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Amir Khusrau, the playful

Amīr Khusrau Dehlawī, a Sufi mystic and a spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi, was not only a notable poet but also a prolific scholar and a seminal musician. He wrote poetry primarily in Persian for the court and Hindvi for the common man.

Amir Khusrau  had a special connection with the common folk and their language of expression. This led him to use the language  in his playful interaction with the people. His songs(geet), couplets( dohas) and riddles( pahelis) are mainly written in that dialect called Hindvi.

There are an endless number of riddles credited to him-some  as Keh Mukarnis( say-deny ), Dosukhnay (two liners) and chaubolay(four liners) etc. in Hindvi.  The riddles convey the spirit of playfulness, celebration, and surprise.

Khusrau’s pahelis, dohas and geets were so enmeshed into the day to day lives of the common man that they were orally transferred from generation to generation. They were passed on by Qawwals (Qawwali singers), mirasees (professional singers), bhands (stage performers),naukranis (women-folk who were employed by aristocratic families to look after children and perform other daily chores, and of course the family members themselves.

Riddles (Dosukhna ):

Dosukhna, (literally meaning a two-liner or a two-verse-thing) is a smart form of riddle in which one has to find one answer for two completely different questions – though that answer could have different meanings for both questions. Interesting part is that the answer is not simply one word or a noun – it has to be a two or three word explanation, since the questions are always asked in ‘Whys’.

Some examples are:

Raja pyasa kyoon? Gadha udasa kyoon?
Lota na tha.

Why is the king thirsty? Why is the donkey sad?
Didn’t have the pot to drink (the king);
Hadn’t rolled on the ground (the donkey)

Deevar kyoon tooti? Raah kyoon luti?
Raaj na tha.

Why did the wall break? Why was there a robbery on the road?
There was no mason (for the wall);
There was no government (to stop the robbery).

Anar kyoon na chakkha? Wazir kyoon na rakkha?
Danaa na tha.

Why didn’t you taste the pomegranate?
Why wasn’t a minister selected?
Didn’t have the seed (the pomegranate);
There wasn’t a wise one (the minister).

Dahi kyoon na jama? Naukar kyoon na rakkha?
Zaamin na tha.

Why didn’t the curd set? Why wasn’t the servant kept?
There was no essence (for the curd),
There was no one to give security(for the servant)

Ghar kyoon andhiyaara? Faqeer kyoon badbadaya?
Diya na tha.

Why was the house in dark? Why did the beggar grumble?
There was no lamp (in the house);
Hadn’t given anything (to the beggar).

Gosht kyoon na khaya? Dom kyoon na gaya?
Gala na tha.

Why wasn’t the meat eaten? Why didn’t the bard sing?
Wasn’t done properly (the meat); Didn’t have a voice (the bard).

Samosa kyoon na khaya? Joota kyoon na pehna?
Tala na tha.

Why wasn’t the samosa (a patty) eaten? Why wasn’t the shoe worn?
Wasn’t fried (the samosa); Didn’t have a sole (the shoe).

Sitar kyoon na baja? Aurat kyoon na nahayi?
Parda na tha.

Why wasn’t the sitar played? Why didn’t the lady bathe?
Didn’t have a reed (the sitar); There was no curtain (for the lady).

Pundit kyoon na nahaaya? Dhoban kyoon maari gayi?
Dhoti na thi.

Why didn’t the pundit (the priest) bathe?
Why was the washerwoman beaten?
Didn’t have a loincloth (the pundit); Did not used to wash (the washerwoman)

Khichdi kyoon na pakaayi? Kabootri kyoon na bhagayi?
Chhadi na thi.

Why didn’t you cook the Khichdi (a rice dish)?
Why didn’t you drive away the (female) pigeon?
Didn’t have a spoon (for the Khichdi);
Didn’t have a stick (to drive away the pigeon).


Ghuum ghumelaa lehangaa pahne,
ek paanv se rahe kharii.
aath haath hain us naarii ke,
suurat usakii lage parii.

