Babul Mora: The Queen Among Thumris

(Updated on 15 February 2015)

Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaye…argubly, no other song represents the early Indian film music (of the 30s and early 40s) as this one in K L Saigal’s voice does. After close to 75 years of it being released (for the 1938 movie, Street Singer), this still remains a favorite of the discerning listener of vintage Indian film music. Many dub it as Saigal’s best. But few would know that this Bhairavi thumri, composed by Wajid Ali Shah, has been one of the favorite thumris of many a singers over generations—from Ustad Faiyaz Khan—the most well-known singer of Agra Gharana and arguably one of the best voices on record—to Alisha Chinoy. Wajid Ali Shah, to the uninitiated, was the last Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) who was exiled by the British to Metiaburz in Calcutta by the British. The Nawab was a great patron of art and music and was himself a good singer and composer. A book by Abdul Halim Sharar, Guzishta Lucknow, gives a very good account of his life in exile at Metiaburz, where he continued his indulgence in art, music and food. An English translation of the book, published by Oxford University Press titled Lucknow: The Last Phase of An Oriental Culture, is available. It is said that the Nawab composed the thumri when he was exiled by the British. While the literal meaning of the poem indicates the sadness of a newly-wed bride leaving her father’s home, many interpret it as the feeling of the Nawab when he was forcibly sent out of his beloved Lucknow to the distant Calcutta. The Nawab was sent out with a generous amount of wealth and people accompanying him—the decorated doli of the bride is supposed to be a metaphor for this. Here is the lyrics.

Babul mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae 
Babul mora - mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae

Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven re
Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven
Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven re
Mora apana begana chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hii jaae

Aangana to parbat bhaya aa..
aur deharii bhayii bidesh
Aangana to parbat bhaya han
aur deharii bhayii bidesh
Je babul ghar aapano main chali piiyaa ke desh
Babul mora, naihar chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hii jaae

The thumri has been song by many maestros of Indian classical music. I have read in many places that Ustad Faiyaz Khan used to sing it quite frequently in concerts. When I first wrote this, I could not locate the recording but I found it subsequently and have added it here. Among other singers of earlier generations, it has been sung by Gauhar Jaan and Malka Jaan. I give here a list of links to the song in the voices of some of the greatest singers in Indian music. Many others have sung it. The other great singers who I have read/heard have sung the thumri but I could not find them anywhere include—apart from Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Gauhar Jaan—Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Siddheswari Devi, Begum Akhtar, and Naina Devi. Here is the list

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5 Comments

Filed under Culture, Indian Classical Music, Music

5 responses to “Babul Mora: The Queen Among Thumris

  1. I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve
    put in penning this website. I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog
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  2. Pingback: The Millennium Thumris of Hindi Cinema | Nothing to Declare

  3. Here is one singer lesser heard but she sang this thumri very well. Just follow some of her other Saigal renditions..

  4. nutsure

    Just listen to this lesser heard singer Sangeeta Nerurkar. I have not heard a performance like this in recent years…

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