Category Archives: Bhimsen Joshi

Teertha Vitthala Kshetra Vitthala

NamdevI am very short sighted. In my world, there are no edges to objects. Things which glow invade the objects beside them. Outlines merge until I never know where one thing starts and the other ends. Objects lose their individuality, my eyes see no boundaries. How odd that what my eyes saw from childhood was not understood by my brain for years! I attest to myself today once more; boundaries are but illusions.

Take your skin, for example. That which was your skin one minute ago was quite different from what it is this moment, for you have lost 30,000-40,000 cells already. What happens to them? They are dust at your feet, literally! Dust mites gobble up these dead skin cells. What was you one minute ago, changes identity and becomes a dust mite a couple of minutes later. Same matter, but identities have changed.

Identities are but more illusions, a play of maya. Isn’t more than 70% of the human body just water? I take a glass from the tap, and in no time, I call that water me. I go for a walk and that very me evaporates from my skin. It rises into the air, joins a cloud, comes down as rain and is drunk by that dog of yours. We are but two manifestations of the same, the dog and I. But of course, it is not the same molecule. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms which make up one molecule of water remain together only for some fractional time. They jump from one molecule to another, sometimes remaining as water, sometimes transforming into something else. Nothing is constant. Everything has fuzzy edges.

If even the physical cannot be contained in boundaries, how can we imagine that God can be contained in a form, be it Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus or Buddha? The wise ones, the mystics, the sages and the visionaries have told us from time immemorial, God is everywhere and in everything. Take away the edges and let God spill over. Namdev too was one amongst these wise ones. He is ecstatic in his vision of Vitthala, his ishta-devata, in everything. In this hypnotic abhanga, he says ‘Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship. Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.  Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan’. For lyrics and translation see footnote.

To present this song, I have a video of that astounding master of music, Bhimsen Joshi. The video has a short disturbance early on but what a pleasure to watch these old videos!

There is another short version from an old LP which I like as well.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Poetry : Namdev
Language : Marathi

Note: I do not speak Marathi but the words are mostly simple and derived from Sanskrit. I am dependent on web resources for the lyrics (aurally verified) and translation below.

तीर्थ विठ्ठल, क्षेत्र विठ्ठल ।
देव विठ्ठल, देवपूजा विठ्ठल ॥१॥
माता विठ्ठल, पिता विठ्ठल ।
बंधु विठ्ठल, गोत्र विठ्ठल ॥२॥
गुरू विठ्ठल, गुरुदेवता विठ्ठल ।
निधान विठ्ठल, निरंतर विठ्ठल ॥३॥
नामा म्हणे मज विठ्ठल सापडला ।
म्हणूनी (alt: म्हणोनी) कळिकाळा पाड नाही ॥४॥

tIrtha viTHTHala kshEtra viTHTHala
dEva viTHTHala dEva pUjA viTHTHala
mAtA viTHTHala pitA viTHTHala
bandhu viTHTHala gOtra viTHTHala
guru viTHTHala guru dEvatA viTHTHala
nidhAna viThala nirantara viThala
nAmA mhaNE maja viTHTHala sApaDalA
mhaNUnI (alt: mhaNOnI) kaLikALA pADa nAhI


Vitthala is a holy body of water, Vitthala is a holy land.
Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship.
Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.
Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan.
Vitthala is my teacher, Vitthala is the teacher of Gods.
Vitthala is tranquility, Vitthala is everlasting.
Namdev says ‘I have found sanctuary in Vitthala’.
‘Even in this Kali yuga, I can come to no harm!’


Filed under Abhanga, Bhimsen Joshi, Namdev

Babul Mora

Oh father mine, my natal home is slipping away from me! Four bearers are decorating my palanquin. That which was mine belongs to others, it is slipping away from me!

Wajid Ali ShahA decadent voluptuary? Or a patron of arts and intellectuals? How should we remember Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)? He ruled as the last Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) from 1847 to 1856. Even when he ascended the throne, much of the kingdom was already under the hands of the British. At about the same period, the sun was setting on the great Mughal Empire in Delhi as well, under the hands of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Is it a coincidence that both men were patrons of art ?

Wajid Ali Shah started out, it is said, by being a good administrator, in being interested in reforms. However his passion was not for statecraft but for the arts. Statecraft in those times was no easy beast to handle, was it? It is little wonder that he quietly retreated into his own world of pleasure filled with singers, dancers, actors and courtesans. They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. Awadh did not burn, but it did disintegrate while Wajid Ali immersed himself in his life of pleasure. The British called him debauched, saying that his kingdom was maladministered and lawless. They used it as an excuse to annex his kingdom  and exiled him to Kolkata. Historians today are looking with a more kindly eye at him.

But what do I know of matters of State? My interest in him is as a patron of arts. He himself was a composer and had had vocal training as well as training in Kathak. He is said to have created a number of ragas and written prose, poetry and song. Those of you who missed seeing Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977), do take time to see an interpretation of the last years of Wajid Ali’s rule in Oudh. It is a classic, well worth your time. After seeing the film, if interested, click here to read a critique the depiction of Wajid Ali and Ray’s defence.

