Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Warkari Movement II: Sant Eknath- A Brahmin Saint and a Sufi’s Disciple who Embraced Dalits






For all those who equate organised religion to dharma and who, due to their narrow mind set, are compelled to box pluralistic saints like Kabir and Shirdi Sai baba into Hindu/Muslim categories, for them, Sant Eknath is an enigma, an embarrassment. His Guru – Swami Janardan, is claimed, by some scholars, to be a Sufi Many of his bharuds (devotional songs) are in Hindustani and can often be mistaken to be written by a Sufi. He spoke of finding parallels in Hinduism and Islam, his followers belonged to different castes and creeds and according to one legend he even led Muslim armies on one occasion.  Little wonder then that recent Marathi writers, have tried to recast him as a saviour of Hinduism from Islam although available literature proves something altogether different!!
The story of sant Eknath is a story of a scholarly Brahmin whose compassion and wisdom allowed him to rise above caste distinction and even engage Muslims in his spiritual dialogues.
Sant Eknath (1533-99 C.E.) was born to a Brahmin family in the holy city of Paithan, known as the Benaras of Maharashtra, which stood on the banks of Godavari. He was the grandson of Sant Bhanudas- a devout Warkari sant who is credited with returning the idol of Vithobha from Hampi to Pandharpur, its original home. It had been taken from Pandharpur by Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar in 1951. Spiritually inclined from a very early age, Sant Eknath was allowed by his guru, Swami Janardhan to lead a life of a house holder. Sant Eknath carried forward the tradition of social reform of Sant Gyaneshwar and Sant Namdev by rejecting all distinctions of caste and creed and the relevance of ritual and rites. For this he won many opponents among the high caste Hindus. 
He composed numerous religious songs in Marathi called abhangs, owees and bharuds.  He wrote a commentary in Marathi on the Bhagvad Purana known as Eknath Bhagwat and also began writing Rukimini Swayamvara which, after his death, was later completed by one of his disciples. His works brought the highest of religious truths and moral guidance to the common people. He was a renowned kirtankaar giving birth to a unique style of Marathi kirtan singing called Eknath kirtan. He collected all the versions of Gyaneshwar’s Gyaneshwari and produced a critical edition of it.


Sant Eknath's abhang sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi:






However his unusual contribution to Marathi Bhakti literature is his empathy with the dalits. Out of the three hundred bharuds (drama poems) that he has written, about fifty are from the perspective of a Dalit. In forty seven of which the protagonist is a Mahar and in one a Mang is the central character. Both these castes are considered among the ‘lowest’ in Maharshtra and elsewhere in India. These characters in Eknath’s drama poems, preach morality, the righteous path, the importance of a Guru and how the Bhakti marg liberates us from the cycle of death and rebirth. He mocks at the so-called learned Brahmins and fake gurus in the following Bharud:

“They say ‘we have become saints’
They put on garlands and sandal paste.
Taking a lamp in their hands
They cry udo,udo….. !

They do kirtan for the sake of their stomachs
They teach the ‘meaning of all’ to the people.
They cheat their ignorant devotees.
They do not know the meaning of kirtan…….
Do the one kind of Bhakti.
Don’t wait for anything else.
Good and bad come in their own way.
They are the proof of past deeds…..”

Like his predecessors of the Warkari Bhakti movement, Eknath, in his following Bharud preaches that all humans can experience nearness to God irrespective of caste and creed:

God baked pots with Gora
drove cattle with Chokha
cut grass with Savata Mali
wove garments with Kabir
dyed hide with Ramdas
sold meat with butcher Sajana
melted gold with Narhari
carried cow dung with Jana Bai
and even became the Mahar messenger of Damaji

There are numerous stories of Eknath being ostracised and punished by the Brahmins for his proximity and social interactions with the so called ‘untouchables’.
Eknath is also credited with contributing to the religio-cultural pluralism of the Deccan in the sixteenth century. He lived during the rule of Ahmednagar Sultanate. Apart from being an ancient capital, the sixteenth century Paithan was a major trading centre and Eknath had the opportunity to interact with people of all castes as well as Indian Muslims and Arabs.
 His guru, Janardhan Swami, was a saint as well as in charge of the Daulatabad fort. Janardahan Swami was the disciple of Chand Bodale, also known as Chandrabhat, who was a Vaishnav and yet a follower of the Kadri or Qadarriya Sufi path and dressed like a faqir. At one time, it is believed, Eknath took his guru’s place to lead the Muslim army when the fort was attacked, as his guru was in deep meditation at this time!! According to Rigopoulos (p.160) Eknath disguised himself as his guru and in the process acquired all his strength and defeated the attacking army. This phenomenon of the disciple (murid) completely absorbing himself into the personality of his master (shaykh) is known as fana-fi-sh’shaykh among Sufis.
The Sufi influence on Eknath is further indicated by the number of Persian and Arabic words found in his Bharuds. While recently many right wing ideologist have tried to cast Sant Eknath as a saviour of Hinduism from the ‘hated’ Muslim tide, numerous scholars, both Hindu and Muslim, concur that medieval India was an era of tolerance, participation of Hindu subjects in the Islamic government and cultural interaction and influence among the two communities. Eknath’s bharud titled, Hindu-Turk Samvad sums up the situation aptly:

Eknath: The goal is one, the ways of worship are different.
Listen to the dialogue between these two!
The Turk calls the Hindu ‘Kafir’!
The Hindu answers: ‘I will be polluted, get away!’
A quarrel broke out between the two,
A great controversy began.
Muslim: O Brahman! Listen to what I have to say:
Your scripture is a mystery to everyone,
God has hands and feet, you say.
This is really impossible!
Hindu: Listen you great fool of a Turk!
See God in all living things.
You haven’t grasped this point
And so you have become a nihilist…….
At that moment that saluted each other.
With great respect, they embraced.
Both became content, happy.
Quiet, calm.
‘You and I quarrelled to open up the knowledge of high truth,
In order to enlighten the very ignorant.
In place of karma-awakening!!’


(Note: References for any information cited in the article may be obtained on request from the writer.)

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Warkari Movement I : Sant Dnyaneshwar- Beyond Brahmanical Tryranny



A warkari on his way from Alandi to Pandharpur. Photo credit: Wikipedia




Since the 13th century, Pandharpur in Maharashtra became a birthplace of a religious movement which was born locally but had a universal appeal, going beyond caste and religious identity. This movement was given life to by a saint called Pundalik. According to Bahirat (4 p.6), Pundalik lived before the eighth century A.D. It is believed that in his younger days, soon after his marriage Pundalik began to neglect his parents. However one day, an encounter with the divine, reformed him and he became a devoted son. As the story goes, Lord Krishna and his consort, Rukmini chanced upon Pundalik’s hut in the forest on a rainy day. Pundalik was busy attending to his parents and did not rise immediately to pay his respects to the deity but hurled a brick in His direction for Him to stand on without getting His feet wet. Pleased with Pundalik’s devotion to his parents, Lord Krishna asked Pundalik to worship Him as Vithoba i.e. the one who stood on a brick. At this scene, a form of Krishna arose standing on a brick, around which the temple of Pandharpur was later built.

Interestingly the name ‘Pandharpur’ is derived from Pandurang – one of the many names of Lord Shiva, moreover the temple of Pandharpur, dedicated to Lord Krishan, an incarnation of Vishnu, is surrounded by Shaivite temples. Perhaps an indication that the universal Truth exists beyond all different forms and cults of worship.

Hence from 13th century on wards Pandharpur became place of pilgrimage for the Warkari Bhakti movement. Most Marathi sant poets who worshipped Vithoba (Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu) and all those who followed their teachings form a part of this movement. The Warkaris identify with a succession of over fifty poet saints who lived over a period of five hundred years. Among whom the major four are,  the outcaste Brahmin- Dnyaneshwar or Jnandev (1275-1296); the tailor Namdeva (1270-1350); Eknath (1533-1599) who was a householder Brahmin and the editor of Dnyaneshwari; the shudra poet saint Tukaram (1608-1659); and Ramdas (1608-1681) who is considered as a political saint and teacher of Shivaji.

Sant Dnyaneshwar, image credits: Wikipedia
 The Warkaris believe Sant Dnyaneshwar, also known as Jnandeva (1275-1296) to be their founder. However according to Bahirat (4 p.6), Pundalika and his God were enjoying a wide reputation nearly four of five centuries before Dnyaneshwar. Dnyaneshwar’s father and grandfather were regular visitors to Pandharpur. 


Dnyaneshwar is one of the greatest poet saints of medieval India . In a short life span, he produced a stupendous amount of spiritual works which included a major philosophical treatise (the Amritanubhava), a large number of religious poems (called abhangas), and an extensive poetic commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (titled, after his name, Dnyaneshwari). His works also include Changadeva-Pasashthi (containing sixty-five verses addressed to a Hathayogi called Changadeva), Haripatha (containing a collection of twenty eight Abhangas) and Namana (a hymn containing hundred and eight stanzas in praise to the Lord of the universe).  

