Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aazaadee by Mahjoor: The Freedom Song of Kashmir

Aazaadee
O bulbul, let the freedom urge possess your soul !
Bid good bye to your cage, step out,
Gather your flowers and enjoy their bloom !

Speak out bold and clear. Your voice
Need not falter with fear
As when you sang within your cage.

In bondage, they served you ample food.
Now gather in the fields what grain you can,
And see how sweet is food in freedom !

Though unfreedom made you stammer,
Your call enchanted the birds of the air,
For it was born of love.

You can't remain with folded wings !
Plume them, fly and see the world.
See flowers now with eyes of freedom.

You don't know the latest about the garden !
Forget about the past; sing new songs now

Mabjoor, throw away this belt of bondage !
From now, you are free as a bird.
Your heart commands, your voice obeys !

Photograph of Kashmiri Poet Mahjoor
Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor (d. 1952) the most beloved poet of Kashmir was born in 1888 ( but some give the date as 1885 ) at village Metragam, Pulawama. Born Ghulam Ahmad, he took the pen name of 'Mahjoor' and became popular in Kashmir by this very name. At the height of his renown, he was called "the Wordsworth of Kashmiri poetry" by great Rabindranath Tagore.

After passing the middle school examination from Nusrat-ul-Islam School, Srinagar, he went to Punjab where he came in contact with urdu poets like Bismil Amritsari and Moulana Shibi Nomani. He returned to Srinagar in 1908 and started writing in Persian and then in Urdu. However, it was in Kashmiri language that his poetry truly excelled. He is widely revered in Kashmir for being the person who solely revived the Kashmiri languages from the regress of lost literary circles and brought it to the seeking common masses. It was largely due to the success of Mahjoor with Kashmiri language that his contemporaries also gave up writing in Urdu and Persian, and started writing in Kashmiri.

Mahjoor worked as a Patwari (Pathva:r') in Kashmir. A Patwari is the offical responsible for keeping record of land, maps and land dealings. The post of Patwari was held in high esteem as in those days in far-flung areas, Patwari was the sole representative of the administration. This job required him to work closely with poor landless peasants and was to condition his sensibilities and help him understand the cause of the sufferings of the poor and destitute folks of his land.

Mahjoor had his first Kashmiri poem 'Vanta hay vesy' published in 1918. In his earlier days, Mahjoor used to write only love poems (mastering at this, as his love songs or lyrics are still sung and remain very popular) but these songs were not the love songs of the rich or of tavern, songs like 'Vanta hay vesy' were love songs of simple folk like - in this particular case - a country
lass. These love songs had the melody of the earlier lol lyrics of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but their rhythm and singing quality seems inspired by the popular Hindustani geet and song of early decades that came to Kashmir through the Punjab.

The turbulent Kashmir of 1931 did not leave him untouched and the poet in him was now stirring with patriotic fervor.

Omakar N Koul, writes in Kashmiri Language Linguistics and Culture (pdf file)


Mahjoor is also treated as a revolutionary poet. His entire poetry is divided into three parts: kala:m-i-Mahjoor, paya:m-i-Mahjoor, and sala:m-i-Mahjoor. He was a patriotic poet and was moved by the suffering of the people under the alien rule. He awakened the common masses towards the need of protecting their homeland from invaders and alien rulers. He sang about beauty and charm of the valley. Mahjoor has made a significant contribution to genres of gazal and nazm. He retrieved the language itself from the old Personalized styles of poetry and brought it close to the speech of its native speakers.
Mahjoor was a nationalist at heart, and this can be fathomed from some of his poems. Because of his vocation as a Patwari, Mahjoor understood the feudal system well enough to know how rich landlords were exploiting the poor landless people. He wanted a new identity for them, an identity that he combined with Kashmiri nationalism. It was for these people that Mahjoor became a voice in turbulent times, a voice clear and loud. It was for the Freedom of these dejected people that Mahjoor wrote poems, poems that became songs etched in the Kashmiri minds.

An another Freedom Song

Aazaadee
Let us all offer thanksgiving,
For Freedom has come to us;
It's after ages that she has beamed
Her radiance on us.

In western climes Freedom comes
With a shower of light and grace,
But dry, sterile thunder is all
She has for our own soil.

Poverty and starvation,
Repression and lawlessness, -
It's with these happy blessings
That she has come to us.

Freedom, being of heavenly birth,
Can't move from door to door;
You'll find her camping in the homes
Of a chosen few alone.

