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Classical literature in Urdu

October 24, 2010


THERE is a sort of perennial complaint from the prominent Urdu writers that the Urdu writings of international standards are not being translated into international rather more known languages, especially into English. Thus Pakistan remains in oblivion in the world literary circles. They are right.

Pakistani literature must be known to the world. Not only Urdu, Pushto, Balochi, Sindhi and Punjabi also deserve the same treatment first at the national level and then at the international level. From this point of view we feel that for a very long time there was only one impression that only Urdu literature represents Pakistani literature and its obvious example is the Board for Advancement of Literature or Majlis-i-Tarraq-i-Adab, Lahore. This Majlis worked under Imtiaz Ali Taj, Prof Hameed Ahmad Khan, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and now Shehzad Ahmad.

This board has produced hundreds of books of classical Urdu literature or some research work on Urdu literature. Being an institution of the Punjab, it should have produced at least 25 per cent of the classical literature of Punjabi.

The only book perhaps produced representing Punjab was Richard Temple's Legends of Punjab in three volumes which has Punjabi text in Roman, was translated into Urdu and unfortunately its text was not reproduced in original Punjabi, thus making it almost meaningless. The second book was perhaps the verse translation of Ghalib's Urdu diwan by the late Aseer Abid and also Allama Iqbal's Bal-i-Jabreel into Punjabi verse. I may be missing one or two such books, but there is tarraqi of course of Urdu and not of Punjabi literature. So there are many misnomers.

To be known is everybody's wish, but in Pakistan things which should have been more known are less known because of our priorities. Sharif Kunjahi's name was presented for Life Achievement Award instituted by the Academy of Letters. Because his major work was in Punjabi, the immediate reaction was that he was not well known at the national level and therefore his name was dropped.

Urdu writers think they are known at the national level, and it is needed that they should be known at the international level. In the same way Punjabi and other writers of Pakistani languages desire that first they should be known at the national level. Their writings should be translated into Urdu and other languages but who will do this job. Not the writers themselves, as for top Urdu writers cannot translate their pieces into English therefore Punjabi and other language writers expect that their creative work should be translated by Urdu writers. But how many Urdu writers have rendered books of regional classic etc into Urdu? The number is negligible.

Actually, literature as such has not been taken at equal level. From the government side first priority was given to literature of national languages. That means not literature but language was the first priority. This discrimination was found in all literary awards instituted by the central government, Pakistan Writers Guild, banks including the National Bank of Pakistan and other learned bodies. By that way it means Ada Jafri Badyuni was a greater poet than Sheikh Ayaz of Sindhi or Baqi Siddiqi of Punjabi. From literature's point of it was an injustice continuously done to regional literature vis-à-vis Urdu.

Let us have a look at the Punjabi literature translated into Urdu about which an article by Dr Fauzia Chaudhry has been carried in the quarterly Urdunama of the Majlis-Zaban-i-Daftri, Punjab government. This is a sort of fact sheet but it proves that there was no translation from Punjabi into Urdu before Urdu was imposed as medium of instruction and second official language in the Punjab and according to Fauzia the first five-page leaflet was about the translation of instructions to Lambardars issued by the British government entitled Hidayatnama Nambardaran. It was published in 1859 followed by Ganjeena-i-Ma'arafat compiled by Munshi Diwan Chand and was registered with the Punjab Public Library, Lahore in 1886. It is the translation which is the translation of the poetry of Bulleh Shah and its explanations. Fauzia is of the view that this book has hardly been consulted by the scholars till now. But how it can be differentiated from Qanoon-i-Ishq and (Halwa-i-Punjab) which has 52 kafis published in 1913?

Much before the sacred book of the Sikhs, Granth Sahib was translated into Urdu by Rai Diwan Chand of Sialkot and it was published from Sialkot in 1898 followed by the text and translation of another Sikh religious book, Jap Jee, which was published in 1903.

Heer Ranjha was a very popular subject with Persian and Punjabi poets and it claimed popularity in Insha Ullah Khan Insha's period whose proverbial verse is: