Ten of my favourite Songs addressed to Krishna

Happy Krishna Janmashtami!

I am not a Krishnabhakt (I’m not even a Hindu), but when you’re a diehard fan of old Hindi cinema, you can’t really avoid noting the many, many references to Krishna, can you? The fact is, Krishna is one Hindu deity who seems to appear in just about every other old Hindi film featuring a Hindu household. Mostly, he’s in the form that little painted/gilded idol, draped dhoti, peacock feather, and flute in his hands, that stands in the little household shrine, seen in passing. Often, when some tragedy hits (or threatens) someone (invariably female) comes and weeps before the idol. Or sings, pleading for mercy, for succor.

But Krishna as the protector, the giver of divine help, is just one of the ways in which Krishna is viewed. He is, as is obvious in songs like Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re or Madhuban mein Radhika naache re Giridhar ki muraliya baaje re, also an embodiment of romance: teasing the milkmaids, wooing Radha, charming them all. And there’s the Krishna who exemplifies mischievous childhood: the matka-breaking, butter-stealing infant that is alluded to in songs like Bada natkhat hai Krishna-Kanhaiyya.

He’s everywhere in old Hindi film songs.

Krishna

So, I thought: why not have a post (appropriately timed, of course) celebrating Krishna in Hindi film music? And, just because there would otherwise be no end to the songs, I imposed one important restriction on myself: this list would only consist of songs addressed (even if only nominally) to Krishna. So, Govinda aala re aala (much as I love it), wouldn’t be part of this list, because it’s addressed to the gopis, the ‘brijbaalas’; similarly, Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re wouldn’t qualify, because it’s a third person account, so to say.

Here goes, therefore. Ten songs, addressed to Krishna, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Though these are in no particular order, my favourites tend to be toward the top.

1. Aan milo aan milo Shyaam saanwre (Devdas, 1955): Two mendicants, stopping in a grove to entertain a lonely little girl, do so by singing her a song. They take it in turns to express Radha’s anguish when Krishna is away: how she weeps for him, how she yearns for his return. If only he would show his face once to her, that would help her stay patient… it’s a beautiful song, sung with great feeling, and the little girl, Paro, is deeply affected, because she too has been separated from her little sweetheart, who has gone far, far away. Like Radha, she misses her Krishna.

Anybody who’s been on this blog long enough should realize by now how much I love this song. The music is wonderful, Geeta Dutt’s and Manna Dey’s rendition lovely. And, in the context of this post, it’s interesting to see how many different appellations for Krishna appear in the lyrics of this song: Shyaam, Kanha, Mohan, Natnaagar.

Aan milo aan milo, from Devdas

2. Manmohana bade jhoothe (Seema, 1955): One of those classic classical compositions, and sung brilliantly by Lata Mangeshkar. At first, the lyrics sound as if the singer is speaking of (not to) Krishna, the ‘enchanter’ who, despite having lost (his heart?) to her, refuses to accept. But, as the song progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious that she is, in fact, obliquely addressing him. This becomes explicit in the line “Tumhri yeh baansi Kanha, bani galphaansi” (“This flute of yours, Kanha, has become a noose around my neck”). Lovely song, and Nutan, trained in music that she was, looks convincing as the singer.

Manmohana bade jhoothe, from Seema

3. Jaago Mohan pyaare (Jaagte Raho, 1956): While this song meets the criterion—it is addressed to Krishna, even quite obviously so (Nargis’s jogan first appears singing it while offering a lotus at the feet of an idol of Krishna)—there is more to Jaago Mohan pyaare. It is not a bhajan; it is more a heralding of the dawn, both literal and figurative. A welcoming of a better day, a day when a poor man will not have to stumble from pillar to post, worn out from thirst, because of the corruption, selfishness and deceit that mar society.