Dnyaneshwar, at a very tender age, became an ‘outcaste Brahmin’ because of his father’s actions. His father was a Brahmin named Vithalpant from Alandi in Maharashtra. Vithalpant left his wife and children to become a sanyasin (ascetic). However after being chided by his guru, Ramanand for abandoning his true ‘dharma’ of looking after his family as a householder, Vithalpant returned to his family. Once back in Alandi, he and his wife were excommunicated by the ruling Brahmin elite who denounced him for mixing up "life stages" and for contaminating sannyasa with worldly family concerns. But the fact was that Vithalpant was no sinner, in fact he had shown the courage and selflessness to return to his family to perform his  duties and sacrificed his desire for renunciation. However he became a victim of Brahamanical tyranny. Ultimately Vithalpant and his wife Rukmini committed suicide. At this time Dnyaneshwar was merely eight years old.

Vithalpant's story proved that the path to God leads through the world, universal love and service of humanity.   This path is available to all and is not the exclusive right of Pundits and Brahmins. The priests and Brahmins, in their arrogance, claim to "possess" God by virtue of their Vedic knowledge (jnana) and rituals. In their ignorance they do not know that the divine can never be possessed but can only be pursued through a life of service.






Dnyaneshwar is believed to have befriended the poet-saint Namadeva who was by some five years his senior, when the two first met in Pandharpur. Dnyaneshwar’s meeting with this great Sant was of great significance in shaping his philosophy which was later to become the foundation of the bhakti cult in Maharashtra.While in Pandharpur, Jnanadeva became a devotee of the god Vithoba . The two saints went on a pilgrimage together, visiting most of the holy places in northern India, including Benaras and Delhi. Following this journey, they returned to Pandharpur (in 1296) where a great festival was held in their honour. This festival was attended by many contemporary saints like Goroba the potter, Sanvata the gardener, Chokhoba the untouchable, Parisa Bhagavat the Brahmin. At the end of this festival Dnyaneshwar expressed the wish to return to Alandi and to enter sanjivan samadhi. 

Dnyaneshwar’s writings are  not in Sanskrit but in popular Marathi. They are based on his own life experiences, a life reflectively lived. He was a thinker and a poet as is evident in  both his Jnaneshvari and his Amritanubhava – works well known  for their searching insights and poetic style. He composed the Amritanubhava, a philosophical poem at the behest of his elder brother and guru, Nivrittinath, at a time when Jnanadeva was probably in his late teens. According to some scholars while the Dnyaneshwari appeals to the masses, the Amritanubhava appeals mainly to the learned. It is more argumentative. As its title indicates,  Amritanubhava is nectar of wisedom derived from direct experience and it gives a glimpse into the nature of ultimate experience. It  is meant to serve as a guide to the understanding of "Brahman" or "being" According to Dnyaneshwar, being is not an object of thought, but what allows thought to happen in the first place. 

He argues that sense (or sensory) experience only '"makes sense" in light of another, deeper understanding; similarly, reason is "rational" only  by exceeding itself. For him the truth of experience is not validated or authenticated by scriptures; but scriptures gain their authoritative standing through their agreement with experiential truth. He says that the absolute does not prove or disprove itself with the help of any norms or methods of knowledge....These methods are like a lamp lit at midday which neither spread light nor dispel darkness.


He further argues that words to describe the state of Being are not self-contained, each points beyond itself like the symbols of Jung, which stand for something more than their obvious meaning. In Amritanubhava he says,  "Being by itself, the absolute, is beyond the ordinary conceptions of existence and non-existence."....." Looked at from this angle, the scriptural words appear as "the residues of our thought"; in the light of being itself, "they vanish like the clouds that shower rain, or like the streams that flow into the sea or the paths that reach their goal." He further adds that "if the situation is such that nothing at all exists, who then knows [and can say] that there is nothing? Hence, the theory of emptiness (as nothing) appears as an "unjust imputation" to being: For, "if the extinguisher of a light is extinguished along with the light, who knows that there is no light?"



Dnyaneshwari, was completed in 1290 A.D. It was written in Old Marathi and was initially called Bhavartha-deepika . He wrote it on the instructions of his older brother and  Guru Nivruttinath who wanted to bring to the common man the Vedanta philosophy of Upanishads, which till then was available only to the Sanskrit-knowing pundits. Since then Dnyaneshwari, with its anti-Brahmanical overtones, has been a timeless spiritual guide providing knowledge and inspiration to all. It is still the most respected religious text in Maharashtra and has been the foundation of bhakti tradition there: a tradition so old that its exact origin cannot be pin pointed. It is continuous and free flowing like a river and yet without an organised structure.

