Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna, from the lanes of Patna

“Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil me hai

dekha hai zor kitna baju-e-katil mein hai.” 

We all have heard this Ghazal lots of times. But do we know that the roots of this ghazal are attached to Bihar.

This Ghazal was written by Bismil Azimabadi, who was a freedom fighter and an Urdu poet from Patna, Bihar.

Bismil Azimabadi was born as Syed Shah Muhammad Hasan, in 1901 at Hardash Bigha village near Patna, Bihar. His father, Syed Shah Aale Hasan was a barrister and they belonged to Zamindar families. Initially they stayed in Khusrupur, Nevada. But at an early age, Bismil lost his father and had to come to his maternal grandfather’s place, Lodi Katra in Patna city.

Bismil’s maternal Grandfather Shah Mubarak Kakvi Azimabadi and his maternal Uncle Khan Bahadur Syed Shah Mohiuddin alias Shah Kamal,  both were poets, which formed a strong base for Bismil. Both of them were disciples of famous ustad poet of Allahabad, Janab Waheed Allahabadi.

He chose the word ‘Bismil’ as his pen name which means restless, hurt, or wounded, and became a disciple of the legendary Urdu poet, Khan Bahadur Shad Azimabadi from Bihar. Later he added ‘Azimabadi’ to his pen name after the name of his city Azimabad, which is present day Patna. 

Bismil joined the freedom movement and developed nationalist views. He recited Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna for the first time at the Congress session, on his visit to Calcutta  in 1920. The poem was recognised in 1921, when it was published in an Urdu daily ‘Sabah’ based in Delhi, edited by Qazi Abdul Ghaffar who was a nationalist writer.

This Ghazal has played an important role in India’s freedom struggle. Ram Prasad Bismil, a freedom fighter immortalised this Ghazal by chanting it on the way to the gallows, before being hanged on December 19, 1927.

There were doubts about the author of the Ghazal, many thought Ram Prasad Bismil was the author of the Ghazal. 

Two facts led to the confusion about the author:

First, both shared the same pen name, Syed Shah had Bismil as his first name and Ram prasad had added ‘Bismil’ as his surname, after the revolution as he was a huge fan of Urdu poetry. The second fact was when this ghazal was published in 1921, Britishers had seized the edition. Bismil Azimabadi was being watched over by the Britishers, so out of fear he avoided acknowledging the confusion.

He disclosed the fact later in 1957 in his autobiography, Yaaran e Maikadah.’

Bismil Azimabadi has written many Ghazals, Poems and Shayari.  Sarfaroshi ki tamanna has been used in many movies like Shaheed, Sarfarosh, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Rang De Basanti, and Gulal.

A large part of Bismil’s work has been lost. The one’s left  was compiled and published in 1980 under the name of Hikayat-i-Hasti. This was done with the help of Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, which has till date preserved the original copy and page of his diary containing this poem written by him.

Bismil Azimabadi is among the most notable poets of Patna. His works are listed in catalogs of many institutions like The University of Chicago Library, Delhi Public Library, Delhi University Central Library System and many more. The London Magazine has also quoted his work.

Bismil Azimabadi died on 20 June 1978 in Patna, leaving behind five sons and three daughters. He is buried in Kurtha, which is 72 km from Patna. His thoughts are saved in the memoirs of Wamiq Jaunpuri in the name ‘Guftani Na Guftani.’

In honor of Bismil Azimabadi, Bihar Urdu Academy gives an Award in his name Bismil Azimabadi Award’.

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