Category Archives: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Zehaal E Miskeen

Amir KhusrauThis blog is primarily devoted to Carnatic Music but every now and then I like to feature other musical forms as well. Regular readers know that I have a great love for Sufi music and Qawwalis. My musical choice for today is of great interest both in a cultural and historical sense, I hope you enjoy it.

The poetry is by Amir Khusrau ((1253–1325), born in India to a Turkish father and a Rajput mother. He lived in a period where India saw the rule of three dynasties – the Mamluks (Slave dynasty), the Khiljis and then the Tughluqs. Khusrau wrote poetry for the court all through this period, during the reign of seven different rulers. India was a melting pot at that time. The locals in Delhi spoke Khari Boli, also referred to as Hindustani or Hindvi. The rulers were of Turkish/Afghan origin but the language of the court was Persian. The court attracted people from other parts of India who spoke different languages or different flavours of Hindustani like Braj Bhasha, Awadhi etc. As we can easily guess, the language of the masses which was originally based on Sanskrit and Prakrt became peppered with words from Turkish, Afghani dialects, Persian as well as the various regional languages. This was the period where languages we know today as Hindi and Urdu were developed.

Coming back to our selected song today, it perfectly reflects the merging of the languages that was happening in those days. Amir Khusrau has written it in a mix of Persian and Hindvi, mixing the languages in each couplet. This style of writing is called Rekhta from the Persian word meaning ‘poured, interspersed, mixed’. If you speak Hindi or Urdu, the Hindvi words are quite easy to identify even after the passage of 700 years.

The language is not the only thing that is a mix. The Bhakti Movement developed from the 7th century in South India. Though the word Bhakti (devotion) and the related concepts perpetuated by the saints come from Vedic times, it was the poetry in the local languages that spread the concept to the masses. This movement spread to the rest of India in later years. The tradition of expressing devotion to God in terms of human love came from those South Indian poet-saints between 5th to 10th centuries. Some of them wrote in a feminine perspective; this was called ‘Nayika Bhava’.  This kind of devotion was also called ‘viraha bhakti’ where the devotee intensely feels the pain of separation from God.

Sufism in India dates back to 10th and 11th centuries, just after the time of the Azhwars in South India. The Sufi saints of India too were influenced by the Bhakti movement and wrote beautiful mystical poetry in the 13th-14th centuries. As the locals were already familiar with devotion being expressed in music and poetry, the songs of the Sufi saints reached the hearts of the populace quite easily. Such is the poetry and songs of Amir Khusrau.

The rendition I have chosen for you today is by the Qawwal without par, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. As is the tradition, the Qawwal interjects the main song with poetry from other sources which enhance and add to the concepts expressed. In this rendition, the Qawwal has used Hindu poetry, some recognizably by Meera, to further enhance the poetry of Amir Khusrau. This is a great demonstration of the mix of language, culture and religious ideas to give us a complete musical and spiritual experience.

I have struggled greatly with getting accurate lyrics and translation. The Hindvi parts were easy to translate but for the Persian words I depended on various internet resources. I was very unconvinced by the majority of translations available online as they were not authenticated. There are many ‘free’ and poetic translations. I did not find even one with  word-for-word meanings. And people copy from one another, perpetuating mistakes. The internet is not in the least reliable as a resource! Further, there also seems to be a number of variations to the lyrics. I have spent hours collating what little I found online, reading journal articles or book extracts and perusing dictionaries to get meanings. Still I am not fully satisfied. My work below is sufficient for music appreciation and for understanding the mood of the poetry, but is not rigorous enough. Also note that not knowing the Persian script, I have transliterated even those sections in Devanagari script.

Colour key – Blue=Persian, Red = Khari Boli/Hindvi. Both by Amir Khusrau.  Purple=Braj Bhasha/Rajasthani, some identifiably by Meera, others I am unsure.

ज़ेहाल-ए-मिस्कीं मकुन तग़ाफ़ुल  दुराये  नैना बनाये  बतियाँ
कि ताब-ए-हिज्राँ न दारम ऐ जाँ न लेहु काहे  लगाये  छतियाँ

zEhAl-E-miskI.n makun ta.gAful durAyE nainA banayE  batiyA.n
ki tAb-E-hijrA.n na dAram-ai-jA.n 
na lEhu kAhE lagayE CHatiyA.n

Do not (makun) ignore (ta.gAful) the miserable state (hAl) of this poor  wretched one (miskI.n) by turning away (durAyE) your eyes (nainA) making excuses (banAyE batiyA.n)! I have (dAram) no (na) patience (tAb) with this separation (hijr) anymore my sweetheart (Ai jA.n)! Why (kAhE) don’t you cuddle (lEhu) and embrace me (lagayE CHatiyA.n)?

With this first couplet, the poet establishes the characters. The poet, wretched with love and his beloved, insouciant of his pain. Note that in contrast with Hindu poetry, the self is portrayed as male. In Hindu poetry, the self is almost always portrayed as the female, with the beloved (God) being male. This comes from Vedic ideas of jIvAtma (souls) being female and the paramAtmA (God) being male.

शबान-ए-हिज्रां दराज़ चूँ ज़ुल्फ़ व रोज़-ए-वसलत  चूँ उम्र  कोताह
सखी पिया को जो मैं न देखूँ तो कैसे काटूँ अँधेरी रतियाँ

shabAn-E-hijrA.n darAz chU.n zulf va rOz-E-vaslat chU.n umr kOtAh
sakhI piyA kO jO mai.n na dEkhU.n tO kaisE kATU.n andhErI ratiyA.n

Nights of separation (shabAn-E-hijrA.n) curl long (darAz) like (chU.n) your tresses (zulf), and (va) the day (rOz) of union (vaslat)  is as short (kOtAh) as life (umr) itself. Oh my friend (sAkhI), how will I pass (kATU.n) these dark (andhErI)  nights (ratiyA.n) without seeing (na dEkhU.n) my beloved (piyA)?

