Marsiya : a form of Urdu poetry

I am happy to see this news about opening of a school to revive/preserve the art of marsiya writing.

Marsiya is a fully developed form of Urdu poetry and it is wrong to think that is just a lamentation for the dead in Karbala. Karbala, of course, has an important place in Islamic history and therefore in Muslim literature. Almost all Urdu poets use Karbala as a symbol of great tragedy or epic battle between good and evil.

Probably the most famous and often-quoted sher about Karbala is from Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar:

Qatal Hussain asl meiN marg-e-Yazid hai
Islam zinda hota hai har Karbala kay bad

Majlis-e-marsiya are organized in Lucknow during Moharram.

The usual form of marsiya is four lines of same radef/qaafiya and two lines of different radeef/qaafiya. The marsiya is well-developed form of poetry. The intensity of pain and suffering described in a marsiya is unparallal in any other literture.

Meer Babar Ali Anees [1800-1874] and Mirza Salamat Ali Dabeer [1805-1875] are the biggest names of marsiya-nigaari.

Zia Mohyeddin reciting Anis’s marsiya

But marsiya is not merely Urdu poetry, it is also a performance art where emotions of the words need to be conveyed to the audience so that they visualize the battlefield, feel the pain of sufferings, and learn the lessons of Karbala.

In three-parts is a wonderful recital of marsiya by Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari:

Marsiya continue to be practiced but probably all poets now old. Here is a recording of a majlis-e-marsiya in Lucknow. Feel the poetry:


Found another video that shows more prominently the story-telling component of marsiya. In two parts:

My friend Afzal Usmani informs that Allama Shibli Nomani wrote a book comparing the poetry of Mir Ali Anis and Mirza Dabeer: “Mawazina-e-Anis-o-Dabeer” ( )

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Kashif-ul-huda is the editor of Follow him on twitter.

2 thoughts on “Marsiya : a form of Urdu poetry”

  1. There are Profound SCIENTIFIC TRUTHS about THIS “that what one can call as CREATION” IN SANSKRIT. Rather than spreading energy in to Sorrow and PAIN of some Karbala, the sum total of HUMAN effort must be UTILIZED to Delve and UNEARTH THAT TRUTH from the SANSKRIT SCRIPTURES that are available in this SUBCONTINENT that is CALLED since AGES as SINDUSTAN the PURE LAND.

  2. well, to all due to respect to the “truth” in Sanskrit scriptures let us just do whatever we feel right. Here i think is important to preserve an art form which is slowly diminishing from the face of earth and revival of it is as important as anything else.

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