A modest looking middle age man, dressed in white walked gently on to the stage. The stage, like the man, was frugal: no props, no music, no elaborate lighting. Just a small platform covered with white sheets and white pillows. At one corner of the platform were placed two steel water bowls for the artist to moisten his palate after a non-stop verbal performance and a peek daan.
This was Mahmood Farooqui, a man determined to bring back to life and popularity the lost art of Dastangoi, storytelling based on medieval Urdu tales, and to pass this ancient art form on to future generations.
Today he was performing ‘Dastan-e Karn Az Mahabharata’ with the focus on Karna, the underdog of Mahabharat.
Karna, in this composition, is showcased as the underdog who is discriminated against because of his so called ‘low birth’. In spite of a life of suffering and discrimination, this warrior hero, stays firm on his ideals and honor. Thus when breathing his last on the battlefield of Mahabharat, with his head resting in Shri Krishna’s lap, when he asks Krishna whether he would be as famous as Arjuna, Krishna replies that Karna’s fame would last longer than Arjuna’s.
Mahmood Farooqui’s version of Dastangoi is a class in itself. It draws on syncretic traditions, seamlessly weaving age old issues of dharma, caste discrimination, power struggle, dirty politics played by the rulers for the acquisition of power and wealth- issues which are still relevant and perhaps more so in the current socio-political scenario.
Farooqui draws from oral traditions of Mahabharat, extracts of poetry in Hindi, Urdu and even Persian, Sanskrit shlokas and Quranic ayaats to reflect on the human condition and the issues related to Dharma and Karma. His composition is the mirror of a pluralistic art form where the barriers of religion and language break down to reveal a seamless weave of tapestry that is India.
His delivery is flawless, it flows on waves of passion, rising and ebbing with the content in a seasoned voice, the likes of which are heard only among senior classical and qawwali singers !!
Using only his oratory skills, Farooqui held the audience spell bound for ninety minutes, quite an achievement in these times of short attention span !!
Farooqui’s rendition of ‘ Dastan-e Karn Az Mahabharata‘, proves that the idea and idol of India as secular nation embracing all levels of diversity in its fold, as envisioned by the founders of our Constitution, existed long before our country’s Independence. It was always there in its pluralistic traditions, art and culture.
Photo Credits: Rupa Abdi
Detailed information about the Dastangoi’s team and future performances can be found on their face book page:
सभु गोबिंदु है सभु गोबिंदु है गोबिंद बिनु नही कोई ॥
सूतु एकु मणि सत सहंस जैसे ओति पोति प्रभु सोई ॥
All is Govind,** in all is Govind
Without Govind there is nothing
Like one thread that pierces all beads
God traverses all beings
जल तरंग अरु फेन बुदबुदा जल ते भिंन न होई ॥
इहु परपंचु पारब्रह्म की लीला बिचरत आन न होई ॥
Waves, foam, bubbles from water are not apart
Think and you will see,
the world is an illusion
of the Lord, they are all a play and part
मिथिआ भरमु अरु सुपन मनोरथ सति पदार्थु जानिआ ॥
सुक्रित मनसा गुर उपदेसी जागत ही मनु मानिआ ॥
You desire false illusions and dream objects
Real and true to the mind they appeareth
At Gurus counsel the desire for good deeds
in the a mind awaketh
कहत नामदेउ हरि की रचना देखहु रिदै बीचारी ॥
घट घट अंतरि सरब निरंतरि केवल एक मुरारी ॥
Says Namdev gazing at Lords creation my heart decides
the One and only Murari** in every pore, the Eternal resides
(Namdev’s Bani in Guru Granth Sahib,Ang 485,21934-21941)1
(All English trans. Myself)
Namdeva stands in the company of courageous revolutionary poets like Kabir, Raidas and Nanak, who apart from being saints were also radical reformers who stood above caste and organised religion, broke the bonds of ritual and ceremonies, denounced idolatry and brushed aside the authority of religious scriptures. Being a Shudra, Namdeva had to face the contempt of the Brahmins. He was also one of the pillars of the Warkari movement. He walks among the few in the world who rose from the pits of sin to the realisation of the highest principals of Nirguna bhakti and Advaita
Between the 13th and 17th century a religious and literary renaissance flooded the region of Maharashtra. It was a spiritual awakening, the kind of which was never seen before or after. It scarcely left a soul untouched.