The Warkari movement or sampraday, is an inner religion of the heart which advocates ethical human behavior and classless values and therefore has a wider appeal than the caste-based organised Hindu religion which has rigid orthodox rules of behavior, is ritual based and requires the mediatory role of Brahmins. While in its earlier form this movement was open to all, both Hindus and non-Hindus, over the years it appears to have lost its pluralistic nature. 



Following are a few lines from the English translation of Dnyaneshwari by Dr. Ravin Thatte, it talks about  people mired in rituals :

"They quote the scriptures for these acts 
Expect the heavens for these acts 
Little realizing what are the facts

Pleasure is their only aim
Reward their only game
Rigid rituals again and again
This is religion only in name"


References:

1.Jnanadeva and the Warkari Movement by Prof. Fred Dallmayr, Ph.D.

(http://www.here-now4u.de/eng/jnanadeva_and_the_warkari_move.htm)

2. Thatte, R. 2012. A Miraculous Rendering on the Bhagwat Geeta by Sant Dnyaneshwa. Shree Book Center, Mumbai, India

3. Bahirat, B.P. 1956, The Philosophy of Jnandeva. Pandharpur Research Society, Pandharpur, Maharashtra, India.

4. Schomer, Karine, W. H. McLeod. 1987. The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Motilal Banarasidas. Delhi.













Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bhakti poets – Premanand, the Manbhatt of Gujarat - II







The Bhakti movement has its inception  in the  8th century  Tamil Nadu. By the 10th century it had spread to Karnataka and Maharashtra and finally by the  16th century,  it had established itself in North , West and East of India . This era saw the rebel-mystic-poets who in their spiritual poetry spoke against the orthodox Brahmins, the caste system and the irrelevance of mindless rituals. For them divinity dwelt within the heart of Man and could be experienced with Love and surrender. They insisted on the personal experience of God.
In its initial stages it was nurtured by Shaiva and Vaishnava Bhakti cults in Tamil Nadu and by Lingayats of Karnataka in 11th and 12th century followed by the Warkari panth of Maharashtra in the 13th century. In the 14th century Central and North India saw the initiation of Nirguna Bhakti by Ramananda's school and the Chaitanya school of Saguna Vaishnava Bhakti and Bengal and Orissa. There was a parallel stream of Saguna Bhakti running in Gujarat (Sadarangani: Bhakti Poetry in Medieval India, 2004).
The Vaishnava Bhakti school was born at the time when Buddhism and Jainism were on the decline. This movement found acceptability among the so called lower castes who had been sidelined by mainstream Hinduism.
Premanand Bhatt was a 17th century bhakti poet (1649-1714), who mastered the art of akhyan: a form of story telling popular during the middle ages. The first clear notion of Gujarati language developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in the work of Premanand. The stories were usually taken from the Puranas. The episodes were modified depending on the theme; for entertainment or edification. The narration was split into units called kadavans. The narration was dramatized giving a detailed description of the characters, their emotional states, the seasons and scenes etc. The narrator who presented the tale before an audience was called a bhatt, who produced beats  on a copper pot hitting it with metal rings on his fingers. The pot was  called mann, .
Premananda was the supreme akhynkara. His akhyans were based on Puranic themes, the life of Narsinha and lilas of Shri Krishna. He was a master of language and melodious verse. Akhyans were offshoots of Bhakti poems  and their stories celebrate the infinite lila of the Divine.
To listen to an Akhyan please check the following link :



Sunday, 26 April 2015

THE WARKARIS




Namaste friends,
 
I'm back after a long break and have decided to continue with this blog. My next post will be a series on the Bhakti movement of Maharashtra and the Hindu and Muslim saints associated with it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Upanishad Diaries - I


An artists impression of Ved Vyas


'Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone.'
- Isha Upanishad

Some time around 2000 BC, or perhaps even earlier, when much of Europe was still perfecting the art of survival, sages and seers of India were contemplating on the very nature of Reality.

Meditating along river banks, on slopes of the mighty Himalayas and in remote forests, these wise men had realised that the human existence was a mere veil of something mightier and more profound than life itself. They had discovered that there was a more 'real' existence than the mental existence and a 'greater' Life than the physical life. For the awakened men the forms and enjoyments that ordinary men worship and pursue were not anymore the object of desire.

