[Translation] Daag Dehelvi's Ghazal: Kahan they raat ko

Kahan they raat ko is a ghazal by Daag Dehelvi (1839-1905) a Mughal poet.

Daag Dehelvi was born in Delhi, to Nawab Shamsuddin Ahmed Khan and Wazir Khanum. His mother remarried the Mughal Crown Prince, Muhammad Fakroo, and Daag had access to a great education at the Red Fort. He was a gifted child and began his poetic career at the age of 10. He adopted a simple style of writing which endeared him to people from all echelons. After the prince's death, he moved to Rampur and finally settled down in Hyderabad, as it offered a favorable clime for poets. He was appointed the court poet. His work was well appreciated and he was bestowed many honorific titles by the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad. 
 Daag is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest romantic poets of his time.

When I heard this ghazal, I was somehow reminded of Ben Jonson's lines
 Drink to me only with thine eyes,
     And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss within the cup
     And I will not ask for wine.

 I am thankful for the help extended for this translation by a friend, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Kahan they raat ko hum se zara nigah mile
talash mein ho ki joota koi gavah mile
ye hai maze ke ladai, ye hai maze ka milap                             
ki tujuse aankh ladi aur phir nigah mile.
tera gurur samaya hai is qadar dil mein               
nigah bhi na milaun jo badashah mile
masal-sal ye hai ki milane se koyi milta hai
milo to aankh mile, aur phir nigah mile.

Where were you last night?
There was not even a glance, thrown my way,
Perchance, you were in search aright,
Of a false witness to prove, your presence away?

These fights of pretense,
 And these intimacies intense;
Feels like,
even as our eyes fought,
Our glances, respite sought. 

The pride of your love,
So swells my heart,
That I would not shift my gaze,
Even if the Emperor were to pass.

Mere presence, my love, is not a meeting forsooth,
 Let our eyes and glances mingle, to feel the truth.

Here is a rendition of the ghazal by Penaz Masani:


  1. In my Besotted Heart .. wonderful words you have used.. Great

  2. "talash mein ho ki joota koi gavah mile - Of false proof to explain your presence" - beautiful translation. Looking for false alibi is it not :)

    1. B Srinivasan thank you! Yes, alibi sounds so prosaic! :D

  3. A very good effort. I see a lot of talent. You always put in a lot of effort to be as perfect as possible and it shows in the result. keep it up.

    1. Thank you! I particularly enjoyed this exercise, for the challenges it presented!


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