The 15 Best Bollywood Rain Songs: Evolution of a Classic Genre

Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee Rain Song Bollywood
Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee express their sizzling love in the rain in Shehzada (1972).

It’s monsoon season again in India and, naturally, love is sparkling in the air. At last we present our list of the best rain songs from classic Bollywood! We all adore these moments–the iconic cuddling beneath an umbrella, the splashing around in a wet garden, or of course, Zeenat Aman in a drenched saari. It seems now that singing in the rain is the epitome of Bollywood romance, and a marvelous way to introduce a new song. But this phenomena did not occur overnight, and indeed, the meaning of rain itself in a film has shifted over the years with shifting cultural expectations. Let’s take a look at rain songs in Bollywood over the years!

Shree 420 Raj Kapoor Nargis Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua Rain Song Bollywood
Raj Kapoor and Nargis huddle close together beneath an umbrella in Shree 420 (1955).

We being in the earlier days of cinematic magic. As India awoke to freedom and liberty in the 1950s, so too did the country rapidly begin to shift gears away from pure agriculture and toward industrialization. Many of the best rain songs from that era embody a sense of wonder in urban environments and, matching the film censorship boards, an innocent just-got-struck-by love. In these songs, rain seems to act as that enchantment in the air–that driving force bringing a loved one into contact or sight. Rain too acted as that shimmering veil of restraint that both parties hesitate to cross. “Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si” from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958) is one of the most beloved rain songs of that era!

Raj Kapoor Dum Dum Diga Diga Chhalia
Raj Kapoor prances about the city streets singing “Dum Dum Diga Diga” from Chhalia (1960).

With the advent of the 60s, came a new meaning of being caught in a rainstorm. No longer was rain an innocent effector of love at first sight, but rather a clever and well-understood pretext for full out passion. To clarify, by passion, I mean, symbolic wet dancing that means much more than actual physical contact. The Bollywood rain songs of the 60s exude a sense of joy, independence and confidence. The onset of a rainstorm had an understood implication for overt displays of affection that both parties are eager to demonstrate. Say hello to bouffant hairdos, tight and wet salwar qameezes, and men doing some very special attempts at a courtship dance.

Shammi Kapoor Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam Mala Sinha
Shammi Kapoor and Mala Sinha get drenched in Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam (1960)

Gone were the days of “Do Bigha Zameen” style agricultural celebration! While the setting of the village recurred, rain ceased to be a blessing for economic survival–instead, it brought the blessing of love between newly liberated men and woman of a new age. Check out our translation of “O Sajna Barkha Bahar” from Parakh (1960) and listen how music directors cleverly incorporated native Indian instruments into creating the sounds and moods of rain. Indeed, the trickling melodies of sitar have graced the introductions of many a great rain sequence–even famously with Ravi Shankar’s solo for Satyajit Rai’s Aparajito!

Asha Parekh Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke
Dressed as a village belle, Asha Parekh delights in the first rain of the season in “Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke” (1969).

At last the 70s arrived, and the Bollywood rain song explored new territory. Yes, Zeenat Aman in a wet white saari is crossing some obvious lines and certainly deserves a mention on this list, but the rain song did not merely degenerate into a male fantasy. Instead, as the political atmosphere changed, the rain song adopted a meaning to suit its people. With government dissatisfaction in the air, rain songs were (while maintaining something of a romantic undertone), also a means of escape and hope.

Jeetendra Haye Re Haye Humjoli
Jeetendra and Leena Chandavarkar exhibit some of the strangest and wildest dance moves to date in the famous rain love song of Humjoli (1970)

Did you know in the early days of cinema, rain scenes were not actually filmed in the rain? Because of the nature of unforgiving black-and-white film stock, even heavy pounding natural rain does not appear clearly in the camera–much less the gentle puhaare of many a romantic Bollywood setting. As such, the production staff needed to literally dump buckets of water or spray dozens of hoses above the set for “rain” to actually appear so on screen! So the next time you watch these songs, just imagine the total chaos going on outside the frame among the frantic, water-pouring production assistants!