It is said that when Wajid Ali left his beloved Lucknow, all his subjects lamented his exile. On March 13, 1854, the royal caravan of about 1000 people left towards Kolkata (source). Wajid Ali Shah was distrait. It was in this grief stricken state that he burst forth with Babul Mora.

Oh father mine, my natal home is slipping away from me! Four bearers are decorating my palanquin. That which was mine belongs to others, it is slipping away from me!’ he wails. It  is written as a bidai song, in the voice of a bride as she leaves her father’s home. It is possible to interpret it as the final farewell to the world as four bearers carry one to the final resting place. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

Babul Mora is the most famous of Wajid Ali Shah’s works and remains in the public consciousness of India due to K.L.Saigal’s memorable rendering of the song in the film Street Singer (1938). It is set to Hindustani Raga Bhairavi; if you want to know more about this raga, here is an excellent resource.

Coming back to my first question : Was Wajid Ali a decadent voluptuary? Or a patron of arts and intellectuals? Somewhere in the middle I would say. I feel a sneaking sympathy for him despite his having let his kingdom get into British hands with nary a fight. You see, I come from the same mould – my furniture is covered with dust, my cupboards look like disaster zones, my ironing pile is taller than I am, but I am spending all day today with my music and my new painting! I will remember him with kindness for he did help preserve, propagate and enrich the wonderful world of Indian music .

K.L.Saigal’s rendition has to come first. Is it even possible to think of this song without thinking of him? The music was composed by Rai Chand Boral.

Too short to satisfy? Listen below to a more detailed, brilliant rendition by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a master of his art form. This is Bhairavi in despair, exquisite and memorable.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Poetry : Wajid Ali
Music : Rai Chand Boral
Language : Hindi

(Saigal’s version)

बाबुल मोरा नैहर छूटो ही जाए |

चार कहार मिल मोरी डोलिया सजावें
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए |

अँगना तो पर्बत भया और देहरी भयी बिदेश
ये घर बाबुल आपनो मैं चली पिया के देश |


bAbul mOrA naihar chUTO hI jAyE

chAr kahAr mil mOrI DOliyA sajAvE.n
mOrA apnA bEgAnA chUTO jAyE

a.nganA tO parbat bhayA aur dEhrI bhayI bidEsh
yE ghar bAbul ApanO mai.n chalI piyA kE dEsh


Oh father (babul) mine (mora), my natal home (naihar) is slipping away (chUTO hi JayE) from me (implied)!

Four (char) bearers (kahAr) are together (mil) decorating (sajAvE.n) my palanquin (DOliyA). That which was (implied) mine (mora apnA) belongs to others (bEgAnA), it is slipping away from me (chUTO hi JayE).

The courtyard (a.ganA) has become (to bhayA) a mountain (=insurmountable) (parbat) and (aur) the threshold (dEhrI) has become (bhayI) a foreign country (bidEsh). This (yE) house (ghar) is yours (ApanO) now (implied) father (bAbul), I (main.n) am leaving (chalI) for my beloved’s (piyA kE) land (dEsh).


Filed under Bhimsen Joshi, Bollywood 30's Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Wajid Ali Shah

Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma

Oh, Goddess of Fortune ! Lakshmi Devi ! Please come! Slowly and surely, like butter coming out of buttermilk, come placing one feet after the other, your anklets ringing. O Daughter of Janaka who shines like countless suns, shower us with a rain of gold and fullfill our wishes. Without moving around, stay forever in your devotees’ houses, receiving daily services and worship.

Lakshmi2Welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune’ Purandaradasa (1484-1564) says.  Who would not welcome this Goddess who brings prosperity, wealth and good fortune to us? For 20 years or so I have been reciting the MahaLakshmi Ashtakam every morning and evening. I am convinced that it is this, my invoking Her name, which brings whatever good fortune that has come into my household. It is my mother who advised me to say prayers to Her; the picture above is the one which hung in my mother’s prayer room. My mother is gone now and as I sing the names of one mother, I remember the other as well.  In these neural pathways I call my mind, there is an intricate web made of musical notes and when this web is cast, it captures  memories and beliefs, love and worship. It captures life.

Purandaradasa is considered to be the father of Carnatic Music. He composed mostly in Kannada, like the song featured today. He too worshipped at the portals of Lakshmi, being a rich pawnbroker and jewel merchant until he was 30 when realisation dawned and he gave it all away to become a wandering minstrel. Purandaradasa was the guru of Swami Haridas, who was the teacher of the great Tansen, musician extraordinaire of the Mughal court, as well as Baiju, another great musician of the Hindustani tradition. This  shows the strong links between Carnatic and Hindustani music sampradaya in those times.

In spirit with this harmony between the North & the South, I present the song in both Carnatic & Hindustani styles.  The first clip is by M.S.Subbulakshmi, and the song is rendered in Carnatic tradition in Raga Madhyamavati. To know more about this raga, click here.

The second clip is by Nithyasree Mahadevan in Raga Bauli. I have a great liking for this raga! To know more about this raga, click here.

