Mar 1, 2010

The Colour Khusro

Today of course is Holi, a day for adults to do some fingerpainting of their own. There is hardly a non-contact version of the festival, no wall where you can guiltlessly fling paint at, as young 'uns do in a chic urban Hindi film in a slow motion sequence.

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 mero man piyuu ko/dono bhaye ek". 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 hai
aye maa hai ri
mere mehbuub ke ghar hai ri
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, and the Sabri Brothers have famous recitals of "aaj rang hai".

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.


Unknown said...

I've always wanted to read Amir Khusro but never got around to doing that. Though with most of Kashmiri poetry Sufi (esp after the Persian influence with Islam coming to the valley) I have a slight exposure to it. Don't know if you've read Niazi's work on Ghalib...most "love" sonnet interpretations are wonderfully deep in meaning and simple on a singular read...

Dhananjay said...

good links!

Unknown said...

Upasna: I haven't read Niazi's work. Will try to look it up. And as for Kashmit, after all, isn't he the same Khusro who remarked: "Gar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast"!

Dhananjay: yes, quite up your street :-)

Unknown said...

Interesting that I have had the exact same sequence of discoveries about Khusru and the referencing by Gulzar. Btw even Chhap Tilak is widely referenced in Hindi movies/pop.

ashodara said...

Sufi poetry in Hindavi/Avadhi by Amir Khusro were among the first to find place in Bollywood movies beginning with the famous ‘Bahut Kathin hai dagar panghat ki’ in the film Barsat ki raat (1960), directed by P.L.Soni under the music direction of Roshan. 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.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment, Rupa-ji.