Zeenat Aman sets the rain on fire in “Haye Haye Yeh Majboori” from Shor (1972).

But enough talk. Now that you know the history, here is our list in chronological order of Bollywood’s greatest rain songs! These all-time classic give an entirely new meaning to “Singin’ in the Rain!”

The Best Rain Songs of Classic Bollywood

  1. Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua (Shree 420 – 1955)
  2. Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi (Chori Chori – 1956)
  3. Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – 1958)
  4. Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam (Dil Tera Deewana – 1960)
  5. Dum Dum Diga Diga (Chhalia -1960)
  6. O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi (Parakh -1960)
  7. Rim Jhim Ke Tarane (Kala Bazaar – 1960)
  8. Zindagi Bhar Nahin Bhoolegi (Barsaat Ki Raat – 1960)
  9. Chhup Gaye Saade Nazare (Do Raaste – 1969)
  10. Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke (Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke – 1969)
  11. Ang Lag Ja Balma (Mera Naam Joker – 1970)
  12. Haye Re Haye (Humjoli – 1970)
  13. Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein (Ajnabi – 1972)
  14. Paani Re Paani (Shor – 1972)
  15. Haye Haye Yeh Majboori (Roti Kapada Aur Makaan – 1974)
Rajesh Khanna Zeenat Aman Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein
Rajesh Khanna cuddles Zeenat Aman to keep warm in the spicy rain song “Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein” in Ajnabi (1974).

And there you have it, the 15 best classic Bollywood rain songs over the ages! What are YOUR favorite rain songs from classic Bollywood–and tell us how they’ve influenced your own love stories!

– Mrs. 55

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Bharat Bhushan Barsaat Ki Raat qawwali

Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Bollywood Qawwali Barsaat Ki Raat Shyama Ratna
Ratna (left) and Shyama (right) lead the qawwali “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from the hit Bollywood film Barsaat Ki Raat (196)

For our next post, we provide an English translation of “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” qawwali (and its prelude “Na to Caravan ki Talaash Hai“) from the all-time classic film Barsaat ki Raat (1960). For anyone familiar with the beautiful lyrics of this Sahir Ludhviani masterpiece, you know that “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” is the crowning jewel of the qawwali genre. The ultimate in lyrical poetry, allusions, wit, and transcendent symbolism, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” was no easy task to translate and dissect. Sahir Ludhviani, who also later penned the gems from films like Taj Mahal (1963), wrote an album of love poetry for Barsaat Ki Raat--from “Zindagi Bhar Nahii.N Bhoolegi” to “Mai.N Ne Shaayad Tumhe” to la pièce de résistance, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai.”

Bharat Bhushan Barsaat Ki Raat qawwali
Bharat Bhushan jumps in to save the girls’ qawwali team in “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

Through this culmination piece of the film’s ongoing qawwali competition, both hero (Bharat Bhushan) and the heroine (Madhubala) are reunited after a long and painful separation. Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, and Manna Dey vie to out-do each other in this clever, powerful discussion of the meaning of love, but at the song’s climax Rafi brings the qawwali to a heart-stopping triumphant finish that wins his team the competition. It is a real pleasure to appreciate the many levels on which the qawwali can be understood–from religious, to romantic, to quite literal–after singing “ilaaj koi to maut hai,” Shyama literally falls sick to her deathbed, or as Bharat Bhushan croons, “nikalii Radha saj ke,” Madhubala appears miraculously at the doorway from the prison of her house. Come follow along with our translation of this epic qawwali and it will be clear why “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” made Bollywood film history!

