Who hasn't heard of Mushairas in the sub-continent? But what about Tarahi mushairas!
While Mushaira is an event where poets recite their compositions in front of a large audience, and the rendition continues for hours even after midnight, Tarahi mushairas are slightly different.
They are mostly for the real wordsmiths and aficionados of poetry, and are still held in most parts of the country. They don't get publicised because they are for the most passionate poetry lovers.
While success in mushaira depends on several factors including the style of rendition also, Tarahi mushaira tests the rhymster's real talent and his ability to churn out asha'ar and ghazals. Ahead of the Tar'hi mushaira, the poets are given a 'misra' [a line of a couplet] and they have to compose the ghazals in accordance with the 'qafia' and 'radif'.
For example a recent Tarahi mushaira that was held in Muzaffar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh (UP) where the poets had been given the follow misra-e-tarah: Jab voh milaa to chashm-e-basirat chali gayee.
Nearly twenty-odd poets attended the mushaira and recited their ghazals [each having five or six couplets with one of them having this misra and the rest having the similar ending]. Of course, the couplets have to be in meter and it shouldn't be mere tukbandi.
A selection of the poets' one couplet each from their ghazals recited on the occasion is here:
hamne jise bhi dekhaa hai tirchhi nigaah se
taarikh hai gavaah uski hukumat chalii gayee
Mehfil meN ek shamaa ne bujhte hue kahaa
ab roshni luTaane ki quvvat chalii gayee
Tuuti huii kamaan hai, shaamil huuN jang meN
kahtaa hai kaun merii shuja'at chalii gayee
Ro ro ke kah raha tha voh maa.n kii vafaat par
Lo aaj mere haath se jannat chalii gayee
roshan na hotaa kaise voh kanaan* ka kuaaN
jis meN aqeel chaand si surat chalii gayee
*Canaan: The place mentioned in Hebrew Bible also where Yusuf AS [Joseph] was thrown into a well by his brothers.
While the institution of Mushairas is as strong as it was in the past and in certain respects more colourful, attracting large audience, there is a feeling that serious poets often stay away from the public mushairas.
However, in Tarahi mushairas, the emphasis is still on nuances of poetry, language and depth of expression. They are not too popular but the 'nashists' [sittings] are held almost in every city or town that has substantial population of Urdu speakers.