Recipient of several national and international awards, Tarannum Riyaz is a senior fellow with Ministry of Culture (in Urdu Literature). She has authored more than 12 books and translated a few more from other languages. Tarannum has been a former member of Sahitya Akademy India Governing Council and Urdu advisory board, and a member of New Delhi Birla Foundation Saraswati Samman Award Committee, India, and is presently a member of Ghalib Academy, Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, Poetry Society (India) Indian Society of Authors and Poetry Club of India.



Tarannum Riyaz

I am indeed grateful to the organizers of this Conference for inviting me and providing me an opportunity to meet and interact with the luminaries and writers of other great languages of the SAARC countries. The world is beset with turmoil and violence, which we are witnessing all around. It is a laudable effort that we are here to explore the potential and role of literature in promoting peace and harmony. In general terms I venture to submit that literature is the harbinger of love, peace and harmony. In this regard it needs to be recognized that the core values of harmony and understanding promoted by the literature traverses beyond  borders and has the great capacity to make the borders irrelevant. The form and shape of literature may vary from region to region but the basic message and potential remains the same.

Having said, that we should remain conscious of the fact that it can equally be used to promote disharmony and divisions in societies as well. Therefore we need to remain on guard that the inherent capacity and potential of the literature is not misused and disturbed.

I belong to the family of Urdu language and literature. It is in this language that I primarily write my novels and short stories and even compose my poetry. I take this opportunity to underline the role of Urdu language in promoting secular values and the composite culture of the Indian subcontinent.

It has been proved that this literature has been popular in different regions of SAARC transcending the boarders.

The great poets and writers of Urdu belong to different religious and ethnic denominations. In this sense the great Urdu poets and writers transcend the narrow boundaries of religions, casts and geography. It is interesting to note that this language evolved and emerged due to the interaction between the foreigners from the lands of Persia, Central Asia (who were Persian speaking people) and the native people. The word Urdu linguistically means Lashkar or army. It has two connotations; firstly, the army was not composed of one ethnic group rather it was composed of diverse ethnic elements like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Afghans and Persians. Thus, the language which came to be called Urdu absorbed diverse linguistic terms like the diverse ethnic elements of the army. Secondly, since the army of the invaders had to deal and interact with the native people, the words and linguistic terms of the languages spoken by the native inhabitants were picked up and got interwoven with the language spoken by the foreigners. Thus, came up the language called Urdu. It took decades rather centuries that the language acquired its perfection. It is interesting to note that gradually it became the peoples’ language. The court language or the official language remained Persian. It is equally important to note that the invaders who ruled India got gradually absorbed along with the people accompanying them in the soil of this country. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru maintains in the ‘Discovery Of India’ that  the so called Muslim invaders or the invaders of medieval times who came to India from the north, like their predecessors, got absorbed in the Indian soil and became a part of the life here. Their dynasties became the Indian dynasties. Through the marital bonds a lot of racial blending took place. They tried deliberately, barring some exceptions, that there should be no interference in the traditions and ways of the life of the people of India. According to Pandit Ji these people considered India as their own country and they did not keep any connection with any other place. It is in this backdrop that Urdu emerged as a representative of the composite culture of India.

By the end of the 16th Century and the beginning of the 17th Century Urdu had become a complete literary language and was used by the kings, princes, nobles and the common people to communicate and interact with each other. The great poets used the medium of Urdu to express themselves and produce wonderful poetry. The legendary poets, Ghalib, Zauq, Mir and Bahadurshah Zaffar emerged as great and popular poets of the Urdu language. It is important to mention here that Urdu emerged as a symbol and representative of a composite culture after undergoing a long process and practice of interaction. In this process the poets and the writers which include novelists, short story writers and dramatists, belonging to different faiths and ideologies played a pioneering role in forging a unity in diversity. Thus theses efforts resulted in creating an atmosphere of social harmony and composite cultural traditions of this country.