The invocation of a ‘sakhi’ or friend is a common poetic device which I have pointed out before in other blog posts. In Hindu poetry, this sakhi, the intermediate between God and Man, is taken to be the Guru or spiritual teacher. I do not know if there is any such special significance in Islamic poetry. The pain of separation is beautifully portrayed by the second line – alone at a time when lovers should be together, the poet wonders how the night will pass.

शाम  सवेरे नैन  बिछाके राह तकूँ  मैं साजन की
राम ही जाने कब चमकेगी किसमत  मोरे आँगन की

shAm savErE nain biCHAkE rAh takU.n mai.n sAjan kI
rAm hI jAnE kab chamkEgI kismat morE A.ngan kI

Night (shAm=evening) and day (savErE=morning), I await (rAh takU.n) my beloved (sAjan) with longing eyes (nain biCHAkE). God (rAm) alone knows (jAnE) when luck (kismat=fate) will shine (chamkEgI)  upon my courtyard (mOrE A.gan kI)!

See how apt the Qawwal’s inclusion of this couplet is! In the previous one, he talks of passing a night alone. In this couplet the poet (taking on a feminine self) awaits her beloved day and night, waiting, watching the route home.

नैन चुराके जबसे  सैयाँ दूर कहीं  परदेस गए
बिरहन की अँखियों से बरसे बिन सावन रुत सावन की

nain churAke jabsE saiyA.n dUr kahI.n pardEs gayE
birhan kI ankhiyO.n sE barsE bin sAvan rut sAvan kI

Ever since (jabsE) my beloved (saiyA.n) has disappeared/vanished from my sight (nain churAkE, an idiom) and left for (gayE) somewhere (kahI.n) far away (dUr) lands (pardes), tears pour (barasE) from this abandoned one (birhan) like monsoon (sAvan kI) even in season (rut) which is not monsoon (bin sAvan).

There is an implication here that the beloved had been with her before he disappeared to far away lands. The pain of separation is beautifully expressed here when the poet says that her ‘tears pour as heavily as monsoon rains’.

बरखा  रुत जब  छम -छम बरसे  मनवा रोये  नैना तरसे
तारों में जब चन्दा चमके दर्द उठे मन में थम-थम के
बिरहा सुलगे जब मोरे तन में चुपके चुपके मन आँगन में
आस के बंधन टूट गए हैं बालम मोसे रूठ गए हैं

barkhA rut jab CHam-CHam barase manavA rOyE nainA tarasE
tArO.m mE.n jab chandA chamkE dard uTHE man mE.n tham-tham kE
birhA sulgE jab mOrE tan mE.n chupkE-chupkE man A.ngan mE.n
As kE bandhan TUT gayE hai.n bAlam mOsE rUTH gayE hai.n

When (jab) rain pours down (CHam CHam barsE) in monsoon (barkhA) season (rut), my heart (manavA) weeps (rOyE), my eyes (nainA) yearn (tarasE)
When (jab) the moon (chandA) shines (chamkE) amongst stars (tArO.n mE.n), pain (dard) rises (uTHE) in my heart (man mE.n) again and again (tham tham kE-stopping and starting)
When (jab) separation (birhA) burns (sulgE)  in my body (tan mE.n) and enters secretly (chupkE-chupkE) into  the courtyard (A.ngan) of my heart (man),
The bindings (bandhan) of hope (As) have broken (TUT gayE hai.n), (I realise) my beloved (bAlam) has become angry (rUTH gayE hai.n) with me (mOsE)!

How long can anyone bear the pain of separation without losing hope? The pain of separation is particularly hard to bear during Monsoon, the season for lovers. In this time, despair enters the heart and she starts wondering if her beloved is angry with her and keeping away in purpose.

सूली  ऊपर सेज हमारी  किस विध सोना होए
गगन मण्डल पर सेज पिया की किस विध मिलना होए
जौहरी की गत जौहरी जाने जो कोई जौहरी होए
घायल की गत घायल जाने के जिन लागी होए
दर्द की मारी बन बन डोलूँ वैद न मिलिया कोई
मीरा की तब पीड़ मिटे जब  वैद साँवरिया होए
हे री मैं तो प्रेम दीवानी मेरा दर्द न जाने कोई

sUlI Upar sEj hamArI kis vidh sOnA hOy
gagan maNDal par sEj piyA kI kis vidh milnA hOy
jauharI kI gat jauharI jAnE jO kOyI jauharI hOy
ghAyal kI gat ghAyal jAnE kE jin lAgI hOy
dard kI mArI ban ban DOlU.n vaid na miliyA kOyI
mIrA kI tab pID miTE jab vaid sA.nvariyA hOy
hE rI mai.n tO prEm divAnI mErA dard na jAnE kOyI

My bed (sEj) is on (Upar) a gibbet (sUlI), how can (kis vidh) I sleep (sOnA hOy)?
My beloved’s (piyA kI) bed (sEj) is in the other world (gagan maNDal=literally sky world), how shall (kis vidh) the meeting happen (milnA hOy)?
The ways (gat) of a jeweller (jauharI kI) is known by (jAnE) only those (jO) who (kOyI) are jewellers (jauharI hOy),
The state (gat) of (kI) the wounded (ghAyal) is known (jAnE) only by those  who (kE jin) are wounded (lAgI hOy),
I stumble (DOlU.n) from forest to forest (ban ban) in pain (dard kE mArE), but find no (na miliyA kOyI) healer (vaid),
Meera’s pain (pID) will be erased (miTE) only when (tab)  the Dark One (sA.nvariyA) is the healer (vaid hOY),
Alas (hE rI)! I am (mai.n tO) crazed (divAnI) with love (prEm), but no one knows (na jAnE kOyI) my pain (dard)!