Madhubala Barsaat Ki Raat
Madhubala hears Bharat Bhushan on the radio and decides to find him in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai Lyrics and Translation

MALE:

Na to caaravaan ki talaash hai
I am not in search of a caravan
Na to humsafar ki talaash hai
I am not in search of a fellow traveler
Mere shauq-e-khaana kharaab ko teri rehguzar ki talaash hai
That ruined place of my desire searches for the path that leads to you

FEMALE:

Mere naamuraad junoon ka hai ilaaj koi to maut hai
If there is any cure for my unfortunate obsession, then it is death
Jo davaa ke naam pe zehar de
Give me that medicine whose name is poison
Usi chaaraagar ki talaash hai
I am in search of such a healer

Tera ishq hai meri aarzoo,
Your love is my desire
Tera ishq hai meri aabroo,
Your love is my honor
Dil ishq, jism ishq hai, aur jaan ishq hai
My heart is love, my body is love, and my life is love
Imaan ki jo poochho to imaan ishq hai
If you ask for faith, then that is love too
Tera ishq mai.N kaise ChhoD doo.N?
How could I ever leave your love?
Meri umr bhar ki talaash hai
That love is what I have been searching for all my life

MALE:

Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love
Jaan-soz ki haalat ko jaan-soz hi samjhegaa
Only one in torment can understand the condition of a fellow sufferer
Mai.N shamaa se kehta hoo.N mehfil se nahii.N kehta
I am speaking to the flame, not to the company gathered here
Kyonki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

FEMALE:
Sahar tak sab ka hai anjaam jal kar khaak ho jaana
By dawn, everything will burn and be reduced to ashes
Bhari mehfil mei.N koi shamaa yaa parvaana ho jaaye
Everyone in this gathering shall became either flame or moth
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

MALE:

Vehshat-e-dil rasn-o-daar se roki na gayi
Love is not stopped by the madness of the heart or ropes and the gallows
Kisi khanjar, kisi talvaar se roki na gayi
It is not stopped by any dagger, by any sword
Ishq Majnu ki woh aavaz hai jiske aage koi Laila kisi deewaar se roki na gayi,
Love is that voice of Majnu’s which Laila followed and which no barrier could stop
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Woh hanske agar maa.Nge.N to hum jaan bhi dede.N,
If she laughs and asks, then I would even give my life
Haa.N yeh jaan to kya cheez hai? Imaan bhi dede.N!
Yes, after all what is this life? I would even give up my faith!
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Naaz-o-andaaz se kehte hai.N ki jeena hoga,
I am told that I must live with my fate gracefully
Zehar bhi dete hai.N to kehte hai.N Ki peena hoga
They give me poison, and say I must drink
Jab mai.N peetaa hoo.N to kehte hai.N ki marta bhi nahii.N,
But when I drink it, then they say I won’t die
Jab mai.N martaa hoo.N to kehte hai.N ki jeenaa hogaa
When I am dying, they say I must live
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Mazhab-e-ishq ki har rasm kaDi hoti hai,
The laws and customs of love are very strict
Har qadam par koi deewaar khaDi hoti hai
At every step, there is a barrier standing
Ishq aazad hai, Hindu Na Musalmaan hai ishq,
Love is free, love is neither Hindu nor Muslim
Aap hii dharm hai aur aap hii imaan hai ishq
Your own duty and your own faith alone is love
Jis se aage nahii.N shekh-o-Brahaman dono.N,
Both Hindu and Muslim religious men cannot surpass this
Us haqeeqat ka garajtaa hua ailaan hai ishq
The reality of that thundering proclamation is love

(FEMALE in Panjabi):

Ishq na puchhe deen dharm nu, ishq na puchhe jaataan
Love does not ask your religion or creed, love does not ask your social class or caste,
Ishq de haatho.N garam lahu vich doobiyaan laakh baraataan ke
Love has drowned thousands of wedding revelers in its fiery blood
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

MALE:
Raah ulfat ki kaThin hai ise aasaan na samajh
The path of love is dangerous, do not think it easy
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

FEMALE:
Bahut kaThin hai Dagar panghat ki
The path to the riverside is very dangerous
Ab kya bhar luau.N mai.N Jamuna se matki?
Now how can I fill my jug with water from the banks of the Jamuna River?
Mai.N jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko dekho sakhi ji mai.N jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko
As I was on my way to fill my jug with water from the Jamuna,
Nand kishor mohe roke jhaadon
The young boy of Nanda [Krishna] stopped me
To kya bhar luau.N mai.N Jamuna se matki?
So how can I fill my jug with water from the banks of the Jamuna River?