Historically, it may be mentioned that Indian rites, rituals, festivals, seasons and even belief systems had been imbedded in the conscious and sub conscious minds of all those who came to reflect in Urdu language. It’s origin can be traced to Amir Khusroo, the legendary poet of the 13th Century. He was a disciple of renowned great Sufi saint,  Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya of the Chistiya order. The poetry of Amir Khusroo, known as ‘Kalam-e-Khusroo’ is popularly sung in Qawalies in the entire sub-continent even today. Again it may be mentioned that the tradition of ‘Qawwali’ transends the borders of the sub-continent perticularly India Pakistan and Bangladesh.

However, the language which was used by Khusroo is called ‘Hindvi’ which can be loosely translated as ‘Indian’. The term Urdu had not come to be used at that point of time. However, the Kalam of Amir Khusroo clearly shows the impact of local culture and ethos on him which became a tradition and a pattern which was followed later. The following  couplets (dohas as they are called) make it clear :

       Khusroo rain suhag ki jagi pee kay sang

  Tan  mairoo man piyo ko dovo bhayyey ik rang

Please mark the terms which are soaked in the local coloures and used by the common people. The couplet translates that Khusroo, I spent my wedding night with my beloved; body as well as soul which I bestowed on him had acquired one colour.

Another couplet which became very famous is supposed to have been offered by Khusroo on hearing about the sad demise of his Guru and saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The legend goes that after rendering this couplet Khusroo himself passed away from the world:

Gori soyay saij par mukh par daarey kais

Chal Khusroo ghar aapney rain bhaie choho des.

The couplet may be loosely translated as the beauty is lying on the wedding bed with hair covering the face; oh! Khusroo let me go my home as the night has fallen in this land.

Kusroo was born from the parents who had different ethnic origins; the father was a Turk and the mother was an Indian. However, the language which he used for his poetry and famous riddles may be termed as the formation of a language which ultimately evolved as Urdu language.  It may interest you that Khusroo mentions the languages spoken in India which he had come across during his time as Sindhi,Punjabi,Kashmiri,Marathi,Kannad,Gujrati , Tamil, Assamese, Bengali and Awadhi. There might have been many more which were not known to him.

As mentioned earlier that by the end of 17th Century Urdu had become a literary language and a galaxy of poets had appeared on the scene. The senior poets like Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Mir Dard,  Zauq, Sauda and others had acquired popularity in their own right for their great poetic expressions. However, they were conscious that no divisions are created on the basis of religions and faiths. They had the realization that such differences had the potential to create a social disharmony and would pose a challenge to peace and understanding. Therefore, they made it a point to sensitize the fellow citizens about such issues. Mir Taqi Mir wrote:

کسکوکہتےہیںنہیںمیںجانتااسلاموکفر    دیر ہو یا کعبہ مطلب مجھ کو تیرے در سے ہے

( I am not aware what is Islam and what is Kufur; whether it is Temple or Kaaba, I am only concerned about the Door leading me to my Lord.)

Mir Dard wrote:


(O! Dard I have been dragged to Kaaba  no dout; the idea of the idols still remains in my heart.)

Mirza Sauda was more forthright and he wrote:

بہکے گا تو سن کے سخنِ شیخ و برہمن             رہتا ہے کوئی دیر میں اور کوئی ھرم میں

( You will be mislead if you listen to the sermons of Sheikh and the Brahaman; do you think He lives in temple alone and some one else is in the mosque.)

According to Zauq:

کونہے مومن ، کیسا کافر، کون ہے صوفی کیسا رند         بشر ہے سارے بندے حق کے سارے جھگڑے شر کے ہیں

(Who is a Sufi and who is the one who drinks; All are the human beings and the subjects of God.  It is the evil which creates disputes).

 Pandit Brij Narain Chackbast lashes out as:

بلائےجانہیںیہتسبیعوزنار کے پھندے     دلِ حق بین کو  ہم اس قید سے آزاد کرتے ہیں

(These traps of the thread (worn by Brahmans) and the beads (counted by devout Muslims after prayers) are troubling me; hence I release my heart which realizes the truth beyond these bondages.)