Some even believe that this movement whose basis was Bhakti, which later came to be known as the Warkari movement, was far more powerful than its counterpart in northern and central India. In Maharashtra, this religious revival spanned over 500 years during which more than 50 saints breathed life into it and left their mark. These saints came from all walks of life: Marathas, kunbis, tailors, gardeners, potters, gold smiths, reformed prostitutes and Muslims. 2p45
Sant Namdeva was one of the saints under whose guidance the Warkari movement gathered extraordinary saints in its fold. But apart from being one of the stalwarts of the Warkari movement Namdeva is also known as the first major saint poet of Nirguna Bhakti. A ‘Chimpi’ or variously interpreted as a tailor, dyer-cloth printer by caste, he also stands among those few saints who rose from the pit of evil doers 3p.16;4p.85 to a Sagunabhakti saint and ultimately reached the unfathomable heights of Nirguna bhakti. The sixty one hymns of Namdeva, which are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, pertain to the period when he had achieved enlightenment through devotion to the formless Absolute – Nirguna Bhakti. This change in the nature of his devotion and perception, from being a passionate devotee of Vithoba of Pandharpur to a nirgunibhakta who considered Vithoba to be a symbol of the supreme Soul that pervades the Universe is apparent in his Abhangs. Namadeva’s guru, Shri Visoba Kechar, who himself was a disciple of Gyanadeva, is believed to have shown the path of Nirguna bhakti to Namadeva4p.120. In Namdeva’s Abhangs one can see the synthesis of knowledge and devotion.
Namadeva’s contribution to Bhakti literature is significant. Apart from bhajans (devotional songs set to music), he is believed to have written over 2500 abhangs(a form of devotional poetry sung in Marathi in the praise of Vithoba during pilgrimage to the temples of Pandharpur, the centre of Warkari movement) and about 250 padavalis – simple passionate lyrics in Hindi. These padavalis are beautiful syncretic lyrics in which Namadeva used various dialects of northern India that he came across during his travels. These include Khadi boli, Brajabhasha, Purvi Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic and Persian. In these Padvalis we get a glimpse of this saint and his beliefs.
He ridiculed idol worship:
एकै पाथर कीजै भाउ ॥
दूजै पाथर धरीऐ पाउ ॥
जे ओहु देउ त ओहु भी देवा ॥
कहि नामदेउ हम हरि की सेवा ॥४॥१॥
One stone is worshiped while the other is trodden upon
If one is god why the other is not?
