Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ was born in 1797 in Agra into a family descended from Turks who moved to Samarkand. His grandfather, Mirza Qoqan Beg Khan had immigrated to India from Samarkand during the reign of Ahmad Shah. Mirza Abdullah Beg Khan (Ghalib's father) was married to Izzat-ut-Nisa Begum and lived with his father in law. He died in a battle in Rajasthan. At that time Ghalib was a small child of about 5 years of age. He was raised by his Uncle Mirza Nasrullah Beg Khan. When Ghalib was 7 years his uncle also died. Ghalib could not get proper education.He was brought up by his maternal grand father. His maternal grandfather Khwaja Ghulam Husain Khan was a landlord of Agra and Ghalib passed good time in his childhood.
Ghalib was married at age 13 to Umrao Begum, daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh. He soon moved to Delhi, along with his wife and younger brother, Mirza Yousuf Khan.Though he had children but none of his seven children survived beyond infancy.
Mirza Ghalib was awarded the title of "Dabeer-ul-Mulk" by Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II. The Emperor also added to it the additional title of Najm-ud-daulah. He also received the title of 'Mirza Nosha' by the emperor, thus adding Mirza as his first name. He was also an important courtier of the royal court of the Emperor. As the Emperor was himself a poet, Mirza Ghalib was appointed as poet tutor of the Shah and Prince Fakhr-ud-Din, the eldest son of Bahadur Shah II. He was also appointed as the royal historian of Mughal Court. He never worked for a livelihood and lived on either royal patronage or the generosity of his friends.
Ghalib's closest rival was poet “Zauq”, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them are famous. However, there was mutual respect for each other's talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of “Meer Taqi Meer”, a towering figure of 18th century Urdu poetry. Another poet, “Momin” was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib.
It is said that Ghalib had a weakness for drinking and gambling. Though gambling was considered an offence at that time, Ghalib never seemed to have bothered about it. He himself said that he was not a strict Muslim in the true sense of the term.
Ghalib started poetry at a young age. He had knowledge of Urdu, Persian, Arabic and Turkish. He wrote his poetry in Persian and Urdu, but he is more famous for his Urdu ghazals. Ghalib expressed philosophy, the travails and mysteries of life and wrote ghazals on many other subjects, vastly expanding the scope of the ghazal. This work is considered his paramount contribution to Urdu poetry and literature.
Not only Urdu poetry but his letters have been an asset to Urdu literature. His letters were very informal, sometimes he would just write the name of the person and start the letter. He himself was very humorous and also made his letter very interesting. He made his letters "talk" by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader. According to him, "Sau Kos Se, Ba-Zaban-E-Qalam, Baatein Kiya Karo Aur Hijr Mein, Visaal Ke Maze Liya Karo". He said "Main Koshish Karta Hoon, Ke Koi Aisi Baat Likhoon Jo Parhay Khush Ho Jaaye". When the third wife of one of his friends died, he wrote... "Allah Allah Ek Woh Log Hain Jo Teen Teen Dafah Is Qaid Say Chhoot Chukaye Hain Aur Ek Hum Hain Ke Pachas Baras Say Jo Phansi Ka Phanda Galay Mein Pada Hai To Nah Phanda Hi Tootta Hai Na Dum Hi Nikalta Hai"
On February 15th 1869, this great poet breathed his last.
Mirza Ghalib Academy in Delhi has been established in the memory of this great Urdu poet for research of his works and also to encourage Urdu literature.
Indian cinema is not behind to pay tribute to the great shayar. Feature films been made two times on his life. One feature film has been made in Pakistan also. His ghazals have been sung by almost every great singer of India and Pakistan.