That last line of Meera’s is simply heart-wrenching, isn’t it! So full of angst! How alone she is in her pain! She gives apt examples of why only those who experience a situation truly understand it. She is in pain, and she knows that the only doctor who can heal her is her beloved.

यकायक  अज़ दिल  दो चश्म-ए-जादू ब-सद फ़रेबम  बबुर्द  तस्कीं
alternate :
यकायक  अज़ दिल ब-सद फ़रेबम बबुर्द-ए-चशमश क़रार-ओ-तस्कीं
किसे  पड़ी है जो जा  सुनावे हमारे पी को  हमारी बतियाँ

yakAyak az dil dO chashm-E-jAdU ba-sad farEbam baburd taskI.n
alternate : yakAyak az dil ba-sad farEbam baburd-E-chashmash karAr-O-taskI.n
kisE paDI hai jO jA sunAvE hamarE pI kO hamarI batiyA.n

Suddenly (yakAyak)  two (dO) enchanting (jadu) eyes (chashm) robbed me (ba burd=carry off) of the tranquillity (taskI.n) of my mind (dil) with their many (ba-sad=a hundred) deceptions (farEb). [Alternate : Suddenly two enchanting eyes, with their many deceptions, took away my peace (karAr) and tranquillity).  Who (jO) will bother (kisE paDI hai) to go (jA) and talk (sunAvE) of me (hamArI batiyA.n)  to (kO) my (hamarE) beloved (pI)?

Back to Khusrau, he wonders who will take the message of his pain to his beloved. Is it a memory of two eyes that he talks about? Those eyes have deceived him, perhaps promising what they did not deliver. I wonder if this ‘deception’ is akin to the Hindu idea of Maya.

जोगनिया  का बेस  बनाके पी  को  ढूँडन जाऊँ  री
नगरी नगरी द्वारे द्वारे पी की शबद  सुनाऊँ री
दरस भिखारन जग में हो के दर्शन बिछिया पाऊँ  री
तन मन उन पर वारूँ  सजनी जोगनिया कहलाऊँ री

jOganiyA kA bEs banAkE pI kO DHUnDan jAU.n rI
nagarI nagarI dvArE dvArE pI kI shabad sunAU.n rI
daras bhikhAran jag mE.n hO kE darshan biCHiyA pAU.n rI
tan man un par vArU.n sajanI jOganiyA kahlU.n rI

Adopting the look (bEs banAkE) of a wandering mendicant (jOganiyA), I go (jAU.n) in search (DHUnDan) of my beloved (pI kO).
From town to town (nagarI nagarI), threshold to threshold (dvArE dvArE), I chant (sunAU.n) the words (shabad/shabd) of my beloved (pI kI),

Having (hO kE) an appearance (daras) of a beggar (bhikhAran) in this world (jag mE.n), I will get (pAU.n) to see (darashan) a toe ring (biCHiyA-signifies getting married),
Devoting (vArU.n) my body (tan) and soul (man=mind) to him (un par), I am called (kahlAU.n) as his beloved (sajanI), his mendicant (jOganiyA).

Breaking away from the life she had, rejecting her husband, her palace and luxuries, Meera took up a life of a wandering mendicant, a beggar. She sang, she danced on streets, actions which no woman of decent upbringing would have done in those times. As she loosened her bonds with earthly matters, her bonds with her beloved Krishna became stronger and stronger. In this poetry, she talks of her wandering and her hope that she will be presented with a toe-ring, signifying her marriage to her God.

चूँ शम्म-ए-सोज़ां  चूँ ज़र्रा हैराँ   ज़े महर-ए-आँ-माह बगश्तम आखिर
Alternate : चूँ शम्म-ए-सोज़ां  चूँ ज़र्रा हैराँ हमेशा गिरियाँ बे इश्क आँ मेह
न नींद नैना न अँग चैना न  आप आवें न  भेजें पतियाँ

chU.n shamm-E-sOzA.n chU.n zarrA hairA.n zE mahar-E-A.n-mAh bagashtam Akhir
alternate: chU.n sham-E-sOzA.n chU.n zarrA hairA.n hamE.shA giriyA.n bE ishk A.n mEh
na nInd nainA na ang chainA na Ap AvE.n na bhEjE.n patiyA.n

Like (chU.n) a burning candle (sham-E-SozA.n), like a bewildered (hairA.n)dust particle (zarrA), finally (Akhir) I have become (bagashtam)  like the sun (mahar) and the moon (mah)
Alternate second phrase: Always weeping for the love of the beloved (unauthenticated).
Sleepless (na nInd) eyes (nainA), restless (na chain) body (ang), neither (na) you (Ap) came (AyE) nor (na) did you send (bhEjE.n) any message (patiyA.n).

Note : I believe that the alternate phrasing of the first line is the more common. Not knowing Persian, my translation is pure guesswork based on dictionary meanings. If anyone can help, please do comment.

With this couplet the poet describes the state of his mind in rich imagery. The restlessness, the unanchored feeling, the sadness, the sleeplessness – all this part of his state of waiting. If my interpretation of becoming like a sun and moon is correct, perhaps he means, always orbiting and never meeting? There is a sense of desperation; he wants a message, a hint, anything to keep him in hope but there is nothing…

पिया  मिलन की  आस है मन  में नैनों में  बरसातें हैं
तनहाई के चुप आँगन में मेरी उनसे बातें हैं

piyA milan kI As hai man mE.n nainO.n mE.n barsatE.n hai.n
tanhAI kE chup A.ngan mE.n mErI unsE bAtE.n hai.n

With my heart (man mE.n) full of hope (As) of meeting (milan) with my beloved (piyA), and my eyes (nainO.n mE.n) raining (barsAtE.n) with tears,
In (mE.n) the silent (chup) courtyard (A.ngan) of solitude (tanhAI), I have conversations (bAtE.n) with my beloved (unsE=with her/him).