Sab koii us kii chaah kare hai,
musalamaan hinduu chhatrii.
“khusaro” ne yah kahii pahelii,
dil me.n apane soch jarii..

A: Chhatri

She wears a round skirt, stands on one leg,
That lady has eight legs,
And looks like a fairy.
Everyone wants her,
Muslim, Hindu, Chhatri (of warrior caste).
Khosrow asks this riddle,
just think about it.

Baalaa thaa jab man ko bhaayaa,
badaa huaa kuchh kaam na aayaa,
“khusaro” kah diyaa us kaa naanv,
buujhe nahiin to chhode gaanv..
A: diyaa

Was lovable when little (or lit),
but was worthless when grown up (or extinguished)
Khusro has told you his name,
solve this riddle or get out of town.
A: Tealight( diyaa)

Ek kahani main kahun,
Tu sunlay meray poot;
Bina paron ke ud gayee,
Woh baandh galay mein soot.

A: Patang

Let me ask a riddle,
Listen, oh my son;
She flew without wings,
with a thread in her neck.
A: A kite

Nar naari kehlaati hai,
aur bin warsha jal jati hai;
Purkh say aaway purkh mein jaai,
na di kisi nay boojh bataai.
A: Nadi ( Darya)

Is known by both masculine and feminine names,
And lightens up (or burns up) without rain;
Originates from a man and goes into a man,
But no one has been able to guess what it is.
A: River

Pawan chalat weh dehe badhavay
Jal peevat weh jeev ganvavay
Hai weh piyari sundar naar,
Naar nahin par hai weh naar.
A: Aag

With the blow of wind she flares up,
And dies as soon as she drinks water;
Even though she is a pretty woman,
She’s not a woman, though she’s feminine.
A: Fire

Ek guni nay yeh gun keena,
Hariyal pinjray mein dedeena;
Dekho jadoogar ka kamaal,
Daalay hara, nikaalay laal.
A: Paan 

One trickster performed this trick,
Inserted a (green) parrot into the cage;
Oh, what an act the sorcerer shows,
Puts in green, takes out red !
A:Betel leaf for chewing 

Bheetar chilmun, baahar
chilmun, beech kaleja dhadkay,
Amir Khusrau yun kahay
woh do do ungal sarkay.

A screen inside,a screen outside,
a pounding heart in between,
Says Amir Khusrau,
its moving inch by inch.

Ujjal ateet moti barani, paayi
 kabnt diyay moye dharani,
Jahaan dhari wahan nahin paayi,
haat bajaar sabhay dhoondh aayi;
Aye sakhi ab keejay ka?
Pi maangay to deejay kya?

He found some beautiful, sparkling pearls, 
and gave them to me to keep,
But alas, I can’t find them now where I kept,
Have searched every corner, even in the bazaar;
What to do, Oh my friend?
What will I give, when the beloved asks?
A: Hail

The Say-and-Deny Riddles of Khusro (Keh Mukarnis):

Keh (say) Mukarni (denial) is an interesting genre of riddles played between two young women, where one of them describes something in a way that it is mistaken by the other girl as her beloved, and finally turns out to be something completely different.

Raat samay woh mere aawe
bhore bhaye woh ghar uthi jawe
Ye achraj hai sab se nyaara
Ay sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi taara!

He comes to me at night
At the onset of dawn he goes away
And it is so very exciting.
Is he the beloved?
No dear, a star!

Jab maangoon tab jal bhar laawe
Mere man ki tapan bujhawe
Man ka bhari tan ka chota
Kya sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, lota!

Brings water whenever I want
Quenches the heat in me
Has a big heart but small body.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, a water jar !

Nange paanv phiran nahin deta
paanv se mitti lagan nahin deta
paanv ka chooma let nipoota
Ay sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi joota!

Does not let me walk barefoot
Does not let my feet get soiled
Hugs my feet always.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, a shoe!

