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Translator and Poet

Date & Time

Saturday Sat, 25 Jul 2020


Location (for BIC Venue, BIC Hybrid and BIC Cafe)

Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560 071 India
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+91 98865 99675 bic@bangaloreinternationalcentre.org

Syed Ahmed Esar is a 98-year-old, Bengaluru-based poet and translator and in today’s session, he discusses his life and passion for Urdu and Persian poetry, including how he translated the Masnavi of Rumi. A former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, he also regales us with anecdotes from his early life in the city and his long career in the jungles of Karnataka. We are also privileged to hear him read from his poems and translations.

In collaboration:


Syed Ahmed Esar

Translator and Poet

Born on 25 July 1922, Syed Ahmed Esar is a translator and poet based in Bengaluru. His interest in Persian and Urdu poetry began at an early age while growing up in the garrison of the Mysore Lancers in Munireddy Palya where his father was a soldier. He adopted the takhallus (pen name) of ‘Esar’ meaning ‘sacrifice’ while he was still in school. After his graduation from Central College in the city, he joined the Forest Service in 1948. From 1954-56, he studied at the University of Washington in Seattle where he completed a Master’s degree in Forestry. Upon his return, he continued as a member of the elite Indian Forest Service, and later retired as the Chief Conservator of Forests of Karnataka in 1980. While Esar sustained his passion for Persian and Urdu poetry during his lonely sojourns in the jungles, his serious pursuit of a literary career began only after his retirement.

During the 1980s, he completed the translation of the entire Persian corpus of Muhammad (Allama) Iqbal into Urdu, publishing the first of these seven volumes in 1997. Alongside, he also began the translation of 13th century mystic Persian poet Rumi’s poem, the Masnavi (The Spiritual Verses) into Urdu. This epic poem, which some scholars consider to be the greatest mystical poem in world literature runs into more than 25,000 verses and is the most influential work of Sufism. Esar’s translation of the Masnavi was published in six volumes by the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language in 2019. His cumulative corpus of work comes up to 19 volumes which, apart from Iqbal and Rumi, also includes translations, into Urdu, of canonical Persian poets such as Omar Khayyam, Shams Tabrez and Saadi Shirazi. He has also published a collection of poetry and an autobiography. Esar was honoured with the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award in 2017.

Photo Credit: Frontline

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed


Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed is an award-winning journalist with Frontline newsmagazine and is based in Bengaluru. His article on Syed Ahmed Esar published in Frontline magazine is available here.