Couplets on Compassion

A number of close friends including my wife got me started on writing a weekly blog almost three years ago and have continued to offer support and encouragement.  Some readers have requested that I write about music, Sufi poetry and ghazals etc., providing a loose translation if possible, as they do not know Hindi/Punjabi/Urdu well enough to be able to understand the lyrics.  At the outset, I must confess that I cannot read/write Urdu and Farsi (Persian) although over the years have started to understand some of the more common works of “shaayars” (poets) who have composed in these languages.  I rely heavily on the “lugat” (Urdu dictionary) and the counsel of friends who know these languages well.  In any event, my blog does not profess to be a literary piece, but an attempt to help friends gain an understanding and appreciation of prose and verse from India and Pakistan; something they may not be readily familiar with, but have an interest in discovering.

This week a very dear friend V wrote a long and supportive email, reminding me to do a “music blog”.  For my first blog of this type, I have chosen a poetry form referred to as a “doha”.  With its origins in ancient India, a “doha” is typically a couplet sung/composed by poets belonging to what was known as the “Bhakti” (Devotional) Movement.  Kabir, Raskhan, Guru Nanak and Amir Khusro all used this poetry form, using local dialects and simple imagery to shatter the hold of orthodox clergy on simple, rustic common folk.

A modern Urdu poet Nida Fazli, who passed away in February 2016 (the month when I posted my first blog) used this poetry form extensively.  Just like many great poets before him, Nida sahib was able to convey hard-hitting messages in just two short lines.  A famous “doha” he recited often, was:

“Bachhaa bolaa dekh kar, Masjid aleeshaan

Allah tere ek ko, itnaa badaa makaan”

[Exclaimed the little boy, on seeing the majestic House of Prayer

O Lord, such a huge abode for you, a single person!]

Nida Fazli went on to say that he was ostracized by some for composing this couplet and asked to explain whether he considered God or the child to be the greater entity.  He responded, “I do not know who is big or small.  I just concede that a House of Prayer is assembled by the hands of men, whereas a child is shaped by God’s hands”.

Legendary ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, a very good friend of Nida Fazli, recorded the following composition in 1993.  It is an invocation to reintroduce Compassion in our lives:

A Garajbaras pyāsī dhartī par phir paanī de maulā


(Sound the) thunder and let the rain (of your compassion) shower the parched land once more, O Lord
chiiyoñ ko daane bachchoñ ko guḌ-dhānī de maulā


(provide) grain (seeds) to the birds, jaggery and rice husk (basic nourishment) to the children, O Lord
B Do aur do kā johamesha chaar kahāñ hotā hai


is it possible that two and two may not necessarily add up to four?
soch samajh vāloñ ko thoḌī nādānī de maulā


grant a little innocence to (guide the actions of) those brimming with knowledge (full of pride), O Lord
C Phir roshan kar zehr kā pyaalaa

chamkaa naiee saleebeñ


illuminate again, the chalice of poison[1], highlight new crosses[2]
jhooToñ kī duniyā meiñ sach ko taabaanī de maulā


(in this) world of liars irradiate (bring forth) truth, O Lord
D Phir mūrat se bāhar aa kar chāroñ or bikhar jā


emerge from (the confines of) the idol and disperse everywhere
phir mandir ko koī ‘Meera deevānī de maulā


grant anew an ecstatic Meera[3] to each temple, O Lord
E Tere hote koī kis kī jaan kā dushman kyuuñ ho


with You (the abiding protector) why should anyone take another person’s life?
jeene vāloñ ko mar ne kī āsānī de maulā


Grant an easy passage to the living beings whose life journey draws to a close, O Lord

Reference to Socrates, who was made to drink a cup of poison as punishment for speaking the truth

[2] Referencing Jesus Christ

[3] Meera bai forsook her family over her devotion to the Hindu God Krishna

3 Replies to “Couplets on Compassion”

  1. Pankaj Jee, listened to your music with explanation few times. What a choice with explanation. People like me who like to listen to gazals, but lot of time cannot understand , your explanations will give gazals a new dimension. Please keep up the good work!!


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