Sej padi moray aankhon aaya,
Daal sej mohay majaa dikhaya,
Kis say kahun ab maja main apna.
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, sapna!

I was lying on the bed,
when he appeared in my eyes,
Oh, he let me have such fun on the bed,
Who should I tell my fun now.
Was it the beloved?
No dear, a dream!

Bakhat bakhat moye wa ki aas,
raat dina oo rahat mo paas;
Meray man ko sab karat hay kaam.
Aye sakhi saajan?
na sakhi, Ram!

Each moment I long for him;
Day and night he remains with me,
And does what my heart asks him to do.
Is it the beloved?
No my dear, its Ram( God)!

Sagri raen chhatiyan par raakha,
Roop rang sab wa ka chaakha;
Bhor bhaee jab diya utaar.
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi haar!

Kept him on my bosom the entire night,
And tasted his various flavours thoroughly;
At dawn, I removed him.
You mean the beloved?
No dear, necklace!

Padi thi main achaanak chadh aayo,
Jab utryo to paseeno aayo,
Sehem gayi nahin saki pukaar,
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, bukhaar!

I was lying when he suddenly came upon me,
I was perspiring, when he got away,
Terrified, I could not scream.
Was it the beloved?
No dear, it was fever!

Woh aaye tab shaadi hovay,
Us bin dooja aur na koye;
Meethay laagen wa ke bol.
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, dhol!

One can’t get married without him/it,
There is no one like him/it;
And he/it sounds so sweet.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, the drum (for singing)!.

Aap hilay aur moye hilaaye,
Wa ka hilna moye mun bhaye;
Hil hil kay woh huva nasankha.
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi pankha!

It shakes itself, and shakes me too,
The shaking really pleases me;
It has become so frail by continually shaking.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, a fan!

Lipat lipat kay wa-kay soyee,
Chhaati say chhaati lagakay royee,
Daant say daant bajay to taada.
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, jaada!

Cuddled up in his arms she slept,
Bosoms pressed against each other, she sobbed,
When the teeth started clattering, she saw.
Was it the beloved?
No my dear, Winter!

Oonchi ataari palang bichhayo,
Main soyi meray sir par aayo;
Khul gayin ankhiyan bhayi anand,
Aye sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, Chand!

Had my bed on the roof top,
And was off to sleep, when he came;
Could not sleep any further, it was such a pleasure.
Was it the beloved?
No dear, it was moon!

Ber-ber sovathi jagave
Na jagoon to kaate khaave
Vyakul hui main hakki bakki
Ay sakhi sajan?
Na sakhi, makkhii!

With sound wakes me from sleep
Bites if I don’t wake up
So nervous I wake up.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, a housefly!

Jab woh moray mandir aaway,
sotay mujhko aan jagaway;
Padhat phirat woh birah ke achchar,
Aye sakhi sajan?
Na sakhi machchar!

Whenever he visits my place,
Wakes me up from the sleep,
He sings the song of separation;
Is it the beloved, oh friend?
No, its mosquito!

Ati surang hai rang rangeele
gunwant bahut chateeley
Ram bhajan bin kabhi na sota
Kyon sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi, totaa!

Is so beautiful and colorful
So very talented too.
Never sleeps without prayers.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, a parrot!

Jeevan sab jag jaso kahe
Wa binu nek na dheeraj rahe
hare chinak mein hiye ki pir
Kya sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi , neer!( aansoo)

Says everything about the life
With it one cannot bear
Takes away the pain.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, tears!

Shobha sada badhawan hara
Ankhin se chhin hot na nyara
Aath peher mero manoranjan.
Kyon sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi , Anjan!( Kaajal)

Beautifies me so much
Doesn’t look nice away from eyes
All the time I enjoy it’s presence.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, the kohl! ( in the eyes).

Bin aaye sab hi sukh bhoole
Aye to ang ang sab phoole
Siri bhai lagawat chaati
Kyon sakhi saajan?
Na sakhi , paati!

