to Kashmir and consequently was a nature lover. His writings contain romanticism and naturalism. He tried to find colours in the most dull and gloomy pictures of life. The symbolism of a rose in a small dark room in his story "Phool Ki Tanhaee" is an example of his romance and love for life.
The increased pace of life in the 20th century made short story content. This increased its intensity and the characters became powerful. When the story is natural and the characters are realistic, them they become significant. Life is just the story of human relationships, and interactions. Bedi explored this dimension of life by making characters the pivotal point of his story. By doing so he was able to traverse and document the life of a whole family from birth to death in a short story.
The post independence writers were quite different from the earlier ones. They were more harsh, blunt and explicit in their criticism. The tragedy and the miseries that accompanied independence killed the hopes that were associated with it. Idealism had faded and now instead of hoping for a just world, the writer started shouting for it. Writers like Manto and Ismat Chugtai presented a shocking picture of the society by just making a mirror image of it.
What has gone wrong? What is the cause of human misery and distress? Can human desires ever be fulfilled? Can man ever be satisfied and happy? These questions filled the space in this time. Some like Karl Marx, Engels and Mill tried to find answers in economics, Gandhi used religion and some like Froyd and Yung search human mind for the answer.
The race for resources and capital gave birth to new disciplines like economics, while the changes in human life due to this race made psychology. Urdu literature was greatly effected by these theories. Some followed the economic school, some like ishfaq ahmad and naseem hijazi searched religion and others like Intizar Hussian, Quratul Ain Haider and Mumtaz Mufti believed in psychology.
Like other languages, the history of Urdu poetry does not have a firm starting point and shares origins and influences with other linguistic traditions within the Urdu-Hindi-Hindustani mix. Literary figures as far back as Kabir (1440 - 1518) and even Amir Khusro (1253-1325 AD) deserve mention as influences later Urdu poets draw on for inspiration as well as intellectual and linguistic sources. The tradition is centered in the Indian subcontinent. Following the Partition of India in 1947, it found major poets and scholars residing primarily in modern Pakistan and India. Mushairas (or poetic expositions) are today held in almost every major metropolitan area in the world. Over this period, Urdu poets have produced a large number of primarily poetic works.
The major genres of poetry found in Urdu are:
Pen names (Takhallus)
In the Urdu poetic tradition, most poets use a pen name called the takhallus. This can be either a part of a poet's given name or something else adopted as an identity. The traditional convention in identifying Urdu poets is to mention the takhallus at the end of the name. Thus, Ghalib, whose given name was Mirza Asadullah Beg (the prefix Mirza and suffix Beg identifying him as a Chughtai) and official name and title was Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan is referred to formally as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or, in common parlance, as just Mirza Ghalib. An interesting sidebar to this is that some poets end up having a part of their name repeated; thus, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
The word takhallus is derived from Arabic, meaning "ending". This is because in the ghazal form, the poet would usually incorporate his or her pen name into the final couplet (maqta) of each poem as a type of 'signature'.
The most acclaimed Urdu poets include Ghalib, Mir, Dard, Daag, Iqbal, Tilok Chand Mahrum, Jagannath Azad,Faiz, Momin, Sahir Ludhyanvi, Sahir Hoshiarpuri , Wali, Faraz, Amjad Islam Amjad,Ghulam Muhammad Qasir, Fazil Jamili, Zafar Iqbal and many more.