Thus rose the cry of the Upanishads - Rise and aspire beyond, free yourself from this illusory world of phenomenon and death and become your true immortal Self !!
The Upanishads also known as the Vedanta or the culmination of the Vedas, are actually the essence of all Vedas and from the Upanishads was born the Bhagavad Gita, the song celestial - which contains a philosophy so practical and yet so profound that no other philosophy of this world or the next has been able to surpass it.

The European powers were astounded when they were told by a German Indologist, Max Muller and later by another German philosopher, Schopenhauer that the earliest inhabitants of this primitive and savage land that they had set out to civilize and conquer had discovered the highest metaphysical truths when much of European civilization was still in its infancy.

Ironically it was the Persian translation of the Upanishad written by a Muslim prince - Dara Shikoh which was instrumental in taking the primeval Hindu wisdom to the West.

to be continued.......

Friday, 23 September 2011

SUFI POETRY AND MUSIC IN POPULAR CULTURE





The Wadali Brothers

In recent times Sufi music and poetry have moved from the shrine to the stage. Some consider this trend to be undesirable. They believe that in the attempt to make it more appealing it is being diluted and corrupted for public consumption. However the fact remains that the increasing popularity of Sufi music and poetry, in whatever form, has in no small measure contributed in revealing the compassionate, tolerant and creative aspect of Islam to the non-Muslim audience.

Like its philosophy and beliefs, the Sufi poetry performances have, over the ages, adapted to the indigenous styles of the continent as well as added some of their own. Among the most popular are Sufiana Kalaams (sacred words or compositions), Kafis (folk music from the Punjab region), K’waali (a form of devotional singing normally performed at Sufi dargahs), and Na’at (poetry recitation in the praise of Prophet Mohammad).



Amir Khusrau’s Compositions in Bollywood Films

Hindi movies were among the first to introduce compostions by Sufis to the larger public. The most popular among movie makers were the lok geets and love songs of Amir Khusro. His compositions in Hindavi (a synthesis of Brijbhasha and Urdu) were among the first to find place in Hindi movies. Some of his mystical compositions in which Hindvi and Persian couplets were seamlessly woven appeared in the later period.The movie ‘Suhag Raat,’ under the direction of Kedar Nath Sharma, produced in 1948, had a bidai geet (song sung when the bride is finally sent away with her in-laws) penned by Amir Khusro and sung by Mukesh. The music director was Snehal Bhatkar. This composition was also sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the film Heer Ranjha (1948) with some modifications, and again in the 1954 film ‘Suhagan’, under the music direction of C.Ramchandra and Vasant Desai. In this song, the young bride is appealing to her father not to marry her and send her away to foreign shores:

KAHEKO BYAAHE BIDE





Skaahe ko byaahe bides, are lakhiyan baabul mohe

kaahe ko byaahe bides ...
ham to baabul tore khunthe ki gayaa

jahan kaho tyon bandhehi jaye

are lakhiyan baabul mohe ...

kaahe ko byaahe bides ...







ham to baabul tore bele ki kaliyan

are ghar-ghar maange hain jaaye

are lakhiyan baabul mohe ...

kaahe ko byaahe bides ...



Hum To Baabul Tore,
Pinjarae Ki Chidiya
Are Kuhuk-Kuhuk RaatI Jaaye

mahalan tale se dola jo nikala

are beeran mein chhaaye pachhaad

are lakhiyan baabul mohe

kaahe ko byaahe bides ...



bhaiya ko diyo baabul mahalan do mahalan

are ham ko diyo pardesh

are lakhiyan baabul mohe



kaahe ko byaahe bides

are lakhiyan baabul mohe




However the best rendition of this song was by Jagjit Kaur, under the music direction of Khayyam in the 1981 film ‘Umrao Jaan’ produced and directed by Muzaffar Ali.















Amir Khusro q’waali style was introduced to the moive audience in the film ‘Barsat ki raat’ (1960), directed by P.L.Soni. The q’waali, ‘Ye Ishk Ishk Hai’ under the music direction of Roshan became an instant hit This movie was among the first bollywood movies to popularise the q’waali form of music, in which the legendary poet Sahir Ludhianvi took some liberties with the following composition of Amir Khusro:
Bahut Kathin hai dagar panghat ki,


Kaisay main bhar laaun madhva say matki?


Paniya bharan ko main jo gayi thi,


Daud jhapat mori matki patki.


Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.


Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye


Laaj rakho moray ghoonghat pat ki.


Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.














Later in 1962, Shevan Rizvi introduced Hindi film audience to another of Khusro’s compositions in the film ‘Ek Musafir Ek Hasina’ under the music direction of O.P.Nayyar. The film was directed by Sashadhar Mukherjee. The following lines were beautifully sung by Asha Bhonsle:







 Zabaan-e yaar-e mun Turkie, wa mun Turkie nami daanum,
Che khush boodi agar boodi zabaanash dar dahanay mun.

