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Ghazal: It's Definition and Elements

Unveiling the Essence and Structure of the Ghazal: A Journey through Tradition and Form

It’s an Arabic word that means “conversing with the beloved.” It developed in Persia in the 10th century AD from the Arabic verse form qasida. A Qasida (Ballad) is a long poem in Urdu, Persian or Arabic that usually describes battles or is written in praise of kings; princes or the poet’s patron.

The ghazal made its way to the Indian subcontinent in the 12th century, introduced by Sufi mystics and the sultanates, flourishing in Persian and later in Urdu. Ameer Khusrau is credited with composing the first ghazal in Urdu, titled "ze-hāl-e-miskīñ."

Traditionally, a Ghazal contains a minimum of 5 couplets and goes up to 15, but typically, most Ghazals have around seven couplets. A sher or couplet in a ghazal is independent from the rest of the couplets in the same Ghazal and can be read alone. The Ghazal, however, may have a common refrain, which provides a link between the couplets.

It's important to remember that just having independent couplets doesn't make any poem a Ghazal. Ghazals have specific characteristics that set them apart in the world of poetry. The ghazal must have a certain structure.


Understanding the structure of Ghazal

A ghazal should consist of a minimum of 5 couplets or sher. The meter or Bahr of each sher within the ghazal should remain consistent. In the first couplet, both verses (misra) should have qaafiya and radeef. In the following couplets, only the second verse contains qaafiya and radeef. The last couplet of the ghazal is called maqta and may contain the pen name (takhallus) of the poet.

The first sher of a ghazal is called Matla

Misra-e-uula (the first line): be-qarari si be-qarari hai
Misra-e-saani (the second line): vasl hai aur firaq taari


Qaafiya: In Urdu, the words that rhyme are known as qaafiya. The rhyming words or qaafiyaa in the aforementioned ghazal are guzari, bhari, tumhari, and be-qarari. Rekhta has developed a Qaafiya Dictionary to assist aspiring poets in finding rhyming words for crafting sher or ghazal.

Radeef: In Urdu ghazal, the repeated words are referred to as radeef. They are employed to either reinforce or evoke emotion. In the aforementioned ghazal, the radeef used is "hai". Since Ghazals don’t have a title, they are referenced using radeef by poetry connoisseurs.

Bahr: The rhythmic structure of a sher or ghazal is called the Bahr, also known as the meter. If a sher or ghazal maintains the same rhythm in all its lines (misra), it is said to be in a specific Bahr. Rekhta's Taqti tool allows readers and poets to check the ghazal's meter and literary references of the similar Bahr.

Jashn-e-Rekhta | 8-9-10 December 2023 - Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Near India Gate - New Delhi

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