Saturday, 30 June 2012

Rules for writing a ghazal

(This definition is based on a definition of Gazal by Dr. Arshad Jamal from the book Aaina-e-Gazal)
Gazal is a collection of 'sher' which follow the rules of 'matla', 'maqta', 'behar', 'qafiya' and 'radeef'. So to know what a Gazal is, it's necessary to know what these terms mean.

Sher (shey-r) - a two line poem. This is a deceptive definition as it does not convey the complexity of thought that can be conveyed in two lines. Each is a "complete" poem in itself. It stands by itself and can be quoted as such, and often is.

Thus, a Gazal is a collection of 'ashaar' (plural of sher) which are complete in themselves and each may deal with topics/ subjects completely unrelated to each other.

Behar (be-huhr) - behar is the metre of the poem. This can loosely thought of as the length of the sher. Both the lines of a sher MUST be of the same 'behar' or 'metre'. Also, all the ashaar of a Gazal MUST be the same behar.

There are 19 different metres that are used. In simple terms, they are divided into three categories - short, medium and long.

Radeef (ra-dee-f) - word or phrase that is repeated at the end of the second line in EVERY sher. The SAME word(s) are repeated.

Qafiya (qaa-fee-yaa) - the rhyming pattern of the word(s) just before the radeef in the second line of a sher. This is a necessary requirment, followed even in the absence of other rules.

Thus, a Gazal is a collection of two-lined poem called sher, having the same behar, ending with the same radeef and having the same qafiya.

Matla (muh-ta-laa) - This is the first sher of a Gazal, and both lines of the sher must end in the radeef. Usually a Gazal has only one matla. If a Gazal has more than one matla, then the second matla is called 'matla-e-saani'.

Maqta (mak-taa) - A shaayar (poet) usually had a pen-name under which he wrote. The pen-name is called 'taKhallus' (takh-ul-lus). The sher in which the taKhallus is included is called the maqta. It is the last sher of the Gazal.

More links

About a ghazal and how to write it, with practical examples and question-answers.
Dr M C Gupta


Guidelines for writing a ghazal/shayari

Difference between Ghazal and Nazm Jagjit Singh Tere Khat



What is the Difference Between a Geet and a Ghazal?

By Tauseefuddin Khan


Defining poetic forms: The ghazal


8.Learn more about beher (meter)
Bah’r: The Backbone of Shaa’iri By : Irfan ‘Abid


  1. I have a question: the famous song from the film Ghazal

    " Rang aur noor ki baraat kise pesh karun
    Ye muradonki hansi raat kise pesh karun

    Maine jazbaat nibhayen hain usulonki jagah
    apne armaan piroyen hain phoolon ki jagah
    Tere sahare ke ye saugat kise pesh karun...

    It has 'pesh karun' as Radeef and Barat, raat, saugaat as Kaafiyaa, essentially. But it has also 'jagah' as Kaafiyaa (or Radeef). In addition, is behr is medium (7) but instead of two lines it is a three line (forth line a repeated line of Matlaa) ashaars. So, what type of ghazal this can be or is it a nazm? (I am learning so I may be incorrect in identifying the various characters..)

  2. Vachan, this number is actually a nazm/geet/song. However, two other numbers in the movie Ghazal, which have the same bahr, radeef and qaafiya as this one are indeed ghazals. They are "naghma-o-sher kii sauGhaat" sung by Lata and "ishq kii garmii-e-jazbaat" sung by Rafi. Since "rang aur noor kii" has similar characteristics and is the most famous number of the movie Ghazal, it is mistakenly called a ghazal by many. One last note, the word "hansi" is actually "haseeN" (with a nasal 'n' at the end) and the second line of the stanza is "apne armaan piro laayaa hooN phooloN kii jagah." Hope this helps.