Jaago Mohan pyaare, from Jaagte Raho

4. Kanhaiyya tori murali bairan bhayi (New Delhi, 1956): And, the only one of its kind in this list, a song that is part of a dance performance. Vyjyanthimala leads a troupe of dancers (though, as would be expected—considering this is, after all, Vyjyanthimala—she holds centrestage). There is no Krishna to be seen here, neither someone pretending to be him, nor a statue of him: but the song is all about him, how he has entranced her, enchanted her, robbed her of her senses. His flute, especially, is blamed: the tune he plays on it has driven her mad with desire. Lovely song, and a lovely dance from a great, fun film that had some interesting and pertinent points to make despite the fun.

Kanhaiyya tori murali bairan bhayi, from New Delhi

5. Banwaari re jeene ka sahaara tera naam re (Ek Phool Chaar Kaante, 1960): A classic bhajan, at least as far as its lyrics go: the singer (Waheeda Rehman, looking oh so luminously lovely) sings of the deceptiveness of this world and its people, and how the one true, real pivot of her life is Banwaari (‘he who lives in the woods’—of Vrindavan). The ironic bit, of course, is that this is all a farce: the entire plot of the story is based on deception, because this girl’s saddled with four uncles, each of them very different from the other, and each intent on getting her married to a man who shares his interests. So Sunil Dutt’s character, whom the girl falls in love with, ends up pretending to be four very different men. And this too, this bhajan to get Ma’s approval, is a farce.

Banwaari re jeene ka sahaara tera naam, from Ek Phool Chaar Kaante

6. Ab tere siva kaun mera Krishna Kanhaiyya (Kismet, 1943): A change from the previous: an actual plea to Krishna, to come to one’s aid. Crippled, alone, pretty much left by fate to fend for herself, Mumtaz Shanti’s character sings to her god to save her. She invokes the name of another devotee—the famous Meera—reminding Krishna that he came to Meera’s aid; can he not come to hers, too? (an interesting insight, this, into another of the ways in which Krishna is viewed in Hindi cinema: he is the romantic figure, but he is also the one who saved Draupadi’s honour when her five husbands sat by helplessly).

Ab tere sivaa kaun mera Krishna Kanhaiyya, from Kismet

7. Kanha Kanha aan padi main tere dwaar (Shagird, 1967): I have to admit, every time I think of Shagird, I think of Bade miyan deewaane or Duniya paagal hai ya phir main deewaana or Woh hain zara khafa-khafa. But it also has this bhajan, which is really quite pleasant: nicely sung, not shrill, and really rather sweetly devotional. And with our hero’s approving mother sitting along and watching benevolently, how can his rather naïve and nutty country bumpkin of a girlfriend not be a huge hit? A bhajan-singing would-be bahu, even if rather daringly clad, gets brownie points. Big time.

Kanha Kanha padi main tere dwaare, from Shagird

8. Meri sun le araj Banwaari (Aankhen, 1968): I’ve tried, more or less, to steer clear of the many (and yes, there are lots of them) bechaari aurat songs that are all addressed to Krishna, but there are some that just—well, have to feature on any ‘songs addressed to Krishna’ list. This is one of them. Kumkum, as our secret agent hero Dharmendra’s sister, finds herself in the direst of straits: she is being forced to betray her own father, brother and country, by having her child held captive. Does she confide in Dad and Bhaiya? Does she somehow manage to get these two highly efficient and well-connected men, with all their gadgetry and other connections, to help her out? No, she goes to Krishnaji.

Meri sun le araj Banwaari from Aankhen

9. Manmohan Krishna Murari tere charnon ki balihaari (Saanjh aur Savera, 1964): Saanjh aur Savera was a painful film, but it did have some fairly pleasant songs. This one, pretty much in the classic bhajan style, has Meena Kumari, the happily-but-deceitfully wedded bahu (and she dares sing “Jhoothi hai yeh duniya saari”!) doing her pooja of Krishna. I like the somewhat unusual picturization at the start: she’s just sitting there in front of the Krishna idol, looking at it, singing to it as if she were singing to someone, not an idol. It’s only later in the song that she begins to do things, like putting the tilak on the idol’s forehead and so on. That detail makes the first half of the song more intense in its devotion, as far as I am concerned (I also think Meena Kumari looks serenely beautiful here, so that adds to my liking—even if it’s not love—for this song).

