Happy Diwali! For all our readers and fans observing the occasion, what could be better than a list of 10 classic Bollywood Diwali songs to enjoy over the celebrations today? For a country of over 1 billion Hindus and an industry that absolutely loves to celebrate any kind of occasion with song and dance, Bollywood has a surprisingly low number of Diwali songs in its films. I mean, think about it–Diwali is the country’s largest national holiday, lends itself brilliantly to poetry (festival of lights imagery, the story of the Ramayan, etc.), and is practically bound to succeed by virtue of having very little with which to compete. People are aching for these songs, yet they hardly exist–much less ones worth hearing over and over.
To be sure, plenty of great Diwali bhajans exist outside the realm of Bollywood (look no further than Tulsidas classic “Shri Ram Chandra”), many of which have excellent covers by our favorite playback singers. But within the films? The pickings are slim. I’ve got a theory as to why this might be the case. Let us consider the example of Christmas as we know it in America. When we think of great Christmas jingles, the songs we name predominantly come from hit singers or church traditions–with only a few actually having made it to popular culture from films, despite Hollywood having had a long and successful musical film movement (Judy Garland’s gorgeous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes to mind).
So perhaps Bollywood is no different. Because singing a song about Diwali actually requires Diwali to be a major part of the plot, the happy coincidence rarely occurred–much less with the good fortune of also having been a brilliant composition. Furthermore, celebrations like Holi, for which we can name at least a handful of terrific Bollywood songs, actually lend themselves much better to an upbeat and colorful party on-screen–so musical composition could be a bit more relaxed. With Diwali, you’re treading on sacred ground–and why mess with something that non-filmi bhajans do way better anyway?
Still, a few intrepid pioneers prevailed, and while some are more memorable than others, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems! Below find our list of 10 classic Bollywood Diwali songs that will get the festivities started old-school style! Click the song names to get to the link to youtube.
10 Classic Bollywood Diwali Songs:
1. Kaise Diwali Manaye Lala (Mohammed Rafi, Paigham 1959)
Be prepared from some ridiculous Johnny Walker antics, but a fun dance beat to get your spirits up!
2. Aayi Ab Ke Saal Diwali (Lata Mangeshkar, Haqeeqat 1965)
On a somber note, this haunting Lata Mangeshkar melody from war epic Haqeeqat is a stark reminder of families in grieving this time of year.
3. Is Raat Diwali Kaise (Mohammed Rafi, Shamshad Begum, & Asha Bhonsle, Sabse Bada Rupaiya 1955)
Oh, what?! A Diwali qawwali?! SIGN ME UP! A peppy song describing Diwali festivities sung in traditional qawwali style that gets you clapping along.
4. Laakhon Taare Aasman Mein (Mukesh and Lata, Hariyali Aur Raasta 1962)
Another tragic lovers-separated-on-Diwali-night song starring Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha, but the melody is sweet and watching Manoj Kumar mope is never such a bad thing. The Lata-Mukesh chemistry works well as always!
5. Jagmati Diwali Ki Raat Aa Gayi (Asha Bhonsle, Stage 1951)
We’re really getting old-school with this one. It’s a rare early song that sounds more like Geeta Dutt than Asha Bhonsle to me. It builds to a frenzy at the end that’s kind of exciting!
6. Deep Diwale Ke (Kishore Kumar, Jugnu 1973)
This may be one of the more popular Diwali songs on our list–sung by lively Kishore Kumar and picturized on Dharmendra with a bunch of happy school kids, you can’t go wrong!
7. Ek Woh Bhi Diwali Thi (Mukesh, Nazrana 1961)
For some balance, here’s another sad song by the inimitable Mukesh-Raj Kapoor duo. Everyone is having a grand time outside partying with sparklers, while moody Raj Kapoor broods upon the days that once were.
8. Deep Jalenge Deep Diwali Aayi Ho (Geeta Dutt, Paisa 1957)
As a connoisseur of Geeta Dutt obscurities, I love this song. With a joyous melody and that gentle lulling voice, it’s one of the better gems on this list!
9. Mele Hain Chiragon Ke Rangeen Ki Diwali Hai (Lata, Nazrana, 1961)
This would be the “happy version” counterpoint to the Raj Kapoor tragedy from earlier. You can see why Raj Kapoor is sad these days are over–everyone’s having a grand old time and it doesn’t hurt to have the voice of a goddess Lata to back you up!
10. Aayi Hai Diwali (Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum, Sheesh Mahal 1950)
Another early period Diwali song–and a duet no less! The whole household is bustling with activity and women all over join the chorus for the celebrations!
Here are two bonus tracks for extra thrills:
11. Aayi Diwali (Zohrabai Ambalewali, Rattan 1944)
The oldest song on our list! And of course, it’s a Greek tragedy–but rare and exciting for any fans of early early Bollywood. Before the days of Lata Mangeshkar, 1940s playback singer Zohrabai Ambalewali turned music director Naushad into an overnight sensation with this hit!
12. Jyot Se Jyot Jagate Chalo (the exciting Lata version! Sant Gyaneshwar, 1964)
OK, so this song might not be *technically* a Diwali song per se, but it’s thematically spot-on! And I just discovered the Lata Mangeshkar version to compliment the Mukesh version, which I had thought existed in isolation. I can’t believe I did not know about this sooner, I’m so happy right now!
This Diwali special was brought in by request from one of our favorite readers muskaan. We wish everyone a joyous Diwali and a prosperous year ahead!
– Mrs. 55