(My beloved speaks Turkish, but I do not know Turkish;
How I wish that I could speak her/his language)





The first scene of Hindi film Junoon (1978), produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Shayam Benegal, opens with a beautiful composition by Amir Khusro, ‘ Chchap teelak sab chcheeni re’ combined with ‘Aaj rang hai’ set to music by Vanraj Bhatia and sung by Jamil Ahmed:

ख़ुसरौ रैन सुहाग की, जो मैं जागी पी के संग,
टन मोरा मान पिया का, जो दोनो एक ही रंग.

ख़ुसरौ दरिया प्रेम का, जो उल्टी वाह की धार,
जो उभरा, सो डूब गया, जो डूबा सो पार.

अपनी छाब बनाई के, जो मैं पी के पास गयी,
छाब देखी जब पिया की, मोहे अपनी भूल गयी.

छाप तिलक सब छीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

बल बल जाउन मैं, तोरे रंग रेजावा,
ऐसी रंग दो के रंग नाहीं छूटे, धोबिया धोए चाहे सारी उमारिया

बल बल जौन मैं, तोरे रंग रेजावा,
अपनी सी रंग दीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

प्रेम भाटी का माधवा पीलायके

मटवारी कर दीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

गोरी गोरी गोरी बैयाँ, हरी हरी चूड़ियाँ,
बहियाँ पकड़ हर लीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके.

ख़ुसरौ निज़ाम के बाल बाल जैय्हैन …

मोहे सुहागन कीनी रे, मो से नैना मिलायके
Khusrau rain suhaag ki, jo main jaagi pi ke sang,
Tan mora man piya ka, jo dono ek hi rang.
Khusrau dariya prem ka, jo ulti waah ki dhaar,
Jo ubhra, so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar.
Apni chab banaai ke, jo main pi ke paas gayi,
Chab dekhi jab piya ki, mohey apni bhool gayi.
Chaap Tilak sab cheeni re, moh se naina milayke.

Baat agham keh deeni re moh se naina milayke.
Bal bal jaaun main, tore rang rejava,

Aisi rang do ke rang naahin chhutey,
Dhobiya dhoye chaahe saari umariya
Bal bal jaaun main, tore rang rejava,
Apni si rang deeni re, moh se naina milayke.
Prem bhati ka madhva pilayke
Matwari kar deeni re, moh se naina milayke.
Gori gori gori baiyaan, hari hari chudiyaan,
Bahiyaan pakad har leeni re, moh se naina milayke

Khusro Nizam ke bal bal janiya

Mohe suhagan ki nee re moh se naina milayke.



Aaj Rang Hai



Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri
Moray mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri
Sajan milaavra, sajan milaavra,
Sajan milaavra moray aangan ko
Aaj rung hai........
Mohay pir paayo Nijamudin aulia
Nijamudin aulia mohay pir payoo
Des bades mein dhoondh phiree hoon
Toraa rung man bhayo Nizamuddin.,
Jag ujiyaaro, jagat ujiyaaro,
Main to aiso rang aur nahin dekhi sakhi
Main to jab dekhun moray sung hai ri,

Mohay Apne He Rung Mein Rung Lay Khuwaja Ji

Mohay Rung Basanti Rung Day Khuwaja Ji
Jo Tu Maangay Rung Ki Rangai
Mora Joban Girwi Rakhlay Khuwaja Ji
Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri.



(There is radiance everywhere mother.

The house of my Beloved is filled with radiance
At last I have found my Beloved in my own courtyard

I have found my pir Nizamuddin Aulia.
I have roamed far and wide in the world,
and I found You to my liking;

And lo behold my entire world is filled with radiance.

I have never seen such Devine radiance before
He is forever with me now,
Oh beloved, please colour me in your radiance;

There is radiance everywhere, Divine Radiance)


Note: Khusro sang these lines in ecstasy when he came back to his mother after meeting Nizamuddin Aulia for the first time, after a long search for an ideal Sufi master. Hence the above lines are addressed to his mother






 Zehal-e miskin makun taghaful, duraye naina banaye batiyan;
ki taab-e hijran nadaram ay jaan, na leho kaahe lagaye chhatiyan.
Shaban-e hijran daraz chun zulf wa roz-e waslat cho umr kotah;
Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun to kaise kaatun andheri ratiyan.
Yakayak az dil do chashm-e jadoo basad farebam baburd taskin;
Kise pari hai jo jaa sunaave piyare pi ko hamaari batiyan.
Cho sham’a sozan cho zarra hairan hamesha giryan be ishq aan meh;
Na neend naina na ang chaina na aap aaven na bhejen patiyan.
Bahaqq-e roz-e wisal-e dilbar ki daad mara ghareeb Khusrau;
Sapet man ke waraaye raakhun jo jaaye paaon piya ke khatiyan.



