This gem penned by Sahir Ludhianvi in Taj Mahal (1963) is probably one of our favorite picks for an old film song that makes the makes the best use of Urdu lyrics. This classic movie narrates the love story between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Ludhianvi’s heart-wrenching lyrics combined with Roshan’s beautiful music (a nuanced use of Raga Gaud Malhar!), Lata’s magical voice, and Bina Rai’s graceful portrayal of Mumtaz Mahal on screen make this song a truly memorable masterpiece.
All the couplets in this song are beautifully constructed, but one of the lines in this song is particularly intriguing. In the fourth couplet, Ludhianvi writes: “takht kyaa chiiz hai aur laal-o-javaahar kya hai?” As a whole, this couplet expresses the sentiment that love is so powerful that it transcends wealth, royalty, and even divinity. However, Ludhianvi’s use of the specific word laal-o-javaahar (red jewels, rubies) to symbolize wealth is interesting because it appears to be a reference to Javaahar Laal Nehru, who happened to be Prime Minister of India at the time that this song was written. Nehru was certainly seated on the “takht” of India in 1963, but what is Ludhianvi’s purpose in referencing him in this line of the song?
Although we can’t know for sure, here’s what we think. Because Ludhianvi is known to use his lyrics as a medium for criticism and political satire, it is likely that he is criticizing Nehru for his role in starting the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Nehru’s stubbornness and refusal to negotiate escalated tensions between India and China, ultimately leading to a war that cost thousands of human lives on both sides. (As a side note, the patriotic classic “aye mere vatan ke logo.n” was written to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives in this war). Here, I would venture to say that Ludhianvi is using the reference to suggest that lovers are prepared to suffer losses greater than those incurred by Nehru in the war.
If you haven’t heard this song yet, you’re totally missing out–take a listen and pay close attention to the glossary below to learn some new and difficult Urdu vocabulary!
jurm-e-ulfat pe hame.n log sazaa dete hai.n
kaise naadaan hai.n, sholo.n ko havaa dete hai.n
hamse diivaane kahii.n tark-e-vafaa karte hai.n
jaan jaaye ki rahe, baat nibhaa dete hai.n
aap daulat ke taraazuu me.n dilo.n ko tole.n
ham muhabbat se muhabbat ka silaa dete hai.n
takht kya chiiz hai aur laal-o-javaahar kya hai?
ishqvaale to khudaayii bhii luuTaa dete hai.n
hamne dil de bhii diyaa, aur ahad-e-vafaa le bhii liyaa.
aap ab shauq se de le.n jo sazaa dete hai.n
jurm-e-ulfat pe hame.n log sazaa dete hai.n
jurm-e-ulfat: offenses in love; sazaa: punishment; naadaan: naive; sholaa: flame; tark-e-vafaa: end of love; jaan: life; nibhaa dena: to fulfill; daulat: wealth; taraazuu: scales; silaah denaa: to respond; takht: throne; laal-o-javaahar: red jewels, rubies; ishqvaale: lovers; khudaayii: godliness, divinity; luuTaa denaa: to sacrifice; ahad-e-vafaa: vow of loyalty; shauq se: with pleasure
People punish me for the offenses I have committed in love
How naive they must be, for they are only adding air to a burning flame.
Elsewhere, people crazier than I put an end to their love.
Whether I live or die, I will remain faithful to my word.
You may weigh hearts on scales of wealth,
But I respond to love with love.
What is the value of thrones and rubies?
Lovers can sacrifice even divinity.
I have already given my heart and taken a vow of loyalty.
Now, with pleasure, you may deliver my punishment.
People punish me for the offenses I have committed in love.
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A beautiful song, nice and unique use of the Kedar phrase MPDPm. I suppose there are very few filmi songs that stay true to the raga they are based on – a fan request for a future post.
excellent service you are providing to countless users who are not well versed with urdu nor hindhi but very passionately interested in learning gazal meaning. Please keep me in your mailing list or enlist meastour subscriber. Thanks a million.
Thank you so much for this post! Immensely enjoyed your blog, will keep revisiting! 🙂
I think jurm-e-ulfat translates better as ‘the offense of love’, what do you think?