Without it’s everyone takes forgranted happiness
If arrives, it worries us a lot
And we have to embrace it anyways.
Is it the beloved?
No dear, sadness!

( Dear readers, if you know of any such riddles by Amir Khusrau which aren’t here, you are welcome to add them in the comments. I shall be highly indebted for that ).

-Amir Khusrau Wikepedia
-Amir Khusrau Website:

Chonani Dar Nazar Nazaar-e-Gaaran~ Amir Khusro~ sung by Shobha Mudgul & Mahsa Vahdat

Shobha Mudgal sings verses of Khusraw beautifully in Farsi and Urdu and is accompanied by Mahsa Vahdat who partly sings in the style of the throat singers from Iran. Of the many magical pieces of music created at the Khusrau Festival.

Chonani dar Nazar Nazar e garan
Ke Raunaq Ishq mi Mahpaar gaaran

Ishq hai Jiss Maqam mein, Koi Dusra Nahi
Main Bhi Tere siva nahi, Tu Bhi Mere siva nahi

Tu dar Khab-e Khush-o-Man bi tu har shab
Shomaram ta Sahar Sayyar gaaran

Mast nahi, Talab nahi
Raah nahi, Rehnuma nahi
Ishq hai, Khud hi Mudwaa
Ishq mein Mudwaa nahi

Alam e mein wo ghum se door, Mehab hai dil tere Huzoor
Ranj nahi, Khushi nahi, Dard nahi, Dawa nahi
Ravi gar Aisa Badakhana e vu
Ke koi Qissa e Awaar Garan

Chonani dar Nazar nazar e garan
Ke Raunaq Ishq mi Mahpaar garan

Shab e dil o Nazar Zaheen, Shab e Zabaan e Ishq hai
Lafz nahi, Bayaan nahi, sood nahi, Sada nahi

Dil-e Diwaana-e Khusrau ni Koneest
Che Goyam bar Pari Rukhsargaan ra

Chonani dar Nazar nazar e garan
Ke Raunaq Ishq mi Mahpaar garan

Dil-e Diwaana-e Khusrau..

Abr Me Ba’rad-o-Mun–Amir Khusro–Zila Khan

Abr me barad o man me shavam az yar juda
Chun kunam dil ba chunin roz ze dildar juda
No, leave me not, my beloved, enjoy this rainy day
And tear you not my love from my loving heart away

Abr o baran o man o yar sitada ba wida
Man juda girya kunan, abr juda, yar juda
Oh how can I this rainy night without my beloved sleep
When everyone is weeping here, weep I and clouds weep

Sabza nou khaiz o hava khurram o bustan sarsubz
Bulbul e rooesiyah manda ze gulzar juda
With the air so fresh and clear, and the garden lush and green
Oh, why is our nightingale not part of the lovely scene?

Dida az behr e to khunbar shud, aye mardum e chashm
Mardumi kun, mashow az dida e khunbar juda
For you, my one and only one, I shed the tears of blood
So don’t be out of my sight, for it’ll become a flood

Husn e to daer napayad chun ze Khusro rafti
Gul basay daer namanad chun shud az khar juda
Away not go from your KHUSRO lest you begin to whittle
Like a flower you will wither when cut you’re from the thistle

Part of the poem not sung here:

Nemat e dida nakhaham keh bamanad pus azin
Manda chu dida azan nemat e didar juda
O light you’re of my eyes, O you’re my gift of sight
And when you’re out of my sight, my day looks like the night

Dida sad rakhna shud az behr e to, khakay ze rahat
Zood bargir o bakun rakhna e divar juda
I love to peek, and ogle you from every chink and crack
My eyes will surely crack up, dear, if they not keep the track

Learning Farsi( Persian), word by word:

1a. abr=cloud, mîbârad=raining, va=u, man=I, mîshavam=become, az=from, yâr=friend, judâ=separated

1b. chun=how, konam=I make dil=heart bachanin=such a rôz=day z=from dildar=in heart judâ=separate ?