Following is my interpretation which may not be a literal translation:

Do not ignore my grief with your seductive eyes,
and sweet talk ; Your separation is past endurance, why don’t you embrace me..

Like long dark lustrous curls is the night of separation,
and our union brief like the short -lived life ;

How will I endure the dark night without my Beloved?
With sudden charm your enchanting eyes have robbed my mind of peace

No one bothers to convey my agony to my Beloved
Tossed about in bewilderment, like a flickering candle,
I writhe in the fire of love;

I lie without the Beloved, sleepless and restless,
but the Beloved neither comes nor sends any message.

I shall wait for the day I meet my Beloved
who has seduced me for so long, O Khusro;
For I have saved my heart and my love for the Beloved....








Gulzar Sahab has been instrumental in popularising sufiana kalaam in Hindi film music. In 1980, the film ‘Ghulami’ directed by J.P.Dutta, had a song written by Gulzar under the music direction of Lakshmi Kant Pyarelal. This song was inspired by Amir Khusro’s composition ‘Zeehal- e Mishkeen’, which has alternate lines in Farsi and Hindavi:

Zehal-e miskin makun taghaful, duraye naina banaye batiyan;

ki taab-e hijran nadaram ay jaan, na leho kaahe lagaye chhatiyan.

Shaban-e hijran daraz chun zulf wa roz-e waslat cho umr kotah;

Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun to kaise kaatun andheri ratiyan.

Yakayak az dil do chashm-e jadoo basad farebam baburd taskin;

Kise pari hai jo jaa sunaave piyare pi ko hamaari batiyan.
Cho sham’a sozan cho zarra hairan hamesha giryan be ishq aan meh;

Na neend naina na ang chaina na aap aaven na bhejen patiyan.

Bahaqq-e roz-e wisal-e dilbar ki daad mara ghareeb Khusrau;

Sapet man ke waraaye raakhun jo jaaye paaon piya ke khatiyan.



Following is my interpretation which may not be a literal translation:

Do not ignore my grief by your seductive eyes,

and sweet talk ; Your separation is past endurance, why don’t you embrace me..

Like long dark lustrous curls is the night of separation,

and our union brief like the short -lived life ;

How will I endure the dark night without my Beloved?

With sudden charm your enchanting eyes have robbed my mind of peace



No one bothers to convey my agony to my Beloved

Tossed about in bewilderment, like a flickering candle,

I writhe in the fire of love;



I lie without the Beloved, sleepless and restless,

but the Beloved neither comes nor sends any message.



I shall wait for the day I meet my Beloved

who has seduced me for so long, O Khusro;

For I have saved my heart and my love for the Beloved....















In more recent times, the song ‘chhayya chhaya’ from ‘Dil Se’ (1998) under the music direction of the living legend A.R.Rahman, became an instant hit and heralded an entirely new genre of quasi-religious sufi poetry and music in Bollywood films. This song is originally based on ‘Tere ishq nachaya kar ke thaiyya thaiyya’ a Punjabi sufi Kalaam by Bulle Shah. It was rewritten by Gulzar. The film ‘Maqbool’ (2004) by Vishal Bhardwaj, who directed the music, Gulzar composed the song ‘Jhin mini jhini’ opening with the lines by Khusro – ‘Khusro rain suhag ki’. Of late Gulzar sahab has been using the Sufi style of repeating two-syllable Farsi words to give it a mystical dimension. The song 'Tere Bina' (Dum Dara Mast Mast), in the film Guru (2007), under the music direction of A.R.Rahman, is one such instance:dum dara dum dara mast mast dara – 2
dum dara dum dar chashma chashma nam.....



Here the world dum could mean many things: breath/ life/ prana; dara again could mean in/ inside/ door/ door to the soul or Being; mast means trance/ecstasy; chashma means eyes, could also mean vision; and nam means moist. The repetition of ‘dam dar’ could imply to the breath control that Sufis indulge in to get vision or to enter into a higher state of mind or ecstasy.

Filmi versions of Sufi songs are now a norm in Bollywood films and are a big hit with the audience.







