The word Ghazal, according to the Arabic dictionary, means ‘talking about women’. Initially it had been considered as a means of expressing love to one’s beloved. But as time went by poetic words were penned reflecting life perceived by he poet. The ghazal is generally a poem consisting of five to fifteen couplets known as ‘shers’. The Ghazals became a part of the Indian musical heritage with the invasion of the Mughals.

The couplets that are placed to form a ghazal need not have any connecting thread as such. In fact rarely would one find a connection existing between the couplets and yet they seem to fit in perfectly. This is possibly because of the tune to which they are set and the way in which they are recited.

While most ghazal compositions are made up of unrelated couplets; there is a form of ghazal known as nazm, which is based on a single theme throughout. Another type of ghazal is the qita, which is a collection of verses pertaining to a particular theme.

Ghazal singers are known for the emotions, feelings and expressions they put into their performance. Most singers prefer to play the harmonium while they sing, giving them complete control over the tempo. Most lyricists compose their own music, as they know exactly what kind of a mood they intend bringing about through their poetic words. Though the first ghazals were written in Urdu, today, this form of poetry is written almost every regional language of India.

In general the opening of a ghazal is called the matla, which is a rhyming couplet. The end of the second line of each following couplet has to rhyme with the opening couplet. The opening couplet is supposed to bring about the mood of the remaining couplets that have been placed together to create a ghazal. The last couplet is known as the makta. This usually includes the poet’s pen-name and is personal. The poet may express his thoughts and feelings or his perception of things that matter to him.

If you closely study the ghazals that have been penned through the ages you will notice that they have been based on common themes such as:

  • Unreciprocated love
  • Devotion to god or some human being
  • Philosophical reflections
  • Criticizing religious fundamentalism
  • Celebration of insanity and intoxication
  • Feelings of longing, love and passion
  • Expression of frustration, anger, misery longing and frustration

Though this form of music has ancient and limited beginnings it has been made popular because of the commencement of the recording industry in the year 1901. People across the country have been able to enjoy ghazal recitations because of live performances, radio and other audio systems. A couple of Indian movies have also popularized this genre of Indian music. Today it does have listeners of all ages, male and female.