Thursday, March 16, 2006

Holi Hay!

Last weekend was the festival of Holi, the (particularly North Indian) spring festival of the colors of life springing anew after the dead of winter. The festival itself is mostly seen as a Hindu festival, and mainly of Northern India--especially in these increasingly polarized and parochial times. Urdu also developed and grew in the region where this festival is celebrated and the theme of the festival itself and of colours, and of being coloured and painted in the hues of life and other truths is one that comes up often in Urdu poetry. This post is an attempt to gather a few examples and maybe start a conversation about it. Readers are requested to contribute their own pieces of Urdu literature that carry the theme. You can either email me, or post them here directly as comments.

The first is a quote from an Urdu qawwali where the poet--as Urdu poets are wont to--plays with layers of meaning and multiple themes and meanings, some coquettish, some mystical, some sublime, some sensual and erotic.

A couple of quick notes that might help the enjoyment of the first piece, and then I will get out of your way and let you enjoy the poetry:

The word "Sufi" is the thakhallus, the nome de plume and artistic signature of the poet. But, as is often the case, the playful pun on the meaning increases the depth, the pleasure, and the subversive meanings of the piece.

The theme of dyeing someting, or imbibing it with hues is a recurring one in Urdu poetry, especially the subaltern and proto-Urdu work of the likes of Khusrau and others and in Sufi-hued (excuse the pun) works out of South Asia generally. This carried both the subversive sub-text of glorifying the lowly manual labourer that the "rang-raiz" ("rangrajwa" in the language of Khusrau and my grandmother) was seen as, and the meaning of imbibing spiritual truths and being suffused with them like a cloth takes on the dye used to give it its color.

With that, here's the first piece:

NaheeN jis pay ishq ka kuch asar, bhala uss kee husn ki kyaa nazar
Usay kyaa basanth kee hoe khabar, joe ranga na jayay gulaal main

Mujhay Sufi saaf batha'iyay, na chupa'iyay na chhipa'iyay
KaheeN holi k-hailee hai aapnay, joe rangay hain kapray gulaal main

or, in quick and dirty English translation:

On whom Love has no effect; oh, what eye does such a person have on Beauty?
What does a person know of the Spring, who has not been painted in vermillion?

Tell me frankly, Oh Sufi, don't hide it, don't keep it hidden
You've played Holi somewheres; is that why your clothes are all coloured in vermillion?

On my request, Munir Saami Saahab of Toronto and places far, far East, was kind enough to send the following lines from Nazeer Akbarabadi. The piece is, I guess, though I would not swear by it, on a somewhat less profound level.

[Apologies for not being able to provide translations--it would take weeks to do the pieces justice. If anyone can contribute translations, please do.]

Hooaa jo aa kay nishaaN aashkaar Holi ka
Baja roobaab say mil kar sitaar Holi ka
Surood, Raqs hooaa bay shumaar Holi ka
Hansi Khooshi meiN barha karobaar Holi Ka
Zabaan pay naam hooaa baar baar Holi ka

Khooshi ki dhhoom say her ghar may rang banwaaey
Guulaal, abeer kay bhar bhar kay thhaal rakhwaaey
NashoN kay josh hooey raag o rang thheraaey
Jhuumaktay roop kay bun bun sawaang dikhlaaey
Hooaa huujoom ajab her kinaar Holi Ka

Gali meiN koochay meiN, ghuul shor ho rahey aksar
Pharrakney rang lagey yaar her gharri bhar bhar
Badan meiN bhheegay heiN kaprey guulaal chehroN per
Machi yeh dhoom to apnay gharoN say khhoosh ho kar
Tamaasha daikhney niklay nigaar Holi ka

Bahaar kaproN ki, her ik ko jab nazar aaee
Her Ishq baaz nay dil ki muraad bhar paaee
Nigah larraa kay puukaara her aik shaidaaee
MiyaaN yeh tuum nay jo poshaak apni dikhlaaee
Khoosh aayaa ab hameiN naqsh o nigaar Holi ka

Tuumhaarey daikh kay muukh per guulaal ki laali
Hamaarey dil ko hooee, her tarah ki khoosh haali
Nigah nay dee maa'ey guulrang kee bharee piyaali
Jo hans kay do hameiN piyaarey tuum iss gharree gaali
To hum bhee jaaneiN kay aisaa hay piyaar Holi ka

