The word Marsiya is derived from the Arabic word marthiyya (root R-TH-Y), meaning a great tragedy or lamentation for a departed soul. Though the genre is derived from, and closely related to, the Arabic rithā', it developed primarily in Persian, Urdu, and other languages of South Asia. Marsiya is a poem written to commemorate the martyrdom of Ahl al-Bayt, Imam Hussain and Battle of Karbala. It is usually a poem of mourning.
This form found a specially congenial soil in Lucknow, an important Shia Muslim community in South Asia, where it was regarded as an act of piety and religious duty to eulogize and bemoan the martyrs of the battle of Karbala. The genre was championed by Mir Babar Ali Anis.
Famous marsiya writers in Urdu include Mir Babar Ali Anis, Mirza Salamat Ali Dabeer, Ali Haider Tabatabai, Najm Afandi, Josh Malihabadi, and others. Well-known Persian poets of the genre include Muhtasham Kashani and Samet Borujerdi. In Turkish, Bâkî composed an important marsiya.
Mir Babar Ali Anis, a renowned Urdu poet, composed salāms, elegies, nohas and quatrains. While the length of elegy initially had no more than forty or fifty stanzas, he pushed it beyond one hundred fifty or even longer than two hundred stanzas or bands, as each unit of marsiya in the musaddas format is known. Mir Anis drew upon the vocabulary of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, and Awadhi to a great degree. He has become an essential element of Muharram among the Urdu-speakers of South Asia. The first major and still current critical articulation about Mir Anis was Muazna-e-Anis-o-Dabir (1907) written by Shibli Nomani in which he said "the poetic qualities and merits of Anis are not matched by any other poet".
Chhannu Lal Dilgeer (c 1780 – c 1848), another marsiya poet, was born during the reign of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah. He was initially a ghazal poet with the takhallus ‘Tarab’, before focusing on marsiya at a later stage. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Ghulam Hussain. His most popular marsiya is called گھبراۓ گی زینبؑ ‘ گھبراۓ گی زینبؑ.
- A History of Urdu literature by T. Grahame Bailey; Urdu Poetry in Lucknow in the 19th century
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- The Masters of Marsiya – Anees and Dabeer
- Marsiya by Shiraz e Hind on May 15th, 2010 Archived 2010-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
- Chhannu Lal Dilgeer
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- Madhu Trivedi. Appropriating an Iranian Literary Tradition: Marsiya in the Indian Context (PDF). great-iran.com. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Amy Bard. "Value and Vitality in a Literary Tradition: Female Poets and the Urdu Marsiya" (PDF). Columbia University. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Marsiya of Imam Hasan Hussain