The Qawwal makes another apt little addition with the couplet here. That feeling of waiting that Amir Khusrau has expressed in the previous couplet is mirrored in this one too. The hope of union with the beloved is born in solitude. And it is in that silence of solitude can one hear the voice of the beloved.

मोरे बाँके संजीले  सांवरिया लिल्लाह मोहे अब  दरस  दिखा
बिन दर्शन मर ना  जाऊँ कहीं मोरा जीवन  है तोरे दर्शन में

mOrE bA.nkE sa.njIlE sA.nwariyA lillAh mOhE ab daras dikhA
bin darshan mar nA jAU.n kahI.n mOrA jIvan hai tOrE darshan mE.n

Oh my dark skinned (sA.nwariya), colourful (sa.njIlE) beau! By God (lillAh), show me a glimpse of yourself (daras) now (ab)! Without (bin) a sight of you (darshan) I may well die (mar na jAO.n kahI.n), my (mOrA) life (jIvan) is in that glimpse of you (tOrE darshan mE.n)!

Interesting to see an Islamic interjection (lillAh) within Hindu poetry! I wonder if it is the Qawwal who has added this, further strengthening his Islamic-Hindu presentation of Amir Khusrau’s work.. In this couplet, the poet uses hyperbole to show how much he/she longs for the union with his beloved.

तोहे याद करत  मोरा अंग अंग  है
मोरा भाग सुहाग तोरे सँग है
इक बार जो आ मोरे आँगन में
हो जाऊँ सुहागन सखियन में

tOhE yAd karat mOrA a.ng a.ng hai
mOrA bhAg suhAg tOrE sa.ng hai
ik bAr jO A mOrE A.ngan mE.n
hO jAU.n suhAgan sakhiyan mE.n

Every part of my body (a.ng a.ng) remembers (yAd karat hai) you (tOhE),
my (mOrA)  fate (bhAg), my marital life (suhAg) are both with you (tOrE sa.ng hai),
If only (jO) you come (A ) just once (ik bAr) into my (mOrE) courtyard (A.ngan),
I’ll be known (hO jAU.n=I will become) as your bride (suhAgan)  amongst my friends (sakhiyan mE.n)

Every part of my body remembers you’ says the poet implying that there was once a union before this separation. As to becoming a ‘suhagan’ or a married lady, both Andal and Meera considered themselves married to the Lord.

मोहे छब दिखला मोरे  साँवरिया
तोरी प्रीत में हो गयी बांवरिया
तोहे नगर नगर मैं ढून्ढ फिरी
तोहे कूकत हूँ मैं  बन बन में

mOhE CHab dikhlA mOrE sA.nvariyA
tOrI prIt mE.n hO gayI bA.nvariyA
tOhE nagar nagar mai.n DHUnD phirI
tOhE kUkat hU.n mai.n ban ban mE.n

Show (dikhlA) me (mOhE) your beauty/form (CHab), Oh my (mOrE) dark one (sA.nvariyA)!
I have become (hO gayI) crazy (bA.nvariyA) with your (tOrI) love (prIt)!
I wander (phirI) from town to town (nagar nagar) searching (DHU.nD) for you (tOhE)
I call out (kUkat) to you (tOhE) from forest to forest (ban ban mE.n)

The Qawwal selected verses before to both the state of the mind (loneliness) and the state of the body (loosening of earthly bonds, wandering like a mendicant). This poetry reiterates the idea of wandering in search of God. Meera, as I had mentioned before, left everything to take up life as a wandering minstrel. She has said in another poem ‘aisi lAgI lagan mIrA hOgayI magan, wOh to galI galI harI guN gAnE lagI’ ie. She fell so in love that she became enchanted, she went from street to street singing in God’s praise. The Qawwal has selected poetry to display this rootlessness.

मोहे  प्रीत तिहारी  मार गयी
तुम जीत गये मैं हार गयी
मैं हार के भी बलहार गयी
ऐसा प्रेम बसा मेरे  तन मन में

mOhE prIt tihArI mAr gayI
tum jIt gayE mai.n hAr gayI
mai.n hAr kE bhI balhAr gayI
aisA prEm basA mErE tan man mE.n

My love for you (prIt tihArI) has defeated (mAr gayI) me (mOhE)!
You (tum) have won (jIt gayE), and I (mai.n) have lost (hAr gayI)!
And even though (bhI) I (mai.n) lost (hAr kE), I have become (gayI)strengthened (balhAr)
Such is (aisA) the love (prEm)  which resides (basA) in (mE.n) my body (tan) and soul (man=mind)!

In this love between God and devotee, who wins? God of course, for the devotee is the one to break all bonds to go in search of Him. But the devotee is not weakened by this loss, but instead strengthened by the love of God which gets infused within him/her.

ब-हक-ए रोज़-ए-विसाल-ए दिलबर के  दाद मारा फरेब खुसरो
सपीत मन के दुराये राखूँ  जो जाये पाऊँ पिया  के खतियाँ

ba-hak-E rOz-E-visAl-E dilbar kE dAd mArA farEb khusrO
sapIt  man kE durayE rAkhU.n jo jAyE pAU.n piyA kE khatiyA.n
alternate : samIpa man ke davAri rAkhU.n jo jAn pAU.n parAyi rakhiyA

On the day (rOz) of meeting (visAl) my beloved (dilbar), with right (ba-hak) I will appeal for a redress of my grievance (dAd) that I (Khusro) have been deceived (farEb)! When I turn away (durAyE) from the ashes (rAkhU.n) of this cursed (sapIt) mind (man), I will get (pAU.n) concord (khatiyA.n) with my beloved (piyA).