Says Namdeva I worship Hari** none other ought
(Namdev’s Bani in Guru Granth Sahib,Ang 525,23502-2194)1
He was of the opinion that sagunabhakti i.e. the worship of God with attributes with its rituals is only a ladder to be discarded once the goal of Nirgun bhakti, the worship and oneness with the Formless Reality is achieved:
Once the divine palace is attained it is of no use
Says Namdev he seeks Your shelter,
my heart lies at your feet’s shelter
He was brutal in his criticism of the hyppocracy and façade among Hindus and Muslims alike:
ब्रह्मा पढ़ि गुंनि बैद सुनावै मन की भ्रांति न जाइ रे
करम करै सौ सूझै नांहीं बहुतक करम कराइ रे
मास दिवस लग रोजा साधै कलमां बंग पुकारैं रे
मन मैं काती जीव बाधारैं नांव अलह का सारैं रे
केवल ब्रह्म सती करि जांनैंसहज सुंनि मैं ध्याया रे
प्रणवंत नांमदेव गुर परसादैं पाया तिनिहीं लुकाया रे 2 Pad 64, p291
They read Brahma, Veda yet deluded they remain
Offer endless rituals yet ignorance they gain
They observe the month long Ramzan fast
by the muezzin a call for prayer is requested
recite the name of Allah
yet with violent minds they are afflicted
Only those who know the One Brahma
can dwell effortlessly in the Formless
To the grace of guru Namdev bows
keeps it hidden he who knows
हिन्दू अन्हा तुरक काणा दुहां ते गिआनी सिआणा
हिन्दू पूजे देहुरा मुसलमाणु मसीत
नामे सोई सेविया जह देहुरा न मसीत 2 pad 208,p.367
The Hindu is blind and the Muslim is half-blind
None has true knowledge
In the temple worships the Hindu, the Muslim in Masjid
Namdev worships Him who is neither in temple nor Masjid
It is obvious from Namdeva’s Padvalis that like, Kabir after him, Namdeva was well versed in the ways of the Sahaj, Nath and Advaita panths:
चंद सूर दोउ समि करि राषौं मन पवन डीढ डांडी
सहजैं सुषमन तारा मंडल इहि बिधि त्रिस्नां षांडी
बैठा रहूं न फिरूं न डोलूं भूषां रहूं न षाऊं
मरूं न जीऊंअहि निसि भूगतौं नहीं आऊं नहीं जांऊं
गगन मंडल मैं रहनी हमारी सहज सुनिं ग्रीह मेला
अंतरधुनि मैं मन बिलमा ऊंकोई जोगी गंमि लहैला
पाती तोड़ि न पूजौं देवा देवलि देव न होई
नांमां कहै मैं हरि की सरना पुनरपि जनम न होई 2p.292.Pad 65
The sky resounds with the music of the flute
The sound of Anhad every where
Ignorant of his Self, O Lord, the fool wanders
here and there, nowhere
United the Sun and the Moon with ease
Held firm the mind the breath and the spine
Rose I through the subtle to the star constellation
Thereby all desires I cease
Neither stay still nor move nor vacillate I
Neither hungry nor satiated am I
Neither live nor die nor suffer do I
Neither come or go
My home I have made in the cosmic skies
Dwell I effortlessly in the Void within
Enrapt is my mind with the music within
Rare is a Yogi who can hear such a hymn
I gather no leaves for the Deva in the temple
No God dwells in the idol
Only in Hari, in Hari I have lain
Never to be born again
According to the tradition available, Namdeva (1270-1350) was a close companion of Sant Jnanesvar also known as Gyanadeva, another great Marathi saint and the author of Gyaneshvari.2p.43 Namdeva was a householder and a married man. After Gyanadeva’s death, Namdeva moved to north India and settled in Punjab in a village called Ghuman in Gurdaspur. Here he spent 20 years of his life spreading the message of devotion. However, some scholars question whether Namdev was a contemporary of Gyanadeva and whether the two came in contact with each other at all3p18.
While Gyanadeva’s influence was limited to Maharashtra, Namdeva along with Ramananda*** spread a more evolved form of Bhakti in North and Central India and laid ground for future Nirguna saint poets like Kabir, Nanak and Raidas.
*All English translations of the poetic compositions are by the author, Rupa Abdi
** Govind, Hari, Murari, Ram etc. are various names, avatars and attributes of Vishnu, however in case of Namdeva, they are the various names by which he addressed the Ultimate Reality.
***A 14th century Bhakti saint who founded a new school of Vaishnavism based on love and devotion
‘Yes Majnu Shah’, nodded Cherag Fakir. ‘Only he can make the Sahibs run in fear.’ Asif had of course heard about Majnu Shah and his heroic battles with the British. Villagers often talked about Majnu Shah’s soldiers who came down the hills to loot the British offices….
