A year or two ago, I saw an interesting documentary on NDTV (their weekend documentary show is often worth a watch) which must centred around Holi and colours, I'm sure. It featured Ustad Sultan Khan who began singing "aaj rang hai" which, until then in my vast ignorance, I only knew as lines appearing in the Maqbool soundtrack's Jhin Min Jhini.
The same album has a longer version of the same song, which begins with "khusro rain suhaag ki, jaage pii ke sa.ng/tan mero man piyuu ko/dono bhaye ek ra.ng". The programme explained the Sufi concept of "rang", which is more than just the literal meaning of "colour". It refers to a kind of "luminescence" of God1, a divine colour, the oneness that the Sufi wants to achieve with his beloved Lord. Phrases like "mujhe rang de" are well known to us via Hindi film songs. In Sufi thought, there seems to be this treatment of the Lord and the devotee as beloveds, with the devotee seeking union with his God, which is why the use of romantic vocabulary of words like "prem", "suhaag", "piyaa".
Returning to "aaj rang hai", whose writer was (if you haven't guessed already) Amir Khusro. This post by Sheetal Vyas describes a popular version of the story behind the verses. Khusro meets Hazrat Nizammudin Aulia, and having found his mentor, is over the moon and runs home to tell his mother. So he writes:
aaj ra.ng haiNusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, and the Sabri Brothers have famous recitals of "aaj rang hai".
aye maa ra.ng hai ri
mere mehbuub ke ghar ra.ng hai ri
Incidentally, looks like Gulzar who wove these verses in "Jhin Min Jhini" made another reference to Khusro in a song for "Saathiya" by using the phrase "nainaa milaaike".
It's a coincidence that I watched Gulaal last week, but perhaps a separate post on it another day.
Some more links
1. An article on Amir Khusro
2. A few Khusro poems (with translations)
1. I'm sure my interpretations are lacking in depth and meaning, since they are based on recollections of a TV show and half an evening's reading.