While Hyderabad has transformed into an urban metropolis, mushairas and Urdu poetry have survived the test of time. Mohd. Ziauddin Ahmed Shakeb, historian and Urdu-Persian scholar, traces the history of Urdu poetry in Hyderabad

During Nizam’s time, Urdu had a very special position — it was spoken by everyone, everywhere. All sign boards, shops, post offices, hospitals, railway stations were written exclusively in Urdu. There were three main languages during the time — Telugu, Maharashtra and Kannada; and while Urdu was compulsory, education in a native language was allowed till high school.

Subsequently, Urdu poetry was a social phenomenon. Almost all the Nizams were great poets. And they used to have one poet laureate in their court. For instance, Nizam VI had Nawab Mirza Khan Daagh as his tutor in poetry. Daagh was brought up in the Red Fort under the last ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar and had read out in mushairas (poetry symposiums) in front of Mirza Ghalib!

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He came to Hyderabad and stayed for several months, and at that time, there was great reception to his poetry. He was hoping that he would be invited by the Nizam, but he wasn’t. After three-to-four months, he left Hyderabad. That is when the Nizam’s order was issued that he should be brought back, and paid from the day he landed in Hyderabad! And so, Nawab Mirza Khan Daagh was given an audience, and subsequently, he was appointed as the Nizam’s tutor. The poet laureate’s salary shot up from 400 to 1,000!

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While he represented Delhi School of Urdu, there was another major school, the Lucknowi School. The chief of the school, Amir Meenai, also came to Hyderabad, but soon was caught up with pneumonia and he passed away here. But he had a large number of scholars with him, and one of his students, Jaleel Manikpuri, was appointed as the Nizam VII’s tutor. And he would write beautiful poetry.

“Nigaah barq nahi, chehra aftaab nahi (her looks aren’t electricity, and her face is not the sun) Wo admi hai magar dekhney ki taab nahi (She is just human, but no one has the courage to look at her)”

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Since Urdu was a language understood by a majority, there was fantastic poetry written even by Hindu poets, in Urdu as well as Persian. One of the Prime Ministers of Hyderabad, Sir Maharaja Kishen Pershad, used to write in Persian and Urdu, and even have mushairas at his palace. And so it was that there were hundreds of Urdu poets in Hyderabad.#KhabarLive