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Ehsan Danish and Makhdoom Mohiuddin – A juncture of love, literature and struggle.

From Laborer to Literary Luminary: The Extraordinary Journey of the Shayer-e-Mazdoor

As February arrives, first and the second even dates of the month mark the birthdays of two contemporaries, revolutionaries and legends of urdu literature. Popularly recognised among the masses by the titles of ‘shayer-e-mazdoor’ (the workers’ poet) and ‘shayer-e-inqalaab’ (poet of the revolution). Shayer-e-Mazdoor, Ehsan Danish was born on the 2nd of February in the year 1914 at Kandhla, a small town in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh. Born and brought up in extreme poverty, Ehsan was forced to drop out of his school in the 4th grade. He somehow managed to learn Arabic and Persian. He worked as a labourer, mason, watchman, gardener and did several other odd jobs to make the ends meet.

In his autobiography ‘Jahan-e-Danish’, Ehsan mentions that he worked as a mason and calligrapher in the University of Punjab, Lahore at a rate quite lower than usual, 12 paise per day. Later on he was appointed as the Examiner in the same university. A marvel in the field of literature, Ehsan Danish wrote more than 100 books in a short life span of 68 years, out of which a lot are yet to be published.

Ehsan Danish
Shayer-e-Mazdoor, Ehsan Danish


If the poet is still unrecognised, one of his famous couplets might help;

ye udi udi si rangat, ye khule khule se gesu,
teri subh kah rahi hai, teri raat ka fasaana

Evolution of Ehsan Danish: From Romanticism to Revolutionary Ideals

Ehsan Danish was a pure romantic in his early days but the hardships of daily life brought him closer to the idea of socialism. Advocation of revolution and rebellion against the ruling class became a regular sight in his writings. A quatrain in his book ‘aatish-e-khamosh’ conveys that silence of the poor is of a greater significance. Capitalists must fear the silence of these slum dwellers, as the silent tremors of earthquakes are capable of fracturing the mountain’s chest.

Foghan-e-ba-asar hai bezabaani faaqamaston’ ki
Koyi chupke se kah de kaan mein sarmaayadaron’ ke


Daro in bastiyon mein’ rahne walon ki khamoshi se
Ke phat jaate hain seene zalzale se kohsaaron’ ke

Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s Journey from Marxism to Love-Infused Ghazals

Whereas 6 years before Ehsan’s birth, far away in the land of Deccan on the 4th of February, ‘Shayer-e-Inqalaab’, member of the Communist Party of India and founder of the Progressive Writers’ Association in Hyderabad, a leader at forefront of the Telangana Rebellion, Abu Sayeed Mohammad Makhdoom Mohiuddin was born.

At an early age, he came in contact with the Indian communists and became an active member of the Comrades Association. Makhdoom in a short span of time established himself as a marxist urdu poet and was well known among his contemporaries. Largely known for his ghazals “ye kaun aata hai tanhaaiyon’ mein’ jaam liye”, “aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar” and “phir chhidi raat baat phoolon ki” which were later adopted in several movies, Makhdoom became a symbol of love.

Makhdoom Mohiuddin


The image of being the poet of love has completely overshadowed another and important side of Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s life and his poetry. A rebel! That’s what he was and that’s how he wanted himself to be remembered. Proof is his own nazm ‘baghi’ (the rebel) :

sar-e-pur-nakhwat-e-arbaab-e-zamaan’ todunga,
shor-e-naala se dar-e-arz-o-samaan’ todunga,


zulm-parwar ravish-e-ahl-e-jahaan’ todunga,
ishrat aabad emarat ka makaan’ todunga,


tod daalunga main’ zanjeer-e-aseeran-e-qafas
dahr ko panja-e-usrat se chhudane de mujhe


barq ban kar but-e-maazi ko giraane de mujhe,
rasm-e-kohna ko tah-e-khaak milaane de mujhe,


tafraqe mazhab-o-millat ke mitaane de mujhe,
khwab-e-farda ko bas ab haal banaane de mujhe,


aag hun, aag hun, haan eik dahekti hui aag!
aag hun aag, bas ab aag lagaane de mujhe!

Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s Defiant Vision and Ehsan Danish’s Continuation in ‘Baghi Ka Khwab’

He conveys his urge to break the arrogant heads. With his cry, Makhdoom is determined to tear down the gates of heaven along with the oppressive regime and the magnificent mansions of the bourgeoisie. He swears to break the prison chains for the people’s freedom from the claws of privation.

