This 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!