2a. abr=cloud u=and bârân=rain u=and man=I va=and yâr=friend sitâdah=stood ba=for vidâ’a=farewell.

2b. man=I judâ=separate girya=tear konân=is making(weeping) abr=cloud judâ=separate tû=you judâ=separate.

3a. sabzah=verdure naw=new khêz=risen u=and havâ=love/passion khurram=joyful u=and bustân=garden sar=head sabz=verdant

3b. bulbul=nightingale rôy=face siyâh=overcast mândah=remained z=from gûzar=place judâ=separated

4a. az=from murâdar=longing tah=root har=every mûy=hair z=from zulfat=tresses bandî=slave

4b. chah=what how konî=do you band=limg z=from bandam=limb hamah=whole yakbâr=all at once judâ=separated ?

5a. dîdh=seen az=from bahar=for every tû=you khûnâbar=raining blood tears shod=become ay=O mardam chashm=pupil of the eye.

5b. mardumî=Courtesy kon=do mushav=be not az=from dîdah=eye/vision khûnâbar=raining blood tears judâ=separate.

6a. ni’mat=Ease dîdah=vision nakhûham=pride ki=that bamând=stayed pasafter then azîn=such as this from this.

6b. mandah=remained chun=when if dîdah=eye/vision izan=from him ni’mat=favour dîdâr=rendezvous judâ=separated.

7a. dîdah=vision sad=hundred rakhna=window shod=became az bahr=for sake of tû=you khâkî=made of dust.

z=from rahat=escaped zûd=haste bargîr=accept u=and bekon=make rakhna=breach dîdâr=vision judâ=separated

8a. maid=remain ham=also so jân=life soul ma rav=go not az=from man=me vagarat=although bâvar=to believe nîst=is not.

bêsh=more azan=from that khwâhahiî=nilly willy bustân=garden u=and nigahdâr=guardian judâ=separated ?

9a. husn=beauty tû=you dêr=late long napîd=not stand firm chû=when if z=from khusraw=Khusrau rufti=you go.

gul=flower basî=many a dêr=long namand=not remain chû=when if shod=become az=from khâr=thistle judâ=separated.

(About the singer: Zila Hussain Khan:Zila Khan  is an Indian sufi singer  , daughter of pre-eminent sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan and Begum Monisha. She was named by her father after Amir Khusrow‘s raag, Zila Kaafi ).

Mahsa Vahdat: Iran Guftaam Chi Roshaan Az Qamar Lyrics: Hazrat Amir Khusrau

Amir Khusrau imagining his dialogue with his master Hz. Nizamuddin Aulia:

Guftam ke roshan az qamar, guftar ke rukhsar-e-manast.

Asks Khusrau, “Who is as bright as moon?”  His master replies: “My cheeks.”

Guftam ke shireen az shaker, guftar ke guftar-e- manast.

I asked, “What is sweeter than sugar? He replies, “My words.”

Guftam tareeq-e-ashiqan, guftar wafadari buwad.

I asked,”What is the way of the loving.” He rpelied, “ Fidelity forever.”

Guftam makun jaur-o-jafa, guftar ke in kair e manast.

I asked, “ Don’t be so cruel and unfair.” He replied, “ This is my business.”

Guftam ke marg –e ashiqan, guftar ke dard e hijr e man.

I asked, “What is the death of the loving?”  He replied, “Separation from me.”

Guftam ilaaj e zindagi, guftar ke deedar-e- manast.

I asked, “What is the treatment of the loving.” He replied, “The sight of me.”

Guftam ke hoori ya pari, guftar  ke man shah e butaan.

I asked, “Then what are hooris and fairies? He replied, “(Leave them), I am their King.”

Guftam ke Khusrau na tawaan, guftar parastar e manast.

I said, “But Khusrau is very weak.” J He replied, “So what, he is my disciple.”

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