Bho Shambho

Sunday mornings my mother would hurry us up to get ready, my sister and I, to take us to the Chinmaya Mission classes. It was our equivalent of Sunday School. There we would hear stories from Hindu sacred texts,  memorize portions of  the Bhagawat Geeta  and learn other Shlokas.

सर्वे सुखिनो भवन्तु |
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ||
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु |
मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग् भवेत् ||
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ||

Let everyone be happy
Let everyone be without disease
Let everyone bear witness to good events
Let no-one have a share of sadness
Om Peace, Peace, Peace!!

What a good prayer! Those Vedic seers had vision – how can individual well-being stand on the shoulders of collective misery? Let us indeed pray for universal good!

What I learnt at 8, I still chant today. What has all this to do with the song ‘Bho Shambho’ ? Just that the song was written by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1930), a teacher of Vedanta, who had his roots in the Chinmaya Mission.  Subsequently, he founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and is to this day connected with this institution. Just as I learnt shlokas from the Chinmaya Mission, there are many young people learning Vedanta from his institutes today. I am so glad our ancient heritage continues to be taught.

His bhajans (devotional songs) have been sung and popularised by the Carnatic music maestro Maharajapuram Santhanam. I have always held a deep affection for the Maestro’s wonderful voice. Bho Shambho is set to the raga Revati (click here to know more about the raga) , a raga which always reduces me to tears and deep longing for I don’t even know what. Click below to listen :

Alternate link: Click here

For lyrics and meaning, see footnote.

There is a visual treat to follow : I present below a beautiful Bharatanatyam dance performance to this song by Croatian dancer Nikolina Nikoleski, student of Dr.Saroja Vaidyanathan. Her movements and postures bring to life this dance of Shiva, He who is the eternal dancer.

Footnote (Lyrics):

I have transcribed them in Sanskrit with an attempt at an accurate translation.

भो शम्भो शिव शम्भो स्वयंभो (= भु शम्भु शिव शम्भु स्वयम्भु )
bhO shambhO shiva shambhO svayambhO
being from whom all grace happens, Shiva, self-born
गङ्गाधर शंकर करुणाकर मामव भवसागर तारक
gangAdhara shankara karuNAkara mAmava bhavasAgar tAraka
source of the Ganges, the one who blesses (prefix शम् verb कृ ), he who is compassionate,  the boatman to cross the ocean of worldly existence
निर्गुण परब्रम्ह स्वरूप गमागम भूत प्रपन्च रहित
nirguNa parabramha swarUpa gamAgama bhUta prapancha rahita
supreme being who is attribute-less, who is beyond the past, present, the future and this world of five senses/five elements
निज गुह निहित नितान्त अनन्त आनन्द अतिशय अक्षय लिङ्ग
nija guha nihita nitAnta ananta Ananda atishaya akshaya linga
lives in depths of my heart yet in absolute infinity, blissful, unmatched, an eternal symbol
धिमित धिमित धिमि धिमिकिट किटतोम
dhimita dhimita dhimi dhimikiTa kiTatOm
rhythmic sounds of dance
तोम तोम तरिकिट तरिकिट किटतोम
tom tom tarikiTa tarikitA kiTatom
rhythmic sounds of dance
मतङ्ग मुनिवर वन्दित ईश
matanga munivara vandita Isha
Lord who is worshipped by the sage Matanga  (Matanga wrote a treatise on Indian music circa 6AD)
सर्व दिगम्बर वेष्टित वेष
sarva digambara vEshTita vEsha
he who is clothed in ‘sky’ = naked
नित्य निरञ्जन नित्य नटेश
nitya niranjana nitya naTesha
the one who is eternal, the cosmic dancer
ईश सबेष सर्वेश
Isha sabEsha sarvEsha
Lord, Lord of the stage, the Lord of the world



Filed under Carnatic Music, Classical Dance, Compositions in Sanskrit, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Swami Dayanand Saraswati

25 responses to “Bho Shambho

  1. Thanks a lot for Bho Sambho!
    And the translation!
    No wonder it moves you to tears! when something is born it moves one to tears, and this is self-born!
    Loved it!

    • Thank you for your nice comments 🙂 Its always a pleasure when a song I love strikes a chord with my listeners 🙂 I visited your blog and had a quick look at the latest post – what a grand idea, filmi songs about flowers! If I had thought of it first, I would have done it 🙂 I’ll go and read it properly later on today…and maybe write a follow on post about other flower related songs.

