Spiritual songs of A. R. Rahman

This is a long due post.  I had been contemplating writing this for many days, but the list of songs grew too much to accommodate in a single post.  I had also thought about writing a separate post about qawwalis of A. R. Rahman, mainly the trio:  Piya Haji Ali from Fiza, Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar, and Kun Faya Kun from Rockstar.  I could not complete that project too.  Then, I wanted to dedicate a post to Mann Mohana from Jodha Akbar; again I couldn’t do it.  Finally, here I am with this post, and I have decided to base this post only on three songs, three different genres, three different religions, dedicated to that one Almighty.

My first one for today is Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar.  Dedicated to Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, this is one of the best spiritual songs produced over the recent years.  Rahman has sung this song himself, and he sounds the best in his own voice.  The spirituality that is a part of Rahman’s very nature seems apparent in this song.  Especially, in the starting of the song, he calls out khwaja ji, it sounds like a qawwal is really at the steps of Ajmer Darbar and calling his God from the bottom of his guts.  The composition and musical arrangement of this song is awesome, and the wonderful use of Tabla — I have never heard anyone else in Bollywood using Tabla such beautifully in the recent years.  The long-term monotonous use of Tabla had pushed that wonderful percussion instrument to the verge of hating, Rahman brought it back to scene.  Rahman brought back qawwali back to Bollywood.  Can you recall any qawwali in the last decade other than by Rahman’s? (I won’t comment if you call “tum se mil ke dil ka hai ye haal kya karein” by Anu Malik a qawwali).

Lyrics are the plus point of this qawwali.  As far as I know, this qawwali is not written by Javed Akhtar; I am not sure of the lyricist.  I would point out a couple of beautiful places in the poetry.  Firstly, “chahne se tujh ko khwaja ji mustafa ko paya…”  The lyricist has wonderfully woven the monotheist beliefs of Islam with his love for Sufism.  Islam does not allow a believer to worship anyone other than the one almighty God, the Allah.  How can one worship Moinuddin Chishti, a Sufi saint, a mortal one, along with the Allah?  Many Muslim scholars have argued against the worship of peer and fakirs.  It is against the basic idea of “la ilaah al allah” i.e. no one is worthy of worship but the Allah.  The word Allah itself means “Al ilah”, The One Worshipable, Al being the definite article in Arabic.  The lyrist says “Loving you oh Khwaja, I found the God.”  He loves the Khwaja as a way leading to the Almighty One, thus combining the idea of Sufism with the “la ilah al allah.

The second place, where he says “tere qadmo.n ko mere rahnuma nahi chhodna gawara”.  I found this to be the best metaphor used in Bollywood songs in the recent years.  He is saying that “Oh lord, I will never leave your feet”, but he does not say it in a common notion that I have hold your feet and never leave them, but he call his lord his “rahnuma”, the one who shows the path.  Think of this line with this meaning:  “Oh rahnuma, I will never leave your footsteps, I will never leave the way you have shown!”

I have already written a long post and have covered on one song.  Let’s move towards the second one for today.  The other one from the same movie, Jodha Akbar, a song dedicated to Lord Krishna, Mann Mohana.  Although being a proclaimed agnostic atheist, notwithstanding with my faith, I love this song.  Beautiful composition by Rahman, rarely heard voice of Bela Sulakhe, and again wonderful lyrics this time by Javed Akhtar.  I love to play to play this song in low volume while I’m slowly falling asleep.

Krishna has been a loving figure for Indian women for ages.  Often the divine love for Krishna is perceived as the extreme height of carnal love.  Queen Jodha is singing for the Krishna, “Mann Mohana, Kanha suno na, tum bin paau kaise chain”:  Oh Kanha, where shall I found peace without you.  And in the following lines she unfolds her dilemma to her beloved Manmohan.

Ek pal ujiyara aaye ek pal andhiyara chhaye, mann kyu na ghabaraye?
Mann jo koi doraha apni raaho.n mein paaye, kaun disha jaaye? tum bin kaun samjhaye?

A moment of light, a moment of darkness, how can’t my heart feel scared. The heart sees two ways in front of me, which one shall I takes?  Who will guide me without you?

I don’t like the heavy orchestration in between stanzas in this song, but even with that, this is one of my most favorite spiritual songs, and a wonderful lullaby to put me sleep!

The third one for today is “Roshan hui raat” from Pukar.  I know there are many better spiritual songs by Rahman, but I chose this because this song rarely gets the attention it deserves.  A light silent tune, a beautiful unknown voice, jingle bells, all make this Christmas song a wonderful listen.  The lyrics are not as great as the above two, but still a wonderful little song.