Bullhe Shah in Popular Imagination














While folk singers, qawwali singers, maniar singers and popular singers like Runa Laila have been singing Sufi compostions for the general public, Sufi music has only recently captured popular imagination. We now have solo singers as well as self-styled bands from the Indian subcontinent captivating audiences from all over the world with their various adaptations of age old Sufi compositions. A cursory scan of U-tube will display numerous forms of Sufi compositions including the ‘rock’ and the ‘pop’ versions. However the Pakistani band ‘Junoon’ deserves credit forbeing instrumental in popularsing Sufi poetry with their hit song ‘ Sayyoni’, then came the living legend Abida Parveen who took the Sufi music world by storm with a voice that was both ethereal and filled with divine passion. At present there is no dirth of popular singers on both sides of the border who are playing a significant role in popularising Sufi compostions. Kailash Kher and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan are among the most popular.



SUFI POETRY BY POPULAR SINGERS AND BANDS











In 2004, Rabbi Shergill converted the abstract metaphysical compositon of Bullhe Shah, ‘Bullah ki Jaana’ into a popular song, which became a huge sucess in India and Pakistan. Bullhe Shah’s composition again appeared in the song ‘Bandeya Ho’ in the 2007 Pakistani movie ‘Khuda ke liye’. The 2008 Indian movie ‘A Wednesday’, written and directed by Neeraj Pandey, had a song, “Bulle Shah, O yaar mere” in its soundtrack. Bullhe Shah’s composition was rewritten in this film by Irshad Kamil The music director was Sanjoy Choudhury. In the movie Raavan (2010) Gulzar used Bullhe Shah’s ‘Ranjha Ranjha’ in one of the songs. In 2009, Episode One of Pakistan’s Coke Studio Season 2 featured collaboration between Sain Zahoor and Noori, and as a result, Bullhe Shah’s ‘Aik Alif’ became immensely popular.










(Note: All translations into English are by Rupa Abdi)

Amir Khusrau







Amir Khusrau: The Sufi with a difference












Amir Khusrau teaching his disciples; miniature from a manuscript of Majlis Al-Usshak by Husyn Bayqarah. Courtsey: Wikipedia
Remembered more as a musician and a poet than a Sufi, this versatile genius, who is also considered to be among the first Muslim musicologist of India, was born in 1234, in Patiali near Etah district of north India. His original name was Yamin- ud-Din Muhammad Hasan but he is commonly known as Amir Khusrau (d.1325). He was of Turkish origin and a murid of the great Nizamuddin Awliya and his world vieiw, like his master’s, was humane, tolerant and intrinsically simple. He was not just a ‘Jack of all arts’ but master of all. A scholar, poet, musician, Sufi and and a skilled courtier who served the Slav, Khilji and Tuglaq kings of Delhi Sultanate. Music and poetry were his twin passions and he learnt Arabic, Persian and Indian music. According to him ‘Indian music is the fire that burns the heart and the soul and is superior to the music of any country’. He invented his own genre of music by adding Persian and Arabic elements to Indian music. He is also credited with the modification and improvement of the veena. He is also believed to have invented the tabla.

Khusrau not only helped in developing the ğazal, until then little used in India, but also in the historical epic as a new genre of poetry. He created new ragas such as Sarfarda and Zilaph. He also invented the Qawwali form of devotional singing and is the originator of the Taraana sytle of vocal music. In this style of singing, apparently meaningless syllables are used to create mystical ecstasy. The syllables when pieced together form Persian words that possess mystical symbolism.

After being initiated into Sufism by his master Nizammudin Awliya, Amir Khusrau is believed to have retired from worldly life. Hoevere he continued to write poetry and is known to have written over four lakh couplets . Of these over 300 consist of riddles, some using bilingual pun of Hindvi and Persian, word play and litrary tricks .

He lived up to the age of ninety and during his long life attained legendary fame. The historians of his time appear to have credited him with much more than he had actually done. However, his literary genius is without doubt unmatched in its ability to seamlessly weave two diverse cultures and faiths together. His compositions have now become of part of folk culture of north India, especially Uttar Pradesh. His geets and ghazals have inspired and continue to inspire generations of Hindi movie songs. It is noteworthy that Khusrau’s compostions have proved to be a gold mine for Bollywood music directore and lyric writers .
‘Khusrau darya prem ka, ulti wa ki dhaar,
Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar’

(The river of love flows upsteam

Those who enter to swim will drown

Only those who enter to drown will cross it)



Note: For more compositions by Amir Khusrau see my post on “Sufi Poetry and Music in Popular Culture”.