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 ode1 that originated in Arabic poetry, and later spread to Persian and Urdu. In terms of structure:

[figure illustrating misras and verses]


  1. Wikipedia: “A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.” [Back]

  2. Sometimes, two or more verses describe a single idea, in which case they are collectively called a qita (قطعہ). [Back]