Alternate last line meaning : I will keep (rAkhU.n) a sentry (davAri) near (samIpa) my heart (man kE)  if I come to know (jAn pAU.n) that my beloved (implied) is kept (rakhiyA) by someone else (parAyi).

Note : The resources I found on the internet for this couplet were not convincing. Piecing together dictionary meanings is an inaccurate process but this is the only thing I could come up with. Please do comment if you have a better insight to the words or meaning.

The poet seems to say that he will ask for justice on the day of union for being cheated thus, for being kept separate from his beloved. And in the final sentence, he seems to give the solution to his pain and the pathway to reunion. He says that to gain concord with his beloved,  he needs to turn away from the ashes of his cursed mind. I do like it much better than the alternate but more common phrasing as there seems to be a conclusion of a sort.

So after this long explanation, here finally is this magnificent rendition by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I hope you enjoy it!

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Filed under Amir Khusrau, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Qawwali

Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai

NusratTo my mind, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was one of the greatest voices of the 20th century. Absolutely. Knowledgeable people may talk of his range, the tonal quality, his enunciation, his energy, his spirituality, his rapid-fire sargams, his musicality. What do I care for all that? Mine is a blind adoration. I became intoxicated the first time I heard him. Thirty years have passed but अब भी  नशा उतरा नहीं I remain on a high.

The thing is, his music is so much removed from the Carnatic Music that I normally  write about. If Carnatic Music is steeped in Hindu thought and has deep Brahminical roots, which are my own beliefs and roots, Qawwalis are outpourings of Muslim and Sufi thought.  If Carnatic Music focuses more on raga and improvisation, Qawwalis stress meaning and emotion. If Carnatic Music takes you into a state of quietness and deep meditation, Qawwalis make your heart throb in synchronicity and sends you into an ecstatic trance. My head nods to Carnatic Music while my hand keeps the beat; my feet jump to dance for Qawwalis and my whole body twirls and swirls. If Carnatic Music is contemplation; a Qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is intoxication. I can resist neither.

The song I have chosen today talks of intoxication as well, the intoxication of God’s love. In the oft-used metaphor of Sufi poetry, God is a wine-seller (saqi), who entraps her customers with her intoxicating wine and her even more potent eyes. This intoxication is so well sung by Nusrat that we get intoxicated with him. You must excuse me if I refer to the Ustad by his first name; his music has been my love for so long that I feel I have the right to take liberties.

As is customary, the qawwal incorporates verses from different poets and poetry to the song. I shall weave the story for you using a selected few verses. See footnote for the full lyrics and translation.

The poet talks of his love for the wine-seller, whom he blames for his addiction.

ये जो हल्का हल्का सुरूर है
ये तेरी नज़र का कसूर है
के शराब पीना सिखा दिया

This mild intoxication
is the fault of your gaze

which taught me how to drink.

Is it the wine or the gaze which makes him drunk?

तेरी बहकी बहकी निगाह ने
मुझे इक शराबी बना दिया

Your flirtatious looks
have made me a drunkard!

And what a high he is on! In his intoxication, all the world looks exhilarating. How well the poet describes his trance! Ah to love like that!

सारा जहान मस्त जहान का निज़ाम मस्त
दिन मस्त रात मस्त सहर मस्त शाम मस्त
दिल मस्त शीशा मस्त सुबू मस्त जाम मस्त
है तेरी चश्म-ए-मस्त से हर ख़ास-ओ-आम मस्त

The world is exhilarating, the rules of the world are exhilarating
the day is exhilarating, the night, the dawn, the evening is exhilarating,
the heart is exhilarating, the glass, the goblet, the wine itself is exhilarating
your intoxicating eyes have made everything exhilarating!

The wine-seller offers all kind of wine in the bar, but the poet knows that it is not the wine which makes him intoxicated but the eyes which sell him the wine.

सब समझता हूँ तेरी इशवा-करी ऐ साकी
काम करती है नज़र नाम है पैमाने का.. बस!

I understand well your cleverness, O Wine-Seller!
The work is done by your eyes, and the credit goes to the wine – that’s all!

And so addicted, the poet lies in the wine-bar, searching for one glimpse of his beloved. He has forsaken prayer and religion, he has forsaken the rules of society.

मैं अज़ल से बन्दा-ए-इश्क हूँ
मुझे ज़ोह्द-ओ-कुफ्र का ग़म नहीं
मेरे सर को दर तेरा मिल गया
मुझे अब तलाश-ए-हरम  नहीं

From the beginning of time, I am but a man of love
I worry neither about piety nor blasphemy
Now that my head has found your door
I search no more for the sacred.

But does he not need God? Ah, but he has a new God now!

तेरा नाम लूँ ज़ुबान से, तेरे आगे सर झुका दूँ
मेरा इश्क कह रहा है, मैं तुझे खुदा बना दूँ

Let me take your name on my tongue, let me bow down before you
my ardour tells me that let me make you my God

He goes to no mosque or temple. He says

यह मेरे जुनून का है मोजिज़ा
जहाँ अपने सर को झुका दिया
वहाँ मैंने काबा बना दिया

This is is the miracle of my passion
that wherever I bow my head
that becomes the most scared mosque, the Kaaba.

This, to me, is most central to the meaning of this song. This is the call of Sufism and its passionate, ecstatic love of God. In the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, it wrings my heart.

Now there are so many versions of this wonderful song that I have difficulty in suggestion a version for you. Not only are there variations in what is sung, but the supporting musicians change as well. What I really recommend is this stupendous, one-hour+ live performance here. But in this time-strapped world, I know many of you will not be able to listen to such a long version so here is a shorter (23 min!) audio version for you to enjoy.