Ghalib who appeared on the scene with a different idiom and a new complexionof philosophy and emotion, wrote with a philosophical note :

نہیں کچھ   سجٓہ و زنار کے پھندے  میں گیرائی                    وفا داری میںشیخ و برہمن کی آزمائش ہے

(There is no depth in the trap of the thread (of the Brahman) and the bead (of a Muslim)

The fact remains that there is a competition between the Sheikh and the Brahman towards their loyalty to the almighty Lord.)

Ghalib enchanted his admirers with a variety of ideas and expressions. According to him:

ہیںاوربھیدنیامیں سخنور بہت اچھے        کہتے ہیں کہ غآلب  کا ہے اندازِ بیاں اور

( There are so many poets in the World around; however, the Style of Ghalib is entirely different, they say.)

Drawing the inspiration around his milieu, Ghalib wrote:


(The night has dawned, lo! The scene of bright Milky Way has been opened up before us in a manner as if the door of a temple has been opened ceremonially. Ghalib was alluding to the lights within the temple.)

In a philosophical note, Ghalib maintains that:

نہتھاکچھتوخداتھاکچھنہہوتاتوخداہوتاڈبویامجھکوہونےنےنہہوتامیںتو کیا ہوتا

(When there was nothing there was God, and if there would be nothing God would still be there. I was finished because of my being, If I was not there what would I have been?)

Ghalib did not spare himself even and in his own style said that:


(These issues of mysticism and the expression of Ghalib; we would consider you a saint if you would not drink. I am deliberately avoiding to say a drunkard which perhaps Ghalib meant.)

Ghalib concluded by saying that:

بسکہشوارہےہرکامکاآساں ہو نا    اااآدمی کو بھی میسر نہیں انساں ہون

(Any difficult task can be made easier; Yet it is very difficult to make a human being humane.)

Ameer Meenaie promotes the brotherhood in these words:

امیرجاتےہوبتخانےکیزیارت کو    ملے گا راہ میں کعبہ سلام کر لینا

(Ameer you are proceeding towards temple to pay your obeisance; on your way if you come across Kaaba, salute it as well.)

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have tried to present the glimpses of the classical Urdu poetry in promoting the social harmony in our region. I have rendered the translations for those not well versed with the Urdu language. I am not a professional translator and I have tried my best to convey the original sense of this classical treasure. However I want to drive home the point that Urdu poets have tried to bring the people belonging to different faiths and traditions together to create an emotional harmony and strengthen the emotional integration and cultural synthesis.

In the 20th Century a new band of Urdu poets and writers emerged to strengthen these bonds. The foremost among them was Dr. Sir Mohammad Iqbal who gave us our national song ‘ Saray Jehan Say Achcha Hindustan Hamara’. I think it is worthwhile to present some lines here from this song here:


مذہبنہیںسکھاتاآپس مین بیر رکھنا     ہندی ہیں ہم وطن ہے ہندستاں ہمارا

کچھ بات ہے کہ ہستی مٹتی نہیں ہماری   صدیوں رہا ہے دشمن  دورِ زماں ہمارا

 (Hindustan is the best in the entire world; and we are the nightingales of this garden. Religion does not teach us acrimony; we all are Indians, our land is Hindustan. There is something that we still survive, for centuries the antagonistic forces have been arraigned against us.)

Mohammad Iqbal was highly impressed with ‘Gayatri Mantra’ and provided its translation under the tile ‘Aftab’ meaning Surya or Sun. Some lines from this poem are:

اےآفتابروحِروانجہاںہے تو                   شیرازہ بند دفترِ کون و مکاں ہے تو

قائم یہ عنصروں کا تماشہ تجھی سے ہے    ہر شے میں زندگی ک تقازہ تجھی سے ہے

 (O! Surya you are the soul of the Universe; you control the life system. The balance of the elements is because of you and you provide life to every element of existence. O! Surya, provide us the consciousness and enlighten our wisdom with your light).

Paying a tribute to Lord Rama, Mohammad Iqbal Says:

ہےرامکےوجودپہہندستاںکونازاہلِنظرسمجھتے ہیں اس کو امامِ ہند

 (India is proud of the existence of Rama; the visionaries consider him the leader of the Hind or India.)

