Understanding Gazal


Poetry is often considered as an Art and it is. Not any Tom Dick and Harry can write poems. But then poems are not just about rhyming words. Poems are divided into many classes and each class has it’s own characteristics and that is where science comes in.

We have many Sotra’s in Hinduism and many people recite them everyday. All the snaskrit shotra’s define the ‘Chhand’ (). For example Ram Raksha is in ‘Anushutp’ Chhand. When poetry is written following certain rules it can be recited in Anushtupa Chhand. Chhand is nothing but a tune. When recited in that tune it get by hearted very easily. Thus our ancestors managed to by heart epics such as mahabharat for generations. It also ensures that the words and grammer does not get polluted over years.

Okay! The aim is not to discuss the classes of poetry. The classes are called ‘Vrutta’ in Indian Languages. The Words that are sung during marriage ‘Ganga Yamuna Godavari Narmada….’ Is in Madakranta Vrutta. Advanced grammar for Indian Languages is not anymore part of our general education hence that is lost.

Gazal though an urdu or rather a Persian concept is essentially a vrutta. In scientific terms Vrutta can be called a Syntax and Sementic Rule. In this blog I am going to give you an overview of Gazal and what makes few lines a Gazal.

A ‘Gazal’ is a set of ‘Sher’s, the normal practice is to keep the number of Shers as odd.

The first sher of Gazal is called ‘Matale ka Sher‘ (matala means title in Urdu and Marathi, Marathi borrowed it from Urdu). We will see the specialty of this sher later.

There is one sementic rule for Gazal which is very Important for the beauty of the Gazal. Each and every sher should be independent of others. Each one of them convey a different meaning which should not be related to any other sher in the Gazal.

Let us come to the Syntax rules for shers. Consider the following Matale Ka sher of a Gazal by Galib

Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi ki Har kwahish pe dum
nikale

Bohot nikale mere arman lekin phirbhi kum
nikale

Each line is called a misara. Another concept is Kaffiya which is the rhyming word. In the above lines Rhyming word is not “Nikale” but “Dum and Kum”. In Gazal rhyming word is never the last word.

What comes after the Kaffiya is called “Radiff” In Persian it means the lady sitting behind the horse rider. That is why the gender of the last phrase is often kept as female.

It is compulsory for the Matale Ka sher that the Kaffiya and Radiff MUST appear in both the lines.

In all other following Shers the Kaffiya and Radiff should appear on the second line only. The shayar gets full freedom to play with the first line. So the second sher of the above gazal is

Nikalana Khuld se adam-ka (adam and eve fame) sunte aye hai lekin

Bohot beabaru hokar tere kuche se hum nikale

The kafiya here is Hum and radiff is maintained.

You must have also notices that The first share and second share has no-correlation between them. Why is so? The concept of Gazal evolved in Pubs. That is Maykhana. The waitresses there called “Saki” were often good poets as well. Now for a person drinking to hide his sorrows there would fire a Gum bhara Sher, for lover a sher with full of love and for a bearded old men a sher with Sufi god related sher. Thus she would rip good tips from them.

There is more the this structure and many more interesting concepts for example “Mushayara”. Here some good old friends sit together is a circle at night. They keep a lamp in between. One of the starts reciting the Matale Ka sher. The lamp moves to the next person he is supposed to create a sher with same kafiya-radiff and the lamp moves to next person. This continues….. Now that’s for great poets like Galib, Jafar, Sauda etc.

For us its enough if we listen to Jagjit Singh or Gulam Ali J

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3 thoughts on “Understanding Gazal

  1. heartly thanks to you all for explaining matla, qaffiya and radiff but i also want to learn baher can you help me to learn baher ?

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