MALE:
Ab laaj raakho more ghoonghat pat ki
Now protect my honor, this veil of mine
Jab jab Krishn ki bansi baaji,
When Krishna played his flute
Nikali Raadhaa saj ke
Radha emerged, dressed up
Jaan ajaan ka dhyaan bhulaa ke,
Forgetting all she was taught
Lok laaj ko taj ke
She left the honor of society
Haaye ban ban Doli Janak dulaari,
The darling child of King Janak [Sita] swayed into the forest
Pehenke prem ki maalaa
And wore a garland of love
Darshan jal ki pyaasi Meera
Meera thirsty for her a glimpse of her Lord
Pii gayii vishh ka pyaalaa aur phir araj kari
Drank a glass of poison and then pleaded
Ke laaj raakho raakho raakho, laaj raakho dekho dekho,
Protect my honor, protect my honor, protect my honor
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

Allah rasool ka farmaan ishq hai
The commands of God and Mohammed are love
Yaanii Hadith ishq hai, Quraan ishq hai
The teachings of Mohammed are love, the Quraan is love
Gautam kaa aur Maseehaa kaa armaan ishq hai
The wishes of Bhudda and Christ are love
Yeh kaayanaat jism hai aur jaan ishq hai
This material existence and this life are love
Ishq sarmad, ishq hii mansoor hai
Love is everlasting, love alone is victorious
Ishq Moosa, ishq Koh-e-Toor hai
Love is Moses, love is Mt. Sinai
Khaaq ko but, aur but ko devtaa karta hai ishq
Love turns clay into idols, and idols into Gods
Intahaa yeh hai ke bande ko khuda karta hai ishq
The pinnacle is that love has the power to turn a man into a revered God
Haan.N yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
Yes, this is love, this is love, this is love

Glossary:

caravaan: caravan; talaash: search; humsafar: fellow traveler; shauq-e-khaana; desires, hobbies; barbaad: ruined; rehuguzar: pathway; naamuraad: unfortunate; junoon: obsession; ilaaj: cure; maut: death; davaa: medicine; zeher: poison; chaaragar: one who treats you, doctor, healer; aarzuu: desire; aabruu: honor; jism: body; imaan: faith; jaansoz: torment, soul-burning; sahar: the time before dawn; anjaam: conclusion; khaak: ashes; parvaanaa: moth (used allegorically as one blinded by love); vehshat: madness; rasn: rope; daar: gallows; khanjar: dagger; talwar: sword; LailaMajnu: legendary ill-fated lovers; awaaz: voice; deewaar: barrier, wall; cheez: thing; naazoandaaz: pride and style, grace; mazhab: law; kaDi: strict, harsh; qadam: step; azaad: free; dharm: Hindu religious duty; haqeeqat: reality; garajnaa: to thunder; ailaan: proclaimation; deen: Islamic obedience; jaataan: caste; lahu: blood; ulfat: love; kaThin: dangerous; aasaan: easy; Dagar: pathway; maTki: jug, pot; Nand kishor: young Krishna laaj: honor; ghuunghat: veil; bansi: type of flute; dhyaan: meditation; lok: people, society; ban: forest; Dolna: to sway; Janak Dulari: The darling daughter of the mythological King Janak [Sita]; prem: love; maalaa: garland; darshan: glimpse of a deity; pyaasi: thirsty; vish ka pyaalaa: glass of poison; araj: plea; rasool: messenger [of God, Mohammed]; farmaan: commands; hadith: a report of the deeds and the teachings of Muhammed, Gautam: Buddha; Maseehaa: Jesus Christ; kaayanaat: material creation; sarmad: everlasting; mansoor: victorious, Moosaa: Moses; Koh-e-Toor: Mt. Sinai; khaaq: clay; but: idol; devtaa: God; intahaa: pinnacle, culmination

Yes, that glossary was a mouthful. Even as it is, I must warn that many of these words have a far deeper religious meaning to them that cannot be summed up in the one or two words as I have defined them. But no one said the Hindustani language was easy, and this song is just loaded with Arabic-based and Sanskrit-based vocabulary as well as references from both Hindu and Islamic traditions. It’s part of why Urdu-Hindi is such a complex, beautiful and absolutely fascinating language. Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of these lines:

