Mirza Ghalib was born in Agra into a family descended from Aibak Turks who moved to Samarkand after the downfall of the Seljuk kings.Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan (Ghalib's father) got married to Izzat-ut-Nisa Begum, and then lived at the house of his father in law. He was employed first by the Nawab of Lucknow and then the Nizam of Hyderabad, Deccan. He died in a battle in 1803 in Alwar and was buried at Rajgarh (Alwar, Rajasthan).
He was raised first by his Uncle Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan. Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan (Ghalib's uncle) started taking care of the three orphaned children. He was the governor of Agra under the Marathas.
In accordance with upper class Muslim tradition, he had an arranged marriage at the age of 13, but none of his seven children survived beyond infancy. After his marriage he settled in Delhi. In one of his letters he describes his marriage as the second imprisonment after the initial confinement that was life itself. The idea that life is one continuous painful struggle which can end only when life itself ends, is a recurring theme in his poetry. One of his couplets puts it in a nutshell:
قید حیات و بند غم ، اصل میں دونوں ایک ہیں
موت سے پہلے آدمی غم سے نجات پائے کیوں؟
The prison of life and the bondage of grief are one and the same
Before the onset of death, how can man expect to be free of grief?
Ghalib started composing poetry at the age of 11. His first language was Urdu, but Persian and Turkish were also spoken at home. He got his education in Persian and Arabic at a young age.Although Ghalib himself was far prouder of his poetic achievements in Persian, he is today more famous for his Urdu ghazals. Numerous elucidations of Ghalib's ghazal compilations have been written by Urdu scholars. Mirza Ghalib was a gifted letter writer. Not only Urdu poetry but the prose is also indebted to Mirza Ghalib. His letters gave foundation to easy and popular Urdu. Before Ghalib, letter writing in Urdu was highly ornamental. He made his letters "talk" by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader.
His original Takhallus (pen-name) was Asad, drawn from his given name, Asadullah Khan. At some point early in his poetic career he also decided to adopt the Takhallus Ghalib (meaning all conquering, superior, most excellent).
Popular legend has it that he changed his pen name to 'Ghalib' when he came across this sher (couplet) by another poet who used the takhallus (pen name) 'Asad':
Ghalib was a very liberal mystic who believed that the search for God within liberated the seeker from the narrowly Orthodox Islam, encouraging the devotee to look beyond the letter of the law to its narrow essence. His Sufi views and mysticism is greatly reflected in his poems and ghazals.
Dard minnat kash e dawa na hua,
Main na acha hua, bura na hua !
Jama karte ho kyon raqeebon ko,
Ek tamasha hua, gila na hua !
Hum kahan qismat aazmane jayein,
Tu hi jab khanjar aazma na hua !
Kitne sheerein hain tere lab ke raqeeb,
Gaaliyan kha ke be maza na hua !
Hai khabar garm un ke aane ki,
Aaj hi ghar mei boriya na hua !
Kia wo namrood ki khudai thi,
Bandagi mein mira bhala na hua !
Jaan di, di hui usi ki thi,
Haq to yun hai ke haq ada na hua !
Zakhm gar dab gaya, lahu na thama,
Kam gar ruk gaya, rawaa na hua !
Kuch to parhiye ke log kehte hain,
Aaj Ghalib ghazal sara na hua !!
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