Ten of my favourite Dupatta/Chunri/Chunariya songs

In November last year, friend, fellow blogger and soul sister Anu came to India on work—and actually came all the way to Delhi to meet me (now if that isn’t flattering, I don’t know what is!) We spent two days chatting, comparing notes on everything from books to our families to recipes; wandering around Chandni Chowk; buying jewellery and sarees and whatnot… and, as a gift, Anu bought me this absolutely lovely dupatta from Mrignayani, the Madhya Pradesh State Crafts Emporium on Baba Kharak Singh Marg.

Dupatta
And me, being what I am, on the way back in the car to drop Anu off where she was staying, remarked, “I should do a post on dupatta songs.” Anu agreed. Because dupattas have been a fairly important part of female attire in Hindi cinema for a while. If you wore a salwar-kurta (or churidarkurta) or a sharaara, or even a ghaagra, the dupatta served to drape the upper part of the body: the bosom, at least, but in some cases, even the head. It thus became a symbol of modesty—and, in some instances, an extension of the heart, the feelings of the wearer. More than the saree or any other garment, the dupatta became the theme for songs. (It even gave its name to one really lovely Pakistani film starring Noorjehan).

Therefore, without further dilly-dallying, the list. These are all, as usual, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and the songs are in no particular order.

1. Hawa mein udtaa jaaye mora laal dupatta malmal ka (Barsaat, 1949): While this is by no means my favourite dupatta song, it was the song that first occurred to me when I thought of this post—mainly because the colour is the same as that of the dupatta Anu bought me. Red. Not that you can see the colour here, since the song is in black and white, but this is still a classic: the music is good, as is the rendition, and the song has all the innocent charm of a young woman celebrating youth as she dances through the valleys and streams of Kashmir. Well, not exactly, since the long shots are of Kashmir, but the close-ups are obviously a set. But still. And that, by the way, is Bimla Kumari, in case you (like me, till a few days back) didn’t know.

Hawa mein udta jaaye mera laal dupatta malmal ka, from Barsaat

2. Gora rang chunariya kaali motiyon waali (Howrah Bridge, 1958): If Bimla Kumari’s red muslin dupatta reflected the unspoilt beauty of the countryside, Minoo Mumtaz’s dupatta is rather more in keeping with the urban boisterousness of a metropolis. It even sounds fashionable: black, embroidered with beads: a far cry, indeed, from the simple muslin dupatta of a Kashmiri village girl.

While the picturization of this song doesn’t focus on the dupatta, it’s interesting to note the way in which the lyrics use the dupatta as a stand-in for the woman herself (a symbol which is used, vice-versa, for the man and his turban). He tells her that her dupatta has stolen his heart away; she tells him that she likes his colourful pagri. All another way of saying that it’s the wearer, rather than the garment, which is really the object of the admiration and the affection.

Gora rang chunariya kaali, from Howrah Bridge

3. Dupatta mera malmal ka rang saleti halka (Adalat, 1958): Several songs that mention dupattas also mention the colour of the dupatta. Here, the dupatta (also malmal, or muslin) is a ‘halka saleti’—a pale grey. Like the previous song, this one too features Minoo Mumtaz (though acting the ‘male’ part of the dancing duo, to Nargis’s female), and like the previous one, too, this one is definitely Punjabi in flavour. The woman talks of the prettiness of her dupatta, and the shine on the buttons of her kurta—and her ‘lover’ agrees. That dupatta only has to slip once, revealing the loveliness of the wearer, and the world will be at her feet.

Dupatta mera malmal ka, from Adalat

4. Dhaani chunri pehen sajke (Hare Kaanch ki Churiyaan, 1967): While this song is known for its refrain—Baj uthengi hare kaanch ki churiyaan—it begins with a reference to the similarly-coloured chunri the new bride will wear: dhaani, or deep green (literally, the ‘colour of dhaan’, or paddy). The hero has gone away, promising to return soon, and his beloved, missing him every moment of the day, sits about in a reverie, imagining what he’ll bring when he comes: bangles of green glass, to signify her marriage to him. And she will be wearing a green chunri, too, and greeting her new husband. I don’t like Naina Sahu (she looks too much like her father, Kishore Sahu, which may not have been terrible if she were a man, but…). Biswajeet doesn’t float my boat. And I didn’t much like this film. But the song isn’t bad, and of course it provides us with another dupatta in another colour.