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Urdu

As I do not know the Urdu script, so I have transcribed in devanagari and transliterated in English. As the poetry is long, I have done it in sections. Though much of it is a language I understand, I struggled with dictionaries and existing online translations for the rest. I excuse myself in advance for my errors.

I am unsure about the name of the poet. Websites mention the names  Mohammad Iqbal Naqibi, Anwar and Jigar Moradabadi with this work. As qawwals use poetry from different sources to make up a song, it is quite possible that the song is by multiple poets.

साक़ी की हर निगाह पे बलखा के पी गया
लहरों से खेलता हुआ लहरा के पी गया
ऐ रहमत-ए-तमाम  मेरी हर ख़ता मुआफ़
मैं इन्तहा-ए-शौक़ से घबरा के पी गया
पीता बग़ैर इज़्न ये कब थी मेरी मजाल
दर-पर्दाह चश्म-ए-यार की शह पा के पी गया

sAki kI har nigAh pE balkhA kE pI gayA
lehrOn sE khEltA hu-A lehrA kE pI gayA
ai rehmatE tamAm mErI har khatA muAf
mai.n inteha-E-shauk sE ghabrA kE pI gayA
pIta ba.gair izn yE kab thI mErI majAl
dar-pardAh chashm-E-yAr kI shah pA kE pI gayA

Weaving drunkenly with every glance of hers, I kept drinking
playing with waves of joy, swaying, I kept drinking,
O All merciful Lord, forgive all my mistakes
Confounded, I still drank with limitless pleasure
How would I ever dare to drink without permission?
Seeing the acquiescence in my love’s veiled eyes, I kept drinking

पास रहता है दूर रहता है
कोई दिल में ज़रूर रहता है
जब से देखा है उन की आंखों को
हल्का हल्का सुरूर रहता है
ऐसे रहते हैं वोह मेरे दिल में
जैसे ज़ुल्मत में नूर रहता है
अब अदम का ये हाल है हर वक्त
मस्त रहता है चूर रहता है

pAs rehtA hai dUr rehtA hai
koI dil me.n zarUr rehtA hai
jab se dEkhA hai un kI AnkhO.n kO
halkA halkA surUr rehtA hai
aisE rehtE hai.n wOh mErE dil mE.n
jaisE zulmat mE.n nUr rehtA hai
ab adam kA yE hAl hai
mast rehtA hai chUr rehtA hai

Close to me, or far from me
Someone surely lives in my heart
From when I have seen her eyes
I remain exhilerated

She lives in my heart
just like light lives in darkness
Now the state of this Adam is such that
he remains elated, he remains besotted

(Note: Thanks to a comment from a reader, I understand that ‘Adam’ is the signature of the poet Abdul Hameed)

ये जो हल्का हल्का सुरूर है
ये तेरी नज़र का कसूर है
के शराब पीना सिखा दिया
तेरे प्यार ने, तेरी चाह ने
तेरी बहकी बहकी निगाह ने
मुझे इक शराबी बना दिया
शराब कैसी खुमार कैसा
ये सब तुम्हारी नवाज़िशें  हैं
पिलाई है किस नज़र से तू ने
के मुझको अपनी ख़बर नही है

yE jO halkA halkA surUr hai
yE tErI nazar kA kasUr hai
kE sharAb pInA sikhA diyA
tErE pyAr nE, tErI chAh nE
tEri behkI behkI nigAh nE
mujhe ik sharAbI banA diyA
sharAb kaisI khumAr kaisA
yE sab tumhAri navAzishE.n hai.n
pilaI hai kis nazar se tU nE
kE mujhkO apnI khabar nahI.n hai

 

This mild intoxication
is the fault of your gaze

which taught me how to drink.
My love for you, my longing,

and your intoxicating glances
have made me a drunkard.
What a drink! What a high!
These are all your gifts
What glances did you make me drink with
that I have lost awareness of myself !

सारा जहान मस्त जहान का निज़ाम मस्त
दिन मस्त रात मस्त सहर मस्त शाम मस्त
दिल मस्त शीशा मस्त सुबू मस्त जाम मस्त
है तेरी चश्म-ए-मस्त से हर ख़ास-ओ-आम मस्त

यूँ तो साकी हर तरह की तेरे मैखाने में है
वो भी थोडी सी जो इन आँखों के पैमाने में है
सब समझता हूँ तेरी इशवा-करी ऐ साकी
काम करती है नज़र नाम है पैमाने का.. बस!

sArA jahA.n mast jahA.n kA nizAm mast
din mast rAt mast sahar mast shAm mast
dil mast shIshA mast subU mast jAm mast
hai tEri chashm-E-mast sE har khAs-O-Am mast

yUn tO sAki har tarah kI tErE maikhAnE mE.n hai
wOh bhI thODI sI jO in AnkhO.n kE paimAnE mE.n hai
sab samajhtA hU.n tErI ishvA karI ai sAkI
kAm kartI hai nazar nAm hai paimAnE kA..bas!

The world is exhilarating, the rules of the world are exhilarating
the day is exhilarating, the night, the dawn, the evening is exhilarating,
the heart is exhilarating, the glass, the goblet, the wine itself is exhilarating
your intoxicating eyes have made everything exhilarating.

As it is, O wine-seller, you have every kind of wine in your wine-cellar
Why not serve me a bit from the measure of your eyes as well?
I understand well your coquetry, O wine-seller!
(My intoxication is) the work of your gaze, the blame is put on the goblet, that’s all!

