Mata ke Bhentein

You’ll never ever realize the advantages of living close to a temple if you haven’t had first-hand experience. For years, I have lived (between commuting from city to city for concerts) in a small flat close to the Jhandewalan temple in Paharganj, New Delhi. For years, therefore, I have been one of the favoured few to get the first whiff of all the latest mata ki bhainten or musical gifts to the mother/goddess. The traffic roundabout nearby is always cluttered with garish hoardings announcing forthcoming vishaal jagarans or great night-long musical extravaganzas during which devotees offer 21st century-style prayers to their beloved sheraa-wali mata (or the lion/tiger-riding Mother), complete with song, dance and entertainment.

I call them 21st century-style prayers because with each successive year, the jagaran (originally meant to be a night where devotees gathered to stay awake and chant the name of the goddess in song, prayer and thanksgiving) is fast turning into an event, often even a mega-event, with celebrity guests including politicians, criminals-turned-politicians, television and film stars and the like being brought in to attract larger crowds and bigger sponsors.

This Navaratri, the show got bigger and better than ever before. From one of the many stalls filled with all manner of religious/devotional merchandise that line the streets outside the temple, I made one of my prized Navaratri purchases-a brand new VCD titled Jhalak Dikhla Ja, Maiyaa Tu Aaja.

Replete with an auspicious number of 11 Bolly-bhakti and telly-bhakti tracks, the VCD starts with a bhaint (rhymes with ate, but with a nasal twang) set to the tune of a faultlessly copied version of Himesh Reshammiya’s Jhalak dikhla ja, jhalak dikhla ja, ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aaaaa jaaaa. The strident notes of the shehnai at the start of the original Reshammiya hit, the programmed groove, the “oooooh ooh ooh” that marks the start of the vocals in the original-all remain the same in this bhakti-fied version, which incidentally is not sung by Reshammiya. The Bolly-telly-bhakti twist, however, is achieved by changing the lyrics to:

“Daras dikhlaana (as opposed to Daras dikhla ja in the track listing on the back cover)Daras dikhlaana (Grant me your darshan)Main tumhein jab jab yaad karoon, Ma chali aanaa (Mother, come to me whenever I remember you)Betaa hoon main tu meri Mata (I am your son and you my Mother)Na toote kabhi Ma ye naataa… (May this bond remain ever unbroken…)”

The singers acknowledged on the cover are well-known artistes of the ilk of Udit Narayan and Anuradha Paudwal as well as some lesser known singers such as Soham, Rekha Rao, Tulsi Kumar and, heaven help me, even a Shubha with Pandit Ram Avatar Sharma. I recognize Udit Narayan’s voice on a track meant for NRI devotees of the goddess. This one says:

“Ho, main pardesi hoon, pehli baar aaya hoon (I am a foreigner on my first visit here)Darshan karne maiyaa ke darbar aaya hoon… (I have come to the mother’s darbar to catch a glimpse of her…)”

And the video accompanying the song (remember it’s a VCD with “Play Back Control (PCB) interactivity only with Video CD Version 2.0 players”) shows an aircraft touching down on the tarmac, with the pardesi guy in trousers, jacket and a Stetson of sorts, who gets into a vehicle that takes him up curving mountain roads to the shrine of the goddess. As he drives up devoutly, he sings “Main pardesi hoon…”

Not that any of this surprises me in the least. Remember, I told you I’m an old hand at getting the first peek previews of these offerings. Which is why I got to hear “Kukk kukk kukkk kukk gufaa ke andar kya hai…” years ago set to the infamous “Choli ke peechhe kya hai”!

Originally published in The Mint ( on November 16, 2007. URL: Jhalak Dikhla Ja

Shubha Mudgal

Shubha Mudgal


  •    Reply

    Dear Shubhaji

    This was quite an interesting read. This seems quite funny that people really take this kind of a bhakti seriously. I have seen pathways towards many popular temples flooded with, audio CD’s and cassettes containing such examples of 21st century Bhakti,
    I could never understand how people tend to take this seriously but my recent visit to Mahakal Temple at Ujjain, would be memorable where I heard a similer example on the tune of “Ali More Angna”. Interesting thing to quote is that those CD’s were selling like hot cakes!!

    Abhijit Arvind Datey

  •    Reply

    Yes, Ali More Angana was appropriated for a Maataa ki Bhent also years ago when it was popular. I think the lyrics went something like this- Mata more angna daras dikhaa jaa!

    I remember people telling me then that a song is truly a hit only if it is played by bands (brass bands) at weddings, or if it is turned into a bhent!

  •    Reply

    Yeah this could be true,

    The only question I have in mind is How an artist feels when his own song is punctured and twisted to something else like this?
    The essence of Bhakti seems lost these days, I left going to temples because even at those places you can’t expect peace and quiet. You are never away from loudspeakers blaring such examples.

    I was really speechless to listen to your album, “Haman hain Ishq” with those age old compositions, which still seem so near to life. I loved listening to “Tum Khelhun Phag” and “Rhee man Baithya Jaaga”,

    I live at Bhopal, I heard u in a concert here 1 year back, and it was an amazing experience.
    Please keep updating your blog for upcoming concerts too.

  •    Reply
    Anuradha Bantwal April 5, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I loved the write up!! So true how we make things convenient for ourselves. I have a gurudwara in the building opposite mine. Whenever they have their prayers, they have bhajans set to filmy tunes except they fortunately stick to the Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor era.