From: The Tattooed Fakir by Biman Nath
Very little is known about his early life of this Sufi warrior except that he was born in the Mewat region of Haryana. He succeeded Shah Sultan Hasan Suriya Burhana to the leadership of the Bihar based Deewanagan Madaria sufi order in the mid-eighteenth century. He was an organizer of great ability, great commander in chief who travelled in Bengal and Bihar to inspire people to join the rebellion and fight against the superior forces of the British in the second half of the 18th century. It was his Pir, Hamiuddin who motivated him to take up arms against the British:
There was a mazar of dervish Hamid
In the domain of Assadusman
There in the Khanaqa of the old Pir Khadim
Came Majnu Fakir to offer his Salam
Khadim urged Majnu in despair
Lakhs of people are dying in famine
Try to save their lives!
The company’s agents and landlords
Torture artisans and peasants
For exorbitant revenue
And people are deserting villages
Take up arms…
Distribute all provisions among the starved
And drive out the English
As no alternative is left.
-Majnu Shaher Hakikat by Jamiruddin Dafadar
Majnu Shah became a legend in the literature and folklore of undivided Bengal. The lines mentioned below refer to the united Hindu-Muslim revolt against the British known as the Fakir Sanyasi Rebellion which engulfed most districts of northern and eastern undivided Bengal and parts of Bihar during the early part of the British colonial rule in India. According to some historians this movement represented an early war for India’s independence. Whatever little popular imagination that exists about this rebellion, largely stems from the film ‘Anandmath’ which is based on a novel of the same name by Bakim Chandra Chaterjee. This novel was published in 1882, a century after the events actually happened. Notwithstanding its literary significance, the novel has overtones of Hindu revivalism and attitude of co-existence with the British rule which is a major departure from the actual incidents of this movement. There are official records documented by British officers of at least three incidents where the Fakirs and Sanyasis together fought against the East India Company.
Majnu calls out Bhabhani Sanyasi
Catch the Whites and hang them straight
Bhabhani roars and the Giris flash swords
They dispatch the Whites to Yama’s doors
This movement, which the British, in their arrogance, refused to call nothing more than a law and order situation, turned into a fifty thousand strong rebellion of Muslim fakirs and Hindu sanyasis, along with peasants, poor artisans, disbanded soldiers of the Nawabs and Mughal army and dispossessed zamindars that would traumatise the British occupiers for the last three decades of the 18th century (1767-1800). These bands of Fakirs and Sanyasis were very familiar with territories bounded by Brahmaputra in the north and Ganges in the south. Using the riverine paths and the forest covered hills, they out smarted the East India Company troops, waging a guerrilla war on them and plundering the Company’s treasuries and factories, intercepting the Company’s revenue in transit and snatching the possessions of the new landlords and Company’s agents with weapons and ammunition looted from the British themselves !!
It all began in the second half of the 18th century when popular resentment against the East India Company had begun to grow. For over a century the Madari Fakirs and Dasnami sanyasis (also known as Giris ) used to travel to their places of pilgrims in north Bengal and on the way collect alms and land grants from both Hindu and Muslim Zamindars, which was given willingly. However the situation changed after the East India Company took over the diwani of Bihar and Bengal. The British increased the land tax, the lands of many Zamindars were also confiscated, and many restrictions were placed on the movements of the Fakirs and Sanyasis because the British considered them thugs and looters. Moreover the unfair trade policies of the Company which consisted of one-way trading export of raw material, resulted in the crumbling of cottage industries like silk, muslin and handloom. This, combined with natural disasters and crop failure and the consequent Bengal famine of 1770-71, which killed one-third of the population, all contributed to the popular resentment against the British and their agents.
In the 18th century many Fakirs and Sanyasis had recruited themselves as soldiers under the Mughal administration in Bengal. When The East India Company began to gradually dismantle the armed forces of the Nawabs and erstwhile Mughal provincial administration, the disgruntled soldiers joined the Fakir Sanyasi rebellion.
This movement also had the support of dispossessed zamindars like Maharani Bhawani of Natore and Assad Usman Khan – the Nawab of Birbhum.
