Amir Khusro

Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia,
painting, Deccan, circa 1725.

Amir Khusru is one of the iconic figures in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent. A Sufi mystic and a spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi, Amir Khusro was a notable poet and musician of the 13th century. He has been termed as the "father of qawwali" (the devotional music of the Sufis). He is also credited with enriching Hindustani classical music by introducing Persian and Arabic elements in it, and was the originator of the tarana style of music. The classical music tradition in both India and Pakistan traces its roots to poet and musician Amir Khusro, who composed the earliest ragas. The invention of the Indian tabla (percussion instrument) is usually attributed to Amir Khusro.

Amir Khusro was a Hindustani Turk, born of a Turkish father and a Rajput mother, in India.

Here is the great Pakistani Sufi singer Abida Parveen singing Khusro's Chhap Tilak Sab. The lyrics, in Urdu:

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Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Prem bhatee ka madhva pilaikay
Matvali kar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Gori gori bayyan, hari hari churiyan
Bayyan pakar dhar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Bal bal jaaon mein toray rang rajwa
Apni see kar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye
Mohay Suhaagan keeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay

In translation:

You've taken away my looks, my identity, by just a glance.
By making me drink the wine of love-potion,
You've intoxicated me by just a glance;
My fair, delicate wrists with green bangles in them,
Have been held tightly by you with just a glance.
I give my life to you, Oh my cloth-dyer,
You've dyed me in yourself, by just a glance.
I give my whole life to you Oh, Nijam,
You've made me your bride, by just a glance.

Here's a YouTube clip of the great Pakistani qawwali singers, Sabri Brothers, singing Amir Khusro's Man Kunto Maula.

Man kunto maula,
Fa Ali-un maula
Man kunto maula.
Dara dil-e dara dil-e dar-e daani.
Hum tum tanana nana, nana nana ray
Yalali yalali yala, yalayala ray Man tunko maula...

This song is based on a hadith, i.e. a saying of Prophet Mohammad: "Whoever accepts me as a master, Ali is his master too."

Another YouTube video, of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing Man Kunto Maula is accessible here. I cannot describe in words the impact Nusrat's Man Kunto Maula had on me when I first heard this more than 10 years ago ... how it twirled me like a spinning top, and put me on a path to transformation...


Jayshree said...

I heard 'Man Kunto Maula' first time before 4 years.. It was in the voice of Sabri Brothers, and since then, whenever I listen, I never get satisfied by listening just once.. once its on.. i have to repeat at least few times before i listen anything else..

Same happened when I listen 'Chhap Titak Sab'.

Have you listen 'Saanso Ki Mala Pe' by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan? Its another track which I have to listen again & again.. just can't satisfy my craving for that song.. I have to go back to it again & again & again....

DJ said...

Jayshree: you must listen to Man Kunto by Ustad Nusrat. I am sure you will feel on top of this world.
One more sufi qawali by the great legend - "Tum ek gorakh dhanda ho".

I believe that he was a gift bestowed upon us by the almighty. A true legend...

reader said...

and also the following site:

reader said...


Charudatta Galande said...

The wiki version of this qawwali has 'kanhaiya' instead of 'nijam'. Are they used in the same connotation or was the 'nijam' a later addition?

I think 'kanhaiya' makes more sense in the context of devotion expressed as romance - very clearly belonging to the bhakti tradition. This also makes sense because Khusro also wrote the "Gokal dekha, Mathra dekha", referring to Krishna.

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Katyayan Kanyakubj Gaurang Brahmavarti Mishra said...

i found this post very interesting. though you did not write the couplets of amir khusro in Hindi?? so that more number of people can enjoy or view your post.

Shahzaib Khan said...

I never read Ameer Khusro poetry before now I am thinking why I have not read it before.

Srila Gurudevan Ystävät said...

Wisely said, Charudatta Galande. Many times, the truth is hidden by those, who don't know it. This poet had lot of love and devotion towards Lord Krishna. This is a plain historical fact.

Moshe said...

Chaap tilak radar to the marking on the forehead and temple of followers of Vaishnav tradition. He is referring to the giving up of belief systems and embracing love for God