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Amir Khusrau's

Amir Khusrau’s Legacy – In Bollywood and Beyond

If there is a poet so prolific and all-encompassing in the history of Indian literature, whose works were eclectic and powerful enough to engage the entire populace, despite their physical and metaphysical boundaries, it was Khusrau. Amir Khusrau, ‘The Parrot of India’, born in Uttar Pradesh, is remembered in relation with Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi and to this day the spiritual following that the two attract together is commendable.  He saw the reigns of many kings in his lifetime, beginning with Balban to Allauddin Khilji, Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah and Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. Thus, he becomes not only one of the foremost laureates but also one of the key sources to study the political and cultural history of the Delhi Sultanate.

He was primarily a Persian poet, but flirted with the other languages too, especially Hindavi. A vocabulary in verse, the Ḳhāliq Bārī, containing verses from Arabic, Persian and Hindavi is attributed to him. It made communication with the local populace more fluent and congruent, along with the flourishing atmosphere of Bhaktism that broke from the institutionalised religion on Hinduism and Islam, laying emphasis on individual devotion to God, more often than not addressing god as their beloved. Such common features laid grounds for communal harmony, in which Khusrau with his love for his teacher, Nizamuddin Auliya and Allah brought his talent great recognition.


Khusrau is credited for the invention of tabla, one of the most important musical instruments in Indian classical music since its invention. Tabla proved to be ideal for the complex rhythm structure required for the Sufi style of singing and zikr.


Even after 800 years, Amir Khusrau is delved into popular memory only comparable to Ghalib. Since the beginning of Bollywood, couplets, ghazals, qawwallis are an indelible part of Indian cinema and music. Way back in 1960, Na To Karvan Ki Talash Hai – Barsaat Ki Raat sung by Asha Bhosle, S D Batish, Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi, Sudha Malhotra reworked the lyrics of the famous qawwali by Amir Khusrau “Badi kathin hai raat panghat ki” in the song. The latter, addressed to Krishna, another popular deity in the Bhakti movement, shows how closely knit the two movements were.

Amir Khusrau’s Qawwali

Bahut Kathin hai dagar panghat ki,
Kaisay main bhar laaun madhva say matki?
Paniya bharan ko main jo gayi thi,
Daud jhapat mori matki patki.
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.
Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye
Laaj rakho moray ghoonghat pat ki.
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.
Na to caravan ki talaash hai
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki
Abb kya bhar laun mai jamuna se matki
Mai jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko
Dekho sakhi ji mai jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko
Nand kishor mohe roke jhado toh
Kya bhar laun mai jamuna se matki
Abb laj rakho more ghunghat pat ki


The concept of using the beloved, in Khusrau’s case addressed to his teacher and Allah, has also been popularized by Khusrau’s “Aaj rung hai ri”. From there, references like “Rangeela”, “Rangreza”, “Rang de mujhe” have made their way through decades of bollywood movie titles, song lyrics and movie dialogues.


Similarly, another derivation from the Khusrau breed of poetry is the coming back of the beloved to the lover, again in Khusrau’s case Teacher and Allah, but in Bollywood translated to a loved one. One of the most iconic songs of 90’s “ piya ghar aaya” featuring Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan in Yaarana (1995) has a long and rich history of inception. It was written by 18th-century Punjabi poet, Baba Bulleh Shah, who was inspired by this already popularized concept, originally found in “Ae Ri Sakhi More Piya Ghar Aaye” by Amir Khusrau in the 13th Century.

One of the most famous and recurring song that one hears in movies and Indian weddings,“Kaahe ko bihaaye bides” was written by Amir Khusrau too. It was made widely popular in the 1948 movie Heer Ranjha, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and the 1981 movie Umrao Jaan by Jagjit Kaur. This still marks the entrance of the bride in most Indian weddings, but very few know that Amir Khusrau wrote this.

Kaahe ko bihayi bides- Amir Khusrau



Kahe ko Biyahe Bides,
Arae Lakhiya Baabul Morey

Ham Toray Baabul, Bele Ki Kaliyan[2]
Ghar-ghar Maangey Hain Jaaye
Arae Lakhiya Baabul Mohe
Kahe ko Biyahe bides

Ham Toray Aangan ki, Bholee si Chirdaiya[2]
Chuggay, peeye, Urdhh Jaaye,
Arae Lakhiya Baabul Moray
Kahe ko Biyahe bides

Probably one of my personal favourites when it comes to either Sufi songs, or Coke Studio songs or just pan-genre songs is the Chhap Tilak by Abida Parvin and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (2014) sung for Coke Studio, India. Though this qawwalli has been adapted by so many different composers, musicians and singers in their very unique styles, including Kailash Kher in his album Kailasa Jhoomo Re in 1995, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha bhosle for the movie Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978) and Amit Trivedi for the movie Aamir (2008).

Chhaap Tilak- Amir Khusrau


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

Musicians like Sabri brothers, and Warsi Brothers have paid homage to the great Sufi in their A Tribute To Amir Khusro By Sabri Brothers, Qawaali by Warsi Brothers Vol.1 and Vol.2, Lahore Ke Rang Hari Ke Sang – Hariharan . Hariharan has recreated songs like Mohay Apnay Hi Rang Mein Rang De and Mohay Apnay Hi Rang Mein Rang De. Similarly, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has sung Mohe Apne Hi Rang Mein and Aaraj Sun Lijo Mori.

What we witness here is the transient nature of Amir Khusrau’s body of works. As South Asian music evolves, Khusrau flows like holy water and provides the nurturing it needs. This can be especially seen in the beautiful fusion composition of the Daiyya Ri in thefourth season of The Dewarists, A Dewar’s Initiative (2014) by The Raghu Dixit Project, the Coke Studio version of Piya Se Naina – Ram Sampath, Sona Mohapatra  and Chaap Tilak- Abida Parveen and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

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