By the end of 1760 the extraordinary leadership qualities of Majnu Shah brought the Muslim Fakirs and Hindu Sanyasis under a common platform in their struggle against the British. Bhavani Pathak and Devi Choudhrani were two prominent leaders of the Sanyasis who supported Majnu Shah. Other prominent leaders of this movement were Musa Shah, Chirag Ali, Shobhan Shah, Parigullah Shah, Karim Shah, Mohan Giri and Ganesh Giri.
Majnu Shah build a fort in 1776 behind an ancient dargah at Mahasthangarh in Bogra. Here he made make- shift barracks, where he would retreat with his forces to regain strength and discuss their next strategy. Majnu Shah enjoyed the good will and support of the locals and he would station his spies among them to inform him of the Company’s movements. He made constant efforts to keep unity among the Fakirs and Sanyasis and to avoid confrontations among them. One such conflict was sparked off in 1777 but was amicably resolved due to Majnu’s efforts. He was shot at and wounded on December 8, 1786 in a battle at Kaleshwar, he managed to dodge the British and reach Makanpur where he was given shelter by ancestors of local landlord Mir Syed Hasan. The injury however proved fatal and he died on January 26, 1787. After him, his lieutenants, Musa Shah and Chirag Ali led the rebellion.
Although this rebellion of Sufis and Sanyasis could not achieve its ultimate goal, it left a blazing trail for others to follow. In Bangladesh, Majnu Shah is acknowledged among the first martyrs of India’s early resistance to the formation of the British Empire. His relentless struggle against the British is still preserved in Bangladeshi literature and folklore. A feature film based on this martyr was made by the Bangladeshi actor and Darashika titled ‘Fakir Majnu Shah’. Several years ago, the Bangladeshi government paid tribute to this brave heart by dedicating a bridge in his name. But in India, Majnu Shah has been forgotten and the grave of this great son of India lies in utter neglect in some forlorn corner of Makanpur in Kanpur district.
Nath, B. 2012. The Tattooed Fakir, Pan Macmillan, India
Khwabnama (Tale of Dreams). 1996. Akhteruzzaman Elias, Naya Udyog, Kolkata
Dasgupta, A. 1982. The Fakir and Sanyasi Rebellion. Social Scientist. Vol. 10, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 44-55
Khan, Muazzam Hussain 2012. Majnu Shah. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh(Second ed.).Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
While we Indians pride ourselves over the rich diversity of communities, race and religion that our country has, it also means dealing with differences and contradictions in the way we live, eat and pray. However there has always been a sense of, not just tolerance, but respect for these differences. This appears to be an intrinsic factor of Indian cultural ethos. Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘we must respect other religions, as we respect our own. Mere tolerance is not enough’. There have been times when this sentiment could not hold up against hatered and violence however there were other times too when this sentiment flowered against heavy odds. Seventeenth century Maratha society was one such period in the history of this great nation.
It is a myth to presume that a society at confrontation with itself cannot find ways to co-exist peacefully. The Medieval period in the Maratha Empire saw three apparently conflicting forces at work, especially during the seventeenth century: there was religious as well as political conflicts among the Bahamani kingdom, the Mughals and the Marathas. With the consolidation of Maratha power in this century, the Hindu and Muslim communities of the Maratha society found innovative ways of co-existing with mutual respect and peaceful tolerance. There were instances of hate and intolerance, no doubt, but these were offset by numerous examples to the contrary. The people and the rulers, in their wisdom knew that the only way for a peaceful society was respecting and giving space to the ‘other religion’. Marathi writers and historian have cited numerous instances of this as depicted in the daily lives of administrators and rulers. Examples from which our present day society could learn a lesson or two.
Saraswati Gangadhar, author of Gurucharitra, a poetic work of the fourteenth century, mentions that Alauddin II (1435-57), of the Bahamani dynasty which ruled over much of Deccan India, including parts of present day Maharashtra between the 13th and 16th century, held great respect for Narsimha Saraswati, the hero of Gurucharitra.
Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1490-1510) another Bahmani ruler, tried to create cultural harmony among Shias, Sunnis and Hindus through the medium of Art. According to Chitnis (p48) he was a worshipper of Allah and a Hindu goddess. Both the Mandir and the Masjid were sacred to him. His official documents would begin with the words Az-puja-i Shri Saraswati. He built a temple at Bijapur dedicated to Lord Narsimha. He bestowed liberal grants to temples and safeguarded the rights of pujaris. Little wonder that he came to be known as Jagadguru.
The Mahanbhav Matha of Otur (Pune) received land grants from the Nizam Shahi rulers who ruled over large parts of Deccan (1490-1633) with their capital at Ahmednagar in present day Maharashtra. Chand bibi, the regent of Ahmednagar (1596-99) and sister of Hussain Nizam Shah I, sent a note to her officers to respect all such grants to Hindus and Brahmans. The priest of Pedgaon (Ahmednagar) too received land grant from Malik Amber (1549-1626) who was a very popular Siddi Prime Minister in the Ahmednagar Sultanate (Kulkarni p. 113).
Among the rulers of the Maratha Empire (1674-1818), Shivaji’s grandfather, Maloji Bhonsale was a disciple of the legendary Muslim saint-poet, Shaikh Muhammad, and when Maloji shifted to Nizamshahi (in Ahmednagar district) he brought Shaikh Muhammad along with him (Kulkarni p.110). Maloji also gave 12 bigha land to Shaikh Muhammad and built a math (hermitage) for him at Shrigonde (Dhere, p60). Ramdas, the great saint poet of 17th century, was a strong critic of the Muslim rule but a great admirer of Shaikh Muhammad (Chitnis, p110). Sant Ramdas was Shivaji’s guru.
Maloji Bhaonsale’s wife and Shivaji’s grandmother, Umabai, took a vow to Shah Sharif of Ahmednagar for a child and when she gave birth to two sons, they were named after this Pir : Shahaji and Sharifji, in gratitude for his blessings (Dhere, p.60). The dargah of Shah Sharif enjoyed two villages, Eklare and Konosi under the Marathas (Bendre). Mir Sayyid Sadi of Nasik and Mulla Hussaini Mosque of Rannebennur (Dharwad) received inam lands from Shahaji (Kulkarni p. 112). Shivaji held great respect for Baba Yakut of Utambar village near Kelashi (Ratnagiri) and Sambhaji undertook the construction of his dargah which eventually remained incomplete. Numerous Muslim holy men received allowances for maintenance and illumination of mosques from Shivaji, including the Pir of Sayyid Sadat Hazrat (Pune region). The Kazi of Indapur and the khidmatgar of the Bhambavade mosque received land and allowances from Shivaji. Many believe that Shivaji’s son, Sambhaji was victorious against the Portuguese due to the blessings of Pir Abdullah Khan and in return the Prime Minsiter, Kavi Kailash granted the Pir certain allowances. Shivaji’s grandson, Shahuji gave an entire village in grant to the Muslim saint Sayyid Ata-ullah of Shakarkoti of Loni in Pune. The Peshwas too were equally generous and benevolent towards Muslim holy men: Pirs Sayyid Sada and Shaikh Salah received grants from Peshwas for construction purposes. Even the dispute among them regarding who would lead the Muharram procession was settled by the Peshwas. Dargah of Shaikh Salah and Takiya of Angad Shah received one sher of rice and one paisa for Frankincense every day from the royal palace.
The village councils were called gotsabhas and enjoyed supreme positon in the society and state and it decided cases that effected the whole society. The Kazi and the Maulana had a seat in the gotsabha and in every village Got, the proportion of Muslim members was usually proportional to the Muslim population in that village. Both the Hindus and Muslims sat together in the temple village and settled disputes irrespective of caste or religion. Mulansara, a kind of tax originally introduced by the Muslim rulers for the maintenance of the village Maulana continued under the Marathas. Muslim Patils were not unheard of under the Marathas (Kulkarni p.115).