Manmohan Krishna Murari, from Saanjh aur Saveraa

10. Jaa tose nahin boloon Kanhaiyya (Parivaar, 1956): And how I could I close this list without one of my favourite songs? Jaa tose nahin boloon Kanhaiyya is one of those songs that are ‘nominally’ addressed to Krishna; there’s no Krishna around, not even in the form of an idol. But Krishna, as a representation of romantic love, is used in this song to symbolize the affectionate banter between the two people here. The wife, dancing to her tabla-player husband’s accompaniment, refers to him as Krishna and, mock anger and all, spurns him. And he (referring to himself in the third person) sets about to woo her back. Wonderful music, and beautifully sung.

Jaa tose nahin boloon Kanhaiyya, from Parivaar

And, before I end this post and leave the field open for readers to add their songs to the list, one last song, a bonus:

Darshan do Ghanshyam Naath mori akhiyaan pyaasi re (Narsi Bhagat, 1957): This is the song, actually, which sparked off the idea for a post. Over the years, lots of people have suggested I try compiling a list of favourite bhajans, and I’ve always put them off by saying that I don’t usually like bhajans; the film bhajans I really like are probably less than half a dozen. Then, somehow I heard Darshan do Ghanshyam a few months back, and was awestruck.

Perhaps it’s the beautifully subdued music, the fact that the three voices—Hemant, Sudha Malhotra, Manna Dey (Dey only at the very end)—are allowed to shine, the music ever gentle and more a background than anything else. Wonderful tune, brilliant blending of voices (the way Hemant leads and Sudha ‘follows’ reminds me of another great bhajan, Na main dhan chaahoon, which has Sudha Malhotra similarly singing in tandem with Geeta Dutt). And don’t miss the lyrics: a fine, restrained plea to Krishna to show himself, to give his worshippers one glimpse of him.

Do please add your suggestions to this list—which songs addressed to Krishna do you like?

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75 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Songs addressed to Krishna

        • My flu must be worse than I thought it was, Richard – it’s affecting my mind. :-( Would you believe it, I actually watched the song on the channel, scrolled down, and never clicked the ‘Show More’ link). Sorry for the bother.

  1. Main bhi ladki hoon has a number that would resound loudly even today as a plea to end the bias against the dark skinned. Though it borders on bathos, the lines below have a sharp irony.
    Pooje sabhi kale bhagwan ko
    Aur thukraye sab kale ins an ko

  2. Incidentally, your comment on Nutan ‘singing’ convincingly in Seema is completely correct. It is on record that this is one of the most realistically acted songs. I wonder if Nutan actually sang along during the shoot.

    • I would think another song – also with the Radha-Krishna motif might earn its actor a place in that list of the most realistically acted: Madhuban mein Radhika naache re. Dilip Kumar is so good in that.

    • I had completely forgotten Neend churaaye chain churaaye – thank you for that! I like it a lot. I usually remember songs from beyond the 60s (even if I don’t include them in the post), but the three you’ve mentioned had all slipped my mind.

  3. My favorite is a rare and comparatively new song of Lata from an obscure film TRUCK DRIVER ( music by sonik – omi ) ” Kaanha re kaanha tune laakhon raas rachaaye ” based on raag Maarva….

  4. the older Meera song by MS Subbalakshmi

    Am posting only Shyaam mane chaakar because as you said, it must be addressed to Krishna, so other Meera bhajans may or may not qualify..plus this one is a favourite :)

  5. and as you mention some lovely duets like Na main dhan chaahoon, in the same mother daughter vein , here is Tu Shyaam mera from Julie

  6. and then there is Shyam actually conversing (!) in Shyaam teri bansi pukare Radha naam , from Geet Gata Chal

    Though my preferred song from the same movie Shyaam Abhimani, where Krishna is actually getting reprimanded !!

