In search of Mirza Ghalib









“ Hazaaron khwaishein aisi, ki har khwaish pe dam nikle”, ( one has a thousand dreams, but each one more difficult to achieve) thus went the famous couplet by Mirza Ghalib. Sure enough, the immortal poet of Purani Dilli lived in his verses; an incomprehensible genius afflicted by terrible life tragedies (including the death of his seven children), yet blessed with the gift of the word. Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan Ghalib( 1797-1869) was the preeminent Urdu and Persian poet of the Mughal era, a prolific writer who ghazals are popular not only in India and Pakistan, but in many places the world over where the diaspora resides.

Ghalib, born in Agra, spent most of his adult life in Purani Dilli, with one sojourn to Calcutta in between. He was steeply immersed in the great historical events of his time, including the Great Mutiny of 1857 and its terrible aftermath, which brought a great deal of melancholy upon him. After all, he adored the feats of the British empire, and the terrible atrocities of British greatly disillusioned him. Ghalib died in 1869, forsaken by many, yet having firmly etched his place in history.

The haveli (house) where Ghalib spent the last of his days from 1860 to 1869, is located inside Galli Qasim Jaan of Purani Dilli. As I negotiated the labyrinthine lanes, I had to ask more than one person about the location of the Haveli. It is a pity that more people are not aware of the place where a part of their history was created. Perhaps that’s what happens to history in the backyard!

The house is built in the style of that era, with the arches, columns and bricks reminiscent of the Mughal times. The bust of Ghalib adorns the building, as do several of his couplets. The place has been turned into a memorial in 1999 by the government, yet has the feeling of a house next door, with other houses adjacent and windows opening on to the Haveli, thus offering a view to a piece of living history.

I stood there, absorbing the historical significance of the place. Here, in a brick and mortar building deep inside the labyrinthine lanes of Purani Dilli, lived the greatest poet of the Mughal era, and composed his immortal poetry. I felt as if Ghalib himself was reciting,

“ Ug raha hai dar-o-deewar se sabzah Ghalib
Hum bayabaan mein hein aur ghar mein bahar aayee hai.”

(Greenery is growing out of the doors and walls ‘Ghalib’
I am in wilderness and spring has arrived at my house)

Information about Ghalib’s haveli

  • Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Open on : Tuesday to Sunday; Closed on Monday
  • Admission: Free . No charges for photography
  • Location: Galli Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran, Old Delhi
  • Nearby landmark: Rabea Girls Public School
  • Nearest Railway Station: Old Delhi Railway Station
  • Nearest Metro Station: Chawri Bazar Metro Station
  • Map: Attached


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