Typesetting Urdu poetry on the web
(WORK ON THIS!!!)There is a lot of Urdu poetry on the web. Last year, I released Kulliyat-e-Ghalib, a web book of Ghalib’s Urdu poetry. One of the goals of the web book was to present the poetry in the best possible manner on the web (without resorting to hacks). As it turned out, modern CSS is totally up for the job, but somehow we still see most Urdu poetry on the web set in a single column. Kulliyat and this post attempt to change that.
Most of Ghalib’s work is comprised of _ghazal_s (see below for an introduction), and ghazals are what I shall be focusing on in this post. The same ideas can be easily extrapolated to apply on other genres too. I had hoped to write this blog post much sooner, but better than late than never, right?
A (very) short introduction to Urdu ghazal
A ghazal (غزل) is “[a]n amatory poem, an ode”1 that originated in Arabic poetry, and later spread to Persian and Urdu. In terms of structure:
- The atomic item of a ghazal is the مصرع (misra), or the line. (I shall use the transliterated term misra for the rest of the post, in order to avoid confusion with the generic line of a block.)
- Two misras combine to form a couplet or a verse (شعر). (I shall use the term verse in the rest of the post.)
- A ghazal is a combination of three or more verses, with each verse representing a single thought or an idea.2
[figure illustrating misras and verses]