She says she will not tolerate
Any wealth in private hands;
That's why they are wringing capital
Out of the hands of everyone.

There's mourning in every house
But in sequestered bowers
Our rulers, like bridegrooms,
Are in Alliance win Freedom.

Nabir Sheikh knows what Freedom means,
For his wife was whisked away.
He went on complaining until
She bore Freedom in a new home !

They searched her armpits seven times
To see if she was hiding rice;
In a basket covered with a shawl
The peasant's wife brought Freedom home.

There's restlessness in every heart,
But no one dare speak out -
Afraid that with their free expression
Freedom may be annoyed.

Unlike many other famous poets of Kashmir, Mahjoor was not a mystic and yet his words now sound prophetic:

If thou wouldst rouse this habitat of roses,
Leave toying with kettle-drums.
Let there be thunder-storm and tempest, aye an earthquake.


These lines are from his famous poem Arise O Gardener. In this particular poem, the poet urges his countrymen, whom he compares to Gardeners looking after the beautiful garden Kashmir, to attain freedom through thunderstorm, tempest and earthquake. The state force arrested Mahjoor for writing these lines, but was soon releases. These lines became so popular that the National Conference adopted it as a national anthem. It is ironic to note here that to a Garden all of the three – thunderstorm, tempest and earthquake, are actually quite damning.

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The translation to the poems is from the book:
The Best of Mahjoor
(Selections from Mahjoor’s Kashmiri Poems)
J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Language, Srinagar, 1989
Translated by: Triloki Nath Raina

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Found the translation to the poems at a Kashmiri Pandit web-page about Mahjoor maintained by Mr. Uteesh Dhar.

History of Srinagar, 1846-1947: A Study in Socio-cultural Change (1975) written by Mohammad Ishaq Khan, provided some great information about the poet.

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Much later, under the government of Sheikh Abdullah, poet Mahjoor was arrested.

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In 1972 a bilingual film named Shayar-e-Kashmir Mahjoor was released with the Hindi version starring Balraj Sahani. The famous “left leaning” Hindi film actor Balraj Sahani, one of the pioneers of IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association), already knew Mahjoor and held him in great esteem. Bhisham Sahni, the younger brother of Balraj Sahani, most famous for his novel and television screenplay Tamas, writes in Balraj, My Brother (1981) that many years before the making of the movie, Balraj Sahani having heard the renown of Mahjoor, went to him in a remote village in the interior of Kashmir. Mahjoor at that time was still working as a revenue official.

History of Srinagar, 1846-1947: A Study in Socio-cultural Change (1975) by Mohammad Ishaq Khan , quotes Balraj Sahani on Mahjoor:
“ His songs and his poems are the cherished property of very man, woman and child, living between Baramulla and Pir Panchal. If Mahjoor writes a poem today it will be on the lips of the populace within a fortnight. Children on their way to school, girls thrashing rice, boatman plying the paddle, laborers bending in their ceaseless toil, all will be singing it."

The author gives the source as The Vishwa-Bharati Quarterly, November, 1938, vol iv, part III, new series, pp. 213-221)

7 comments:

  1. Hi your blog is great and cotains useful Knowledge particulary this one about Mehjoor is great.
    If you got time plz visit my blog
    http://united-kashmir.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi, do you have song phir mujhe deeda-e-tar of movie shayar-e-kashmir mahjoor sung by mahendara kapoor if you have please send me my email add is
    aminustad@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. aminustad,
    that's quite a rare song. Couldn't find it anywhere. Not sure if he sang Galib in the film. Mahendra Kapoor also sang 'aazadi hamaare ghar aayi' (Based on Mahjoor's Azadee, mentioned in the post.)

    But the song 'O Kheton Ki Shehzadi' (based on Mahjoor's Grees Koor ) by Talat Mahmood can easily be found on the net.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wala ho baagbaano nav bahaaruk shaan paida kar

    Pholan gul gath karan bulbul tithee
    samaan paida kar

    Gar wuznaawhakh basti gulan hunz traav zeerobam

    bunyul kar vaav kar gagraay kar toofan paida kar

    ReplyDelete
  5. None of the songs of this film is able to download from internet..like youtube or other sites...if anybody having the very song of this film..aaja aaja O mere dilbar sung by usha mangeshkar...plz mail me @
    javaid_sr@rediffmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for this. Very enriching post on Mahjoor, please continue the good work.

    ReplyDelete

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