  • “Ishq Majnu ki woh awaaz hai…” according to the Arab legend, similar to Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnu (whose nickname means “madly in love”) were two star-crossed lovers from rival families. However, Laila fled from her house to be with the one she loved and it is said that as Majnu was caught and whipped, their love was so strong that Laila screamed and blood appeared to flow from Laila’s skin instead.
  • “Bahut kaThin hai Dagar panghat ki…” is actually a line from the great Amir Khusrau qawwali written during the 13th century. The qawwali refers in one sense to the risks of dishonor faced by Radha as she attempted to fetch water, another sense explores the risks of standing up for religious beliefs (in Khusrau’s case, an allegiance to Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya.) The line has now become a sort of idiomatic warning to not underestimate the burden of any difficult task.
  • “Jab jab Krishna ki bansi baaji…” refers to the tales of Hindu folklore of childhood lovers Krishna and Radha, the latter of whom risked familial honor and suffered teasing and torment from her girlfriends in her love for the young Lord.
  • “Janak dulari ban ban Doli…” is a reference to the Ramayan in which Sita, upon learning of her husband Ram’s banishment to the forest, renounced her title as well. Sita, it should be recalled, had a very lavish upbringing as she was the daughter of King Janak, so this was no simple sacrifice to live in the dangerous jungle. But Sita’s love was unparalleled, and although she was not otherwise compelled to accompany Ram to the jungle, did indeed join him out of pure devotion.
  • “Darshan jal ki pyaasi Meera…” refers to the legend of Krishna devotee and Rajput Princess, Meera Bai of the 16th century. Her zealous worship and love of Krishna inspired not only many famous bhajans we know and sing today, but the resentment of her brother-in-law who frowned upon her actions (eg. mingling with the poor, ignoring her husband, etc.) He made several notorious attempts to kill her, including forcing her to drink a glass of poison that Lord Krishna is said to have transformed into nectar and saved her when she pleaded for the Lord to protect her honor.

As you can probably tell, I LOVE this qawwali. I discover new things every time I enjoy it (for example, anyone else notice how the background clappers only start shrugging their shoulders cliched bhangra-style ONLY when Ratna starts singing in Panjabi? Coincidence? I think not!) The song indeed transcends all religious and material loyalties, bringing the audience a dazzling, other-wordly experience. For anyone who’s tired of all the allegories and vocabulary quizzes, here’s the long-awaited behind-the-scenes gossip:

Did you know Bharat Bhushan actually got married in real life to Ratna (who ironically played the only character in the film NOT in love with him!) Surprise, right!? She was his second wife, and some even say that later mild-mannered Bharat Bhushan had had an affair with none other than Meena Kumari. Did the scandals never end in this town?

For more Urdu bliss, check out our post on the beauty of Urdu poetry in Hindi films!

-Mrs. 55

Ratna Barsaat Ki Raat
Ratna, wife of Bharat Bhushan, plays a sassy side-kick in the film Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)
Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali

The Best Qawwalis of Bollywood Films

Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali
Rishi Kapoor charms his audience singing the famous qawwali “Pardah Hai Pardah” from Amar Akbar Anthony (1979).

The qawwali from films has a hallowed place in the history of the Hindi music industry. A mystic tradition more than 700 hundred years old, the qawwali gained prominence in Bollywood initially through 1950s Muslim social dramas and grew so much in popularity that its influences became mainstream–even continuing to live on today. We present our list below of the best qawwalis of Bollywood films.

But let us first define what precisely is a qawwali? The great Indian poet Amir Khusrau (d. 1326) is considered the founding father of the qawwali genre, having composed songs for the first time in this style to celebrate the death of his spiritual guide Nizamuddin Aulia. The qawwali is the authentic Sufi spiritual song that transports the mystic toward union with God. For centuries, Sufi communities in the Indian subcontinent have sustained this musical tradition in the mahfil-e-sama, or assembly for listening. The qawwali was a religious experience for both listener and performer: as the listener hopes for a spiritual experience of intensity and immediacy to transcend his or her conscious striving, the trained performer seeks to present in song a vast treasure of poetry that articulate and evoke a mystical experience for the audience.