तेरा प्यार है मेरी जिंदगी, तेरा प्यार है मेरी बंदगी

ना नमाज़ आती है मुझको, न वजू आता है
सजदा कर लेता हूँ, जब सामने तू आता है

मैं अज़ल से बन्दा-ए-इश्क हूँ
मुझे ज़ोह्द-ओ-कुफ्र का ग़म नहीं
मेरे सर को दर तेरा मिल गया
मुझे अब तलाश-ए-हरम  नहीं
मेरी बंदगी है वो बंदगी
जो बा-कैद-ए-दैर-ओ-हरम नहीं
मेरा इक नज़र तुम्हें देखना
बा खुदा नमाज़ से कम नहीं

tErA pyAr hai merI zindagI, tEra pyAr hai mErI bandagI

nA namAz AtI hai mujhkO, na wajU AtA hai
sajdA kar lEtA hoo.n, jab sAmnE tU AtA hai

mai.n azal sE bandA-E-ishk hU.n
mujhE zOhad-O-kufr kA .gam nahI.n
mErE sar ko dar tErA mil gayA
mujhE ab talAsh-E-haram nahI.n
mErI bandagI hai woh bandagI
jo bA-kaid-E-dair-O-haram nahI.n
mErA ik nazar tErA dEkhnA
bA khudA namAz sE kam nahI.n

Your love is my life, your love is my bondage

I do not know any prayers, nor ablutions
My prayers are done when you come before me
From the beginning of time, I am but a man of love
I worry neither about piety nor blasphemy
Now that my head has found your door
I search no more for the sacred
My bondage is such a bondage
that it is not bound to any sacred place of worship,

Catching just a glimpse of you,
by God, is no less than a prayer!

तेरा नाम लूँ ज़ुबान से, तेरे आगे सर झुका दूँ
मेरा इश्क कह रहा है, मैं तुझे खुदा बना दूँ
तेरा नाम मेरे लब पर, मेरा तज़करा है दर दर
मुझे भूल जाए दुनिया, मैं अगर तुझे भुला दूँ
मेरे दिल में बस रहे हैं, तेरे बेपनाह जलवे
न हो जिस में नूर तेरा, वो चराग ही बुझा दूँ

tErA nAm lU.n zubA.n sE, tErE AgE sar jhukA dU.n
mErA ishk keh rahA hai, mai.n tujhE khudA banA dU.n
tErA nAm mErE lab par, mErA tazkarA hai dar dar
mujhE bhUl jAyE, mai.n agar tujhE bhulA dU.n
mErE dil mE.n bas rahE hai.n, tErE bEpanAh jalvE
na hO jis mE.n nUr tErA, vO charAg hI bujhA dU.n

Let me take your name on my tongue, let me bow down before you
my ardour tells me, let me make you my God
With your name on my lips, my memoirs are written from door to door
The world will forget me, if I forget you
In my heart lives your boundless splendour
In which there is no light of yours, let me put off that lamp

(following in some versions only)
तेरी दिल्लगी के सदके तेरे संग्दली के कुर्बान
मेरे ग़म पे हसने वाले तुम्हे कौन सी दुआ दूँ

क़यामत में तेरा दाग-ए-मोहब्बत लेके उठूंगा
तेरी तस्वीर उस दम भी कलेजे से लगी होगी
क्यूँकि
तेरा प्यार है मेरी ज़िन्दगी, तेरी याद है मेरी बंदगी
जो तेरी ख़ुशी वो मेरी ख़ुशी
यह मेरे जुनून का है मोजिज़ा
जहाँ अपने सर को झुका दिया
वहाँ मैंने काबा बना दिया

tEri dillagI kE sadkE terI sangdalI kE kurbAn
mErE .gam pE hasnE wAlE tujhE kaun sI duA dU.n

kayAmat mai.n tErA dAgh-E-mohabbat lE kE uTHU.ngA
tErI tasvIr us dam bhI kalEjE sE lagI hOgI

kyUnkI
tErA pyAr hai merI zindagI, terI yAd hai merI bandagI
jo tErI khushI woh mErI khushI
yE mErE junUn kA hai mOjizA
jahA.n apnE sar kO jhukA diyA
waha.n mainE kAbA banA diyA

For the sake of your love, I sacrifice to your mercilessness
O those who laugh at my grief, what wishes should I give you?
On the day of judgement I shall rise with the wound of your love
your image will still be on my heart
because
your love is my life, your memory is my bondage, your joy is my joy
This is is the miracle of my passion
that wherever I bow my head
that becomes the most scared mosque (Kaaba).

(following in some versions only)
मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

मैंने उन के सामने अव्वल का ख़ंजर रख दिया
फिर कलेजा रख दिया दिल रख दिया सर रख दिया
और अर्ज़ किया

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

दिल जलों से दिल्लगी अच्छी नहीं
रोने वालों से हँसी अच्छी नहीं
दिल्लगी ही दिल्लगी में दिल गया
दिल लगाने का नतीजा मिल गया
तुम क्यों हस्ते हो तुम्हे क्या मिल गया
मैं तो रोता हूँ के मेरा दिल गया

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

merE bAd kiskO sataOgE
mainE un kE sAmnE avval kA khanjar rakh diya
phir kalEjA rakh diyA dil rakh diyA sar rakh diyA
aur arz kiyA

mErE bAd kiskO sataOgE

dil jalOn sE dillagI achCHI nahI.n
ronE walO.n sE ha.nsI achCHI nahI.n
dillagI hI dillagI mE.n dil gayA
dil lagAnE kA natIjA mil gayA
tum kyO.n hastE hO tumhE kyA mil gayA
mai.n tO rOtA hU.n mErA dil gayA

Whom will you torment after me?

I placed the best of daggers in front of him
then I placed my vitals, my heart, my head
and said

Whom will you torment after me?