Mohammad Iqbal wrote an inspiring poem which he titled as ‘ Hindustani Bachoon Ka Qaumi Geet’ ( The National Song for Indian Children). Some of the lines from this song are:


تاتاریوںنےجسکواپناوطن بنایا     جس نے حجازیوں سے دتِ عرب چھڑایا

 میرا وطن وہی ہے

یونانیوں کو جس نے حیران کردیا ہے      سارے جہاں کو جس نے علم و ہمر دیا ہے

مٹی کو جس کی حق نے زر کا اثر دیا ہے

 میرا وطن وہی ہے

 (On this land  the Chisties pronounced the message of truth; the Nanak sang the song of  the unity; the Tatars made it their own homeland ; they  dispossessed the deserts of Arabia from Hijazis (Persia); this is my land, this is my land. It astounded the Greeks and transmitted knowledge and crafts to the entire world, it turned earth into gold and provided the Turks with the jewels in abundance; this is my land, this is my land.)

The Urdu poets who became prominent in promoting the social harmony include the famous judge and jurist Anand Naraian Mulla, Gulza Mohan Zutshi and Raghupati Sahaye Firaaq Gorukhpuri to name a few.

In forging the unity and brotherhood the prose writers of Urdu language played a pioneering role. Rattan Nath Sarshar and Prem Chand led this caravan. The 20th Century writers who rendered their services in the freedom struggle and were at the forefront against imperialism, colonialism and oppression of the downtrodden. They were Prem Chand, Krishan Chander, Khawja Ahmad Abbas, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Saadat Hassan Mantoo, Asmat Chugtaie  and Quratul ain Hyder.  Due to the paucity of the time I an unable to provide the long list of other illustrious authors and writers. These writers through their creative writings promoted the cause of peace and harmony. In this connection the role of Progressive Writers Association which spanned across the south Asia will be written in golden letters. They not only strengthen the cause of peace and amity from the within but throughout the world.

Sahir Ludhyanvi’s famous and a long poem which became quite popular, Parchayiyaan, (Shadow) highlights the evil effects of the war. He wrote this poem in the context of the Second World War. He drew the pathetic condition of the Indian soldiers who were fighting for British army. In one of the scenes he draws the agonizing scenes when the postman brings the news to a poor family that their only bread earning person had been consumed in the war.  Sahir

 concludes that:

گزشتہجنگمیںگھربارہیجلے،اسبار     عجب نہیں کہ یہ تنہائیاں بھی جل جائیں

گزشتہجنگمیںگھرہیجلےمگراسبارعجبنہیںکہیہپرچھائیاں بھی جل جائیں

تصورات کی پرچھائیاں ابھرتی ہیں     کبھی گمان کی صورت کبھی یقیں کی طرح

 (In the previous war the dwellings were destroyed; no wonder in this War our shadows would also be burnt down.) Of course, Sahir was warning about the horrors of atomic wars and the devastation it would bring about in the entire world. Therefore, he and other notable poets and writers have been spearheading the cause of world peace.

In case of India- Pakistan peace and harmony the Urdu poets and writers from both the countries have been stressing the cause of peace and harmony between the two countries. Sardar Jafri’s popular poem ‘ Kaun Dushman Hay’ ( Who is the Enemy?) provides an illustration to the point. Sardar Jafri concludes:

تم آئو گمشنِ لاہو ر سے  چمن بردوش     ہم اآئیں سبھ بنارسکیروشنیلے کر

ہمالیہ کی ہوائوں سے تازگی لے کر       اور اس کے بعد یہ پوچھیں کہ کون دشمن ہے

 (You come from the garden of Lahore, bedecked with the flowers:

We will come carrying the breeze of Himalayas,

We will come carrying the radiating lights from the temples of Varanasi

And let us ask each other:

 Who is the Enemy? )

Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel that poets and creative writers have the capacity to directly appeal to the hearts and the minds of the people. Let us all stand up and through our writings appeal to the hearts and minds to promote peace and harmony- which is so essential for our existence. Let us promote these great values and render the lines drawn and known as ‘borders’ as lines of ‘peace’ which do not stand among the peoples of the SAARC countries.

Thank you