Dhaani chunri pehen sajke, from Hare Kaanch ki Chooriyaan

5. Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera (Pakeezah, 1972): And one absolutely classic song about a dupatta. A song, too, in which the dupatta occupies centre stage: the song is all about it. How it was bought, at an asharfi a yard. How it was coloured (pink). How it was snatched while the wearer walked through the bazaar. Ghulam Mohammad’s music is superb, Lata’s rendition is (to me) faultless, and Meena Kumari—in one of the scenes shot when she was still young and energetic, not worn and tired as she was by the time Pakeezah was finally done and released—rules the screen.

Inhi logon ne, incidentally, is a traditional song (some credit it to Amir Khusro), and one not restricted to Pakeezah. There have been other versions of Inhi logon ne, including one by Shamshad Begum, and this one which has Yaqub singing the song, dupatta draped over his head and all. Yaqub is no oil painting, but he certainly shows here that he can carry a tune pretty well.

Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera, from Pakeezah

6. Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamaari ho Ram (Nau Do Gyaarah, 1957): SD Burman composed some of his best tunes for Navketan, and Nau Do Gyaarah was, as far as I am concerned, one of those stellar scores with not one bad song. In fact, one great song after another. Between Kali ke roop mein and Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho and Aankhon mein kya ji, however, this gentle and soothing little song that celebrates romance sometimes tends to get overlooked. The instrumentation acts as a soft backdrop for Asha’s voice, and Majrooh’s lyrics are at times (“… jaise chupke se ban mein bahaar aa gayi…”) reminiscent of Faiz Ahmed ‘Faiz’. A lovely song that uses the sliding down of the dupatta (not that Kalpana Karthik wears one here) as a metaphor for the young woman’s falling in love.

Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamaari, from Nau Do Gyaarah

7. Maine rang lee aaj chunariya (Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, 1967): Very similar in tone and metaphor to Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamaari is this song from Dulhan Ek Raat Ki: the heroine rejoices in the love of her sweetheart, and her chunariya (in this case, as in the song of Nau Do Gyaarah, not really appearing in the picturization as a dupatta, but as perhaps the pallu of her sari). Nutan’s character sings of how she has ‘coloured her chunri’ in the love of her beloved: the chunri becomes a symbol of her. She has coloured herself, soaked her very being (and if you’re watching this song from the beginning, you’ll see what a messy job she’s done of it) in his love.

Maine rang li aaj chunariya, from Dulhan ek Raat ki

8. Laaga chunri mein daag (Dil Hi Toh Hai, 1963): Amidst all the songs of women singing about their dupattas and how those dupattas signify their modesty, their virtue—a song sung by a man. A song, though, which has three distinct layers of meaning to the words (Sahir Ludhianvi was the lyricist for this song; the words, sadly, tend to get overlooked in the face of Manna Dey’s brilliant rendition of a tune composed by Roshan).

The literal meaning is clear enough: her chunri has gotten stained; how will she return to her father’s home with a dirty chunri? The underlying meaning—and one which is often used—is easily understood, too: she has lost her maidenhood (there is a mention of a sasuraal, so this isn’t as scandalous as it might appear at first glance); she is too embarrassed to return to her childhood home, no longer a virgin.

And—the final, deepest, meaning. A meaning which is mystic, and turns the whole song around to apply to not just a woman, but any human being. Kori chunariya atmaa mori, mail hai maaya jaal; woh duniya mere baabul ka ghar, yeh duniya sasuraal (My spirit is the clean, unstained chunariya; the glamour and attraction of this world is the filth that threatens to stain it. That world—heaven—is my father’s home; this world—Earth—is my husband’s home, to which I am now tied). Profound. And, oh, so beautifully sung.