Jo kee hay tuum nay yeh, holi kee tuurfa tayaari
To hans kay daikho idhar ko bhee jaan yak baari
Tumhaari aan bohat hum ko lagti hay piyaari
Lagaa di haath say apnay jo aik pichkaari
To hum bhee daikheiN badan per singhaar Holi ka

Tuumhaarey milney ka, rakh ker hum apney dil meiN dhiyaan
Kharrey heiN, aass lagaa ker kay daikh leiN ik aan
Yeh khoosh dili ka jo thehra hay aan ker saamaan
Galey meiN daal kay baanheiN khooshi say tuum ay jaan
Pinhaao hum ko bhee ik dum yeh haar Holi ka

Uudhar say rang liyay aao tuum idhhar say hum
Guulaal abeer maleiN moonh pay ho kay khoosh her dum
Khooshi say boleiN, hanseiN , Holi khail kar baahum
Bohat dinoN say hameiN to tuumhaarey sir ki qasam
Issi umeed meiN thaa, intizaar Holi ka

BuutooN ki gaaliyaaN hans hans kay kooee sehtaa hay
Guulaal parta hay kaproN say rang behtaa hay
Lagaa kay taak kooee , moonh ko daikh rehtaa hay
Nazeer, Yaar say apney kharra yeh kehtaa hay
Maza dikhaa hameiN kuuchh too bhee yaar Holi ka

Munir Saahab followed that up with this, again from Nazeer, this time adding the comment that "the editors of the kuuliyaat have censored some juicy pieces. But even the left over is hot!"

Holi ki bahaareiN

Jab phaagan rang jhamaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Aur duff kay shor kharraktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
PariyoN kay rang damakaty hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Khhuum, sheeshay, jaam chhalaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Mehboob nashay meiN chhaktay hoN, tub daik bahaareiN Holi kee

Ho naach rangeeli pariyoN ka, baithay hoN gulroo rang bharay
kuuchh bheegi taaneiN holi ki, kuuchh naaz o adaa kay dhhang bharay
Dil phoolay daikh bahaaroN ko, aur kaanoN meiN aahang bharay
Kuuchh tablay kharrkeiN rang bharay, kuuchh aish kay moonh dum chang bharay
Kuuchh ghoongroo taal chhanaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Saamaan jahaaN tak hota hay, iss ishrat kay matlooboN ka
Woh sab saamaan moohaiyaa ho, aur baagh khuula ho khooboN ka
Her aan sharaabeiN dhalti hoN, aur tthutthh ho rang kay dooboN ka
Iss aish, mazay kay aalam meiN, ik ghaul kharra mehboobooN ka
KaproN per rang chirraktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Guulzzar khuulay hoN pariyoN kay, aur majlis ki tayyari ho
KaproN per rang kay chheentoN say, khhoosh rang ajab guulkaari ho
Moonh laal, goolaabi aankhieN hoN, aur haathhoN meiN pichkaari ho
Woh ranh bharee pichkaree jo, angiya per tuk kar maari ho
SeenoN say rang dhalaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Uuss rang rangeeli majlis meiN, randi bhee naachnay waali ho
Moonh jiss ka chaand ka tukrra ho, aur aankh bhee maey ki piyaali ho
Budmust, barree matwaali ho, her aan bajaatee taali ho
Maey noshi ho, bay hoshi ho, "Bharway" ki moonh meiN gaali ho
Bharway bhee "bharwa" baktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Aur aik taraf dil lainay ko, mehboob bhhawaiyoN kay larkay
Her aan gharee gut phartay hoN, kuuchh ghutt ghutt kay, kuuchh hutt hutt kay
Kuuchh naaz jataaweiN larr larr kay, kuuchh holi gaaweiN arr arr kay
Kuuchh lachkay shokh kamar patlee, kuuchh haath chalay, kuuchh tun pharrkay
Kuuchh kaafir nain mataktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee


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Qalandar said...

Great post-- especially the verses from "Sufi"...

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Anonymous said...

I and Sabiha Saba greatly appreciate the good work in Promotion of URDU all over the World.We appreciate the website as it is interesting,informative.I will be going to Pakistan,India, Qatar,KSA,Kuwait,Bahrain,Oman, Bangladesh to meet poets,writers for literary programs in URDU and in different languages.
Syed Saghier Ahmad Jafri,POB 26137 , Abu Dhabi (UAE)
Tel. 00971 50 4454036