Continuing our series on the use of multiple languages in khayal song-texts, we look at a few compositions that predominantly employ Urdu. Many traditional compositions use more than one language, pointing to the fact that composers seem to have been at ease with these languages and their dialects and that they did not mind blending them in a single composition. In other words, for them, each of these languages perhaps, did not exist in isolation.

More importantly, while each of these languages may have been spoken predominantly in specific regions of northern India, their seamless intermingling suggests the composers’ ability to look beyond narrow geographical and political boundaries.

The fact that vocalists in successive generations have chosen to sing these compositions, often despite the lack of association with these languages as is evident in the prevalence of curious pronunciations or varying interpretations of the text, is equally an indication that we do not after all live a cloistered existence.

The first composition in the third episode of this series is sung by prominent vocalist Vasantrao Deshpande. Composed in Puriya Dhanashree, a raag prescribed for twilight, this drut bandish or fast composition set to the 12-matra Ektaal has a predominance of Urdu, but it also incorporates some Punjabi words.

The composition is often attributed to Fateh Ali, one of the vocal duo Ali Baksh and Fateh Ali, who are considered the founders of what came to be known as the Patiala gharana. However, it is possible that this was composed by Alladiya Meherbaan, a disciple of Fateh Ali.


The second composition with a few Urdu words is also in the same raag. It is a prayer to Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the revered Sufi saint. Set to the 16-matra Sitarkhani or Addha taal, it is sung by popular vocalist Veena Sahasrabuddhe.


One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.