Laaga chunari mein daag, from Dil Hi Toh Hai

9. Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re (Bahaaron ke Sapne, 1967): Another classic and very well-known chunri song. Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re sounds, at first, like another version of Arre yaar meri tum bhi ho ghazab (when it comes to lyrics, not tune, I hasten to add), with Anwar Hussain’s character admonishing the dancer, Padma Khanna, to watch out and not let her chunri slip (not that she’s actually wearing a chunri, but by now we all know what is really meant by that word of caution).

After that, though, the song takes a completely different route, with Asha Parekh’s character being allowed to take it up and change it into a song offering comfort to her lover, who stands by, looking forlornly on. Raina nahin apni, par apna hoga kal ka savera, she sings. The night may not be ours, but tomorrow’s dawn will be ours.

Beautiful song, well-picturized, and with such a very infectious tune.

Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re, from Bahaaron ke Sapne

10. Main toh odhoon gulaabi chundariya aaj re (Humayun, 1945): And, to end, a song that’s little-known, but which is worth including for several reasons, besides the fact that it is about a chundariya (a pink one). One reason is that this song is picturized on a young and radiant Veena. Another is that Veena’s character in this film was a very satisfying one: brave, feisty, intelligent. The third reason is that this song moves away from the trope of the chunri/dupatta being a representation of the woman’s modesty. It still represents her emotions to some extent, though: she sings that she has donned a pink dupatta today because her brother has donned the crown today. The entire song is about the happiness in her heart, and all through the land, because her brother will now be the ruler. (Interestingly, the man she refers to is not even her real brother; he is Humayun, whom she, a Rajput princess, has accepted as a brother after having been adopted by Humayun’s now-dead father, Babar).

Main toh odhoon gulaabi chundariya, from Humayun

What dupatta/chunri/chunni/chunariya/chundariya (or synonyms thereof) songs would you add to this list? Bring ‘em on!

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66 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Dupatta/Chunri/Chunariya songs

    • Dupatte ki gireh mein baandh lijiye didn’t seem familiar to me – until I began listening to it. Really nice song, it’s been ages since I heard it. Thanks for that.

  1. Finally! I was missing a new post! And so glad to see this one here. :)

    Here’s one from Champakali filmed on Suchitra Sen and Bharat Bhushan. Music is by Hemant Kumar; it’s sung by Lata and Hemant Kumar.
    Ae ji, ae ji, chhodo bhi dupatta mera

    Maahi o maahi o dupatta mera de de from Meena Bazaar; music: Husnlal Bhagatram. Lata and Rafi.

    Another one – it goes back to the ‘dupatta’ standing in for ‘innocence’ trope.
    Kachchi hai umariya from Char Dil Char Raahein Geeta Dutt/Anil Biswas

  2. Lovely songs, I am surprised that the topic had not been covered before. Any time, I think of a theme, yourself or Anu had already covered it. Some of my favourites are in your list. Dhalti jaaye chunariya, chunri sambhal gori, laga chunri mein daag.. Inhi login ne, yes very nicely chosen songs. The first song that came to mind after reading your list was “Kachhi hai umariya”, Anu has already posted it. I loved the transformation of meena Kumari with mere kajal and few silver ornaments.
    So here is one..
    From tere mere sapne, jaise Radha ne mala japi shaam ki, Maine odi chunariya tere naam ki.

    • I’d completely forgotten about this song, Neeru! It is a lovely one, thank you so much.

      And yes, Meena Kumari looks quite different from her usual self in Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein, doesn’t she?

  3. Pardon if I am adding one song at a time, since I always have trouble posting more than one :( sarke, sarke, sar se chunariya from Silsila

    • It’s absolutely okay to post songs one at a time, Neeru. I haven’t seen Silsilaand the only songs from that that I remember are the Holi one and Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum. Listening to this, of course, I remember that I have heard it.