Both the Bhakti and Sufi movements were at their peak during this period, both sought to bring about socio-religious reforms in their communities. With their message of universal love and brotherhood, they placed the service of fellow humans above religious rituals. Muslims learnt Sanskrit and also studied the sacred poetry of Bhakti saints. The study of the ‘other’ religion promoted a better understanding of each other and helped in eradication of religious prejudices. The well-known Marathi saint poet of this period, Sant Eknath wrote his famous gatha – Hindu Turk Samvad which consisted of a dialogue between a Hindu and a Muslim (Turk) who, at the end of a lengthy dialogue, end up respecting each other as creations of Khuda. Sufis at this time made valuable contributions to devotional literature in Marathi. Shaikh Muhammad, the Muslim saint poet wrote Yoga Sangram (1645), Nishkalanka Prabodh, Pavan Vijaya and 300 abhangas (devotional poetry sung in the praise of the Lord Vitthal) in Marathi. Another Muslim saint of this period, Husain Ambakhan, who was a devotee of Lord Ganesh, wrote a Marathi commentary on the Bhagvatgita. Shah Muntoji Bhahmani, a Muslim saint of the seventeenth century, who hailed from the royal family of Bidar (Bahmani Rulers) was initiated into the Bhakti cult by a Hindu saint – Sahajanand Swami of Kalyan (Bijapur). Shah Muntoji wrote Panchikaran in Dakhani Hindi, outlining the common fundamental concepts in Hindu and Muslim scriptures. His contemporary, Shah Muni, a Muslim saint, lamented that the enmity between Hindus and Muslims was due to the absence of proper understanding of their respective faiths (Kulkarni p.111).
Time and again the people, the mystics and the leaders have proved that the essence of this land is peace and harmony in spite of differences and diversity. Let us sow the seeds of love again in the consciousness of this sub-continent.
References and Extra Reading:
Bendre, V S. Ed. Maharashtr etihasachi Sadhane, vols.1-3: part II vol II: 314,315
Chitnis, Krishnaji Nageshrao.2003. Medieval Indian History. Atlantic Publishers and Distributes. New Delhi
Dhere, R C. 1967. Musalman Marathi Sant Kavi. Padyagandha Prakashan. Pune.
Kularni A R. 1999. Social Relations in Medieval Maharashtra: Experiments in Living Together. In: We Lived Together. Eds. S Settar and P K V Kaimal. 1999. Pragati Publications. Delhi
Parasnis, D B (ed.). 1917. Peshwe Daftaratil Sanadpatratil Mahiti, Bombay
Potdar, D V. (Introduction) Aitihasik Samkeerna Sahitya, BISM Publication, Pune vol. 8 (ASS Vol.)
Rajwade, V K (ed.). 1908. Marathyanchya Itihasachi Sadhane. Vol.15. Kolhapur.
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 savior 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 stands 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 recited 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 center 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.
‘You and I quarreled to open up the knowledge of high truth,
In order to enlighten the very ignorant.
In place of karma-awakening!!’
Pemmaraju G. The Mystic Circle: Sufis, Sants & the Songs of the Deccan
Ahmend S A. 2011. A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From the Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century. Dorling Kindersley. New Delhi .
Prasoon S. 2009.Indian Saints and Sages.Hindology Books. Pustaka Mahal, Delhi.
Novetzke C L. 2008. Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India. Columbia University Press. New York
Sadangi H C. 2008.Emancipation of Dalits and Freedom Struggle. Isha Books. Delhi
Rigopoulos A. 1998. Dattatreya: The Immortal Guru, Yogin, and Avatara: A Study of the Transformative and Inclusive Character of a Multi-Faceted Hindu Deity. State University of New York Press. New York.
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 onwards 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 outcast 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.
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 had been enjoying a wide reputation nearly four of five centuries before Dnyaneshwar. Dnyaneshwar’s father and grandfather were regular visitors to Pandharpur.He was 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 was an advocate of Bhakti marga. But bhakti, for him, meant more than sentimental affection, it meant the turning around of the whole being towards the Godhead. Dnyaneshwar’s philosophy and poetry, are rooted in concrete life experience of an ordinary human not given to exotic flights of imagination.