  •    Reply

    Shubhaji, you have brought out a flood of memories of these ‘mata ka jagratas’ with your post. I grew up in the southern part of Delhi and have very fond memories if all the 80s hits being converted to mata bhajans. Sadly, I did not view them with such indulgence in those days, because invariably these jagratas happened during my exams. Hiwever, now I cannot escape the genius behind them. My favourite still remains an ode to Hanumanji with the classic Barsaat Lata song

    Hawa mein udta jaaye,
    mera hanumaan bajrang bali
    jai ho jai ho (note ho jee changed to jai ho)

    Idhar udhar lehraaye
    mera hanumaan bajrang bali
    jai ho jai ho!!

    but now I am a Pardesi, I think it’s time I acquired ‘Main Pardesi Hoon’
    Jai Ho…!!!!



  •    Reply

    Shubhaji, Happy to find your blog and read interesting articles.

    I have your album which features Kyon Suttee Rahiyan……. It is really excellent. But it has not been given wide publicity. At least in Delhi I donot find any material on this album. Maybe in other parts of the country it may have catched attention of more music lovers. Kindly comment.

    Couple of years back in Delhi in a programme, you had mentioned that you were in the process of recording music for the children or the material which could be helpful for children to learn indian classical music. What is the status. I shall be grateful if you could inform me.

    By the way I was a student learning Flute from Shri Prakash Narain Saxena at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Delhi, many years ago. I still remember once I came to practise in the room meant for the flute class. You were immersed in ‘riaaz’. Having noticed me you immediately stopped and wanted to leave the room so that I could sit and practice. But I requested you to continue and I left immediately. But with a strong feeling that you were destined to move very far in the horizon of Indian classical music. By that time, you had not started giving public concerts. I am happy to say now that in a short time, you have made for yourself the place which even after a lifetime, many artistes are not able to achieve. Apart from music, your concern for other social causes, makes you dear to every one.

    I have heard your recitals at the NEHRU PARK under SPIC-MACAY and each concert was a memorable one.

    Definitely you have made classical music more popular amongst the younger generation, who throng in large numbers just to see you. And it is commendable that in the concerts of Indian classical music, you have never compromised to sing any pop number from your other albums.

    I pray to God to give you strength and wisdom to continue to work in this field with continued zeal and dedication so that the Indian music gets more enriched in the coming years.

    With all the best wishes,
    vishan lal

  •    Reply

    Actually I have always heard Khayal, thumri or even dhrupad cheezas which resembled each other – either in mukhada or in asthayi or in anatara. I never worried about the “copy-right” over these cheezas because it is difficult to find an ‘original’.

  •    Reply

    Suvir ji,

    I beg to disagree and cite the following reasons:

    1. Khayal, dhrupad or thumri compositions in a particular raag would of necessity have some melodic similarities because they must adhere to a raag structure. Therefore, compositions in Raag Yaman, for instance, would all have to adhere to the basic melodic structure and raag niyam. And yet, if you study a large number of compositions, you will note that composers have been able to highlight different aspects of a raag through different compositions. To equate them with parodies or copies of film songs used for bhajans or mata ke bhent songs would be rather short sighted.

    2. Sometimes, a composer will make a “joda” or a pair to match an existing bandish, but just the fact that it is called a “joda” acknowledges the source of inspiration.

    3. I have not brought up the issue of copyright in my piece, because for all I know, the copyright of the original song may well be with the same music company that is producing and publishing the copy. I agree with you that it would be almost impossible to claim originality, but surely you would agree that basing a bhajan or an offering to the Goddess on an explicitly raunchy, bawdy film song would be a market driven strategy more than a creative effort inspired by devout intention.

  •    Reply

    Shubha ji,

    My point is that within the shared musical tradition we have never been able to “copy-right” the ‘original’ because the original has lost itself through the course of transmission within the traditions.

    Then, within musical tradition of Dhrupad/Khayal/Thumri there has been a sharing of compositions and musical-form. We have always been into the “re-mixing” business- “re-mixing” Dhrupad compositions into Khayal compositions and Khayal into Thumris and Look-Geet into Thumris and Gats into Taranas and so on. So, some one “re-mixing” the filmi or sufi-pop into maata-ki-bheente is understandable.

    When I first Chanchal ji’s bheete I could see that it was following the tradition of mixing musical-forms- until I came to know that the “original” was a “raunchy and bawdy” item number complete with pelvic thrusts. But till the time the ‘original’ was hidden – the copy had it’s distinct and perfect existence of its own. And maybe we should appreciate the effort of these jaagran singers of trying to sublimate that “raunchy” song that evoked kama into more sublime bhakti rasa.

    I am all for protecting the copyrights of the original composer in the modern times- but if some one gets ‘inspired’ by a well known composition of Sadarang or a known thumri of Binda-din or Dhrupad of Dagar parampara or of a well known Quawwal or any other traditional composer – then can that claim to originality be sustainable??

    I don’t know the answer, perhaps you can give us?

  •    Reply

    It may interest you to know that this phenomenon has spilled over into the realm propaganda.

    This link was posted to the newsgroup RIMC a while ago by some joker calling himself “Hindu Mahasabha”. He also added this accompanying note, which I cherish for its sheer chutzpah value:

    “Finally,we have a released a music cd conating bhakti songs on Bhagwaan shri
    Raam.These songs have been sung by world famous classical and devotional
    singer Pandit Jasraj.All of these devotional songs are based on classical
    ragas such as darbari,malkauns,brindavani sarang,kamod etc.Only indigenous
    instruments have been used for the recording.”

    I cordially invite you to verify these claims by checking out a couple of songs. My favourite is this one:


  •    Reply

    Priceless observation Ma’am!
    But beyond the fact that these music companies manufacture such bhakti compositions based on popular bollywood numbers- what beats me is that such stuff apparently sells!!! A majority population exists that LISTENS to this stuff voluntarily and apparently feel closer to God by doing so!! its horriffic!! I dont understand where such crass sensibility comes from!!

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