  4. Madhu, you’ve covered just about every dupatta song from Hindi films that I could think of. In fact, I searched for dupatta songs in my blog and found quite a few matches. I’m glad that you also gave due credit to the Pakistani/Urdu Noor Jehan film named Dupatta (not surprising, since I know you liked it). Meanwhile, your list includes every dupatta wearer in the old Hindi films from Minoo Mumtaz to Yakub. (I’ve thrown that Yakub version at a few people directly in addition to posting it on the blog. :) )

    I can’t add any Hindi Dupatta songs that you haven’t already included, but I have a favorite Punjabi one. Though we have to switch languages here, I think it fits with the list so nicely, with Shamshad Begum singing for Shyama:

    • I’m so glad you posted Chhad de tu mera dupatta, Richard! I love this song (well, Shyama and Shamshad Begum – what’s not to like?), and had been wishing I could’ve included it, so am happy that you did.

  5. Dupatta or chunari are really quite often mentioned in Hindi film songs. Very approrpriate of you to make a list of it. Is there a difference between dupatta and chunari?

    hawa me udataa jaaye was a favourite song of my mum’s. She particularly liked Barsaat the most form all Raj Kapoor films.
    Bimla Kumari looks a bit like Tanuja in that screen shot, doesn’t she?

    gora rang chunariya kaali sounds like the other OPN composition reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for the word saleti halka. I alwayys used to wonder what that word is. So saleti comes from slate, I presume.

    Again a puzzle solved, dhani is deep green. That explains many a thing, like why Supriya Pathak asks for dhani chudiyaan in Bazaar. BTW, shouldn’t the colour of dhaan or paddy, should be beige? Maybe the colour of the plant is meant.

    What a lovely song ‘inhi logon ne’ is. Love it. And the shade of pink worn by Meena is beautiful too.
    You must already be knowing the b/w version of the song, where the dupatta doesn’t look that gulabi, but Meena all the more younger

    I do tend to forget dhalki jaaye chundariya quite often, although it is quite nice.

    laaga chunari me daag is undoubtedly the best song of the list. Just love it and so well sung. This was the first song, which came to my mind, when I saw the list.

    chunari sambhal is another Manna Dey song, which I like. In his earlie rpart of his career, RDB has put manna Dey’s voice to real good use.

    Heard main to odhoon gulaabi chundariya today for the first time. Veena looks beautiful. To whose voice does she move her lips?

    O dupatta rang de mera from Gajre

    Another composition by Anil Biswas. I particularly like this Meena Kapoor song from Chaar Dil Chaar Raahen

    This is also a nice one from Rani Roopmati

    As I was searching for the above song I got this one from Ladki

    Incidentally, both have Bharat Bhushan in it.

    Thanks for the interesting and informative list, Madhu!

    • Thank you, Harvey! I’m glad you enjoyed this list, and thank you for the songs you suggested, too. Kachi hai umariya gori hai chunariya is a nice song; I had forgotten it, though I’ve seen the film a couple of times. Baat chalat nayi chunariya rang daari is good – Rani Rupmati does have great songs; I must watch it someday. I loved the female version of the song from Ladki too – though I was surprised to discover that it was sung by Geeta Dutt. Doesn’t sound like her, somehow.

      I had never heard Dupatta rang de. Somewhat ‘typical’ sort of song when it comes to music, isn’t it?

      “Is there a difference between dupatta and chunari?

      Not that I know of. Just two names for the same thing, as far I know.

      Oh, and thank you for adding the link to that B/W version of Inhi logon ne! I don’t recall watching this before, though I did know that it had been filmed. I find it interesting that the very style of her costume changed from the B/W version to the colour one – ghagra-choli in the earlier one, peshwaaz-churidaar in the colour. I wonder why.

      • Maybe she looked too heavy in ghaghra choli :). Duppata I think is a punjabi word for chunri. We almost always use the word Duppata or chunni, never chunri. Duppata was more common with my grandparents, we used chunni more often.

        • Ah. I hadn’t realized dupatta may be a Punjabi word for the chunni. I remember we in our family (and we’re from UP) invariably called it chunni when we were younger, though now we intend to call it a dupatta… possibly the Punjabi influence of having lived in Delhi for 30 years!

