Mir Taqi Mir (Urdu: میر تقی میر) (born 1723 – died 1810), whose real name was Muhammad Taqi (Urdu: محمد تقی) and takhallus (pen name) was Mir (Urdu: میر) (sometimes also spelt as Meer Taqi Meer), was the leading Urdu poet of the 18th century, and one of the pioneers who gave shape to the Urdu language itself. He was one of the principal poets of the Delhi School of the Urdu ghazal and remains arguably the foremost name in Urdu poetry often remembered as Khuda-e-sukhan (god of poetry).
The main source of information on Mir’s life is his autobiography Zikr-e-Mir, which covers the period from his childhood to the beginnings of his sojourn in Lucknow. However, it is said to conceal more than it reveals, with material that is undated or presented in no chronological sequence. Therefore, many of the ‘true details’ of Mir’s life remain a matter of speculation.
Mir was born in Agra, India (then called Akbarabad and ruled by the Mughals) ca. August or September 1723 in a family of Arab origins. His philosophy of life was formed primarily by his father, a religious man with a large following, whose emphasis on the importance of love and the value of compassion remained with Mir throughout his life and imbued his poetry. Mir’s father died while the poet was in his teens. He left Agra for Delhi a few years after his father’s death, to finish his education and also to find patrons who offered him financial support (Mir’s many patrons and his relationships with them have been described by his translator C. M. Naim).
Some scholars consider two of Mir’s masnavis (long narrative poems rhymed in couplets), Mu’amlat-e-ishq (The Stages of Love) andKhwab o khyal-e Mir (“Mir’s Vision”), written in the first person, as inspired by Mir’s own early love affairs, but it is by no means clear how autobiographical these accounts of a poet’s passionate love affair and descent into madness are. Especially, as France W. Pritchett points out, the austere portrait of Mir from these masnavis must be juxtaposed against the picture drawn by Andalib Shadani, whose inquiry suggests a very different poet, given to unabashed eroticism in his verse.
Mir lived much of his life in Mughal Delhi. Kuchha Chelan, in Old Delhi was his address at that time. However, after Ahmad Shah Abdali’s sack of Delhi each year starting 1748, he eventually moved to the court of Asaf-ud-Daulah in Lucknow, at the king’s invitation. Distressed to witness the plundering of his beloved Delhi, he gave vent to his feelings through some of his couplets.
کیا بود و باش پوچھے ہو پورب کے ساکنو
ہم کو غریب جان کے ہنس ہنس پکار کے
دلّی جو ایک شہر تھا عالم میں انتخاب
رہتے تھے منتخب ہی جہاں روزگار کے
جس کو فلک نے لوٹ کے ویران کر دیا
ہم رہنے والے ہیں اسی اجڑے دیار کے
Mir migrated to Lucknow in 1782 and remained there for the remainder of his life. Though he was given a kind welcome by Asaf-ud-Daulah, he found that he was considered old-fashioned by the courtiers of Lucknow (Mir, in turn, was contemptuous of the new Lucknow poetry, dismissing the poet Jur’at’s work as merely ‘kissing and cuddling’). Mir’s relationships with his patron gradually grew strained, and he eventually severed his connections with the court. In his last years Mir was very isolated. His health failed, and the death of his daughter, son and wife caused him great distress.
He died, of a purgative overdose, on Friday, 21 September 1810. The marker of his burial place was removed in modern times when a railway was built over his grave.
“Mir ke deen-o-mazhab ka
poonchte kya ho un nay to
kashka khaincha dair mein baitha
kab ka tark Islam kiya“
What can I tell you about Mir’s faith or belief ?
A tilak on his forehead in a temple he resides,
having abandoned Islam long ago
What Mir was practicing was probably the Malamati or “Blameworthy” aspect of the Sufi tradition. Using this technique, a person ascribes to oneself an unconventional aspect of a person or society, and then plays out its results, either in action or in verse.