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Decoding the popular song, 'Dama, Dam, Mast Kalandar'
'Aaoge jab tum o saajana, Angana phool khilenge Barsega saawan, barsega saawan jhoom jhoomke Do dil aise milenge Aaoge jab tum o saajana, angana phool khilenge'

Above lines soulfully rendered by classical vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, are from a hit song from the popular movie 'Jab We Met', starring Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor.

One may think that the above lines are from a present Bollywood lyricist. Not so! Well the song was written by Amir Khusrau, a 13th century Sufi mystic, musician, scholar and a man of many parts. 

Amir Khusrau's contribution to India's cultural life is immense and difficult to fathom. Over the years, I have come to realise that some of the songs, which send me into a blissful trance, were all written by Amir Khusrau. This is so not only in India, but also to be seen in baithaks in Pakistan and elsewhere. 

One only needs a harmonium, and there we go tapping our feet, whirling and singing along. My other favourite is: 'Chaap Tilak sab cheeni re, moh se naina milayke':

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.
Chaap Tilak sab cheeni re, moh se naina milayke.

All his songs, though worded earthily had deep spiritual connotations, which transcend us, as we hear, sing or dance to them.

Khusrow is regarded as the 'father of Qawwali' and also referred as the 'father of Urdu literature'. Not the least, he brought my favourite samosa to India! 

In the early 70s we were in Madras, when a friend presented us an LP of a new singing sensation from Bangladesh, Runa Laila. She brought a new zest to music, and that is the time I first heard songs like, ' Aaj jaane ke zidd na karo', or 'Ranjish hi sahi'. Not the least, her 'Dama, dam, mast kalandar', sent the entire family humming. 

While the song had a rhythm and sent every one clapping to the beat, or dancing, I never understood what the song was all about. Who was this 'mast kalandar'? What did 'Ali ka pahla number' mean? Etc! 

Recently, I developed a sneaking feeling that 'Dama, dam, mast kalandar', though generally attributed to Bulleh Shah, may be really written by Amir Khusrow. And I was right! 

Amir Khusrow had written a prayer, which was modified and fashioned as a qawwali by Bulleh Shah, who also added lines of praise for Shahbaz Qalandar, thus turning it into a Sindhi staple. 

If one goes by an account in the Wikipedia, the song as we know it today was given the present melody by Pakistani composer, Ashiq Hussain for a film, 'Jabroo'. Words 'Laal Meri Pat' once again possibly refer to another Sindhi icon 'Jhule Lal'. 

"The song "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" was popularized by the 1969 Pakistani film Dillan Dey Soudey, where it was modified by Nazir Ali and sung by Noor Jehan. It was then sung by other Pakistani singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aziz Mian, Abida Parveen, the Sabri Brothers, Reshma, Komal Rizvi, and Junoon. The song has also been performed by the Bangladeshi singer Runa Laila, and Indian artists like Hans Raj Hans, the Wadali brothers, Harshdeep Kaur, Nooran Sisters, and Mika Singh (with Yo Yo Honey Singh)". 

So we see, how in 13th century a prayer written by Amir Khusrau has been totally transformed by various entities, and I have no idea what was the original prayer.

Nevertheless, all over the world various avatars of 'Dama, dam, mast kalandar' are sung and danced too. And with what bliss and frenzy! 

This New Year Eve, my children and grandchildren, too sang and danced to 'Dama, dam, mast Kaldandar', in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

(Inset photo shows Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing the ever popular, 'Dama, dam, mast Kalandar')

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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