      • dupatta rang de IS a typical sort of song.
        The changes between the BW and colour version of inhi logon ne is indeed a big one. The grandeur of the whole kotha street is not to be seen in the earlier one. The earlier version could be any kotha song, except for the fountains AND the Moon. The open windows and the going-ons in the other kothas do add more to the atmosphere of the later version. Particularly it sets this song apart from the other kotha-songs of the film in that, that the other songs like thade rahiyon have a more exclusive audience. Inhi logon ne is more like in middle of the bazaar. If the same settings as in the b/w version were used then her rise on the ladder of success wouldn’t have been that pointed.
        Thanks for the clarification about chunri and dupatta. Thanks to Neeru as well for the further info.

        • Well said, Harvey, about this song being a more ‘middle of the bazaar’ one, compared to the other songs of Pakeezah. The lyrics and her dancing bear it out, too – they’re more flirtatious, more downmarket, if you know what I mean. If you compare this to Yoon hi koi mil gaya thha or Thare rahiyo, they are more sophisticated, her dancing is more sedate, and the songs have a poignancy or a romance to them that Inhi logon ne lacks.

  6. I am so envious of you two getting together in Delhi, I can just imagine the two days you both enjoyed together. Almost reminds you of one’s younger days of carefree friendships and just be.

    I came back to post “baat chalat” , it’s already posted. So here is a punjabi song mentioning chunni, from Pakistani film Jatti. Apparently the song became quite famous because several singers have presented it in later years. ” meri chunni diyan reshmi tandan” . Sung by Zubaida Khanum. Music is by the famous Baba Chishti.

    • As you can imagine, I’d never heard Chunni apni nu rang keeta before. That’s Indira Billi, isn’t it? The man looks familiar, but I can’t put a name to him.

      Rafi did sing a lot of Punjabi songs. My maternal grandfather used to work at HMV in Lahore just before Partition, and used to often see Rafi at the recording studios, trying to get a break.

      • Yes, that is Indira Billi. According to youtube, the actor is Surinder Kapoor, but then one of the video mentions MD as Sapan Jagmohan and another Hans Raj Bahel’, that must be some experience for your Uncle to know Rafi from the time when he wasn’t famous.

        • Thank you for identifying the actor, Neeru!

          Yes, my Nana was really lucky to have met Rafi back then. Interestingly, around the same time, my paternal grandfather used to work in the Railways, with one of KL Saigal’s close relatives – a brother, I think. Occasionally, if he was travelling to or from Lahore, Saigal would stop by. My father remembers once that he and his other siblings were taken to meet the icon, and he actually sang for them, too.

    • I hadn’t heard Toon chunni le surmai before. What a lovely voice (i like the fact that she’s not shrill), and how beautifully sung. Thank you for this, Bawa!

    • Sun sun we dupatte ya was lovely, too, thank you! Now all these Punjabi songs about dupattas have reminded me that I have a beautiful phulkaari dupatta lying around, for which I need to get a salwar-kurta stitched… :-)

      • You can also get it framed, it makes a beautiful wall decoration. I have a bagh that my grandmother made, i have to look for it since it got put away during some moving around. My cousin framed hers and it looks beautiful.

        • That’s a good idea! I may have done it if the cloth was a thick one (I’ve seen those framed), but this one’s very flimsy – a type of chiffon, I think, so I’m not sure whether that’ll be feasible. In any case, I think I would rather wear it. :-)

  7. I freely admit I have no songs to offer Madhu didi! But it’s a wonderful wonderful list didi and I truly admire how you’ve managed to unearth so many rare beauties… Especially the ones from Humayun and Adalat. Thanks a lot didi. I also like how you start every post with a backstory, and then slowly reveal all your songs..almost like a magician only!

      • That’s because the topic grows on you and then it strikes you. Just this morning I was thinking of Odhni, and came back to read your introduction to see if you had mentioned it. It has been a few days since I read the post, and Odhni occurred to me today !

        • Yes! I can’t help but think how dumb I was to not recall odhni. Especially since I’m currently writing a novel set in medieval Delhi (before the Slave Sultans) and have often mentioned women as wearing odhnis. Should have remembered that.

  8. Fabulous list of songs, Madhu! As I read through the post I kept thinking “Ooh, I love this song” – for every single one of them. :-) Here’s another song about a dhani chunri from a movie that had Prem Chopra as the hero!