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 Brahmans. The priests and Brahmans, 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 (an avatar of Shri Krishna) . 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, Amritanubhavais nectar of wisdom 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”
Sadarangani, N M. 2004. Bhakti Poetry in Medieval India: Its Inception, Cultural Encounter and Impact. Sarup & Sons. New Delhi
Jnanadeva and the Warkari Movement by Prof. Fred Dallmayr, Ph.D.
A midst the crowded by-lanes of Old Ahmadabad city, in an obscure corner, lies the Pir Mohammad Shah Dargah Trust. You may almost miss its entrance – an ancient stone and mortar arched doorway, partly hidden by the motley shops sprawled around it. Inside the gate lie the dargah, masjid and qutubkhana (library) complex.
Born in 1689 in the Bijapur city of Karnataka, Pir Mohammad Shah was a Hussaini Sayyed and a well-respected Sufi who lived in Ahmadabad during the rule of Aurangzeb. His parents emigrated from the holy city of Medina and settled in Bijapur where he was born. His father died before his birth and his uncle, Abd ur-Rehman – a Sufi belonging to the lineage of Shaikh Abd ul-Qadri Jilani of Baghdad, trained the young Mohammad Shah in religious scholarship and practical Sufism. The Pir memorized the Quran at the young age of seven and became an accomplished qari, performed Haj at the age of twelve and thereafter stayed in Medina for several years pursuing higher learning. He spent his adolescent years visiting great centers of learning in the Islamic world and paying homage at the dargah of saints. He later returned to his home at Bijapur and from there moved to Ahmadabad At that time, the Kalupur and Rajpur localities of Ahmedabad were well known for the prosperous trading communities of Sunni Bohras, who became his murids. In Ahmadabad the Pir took up residence at the historical Jame Masjid. The Pir would regularly visit the dargah of Hazrat Shah Wajiuddin to pay his homage and obtain guidance from Hazrat Shah’s descendent, Hazrat Abdullah Gujarati. On his daily sojourns from the Jame Masjid to Hazrat Wajiuddin’s dargah, the Pir would rest a while on the way at an old widow’s front yard. After his passing away in the year 1750, as per his request, Pir Mohammad Shah was buried near the house of this widow. His dargah stands there today.
The Pir was a great lover of learning and possessed an extraordinary memory powers. During his lifetime, the Pir and his murids had amassed a huge collection of manuscripts and books of great academic and spiritual value. These are housed in the qutubkhana. This library has over 2000 original manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sindhi and Turkish, which are 700 to 800 years old. Many of them contain hand written explanatory notes along the margins by the Pir himself. Among the prized manuscripts is the Mahabharat in Persian written by a Wadanagar Nagar Brahmin who worked in the courts of the Mughals, a copy of the holy Quran hand written by Aurangzeb, Al-Buruni’s ‘Gurt-ul Ziyaat’, and Radha Krishna Geet translated into Persian. The library has a treasure trove of over 10,000 books in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English covering diverse subjects. The trustees have prepared microfilms and photocopies of some rare books. Pir Mohammad Shah was a bi-lingual poet himself and wrote profusely in Persian and Dakhani. Among his many works, the best known is Nur ush-Shuyukh in Persian which is versified history in the Mutaqarib meter.
The qutubkhana has small museum show casing various belonging of the Pir, some of the ancient manuscripts and a human-size candle brought here from Mecca. The PMS library is considered on of its kind in western part of India – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered by lovers of Islamic science, literature and art. Rulers and wise men who came to this land are no more, but the knowledge they left behind still prevails.
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 :
‘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 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.
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 BIDES
kaahe 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 directedby 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)
– English translation by Rupa Abdi
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
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 myinterpretation 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….
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 word 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
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)
SUFI POETRY BY POPULAR SINGERS AND BANDS
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.