June 21 is commemorated as the World Music Day, it’s also known as 'make music day'. A day that celebrates remarkable contributions made by musicians like Amir Khusrau.
Khusrau the maker of Hindustani classical music invented tabla, sitar, tarana and the sufi music of qawwali that took birth in the heart of Delhi at Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah.
Khusrau, the 14th century courtier to seven kings, was in mourning after the death of his spiritual mentor, Delhi’s sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Khusrow gave away his wealth, retired to Nizamuddin’s tomb, died six months later, and was buried in the shrine’s courtyard.
Khusrau’s language was a mix of Brij Bhasha and Persian, his folksy and direct style of writing and singing shaped the idea of India: Hindus and Muslims could co-exist peacefully and celebrate each other’s cultures. Thus, Khusrau is rightly referred to as the ‘voice of India’.
Today, the soul of the subcontinent’s sufi shrines lie in Khusrau’s qawwalis. His verses steer many to love, spirituality, and ecstasy. Khusrau is regarded as the "father of qawwali" and introduced the ghazal style of song into India, both of which still exist widely in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Gulzar’s song, Zihal-e-miskin mukun baranjish from the film Ghulami, was inspired from Khusrau’s poem, which had alternate lines in both Brij and Persian:
doraaye nainaan banaye batyaan (Brij)
Zihaal-e-miskeen mukon taghaful (Persian)
Translation: Do not overlook my misery by blandishing your eyes and weaving tales; My patience has over-brimmed
Another popular Khusrau song, 'Chhap Tilak', is written completely in Brij:
Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Translation: You’ve taken away my looks, my identity, by just a glance
Amir Khusrau is today credited with a bewildering number of innovations and inventions, in respect of music. He created musical instruments like Tabla and Sitar.
At the time, there were many versions of Veena in India, he rechristened the 3 stringed Tritantri Veena as a Sehtar, that means three-strings in Persian.
Khusrau also composed new Ragas like Yaman and Zeelaf, Talas like Chakka and Soolfakhta, and is known as the maker of musical forms such as the Khayal, Tarana and Qawwali by fusing Persian, Arabic, Turkic, and Indian singing traditions.
When one navigates through the meandering and narrow by lanes of Nizamuddin in Delhi, you get constantly distracted by the lovely aroma of the Biryani and Nahari being prepared at the several small restaurants that line these gallis.
Squeezing through the crowd a person reaches the archway leading to Hazrat Nizammudin's dargah. Shopkeepers selling chaddars and flowers and the faint sounds of the tabla and harmonium will guide one inside. As you turn the corner and reach the entrance of dargah, you can hear the music all too clearly.
“Mohay suhaagan keeni rey mosay naina milaikay,
chhap tilak sab cheeni rey mosay naina milaikay”
It is no wonder that these compositions resound so beautifully with people even today.
The pavilion outside the dargah itself is where each Thursday, the custodians of the dargah — the Nizami Bandhu sing Sufi songs and qawwalis in praise of the saint and the Almighty. Scores of people turn up to listen each week, sitting around the singers, their heads covered, hands folded and eyes closed as they partake of the intoxication in the air.
For what remains at the core of these lyrics is a sentiment of love. Here’s a list of most celebrated songs of Khusrau:
Mann Kunto Maula
Main Toh Piya Se Naina
Chhap Tilak Sab Cheeni
Har Shab Feham
Tori Surat Ke
Khusrau was most closely associated with Nizamuddin Auliya, a disciple, who wrote several poems and songs and even pushed the boundaries of music by creating the qawwali, tarana and classical khayal styles.
At 72, musical maker 'Tuti-e-Hind', lost interest in the world but his songs have ruled over our hearts and will continue to do so till the stars shine in the night sky.