Madhubala impresses the Mughal prince in the classic qawwali “Teri Mehfil Mei.N Qismat” from Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

The qawwali performance usually begins after the evening and may last all night until the morning prayers. The word qawwali means “words” worthy of remembrance, and as such the qawwali traditionally has a devotional aspect in praise of God. Even most “secular” qawwalis found in popular Bollywood movement can be read in this way, although superficially the lyrics have another literal meaning. The harmonium has replaced what was traditionally a sitar as musical accompaniment, but equally important are the tabla and the signature qawwali cyclic hand clapping that increase in speed during the performance. The tarz or tune of the qawwali is normally identified by the first line of the text, which is often a part of the refrain couplet. Although the qawwal was traditionally male, both men and women have enjoyed and excelled at performing the modern qawwali.

Rishi Kapoor dazzles his audience as a popular qawwal in the 1979 blockbuster Amar Akbar Anthony.

Unlike in Hindustani classical music, while taal and raagaa usage is the same, the qawwali places a greater emphasis on the poetic text and the delivery of its message than on musical ornamentation. In many of its vast incarnations within Bollywood, the qawwali became synonymous with a musical debate, a verbal battle (often between the sexes) to outwit the other side on topics that usually boil down to love or the pain of love. That kind of screen chemistry, as you can imagine, is prime Bollywood flirting territory just waiting to be sung.

Let’s take a look at how this genre evolved in mainstream Bollywood into one of the most beloved musical genres of the industry. Here are some highlights:

Humen To Loot LiyaAl Hilal (1958):

One of the first qawwalis to hit the silver screen, no list is complete without this retro low-budget gem. The music is really quite simple, but extremely catchy.

Yeh Ishq Ishq HaiBarsaat Ki Raat (1960):

This qawwali is an Urdu-lover’s paradise. Filled with complex words and allusions you’ll never use in real life, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” set the stage for classy performance duels between men and women that is still considered the greatest Bollywood qawwali for its poetry (see our post for a full English translation!)

Sharma Ke Yeh Kyo.NChaudhvin Ka Chand (1960):

A fun twist on the traditional qawwali, two women sing (Asha Bhonsle and Shamshad Begum) with the latter taking the masculine side and the former taking the feminine.

Teri Mehfil Mei.N QismatMughal-e-Azam (1960):

Oh, does it get any better than this? Every moment of Mughal-e-Azam is a poetic dream and this briliant qawwali is no less. Shamshad Begum battles Lata Mangeshkar for the Prince’s approval of their take on love, each lyric outwitting the last. See our translation with glossary for more!

Nigahe.N Milane KoDil Hi To Hai (1963):

Asha Bhonsle’s greatest contribution to this genre, this qawwali has some beautiful Urdu and probably the most thrilling sargams you’ll find in any of her songs. See our translation with glossary here!

Tumhe Husn Dekhe – Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963):

OK, so sure, this qawwali is not particularly memorable for its musical ingenuity (you may or may not cringe the entire way), but how often are you going to behold Shammi and Shashi Kapoor on screen at the same time?! This fascinating qawwali is worth a watch if only for its star value! Kudos to Geeta Bali for holding her own!

Mehengai Maar GayiRoti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974):

This qawwali has a unique flavor–taken from one of Manoj Kumar’s popular Indian propoganda films, the lyrics carry an interesting social message outside the realms of romantic love.

Pardah Hai PardahAmar Akbar Anthony (1979):

A Mohammed Rafi gem, this qawwali ranks among the best of the best. After watching Rishi Kapoor’s enthusiastic performance, you’d believe he was born to be a qawwal. The song is a must-see for anyone interested in the genre.

And just to throw in the contemporary, here’s a picture of me performing the qawwali at last year’s Harvard Ghungroo!

At a Harvard Ghungroo performance of Asha Bhonsle’s “Nigaahe.N Milane Ko.”

-Mrs. 55