The history and origin of the Urdu language is as fascinating and rich as is it’s script. Although it is widely associated with largely Muslim identity and culture as it is the official language of Pakistan, it has as much importance all over the Indian subcontinent being one of India’s 22 official languages.
Was it not the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi who said, “I am proud of the fact that Urdu is a language born in India and it belongs to India.”
We’ve always been taught from a young age that the Urdu language is a “lashkar” or an amalgamation of different languages which include Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese and even Hindi among others. The relationship between Urdu and Hindi especially has a very interesting history with the two changing drastically to form two unique identities as partition took place and we ended up with India and Pakistan.
However, surprisingly, more efforts to preserve this beautiful and eloquent language are being made across the border than within our own country.
This has much to do with the people who speak the language still living across the border, but there is a great amount of beautiful and culturally significant Urdu literature that resonates with the modern-day Indian identity as well. You can divide people based on geographical borders but uprooting languages and their effect on a culture’s subconscious is far more complex than that.
Which is what brings us to perhaps the best conservation and appreciation effort for the Urdu language within our lifetimes, an effort that has been made possible by an Indian businessman called Sanjeev Saraf. Anisur Rahman who is the senior adviser behind the Rekhta Foundation is not only at the helm of this amazing literary website and community but also a researcher and critic on Urdu and Indian literature.
He recently launched his new book, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi: The Wonderful World of Urdu Ghazals which is a compilation, selection and translation of the ghazals of 65 Urdu poets spread across a time period of 500 years.
According to Saraf, the site is an effort to unite people who appreciate and love the Urdu language regardless of religion or borders. There are not only Urdu poems and poetry available on the site but rather there is a wide variety of prominent and several relatively unknown works of prose.
When the site initially started, it only had 350 poets and comprised of 11 e-books but now hosts more than 4000 poets and 5000+ Ebooks.
However, that’s not all the website offers to its users and ever-growing community as there is also a platform called Aamozish where keen learners can learn the Urdu language and it’s script online anywhere and any time they like. There is also a separate platform called “Sufinama” which is distinguished by its vast collection of Sufi poetry.
There is also a detailed catalog of Ebooks ranging from short stories, banned books, works of fiction, autobiographies, drama, idioms among many many more in the site’s online index.
Staying true to its main goal of making the Urdu language accessible to all, it also gives users interesting words of the day which are represented in actual poetry or prose and also hosts a dictionary for users to search any word in the Urdu script.