Chirag-e-Dair, The Lamp of the Temple, is perhaps the greatest secular poem ever written by an Indian. It is Mirza Ghalib's eulogy on Banaras, the quintessential Hindu place of pilgrimage, a holy place where according to the Hindus a man is released from the cycle of the birth and death and becomes one with God. All this is completely alien to Islam. And yet, Ghalib a born Muslim not only sings paeans to Banaras but expresses a yearning to lead life like a Hindu practising all rituals and customs associated with Banaras
On way to Calcutta in connection with his pension case, Ghalib fell ill and was forced to spend many months in Lucknow and Banda from where he reached Banaras. It was only after reaching Banaras that his health fully recovered. The climate of Banaras, its lovely natural surroundings, its gardens, temples and the inhabitants fascinated him so much that he immediately fell in love with the city and wrote a long poem in Persian which he titled as Chirag-e-Dair.
Ghalib is by common consent the greatest Urdu poet but he rated his Persian poetry much higher than his Urdu verse. And Chirag-e-Dair has a pride of place in that Persian poetry.
About the Author
Kuldip Salil was born in Sialkot in 1938, post-independence he settled in Delhi where he pursued his Masters in English literature and Economics from Delhi University. He retired as Associate Professor of English, Hans Raj College, Delhi University. An accomplished poet of Hindi, Urdu and English, he has published eight volumes of poetry. He is a recipient of numerous awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award for his works.