There are a lot many songs, for example the above-mentioned qawwalis, the songs from Swades, Lagaan, and a lot more.  I have already made this post too long.  I don’t know if someone is going to read it complete; do let me know if you read it full.  Also, let me know about your personal favorites from Rahman, may be I will write a post about it some time later 🙂

Update:  Kailash pointed out that the last song Roshan Hui Raat is from Sapnay and not from Pukaar.  I had made an error in haste.  In fact, I didn’t know it.  Thanks for letting me know!

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17 Responses to “Spiritual songs of A. R. Rahman”

  1. mayur hulsar Says:

    I read it, till the last.. and survived it! 😉

    in fact liked it!

    Right now, I m not able to remember any song from Rahman, kind of sleepy! but will try to think over it.

  2. Vishal Says:

    Interesting interpretation of the Rehnuma line. It makes sense!

    I think the lyrics were written by someone named Kashif – I don’t know who he is, and if he has penned any other songs….

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      I really loved the “rehnuma” part when I heard it for the first time only, but I thought it was by Javed Akhtar. I also used to quote that line as an example of genius of Javed Akhtar. I knew it from your blog that it is by Kashif, but I too could find nothing about him.

      I tweeted Javed Akhtar today asking about the lyricist of this song, waiting for his reply 🙂

  3. kailash mohankar Says:

    These both songs are my favourite songs and I often listen them. Few months ago the song ‘Mann Mohana’ was my routine song while morning walk. I’ll go for third song from Pukar. I liked the post very much. Wonderful interpretation!

  4. tausif Says:

    First Of All, this is a Nice Note to read.

    I Guess khawaja mere Khawaha was written by AR Rahman’s Peer with the Pen Name Kashif.

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      Thanks Tausif for your comment! Do you know something more about this lyricist Kashif? I would be very helpful; no one of us know anything about him!

      • tausif Says:

        No, i Guess he is not the lyricist.

        AR Rahman Once said
        “I was disturbed by September 11th and the Iraq war, and the way the world was getting divided. It was then that I met my new spiritual teacher who gave me a new perspective on life. By the way, he wrote the words of ‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja’ (from Jodhaa Akbar) under his pen name ‘Kashif’.”

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      Thanks Tausif for this valuable information, I will try to dig it more!!

  5. Shweta Hardikar Says:

    You can also include Ariziyaan from Delhi 6 to this list.

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      This list can go on expanding Shweta! There are a few bhajans in Lagaan, also a few in Swades, etc. Arziyaan is a wonderful song too. But I have some problem connecting with Prasoon Joshi. He is a wonderful poet/lyricist (Phir Milenge etc.), there is no doubt about it, but poor human mind, sometimes it just cannot connect with a few things, however good they are!

      By the way, thanks for commenting. May be I will come back to your technical writings clicking on your name above!!

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      Hey, giving it a serious listen 🙂 #NowPlaying Arziyan.. 🙂

  6. Adnan Says:

    The word Mustafa is the another name of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him) it doesn’t means Allah. And He is the greatest ‘Rehnuma’ (Guide) for Mankind to reach God, Allah.

    So the line ‘Mustafa ko paayaa’ means on loving Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, one is directed to Mustafa (Peace be upon Him) as Khwaja’s Love & Affection for Humanity is nothing but a reflection of Love Affection & Compassion of Mohammad Mustafa (Peace be upon Him)

    • Ganesh Dhamodkar Says:

      Thanks, Adnaan, for the clarification! I know very little about the Islamic terminology, and it’s really so kind of your to correct me!

      Even with this new meaning, the song still keeps its essence, doesn’t it?

  7. Adnan Says:

    Yeah Brother Ganesh, Indeed the essence of songs remains the same!!! its still with same healing & soothing effects!!!

    The swirling of Derveshs is a kind of meditation, practiced to attain a level where one can focus on God. And this stage, where one gets focused on God, is the primary stage of salvation as its final station is of dissolving oneself in the Love of God, and thats called ‘fanaa’ in Sufism.

    I am too a practising Sufi, striving the attain that primary stage.

  8. Kiran Kumar Says:

    Rehman’s qawwalis have a beauty of their own. Some are spiritual like ‘Khwaja mere’ and some are not. My evergreen favorite qawwali of Rehman’s is Noor-un-ala from Meenaxi.

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