The third clip is from the Kannada movie Nodi Swamy Navirodu Heege (1983) sung by Hindustani Music stalwart Bhimsen Joshi. (Sorry, I could not find a better quality video). What a mastery he has over whatever he sings!! Ah, I still mourn his loss.

Something that caught my attention : the actress in this clip is the appropriately named Lakshmi!

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Kannada. As I do not speak the language, find below the lyrics in devanagri script. I have consulted sources, listened carefully and transcribed as best as I can but I am unsure of accuracy, given the difference in vowels and  pronunciations.

भाग्यदा लक्ष्मी बारम्मा, नम्मम्मा नी सौ |

गेज्ज काल्गळा ध्वनिय तोरुता हेज्जय मेले हेज्जय निक्कुत |
सज्जन साधु पूजय वेळगे मज्जिगे-ओळगिन बेण्णयन्ते ॥

कनक वृष्टिया करेयुत बारे  मनकामनया सिद्धिय तॊरॆ ।
दिनकर कॊटि तॆजदि  होळयुव जनकरायन कुमारि बेगा ||

अत्तित्तलगलद भक्तर  मनयलि नित्य महॊत्सव नित्य सुमंगळ ।
सत्यवतॊरुव साधु-सज्जनर चित्तदि होळेवापुत्तळिबोंबे ||

संख्येइल्लद भाग्यव कोट्टु कंकण कैया तिरुवुत बारे ।
कुंकुमान्किते पंकज लॊचने वेंकटरमणन बिन्कद राणी ||

सक्करे तुप्पद कालुवे हरिसि शुक्रवारद पूजय वॆळगे ।
अक्करे-उळ्ळ अळगिरि रंगन चोक्क पुरंदर-विट्ठलन राणी ||

Transliteration :

bhAgyada laxmI bArammA nammammA nI sau (bhAgyada)

charaNam 1
gejje kAlgaLA dhvaniya tOrutA
hejjaya mele hejjeya nikkuta
sajjana sAdhu pUjeya vELegE
majjige oLagina beNNeyante (bhAgyada)

charaNam 2
kanaka vrushTiyA kareyuta bArE
manakAmanaya siddhiya tOrE
dinakara kOTi tEjadi hoLeyuva
janakarAyana kumAri bEgA (bhAgyada)

charaNam 3
atthitthalagalade bhaktara maneyali
nitya mahOtsava nitya sumangaLa
satyava tOruva sAdhu sajjanara
chittadi hoLeva putthaLi bombe (bhAgyada)

charaNam 4
sankhye illada bhAgyava koTTu
kankaNa kaiyyA tiruvuta bAre
kunkumAnkita pankaja lOchane
venkaTaramaNana binkada rANI (bhAgyada)

charaNam 5
sakkare tuppada kAluve harisi
shukravArada pUjeya vELage
akkareyuLLa aLagiri rangana
chokka purandara viThalana rANI (bhAgyada)

Oh, Goddess of Fortune ! Lakshmi Devi ! Please come (implied: to my house).

Like butter coming out of buttermilk (slowly but surely), come, placing one feet after the other, your anklets ringing.

O Daughter of Janaka who shines like countless suns, shower us with a rain of gold and fullfill our wishes.

Without moving around, stay forever in your devotees’ houses, receiving daily services and worship. You shine like a beautiful doll in the minds of saints.

O elegant queen of Venkateshwara (Vishnu)! O Lotus eyed one!  You who wear golden bracelets and are decorated with Kumkum, please come and bless with infinite prosperity.

O Consort of PurandaraviTala! O Queen of Alagiri Ranga! You who shine in the hearts of safes! Come to our Friday worship when streams of ghee and sugar will flow!


Filed under Bhimsen Joshi, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Kannada, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Purandaradasa

Homage to Pundit Bhimsen Joshi

February 4, 1922 – January 24, 2011

When the Great Ones of this earth pass away, one can mourn only silently. What accolades can I give to someone who has already been the reigning regent of Hindustani Classical music for decades? The quest of an Indian Classical musician is, it seems to me, to become one with the music. To realise the Hindu precept of तत् त्वम् असि (‘Tat Tvam Asi) : Thou Art That/That Thou Art. To merge oneself into one’s notes until the music and the musician become an inseparable whole. Pundit Bhimsen Joshi certainly achieved that; when he sang, HE was music. And with his passing, we have all lost something precious beyond words. Today, while I mourn our loss, I also exalt in my fortune in having his music in my life, for this music will be with me forever.

Here is a good article about his early life and his quest for a Guru.

To celebrate his life, I present the following Bhajan from his wonderful CD called Bhakti (also published as Krishna Kahiye Ram Japiye), with four wonderful songs, which has given me great listening pleasure over the last twenty odd years. 

Album : Bhakti (Krishna Kahiye Ram Japiye)

Music : Srinivas Khale

Lyrics : Brahmanand

Song : Jo Bhaje Hari Ko Sada

Raga (in Carnatic system) : Sindhu Bhairavi


As the song says, ‘He who thinks of God all the time, is the one who will reach the Ultimate’.

Pundit Bhimsen Joshi has reached the Ultimate.


Filed under Bhajan, Bhimsen Joshi, Hindustani Classical Music