In the next stanza, Makhdoom speaks out to destroy the age-old traditions like a thunderstroke, and to bury the ancient rituals and norms deep in their graves. In order to turn the mere dream of a better tomorrow into reality, he is hellbent to eliminate the differences based upon the ideas of caste, class and religion.  

Makhdoom in the conclusion calls himself a flame, and speaks that he is ready to burn down the oppressive structures to ashes.

 ‘Baghi’ takes us to another nazm ‘baghi ka khwab’ (the rebel’s dream) by the worker’s poet Ehsan Danish. It is hard to say whether they knew about each other’s nazm or not but Ehsan’s ‘baghi ka khwab’ is often seen as a continuation of the same thought. 

A nazm worth seventeen pages in ‘aatish-e-khamosh’ deals with the scenes of evolution in a rebel’s dreams. Ehsan in the due course of this nazm points out the issues of the existing social structure. The rage of a worker for being considered vagrant and worthless by the ruling class. When the worker’s cries are not even heard and their literature is confiscated and branded fanatic.

Ehsan Danish’s Epic Nazm in ‘Aatish-e-Khamosh’ Unveiling Social Injustices

sahab-e-jageer khatir mein na laate the hamein,
baith kar mahlon mein’ aawara bataate the hamein,

bebasi ki garm faryadein gini jaati thin’ khabt,
jin mein ham hote the wo akbaar ho jaate the zabt

hurmat-e-mazdoor inki aankh mein hurmat na thi,
inke bazaaron mein’ ashkon’ ki koyi qeemat na thi

He then charges upon the political leaders and calls them cunning, selfish slaves of the rich and brands them as opressors. Ehsan further mentions the ill deeds of the religious leaders who are in fact the smugglers of faith. 


ye jafa pesha jinhein kahte hain leader khaas-o-aam,
makr ke bande, gharaz ke meet, daulat ke ghulaam


molvi, pandit, granthi, paadri bhi kam na the,
raunaq-e-bazm-e-musarrat the, shareek-e-gham na the

Ehsan Danish goes on and explains the rebellion as if everything is happening in front of his eyes, the prisoners are out and free while the tyrants are lying dead in the blood soaked streets with war cries echoing in the background.

karta hai bijli se baatein’ ahl-e-zindaan ka jalaal,
faqa-maston ke liye hai khoon-e-sultaani halaal


hai ye khunrezi ka aalam har rah-e-nam-naak par
jaese tham tham kar lahu barsa ho shab ko khaak par


har gali kooche se uth’ti hain sadaayein baar baar
ab hamaara waqt hai sarmayadaaron hoshyaar!


He concludes at a note where the revolutionary red flags are being unfurled in the sky while the street dogs are playing with the oppressor’s head. 

inqalaabi surkh parcham udd rahe hain dahr mein’,
leadaron’ ke sar liye phirte hain kutte shahr mein’


In the words of Comrade S. M. Mehdi, this was the most terrifying of all dreams.

Ehsan Danish and Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s Impact on Progressive Urdu Literature

Both Ehsan Danish and Makhdoom Mohiuddin lived a significant life and died in their sixties. They were the frontmen who shaped the progressive form of Urdu Literature. They stood at a point where happens to be the fusion of traditional and revolutionary literature. Indeed, they were the lovers who rejected the traditions, rituals and oppressive structures of the society and preferred a free atmosphere to love.

When Ehsan writes that the lovers are agitated and inflamed. The will to change the destiny of this society that has turned into an example of wilderness.

aaj bhadki rag-e-wahshat tere deewanon’ ki
qismatein’ jaagne waali hain’ bayabanon’ ki

Makhdoom talks about instigating the flames of heart and love, to fight the darkness of oppression. He further says that the pain has turned into a huge mountain of distress, and thus it’s time to use our axes to break it down into pieces.

ishq ke shole ko bhadkaao ke kuch raat kate
dil ke angaare ko dahkaao ke kuch raat kate

koh-e-gham aur geraan’ aur geraan’ aur geraan’
ghamzadon’ teshe ko chamkaao ke kuch raat kate

Makhdoom died at the age of 61 during his third term as a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for his book ‘Besaat-e-Raqs’. While Ehsan Danish migrated to Lahore in search of employment and died there in the year 1982 after establishing his own publishing house. He was awarded with the star of excellence ‘Sitara-e-Imteyaz’ by the President of Pakistan in 1978. 

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S. N. Ali Fraz Rezvi

Ali Fraz Rezvi is a poet, writer, theatre artist and activist. He writes extensively on the topics of History, Literature and Culture. He is primarily concerned about the Azeemabad School of Poetry and its development in the later Mughal period. Rezvi is also a member of PUCL and studies Social Work at Delhi University.