It is not good to make fun of those whose heart burn
It is not good to laugh at those who cry
I lost mỳ heart just in play
I have received the consequences of my play
Why do you laugh, what did you get?
As for me, I cry because my heart is lost

जो पूछा के किस तरह होती है बारिश, जबीं से पसीने की बूँदें गिरा  दीं
जो पूछा के किस तरह गिरती है बिजली, निगाहें  मिलाईं मिला कर झुका दीं
जो पूछा शब्-ओ-रोज़ मिलते हैं कैसे, तो चहरे पे अपने वो जुल्फें  गिरा दीं
जो पूछा के नगमों में जादू है कैसा, तो मीठे तकल्लुम में बातें सुना दीं
जो अपनी तमन्नाओं का हाल पुछा , तो जलती हुई चंद शम्में बुझा दीं
मैं कहता रह गया खता-ए-मोहब्बत की अच्छी सज़ा दी
मेरे दिल की दुनिया बना कर मिटा दी, अच्छा !

jO pUchA kE kis tarah hOtI hai bArish, jabI.n sE pasInE kI bUndE.n girA dI.n
jO pUchA kE kis tarah girtI hai bijlI, nigAhE.n milAyI.n milA kar jhukA dI.n
jO pUchA shab-O-rOz miltE hai.n kaisE, tO chahrE pE apnE voh zulfE.n girA dI.n
jO pUchA kE nagmO.n mE.n jAdU hai kaisA, tO mIthE takallum mE.n bAtE.n sunA dI.n
jO apnI tamannaOn kA hAl pUchA, tO jaltI huI chand shammE.n bujhA dI.n
mai.n kehtA reh gayA khatA-E-mohabbat kI achCHI sazA dI
mErE dil kI duniyA banA kar miTA dI, achCHA!

When I asked ‘How does it rain?’ she let fall a few drops of sweat from her
forehead
When I asked ‘How does lightning strike?’ she met my eyes and then dropped hers
When I asked ‘How does night and day meet?’, she let her hair fall on her face
When I asked ‘What magic is there in music?’, she said a few sweet words to me
When I asked of the state of my aspirations, she snuffed out a few candles
And I was left saying, ‘Well I have been punished for daring to love!’
After making the world of my heart, now you destroy it! All right!

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे, मुझे किस तरह से मिटाओगे, कहाँ जा के तीर चलाओगे
मेरी दोस्ती की बलायें लो, मुझे हाथ उठा कर दुआएं दो, तुम्हें एक कातिल बना दिया

मुझे देखो ख्वाहिश-ए-जान-ए-जाँ
मैं वही हूँ अनवर-ए-नीम जाँ
तुम्हें इतना होश था जब कहाँ
न चलाओ इस तरह तुम ज़बान
करो मेरा शुक्रिया मेहरबान
तुम्हें बात करना सिखा दिया…

mErE bAd kiskO sataOgE, mujhE kis tarah sE miTaOgE, kahA.n jA kE tIr chalaOgE
mErI dOstI kI balayE.n lO, mujhE hAth uTHA kar duAE.n dO, tumhE.n Ek kAtil banA diyA

mujhE dEkhO khwAhish-E jAn-E-jA.n
mai.n vahI hU.n anvar-E-nIm jA.n
tumhE.n itnA hOsh thA jab kahA.n
na chalaO is tarah tum zaban
karO mErA shukriyA meherbAn
tumhE.n bAt karnA sikhA diyA

Who will you torment after me? How will you destroy me? Where will you direct your arrows?

Remove any curse on my friendship (balaiyan lena=to draw hands over another and crack them on your forehead, to draw away any misfortune), raise your hands and bless me, I have made a killer of you!

Look at me, O desire of my life
I am that same Anwar (the poet)
You were not even in your senses!
Don’t argue with me thus!
Instead, thank me kindly
that I taught you how to speak!

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Love at first listening

It is 1984. My husband and I are at our friend Shankar’s place. He puts on this CD and the rooms fills with this amazing Voice. The conversation goes on around me but it seems to fade; I am surrounded by a buffer of stillness where only the Voice exists..and me. It is gravelly in places, smooth in others. Singing from low notes to incredibly high ones in a swoop of ecstasy. I fall in love..no I fall in passion.  The passing of years doesn’t reduce this passion, but just deepens it.

The day he dies, I am furious with him. I haven’t yet heard him live and now I never would. I am SO furious. Even more so because just over a year before he dies, he plays at Womad at Adelaide and even though my husband suggests we go, I hesitate and decide against as we are cash strapped. I kick myself even now. What an idiot I was!! I should have hocked the house…

Many years pass. It is 2005. My birthday. We are in Prague for a holiday, the whole family. We’ve had a deeply disturbing day. Our car has been stolen. We’ve spent a stressful day ‘talking’ to the police in a language we don’t speak. I fall asleep tired and sad. And I have this vivid dream, this lucid dream. NFAK comes to me with a Qawwali troupe.  He says ‘I didn’t know you loved me so much! Let me sing you something to make you feel better’. And I listen enthralled to the musical outpourings of this genius.  Now the memory of that stolen car only makes me smile secretly, for its the day when I at last heard my idol ‘live’. A wonderful birthday present for me.

So how do I choose one song from the hundred odd songs I listen to regularly? Too many fit the criteria of being personally meaningful. There was the one that Anish kicked to in my womb. The other that I cried to when my mum died. The one which gave me my first mystical experience. The one for which I wept tears of gratitude. The one he sang to me in my dream. The one in which this particular note…oh! what a note..makes me gasp. Can a universe be contained in this gap between one note and the next? It can..it does.  Finally I am choosing one purely based on a availability of a good quality recording online.  When it is all so well loved, making a choice becomes meaningless.

Album : Shahen Shah (1989)

Label : Real World

Song : Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande na Dalo

Lyrics : Farrukh Ali Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Singer : Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948 – 1997)

NFAK–Kali Kali Zulfon

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