Devyani Nighoskar


11 Dec
Uncover The Secrets Of Old Agra With This Unique Poetry Walk

bāzīcha-e-atfāl hai duniyā mire aage
hotā hai shab-o-roz tamāshā mire aage

(just like a child's playground this world appears to me
every single night and day, this spectacle I see)

They call it the city of love, but few know that the city of Agra and its complex character boasts of passionate verses and splendid shayaris. If cities could be works of literature, then Agra would definitely be ‘poetry’ – the kind that wraps centuries' worth of stories, traditions, and emotions within itself. The kind that triggers unexplained feelings in its chaotic lanes, yet leaves behind calmness. The kind that nurtures love and builds wonders like the Taj Mahal. The kind that plays the muse to many great minds who have been inspired by its colourful character. Like Ghalib wrote, it is a spectacle to see: a spectacle whose charm has been immortalised in the lovely poetry penned by the likes of Meer Taqi Meer, Abdul Rahim Khanakhana, Nazeer, Maikash Akbarabadi, and of course, Mirza Ghalib.

Said to have been founded in 1504 by Sikandar Lodi of the Delhi Sultanate, the city flourished under Mughal rule as capital, and was called Akbarabad. Given Emperor Akbar’s policy of propagating secularism and religious tolerance, Agra saw influences from many beliefs and faiths. This seamless intermingling of cultures can be observed in the city’s architecture, culinary fabric, local communities, and most interestingly, its local language which is full of poetic metaphors and witty idioms.

Make a note of these as they fall upon your ears and even pick some up for your tongue as you join us for a unique experience – a walk across the old city that uncovers its secrets that lie hidden in the words of master poets who called Agra their home. Organised by Sahapedia through its outreach programme, ‘India Heritage Walks’ on December 15, the walk takes you to the birthplaces of some great poets as you read and talk about the poetry of Agra, and try to understand the submergence of language within the city’s unique cultural richness.

Ibtidaa-e-ishq hai rotaa hai kyaa, Aage aage dekhiye hotaa hai kyaa

(It’s the beginning of love, why do you wail; Just wait and watch how things unveil)

Inspired by poet Meer Taqi Meer, unveil the unique legacy of Agra, as you meander through the labyrinth of its bustling lanes and observe its ancient temples, magnificent havelis, and beautiful ruins, all of which house stories of splendid kingdoms, rulers, tolerance and brotherhood. The walk is led by Agra resident Anal Jha, a writer, musician, and poet, who found solace in Hindi and Urdu poetry in times of grief.

Anal Jha during one of his heritage walks through Agra
Anal Jha at one of his heritage walks in Agra. Source: Anal Jha

Anal initially found it difficult to get inside the minds of the poets and understand their fragmented world of sensation. Donning various styles and writing in different genres, they all came from different places. He was told not to indulge himself in poetry. Like Plato who saw in poetry a deviation from the path of reason and truth, the old patriarchs at home feared poetry could take him to directions deemed unfit for a young boy. Yet he continued listening to Ghalib, Nazir and Meer in Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali's voices. Their words offered him an image of a world he longed for.

Watch this world come alive as you tread upon a path that knows the passion of old Agra. Discover the various genres and styles of each poet with Anal. Uncover the rich cultural legacy of Agra that all these poems document – be it the bold, journalistic style of the people's poet, Nazeer Akbarwadi’s verses, or Meer’s complex and philosophical metaphors that symbolise the pulse and times he lived in, or the beautiful Hindu poems of Abdul Rahim Khanakhana and the soulful renditions of Ghalib and Sufi poet Maikash Akabarabadi.

Through old Agra
Old Agra is full of interesting sights. Image Source:

This three-hour walk will begin at 5 pm at Jama Masjid and will take you through Kala Mahal, the birthplace of poet Ghalib and the space that shaped his formative years. Participants will also visit the birthplaces of Rahim and Meer to understand their lives and the inspiration to their poetic styles, and stop along the way at Maikash Akabarabadi's Tomb to understand his contributions to the Urdu language from his great-grandson, Faiz Ali Shah Niyazi. Celebrate the legacy of the city through these poets with Professor Prem Shankar, who is a Hindi professor at Dayal Bagh educational institute in Agra. See how these beautiful verses come alive in ink with Sala Uddin Sahab, who is a calligrapher and poet. Finally, observe how Agra inspires contemporary poets as you interact with the master poet of these times, Nadeem Sahab.

Walk, see and feel Agra through this unique and immersive poetry walk that may perhaps inspire you to write and recite a poem or two. In the words of Maikash Akbarbadi himself:

aap ki meri kahani ek hai
kahiye ab main kya sunaun kya sunun

(Your story and my story are the same
Say, what should I tell and what should I listen?)

To register, click here.
To read more about Agra's heritage and culture, click here.