    Dhani chunari mori (Kunwari)

  9. Madhu, a Mahendra Kapoor/Suman Kalyanpur song from an obscure film called Lady Robinhood, Reshmi dupatta tera dil liye jaaye mera:

    From Mirza Sahiban, Haye re ud ud jaaye mera reshmi duppattwa. This was apparently Noor Jehan’s last film in Hindi.

    • Lady Robinhood? Hmm… I’d like to know what that was about (you can see I’m still stuck with Fearless Nadia). More importantly, who acted the title part?

      The Mirza Sahiban song had been on my shortlist; I just didn’t like it enough to let it get to the final list. Noorjehan was really sweet in this film – she did the shy village girl very well. Genuinely shy, not the cringingly demure. And Kapoor Sahib was gorgeous – very reminiscent of Shashi.

    • I have to admit I hadn’t heard Chunri lehraayi toh dil dhak-dhak karta hai, but there are several others from recent years that had occurred to me while I was thinking out this post. Especially this horrible one (I don’t know why the horrible ones seem to occur to me first!), Neela dupatta peela suit from Hamesha:

      • There’s also “Odh li chunariya tere naam ki” from Pyar Ki Toh Darna Kya (1998) and “Chunnari chunnari” from Biwi No. 1 (1999). Out of kindness, I’m not posting the videos. :-D

        • Thank you for being kind! :-D I guess one new chunari song is about all one can manage.

          … Though Hindi film music has (in my opinion) improved a bit since the 90s. I wonder if there are any more recent, pleasant songs that fit the bill.

  10. Teri chunaraiya from Hello Brother (1999)
    Janjaraiya from Krishna (1996)
    Lal dupatta from Mujhse Shadi Karoge ( 2004)

    I would prefer these videos not being posted here. :)

  11. Choli ke peeche kya hai, chunri ke neeche kya hai…perhaps one of the most famous chnri songs of recent times… and i will post the video here for Neena Gupta and the whole genre that this song spawned (of folk collapsing into contemporary)..etc.etc.

  12. Lovely selection!

    I don’t have any to add (too late to comment and the usual suspects – you know who you are – already took care of it) but I am adding my comments anyway in the sequence you have in your list:

    1. Hawa mein udtaa jaaye mora laal dupatta malmal ka – I love the feel of this song. Lata doesn’t quite sound like Lata as this was way before she became the queen of bollywood playback. This one also takes me back to the gramophone days as this was one of the few we had in our collection and we used to toy with the rpm just for fun…

    2. Gora rang chunariya kaali motiyon waali – I never heard this song before but it seems to fit well.

    3. Dupatta mera malmal ka rang saleti halka – This was also new to me.

    4. Dhaani chunri pehen sajke – This one is an interesting song. I also did not know dhaani means green. I assumed it is like how it looks when it is time for harvest , which would be beige but now I know what Dhaani means.

    5. Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera – This one is such a special song. To me this is one of the quintessential Dupatta song. I love how Lata calls it “D”uppatta with D standing out.

    6. Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamaari ho Ram – This is classic SD song beautifully composed and sung.

    7. Maine rang lee aaj chunariya – I love all the songs of Dulhan Ek Raat ki and this is no exception. My favorite from this movie is “Ek hasen shaam ko” though..

    8. Laaga chunri mein daag – Love it for both music and lyrics. You explained the philosophy beautifully!

    9. Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re – One fun song by Manna Dey.. I love the pace the song picks up.. I don’t think anyone else would have done justice to this song.. A Manna Dey Classic!

    10. Main toh odhoon gulaabi chundariya aaj re – Never heard it before it seems an interesting concept..

    I like Neeru’s addition “Jaise Radha Ne Mala Japi” very much. That is such a beautiful song…

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

    • Thank you, Ashish. Glad you liked the post. :-) Regarding your comment about Lata singing Hawa mein udta jaaye, I was reminded of something my father mentioned, a long time back, that Barsaat was made at a time when Lata was just beginning to emerge; more important than her was Shamshad Begum – which is why the songs lip-synched by the heroine in Barsaat are sung by Shamshad, and not by Lata. Which of course was to take a complete about-turn within less than a decade!

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