Written by Randeep Purewall
Khwaja Mir Dard was born in Delhi in 1720. The son of a well-known Sufi, Dard was schooled in theology, philosophy and Arabic and Persian. After serving briefly in the Mughal army, he joined his father’s Sufi order in Delhi around 1748.
It wasn’t the best of times for Delhi. The city was sacked by Nadir Shah in 1739 and marauded repeatedly by Ahmed Shah Abdali and the Marathas. Dard stayed on in the city however, even as his contemporaries Mir Taqi Mir and Sauda fled to Lucknow.
At his home in Delhi, Dard held poetry recitals which attracted Mir, Sauda and Soz as well as the emperor, Shah Alam (r. 1759-1806). A gifted musician, Dard also composed khayals, thumris and dhrupads:
The high and low are equal in my eyes
As the high and low notes on the harp
In addition to his Urdu deewaan, Dard wrote eight Persian works on Sufism. He remained a Sufi in Delhi until his death in 1785.
Dard’s poems are sensual, erotic and, most famously, mystical. As a mystical poet, however, he seeks to live peacefully in the world, not to renounce it. He does not flee from life, but seeks its deeper meaning.
His poems concern the unity of existence, the greatness of man, the mystery of God and the nature of the self. His Urdu is simple and his verse spontaneous and intuitive, carrying both a personal depth and a touch of transcendence.
Dard is widely acknowledged today as one of the “three pillars” of Urdu poetry, along with Mir and Sauda.
If someone has not seen you here on earth
It makes no difference if he sees the world or not
Make the best of your time for life will not come back to you
If some of your life remains, youth will not come back to you
As long as I seek, it’s you I seek
As long as I speak, it’s of you I speak
The longing I feel is longing for you
And when I yearn, it’s for you I yearn
Time moves and soon
We shall be gone
So fill the cup
Let wine flow on
I crossed the garden of the world
And found the hue and scent of friendship’s rose
These flowering fields you love so much
And which receive
Such tender care from you, relate
A different tale to me
For when the flowers fade, the buds
And say: Like them we too one day
Shall wilt away
Give up talk with men and quiet be
Desire only the soul’s serenity
Seek joys of union in a state of wonder
Look for guidance in your heart’s own mirror
Though man was not given wings
He soared higher than the angels
Whom would the preacher
Frighten with his day of doom?
The scroll of deeds I washed clean with my tears
Don’t judge me, O Sheikh, by my drenched cloak
The angels would seek ablutions were I to wring it
Nor heaven nor earth can Thy expanse contain
Tis but my heart that enfolds Thy grace
Roses and greenery
Aren’t worth that inner joy
That place is grove and garden
Which gladdens the heart
Trans. Ahmed Ali, The Golden Tradition: An Anthology of Urdu Poetry; K.C. Kanda, Urdu Ghazals: An Anthology from the 17th to the 20th Century; additional translation, Randeep Purewall