  2. Priya

    Thanks for this post. I was looking for the Carnatic notes for this song and couldnt find it. Would like to play it on the guitar or the keyboard. One of my fav songs :-). If you do have it, please do post it… Thanks!

  3. Shubha

    Thank you very much.Very nice work.Appreciate the translation and the correct wordings given.
    Even the most famous carnatic singers have got the lyrics wrong and substitue words without knowing the meaning of whatever they are singing.

    • Thank you for your comment Shubha. I do sympathise with the carnatic music singers as for one, they do not follow written notations or lyrics like western singers, and also because they sing in a variety of languages – Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada mostly but also a few songs in Malayalam, Hindi, Marathi etc. It must be most difficult to remember it all!

  4. V.S.Karanth

    Delighted hearing this nice song

    • Glad you liked it 🙂 According to stats on my blog, this is one of the most popular songs along with Bhagyada Lakshmi! I would not have guessed !! I love it of course..

  5. Joël

    Thanks a lot for this post! “Bho Shambho” has become one of my favourite pieces as I have heard many renditions of it during bharatanatyam performances.
    In the video above, the dance is great too. Bharatanatyam is always surprising me as it seems so alive. Every dancer and choregrapher interpret the tradition their own way. In the performance above, I am particularly delighted by the way the dancer crushes the demon Apasmara using her right foot. I have seen so many times the standard Nataraja position, but this is the first time I see this gesture embedded into it!

    • Hello Joel, I am glad you enjoyed the dance. I think it is very well performed. Very perceptive of you to note the stamping of the foot, i didn’t notice it myself until now! Cheers, Suja

  6. Thanks,but you must help me now becoz i need bho sambho song for perform dance in my festival.
    I don’t know which is the website to download bho sambho song.can you help me??plz

    • I am sorry Bhavith, but I do not know where you can download this. It would be easy to find an old Maharajapuram Santhanam CD for very little money in one of the online stores, why don’t you buy it?

  7. vatsav

    omgosh, loved the translation of bho shambho

    It’s so beautiful

  8. Ragav

    Hi I am trying to find the carnatic notation for this song. There is one particular version available from But its not sounding for the tala and the last charanams are missing. Can someone guide me to get the notes?

    • Hello Raghav, Unfortunately I do not have the information. I do hope some other reader will see your query and answer it.
      Good luck! Suja

  9. इसे प्रकाशित करने के लिये हृदय से आपका आभार

    • शुक्रिया हितेन्द्रजी 🙂 मेरे Blog में आपका स्वागत । हिन्दी गानों के ऊपर कभी कभी ही लिखती हूँ मगर कर्नाटक संगीत में बहुत गाने संस्कृत में लिखे हुए हैं। शायद आपको पसंद आये ।

      • जी। मैं इस भजन की खोज करते यहाँ आ पहुँचा और देखिये कि खजाना हाथ लगा है!
        आपका ब्लॉग अद्भुत है! अब तो हमेशा आना होगा यहाँ। आपके प्रयासों के लिये कोटिश: धन्यवाद!

      • You are welcome! I saw that you have information from my post in your own page in Facebook. I have no objection, of course, but I do expect to be acknowledged if information from my site is used, just as a common courtesy. Thank you!

      • oh yes. Though the same lyrics and video were found in some other sources too, I must have mentioned them…I would take care… I usualy do. Sonetimes I might miss…thanks!

  10. Poorna Swamini

    Great work ! Thank you .Can i have the swaras in carnatic version ? for veena ?

    Thank You again

  11. Mohana

    Hi Suja,
    Its nice that you are doing a great job to the music lovers.
    I read your intro note for Bho Shambo saying, What has all this to do with the song ‘Bho Shambho’ ? Just that the song was written by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1930), a teacher of Vedanta, who had his roots in the Chinmaya Mission.

    Swami Dayananda Saraswathi is a founder of Arya Samaj, He was born on Feb12th 1824 and died at the age of 59 on 30th October 1883. The superb song Bho Shambo is his creation. How could he write this song in 1930?

    • Jayakumar

      The song ‘Bho Shambho’ was written by Swaami Dayanada Saraswati founder of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. He was born on August 15th, 1930 in Tanjavur, Tamilnadu and left for the holy abode in 2015. I think the similarity in name has caused the confusion with Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati (12 February 1824 – 30 October 1883) founder of the Arya Samaj.

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