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May 21, 2008 / lazybug

Raghupati Raaghava Raaja Raam

Raghupati Raaghava Raaja Raam,
Patita paavana Siita Raam,
Siita Raam, Siita Raam,
Bhaj pyaare tu Siita Raam,
Ishwara Allah Teero Naam,
Sab ko Sanmati de Bhagavaan.

For every Indian, the last two lines of the verse above are as much a part of the Bhajan as the ones preceding them. I was of the same opinion. That changed when my dad played an old cassette from his collection. It contained the ‘original’ Bhajan sung beautifully by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. The original did not have the last two lines. It was a bhajan only for Lord Ram. It was Gandhi who added those lines. Dad also told me that many people (him being of the same opinion) were not too happy with what Gandhi had done to the original. This happened many months ago, and at that time I was not quite able to figure out the whole thing.

Enlightenment struck last Sunday when dad played the same cassette again.

Gandhi sang the song during the Dandi march and made all his followers sing it too. It caught on and so the message it carried reached the people. Uniting Hindus and Muslims was one of his primary objectives in the mission of achieving freedom from the Britishers. It is important here to note that unlike today, when means to spread a message are abundant, during the 1940s the word of mouth was perhaps the only means to do so. Hence, choosing the right song was very important. But one question remains: why not write a song yourself? I believe he did that because this bhajan was already quite popular. As the wikipedia entry linked above tells, Vishnu Digambar Pulaskar was a well-known singer. He had travelled the North of India extensively and planned to set-up a music school in Lahore. He was also the first artist to give a public concert, which was a strict no-no in those days. Only the kings and the elite of the society got to listen to good singers.

In essence, all Gandhi did was this: He took a popular bhajan, rejigged it a bit and used it as a means to promote a message of peace.

Smart man. Definitely ahead of his time. Hats off!

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8 Comments

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  1. Aravind / May 22 2008 1:47 am

    Gandhi, the remixer.

  2. Liju Philip / May 22 2008 1:52 am

    Gandhi is similar to what Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik and Pritam are to today’s music.

    Add a bit of dhinchak dhinchak to the original song and pass it off as a new composition 😉

    Not taking away anything from the great soul, Gandhi. Desperate times called for desperate measures. He did what he thought was right. Digressing a bit, I had read this statement of Gandhi once. Am not sure of the authenticityof the statement. He went…

    “If i have to choose between cowardice and violence, i would choose violence”

    and this one came from the biggest proponent of non-violence himself.

  3. Sridevi / May 22 2008 4:10 pm

    I came to know this two and half years back from my uncle when I was singing it. He enlightened me on the original lyrics. As it’s been my son’s lullaby, the lyrics (original) have become very popular in our house. But, I never heard the entire original song.

  4. lazybug / May 22 2008 5:17 pm

    Aravind: Yeah. 🙂

    Liju: I don’t know the context of that statement, but to my knowledge, Gandhi’s version of violence was the non-physical one…as in non-cooperation and stuff like that.

    Sridevi: I think those 4 lines are the entire song.

  5. Chittaranjan / May 22 2008 6:35 pm

    😳 I’d heard the middle-two-lines for the first time while in Engg.! Till then I was of the opinion that the bhajan had only 4 lines.

  6. Chittaranjan / May 22 2008 6:38 pm

    P.S: whats with the numero-alphabeto-logy in the post?

    two a’s in ‘Ram’, two i’s in ‘Sita’, two e’s in ‘Tero’, two a’s in ‘Bhagwan’??

  7. lazybug / May 22 2008 6:44 pm

    Aha…that’s ‘coz the lyrics were copy pasted from the wikipedia page.

  8. Sridevi / May 23 2008 2:47 pm

    No, those four lines are not the entire song. The lyrics that I know:

    Raghupathi raghava rajaraam
    Pathithapaavana seetharam
    Sundhara vigraha meghashyam
    Ganga tulasi salagram
    Bhadra girishwara seetharam
    Bhakatha janapriya seetharam
    Janaki ramana seetharam
    Jaya jaya raghava seetharam

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