Jigar Moradabadi (Urdu: جگر مراد آبادی) was the nom de plume of Ali Sikandar, one of the most famous Urdu poets of the 20th century and a celebrated Urdu ghazal writer. He received the 1958 Sahitya Akademi Urdu Award for his highly acclaimed poetry collection "Atish-i-Gul".
Jigar Moradabadi was born on April 6, 1890 in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. He lost his father at an early age and did not have an easy childhood. At school (madrassah) he was taught both Arabic and Persian. His poetry teacher (ustad ) in the early days was Rasa Rampuri.
Still in his teens, Jigar, as he came to be known universally, moved to Gonda, near Lucknow. This proved to be a turning point in his life. Here, he befriended Asghar Gondvi, who later also emerged as a notable Urdu poet. Gondvi was only six years older than Jigar, who became his protégé. Gondvi's influence over Jigar, and the significant role he played in his life, should not be underestimated. He was his mentor, a father figure, an older brother, a teacher, a friend and a fellow poet, all rolled into one. Jigar even married a sister of Gondvi's wife. He made Gonda his permanent home and Gonda acquired one of the most famous literary figures to have ever lived there.
Jigar died on September 9, 1960 in Gonda. A small residential colony in Gonda city called Jigar Ganj is named after him. It is close to his original residence. An intermediate school is also named after him - the Jigar Memorial Inter College. Mazar-e-Jigar Moradabadi is in Topkhana, Gonda.
Jigar Moradabadi belonged to the classical school of ghazal writing and was a mentor to Majrooh Sultanpuri, who became a prominent lyricist in the Indian film industry and penned many popular songs in Urdu and Hindi.
Jigar was extremely popular with the masses, who regarded him as the People's Poet. The American singer Eartha Kitt, who was a contemporary of Jigar Moradabadi, sang "Monotonous", written by June Carroll and Arthur Siegel, in 1952, which became an international hit. Two memorable lines in this song are reminiscent of how Jigar's appearance in public often created a stir, such was his appeal :
Traffic has been known to stop for me
Prices even rise and drop for me
Jigar Moradabadi has become even more popular since his death, as his poetry continues to gain ever more admirers, particularly among film-goers, who are familiar with his lyrics.
He never received any formal higher education. No university could have taught him what he taught himself in his chosen field. He is now regarded as one of the all-time great Urdu poets. Jigar was only the second poet in the history of Aligarh Muslim University to be awarded an honorary D.Litt - the first one to receive this honour was Allama Iqbal, which speaks volumes about Jigar's standing and reputation. He is already being mentioned in the same breath as Iqbal and Ghalib.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the distinguished Urdu poet and academic, regarded Jigar Moradabadi as a master craftsman in his field. Aligarh was one of Jigar's favourite cities. A former student of Aligarh Muslim University, who often attended mushairas at which both Faiz and Jigar were participants, recalls that Jigar would steal the show with his rendition of his own ghazals and was the life and soul of the mushaira.
Malik Ram, the renowned Urdu scholar and a leading authority on Ghalib, knew Jigar personally and wrote an appreciative article about him in the June 1959 issue of Nuqoosh - the reputable Lahore monthly Urdu literary journal. In 1974, Malik Ram also included Jigar, along with Ghalib, in his award-winning book "Woh Surten Ilahi" (The Immortals) - biographical essays on nine giants in the Urdu literary world.
Research on Jigar Moradabadi and his poetry is ongoing and is also encouraged and supported by the Government of India sponsored National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language. Jigar's poetry is now an established academic subject in Urdu departments at many universities