  7. Wonderful list Madhu didi! I loved all the songs… Especially the rare ones. They are even enjoyable without considering their devotional angle.
    I could think of one song from what could be called a B grade movie ‘Teri maalish boot polish’.

    And can Sanware sanware be considered in the list didi?

    And this non film bhajan

    But thank you for the list didi… Its very nice :)

  8. Lovely and quite different post indeed. Other beautiful Lord Krishna songs are:-
    1) Dhoonde Yashoda chahun or (Kisi se na kehna)

    2) Holi aayi re Kanhai (Mother India)
    3) Tora mann darpan kehlaye (Kajal)
    4) Shree Radhamohan (Satyam Shivam Sundaram)
    5) More Kanha jo aaye palat ke (Sardari Begum)

    6) Mohe rang do lal (Bajiro Mastani), quite similar to Mohe Panghat pe. Isn’t it?
    7) Baansuri tihari Nandlal (Sajan)
    8) Kahe chhed mohe (Devdas)
    9) Murli Manohar Krishna Kanhaiya (Jhank Jhank Payal Baje)

    • All lovely songs, thanks.A couple of those from the older films were on my shortlist, but never made it to the final compilation.

      I have to admit I hadn’t known of Mohe rang do laal. Yes, the picurization is very reminiscent of Mohe panghat pe Nandlal.

  9. What a lovely selection of songs, Madhu. Jaa tose nahin boloon Kanhaiyya is a particular favourite and the first song that sprang to mind when I saw the title of your post. Followed by Aan milo aan milo shyam saanwre.

    Krishna is representative of so many things in Hindu mythology. You have so correctly pointed out his importance to Hindi films and songs.

    Here is one song that I really like, from Geet Govind – Shyam mori bindiya bikhar na jaaye

    Bata do koi kaun gali gaye shyaam – Madhu (1959)

    Unfortunately, neither of these have visuals. But here is one from JoganGend kheloon gend kheloon kanha ke sang

    And from Saawan, a haunting Hansraj Behl / Lata Mangeshkar melody, Kanha chhedo baansuri

    How can I not add this beautiful Salil Choudhary song? Kanha bole na from Sangat

    Another Salilda composition: Jhoom jhoom Manmohan re from Biraj bahu

    • What a fabulous array of songs, Anu! Loved all of them (not Gend kheloon too much, though it’s an unusual little twist on the usual type of play described). Incidentally, neither Gend kheloon nor Bata do koi kaun gali gaye shyaam (the latter, by the way, was new to me – but oh, so lovely!) are really addressed to Krishna, are they?

      P.S. Loved the songs from Biraj Bahu and Saawan in particular – both so very good. Thank you for these.

  10. Superb list! Like you I am not particularly a bhajan fan but occasionally there are some that I absolutely love.

    Your list contained the usual suspects (aan milo aan milo, manmohana bade jhoothe etc.) I was pleasantly surprised to see Kanha dwar padi main from Shagird. I love this one and didn’t think many would find it as appealing as I did, so was happy to see it in your list.

    I would like to add one that is missing the mark on two counts, one it is from a 1971 movie and second it doesn’t address Krishna but nevertheless I am adding it here because I like it a lot. From Buddha Mil Gaya with RD Burman music Manna Dey singing beautifully Aayo Kahan se Ghanshyam (don’t care so much for the female voice of Archana who I think is off tune).. The song as you may know contains a significant mystery in the movie as it was always sung post a murder.. I think ‘Raina bitai Kis Dham’ contains a twisted pun but it was an interesting concept to add bhajan to this mystery..

    • Aayo kahaan se Ghanshyam always makes me wonder whether she means Krishna, or the dark clouds… but yes, Krishna it is, and such a wonderful song, too. Thanks for reminding me of that, Ashish! (which reminds me, I must rewatch that film sometime; it has been so many years, I’ve pretty much forgotten all the twists and turns of the plot).

      Yes, Kaanha aan padi main tere dwaar does tend to get overlooked – such a shame, because it is a lovely little song.

    • What a sweet song to sing to your son. :-) I was actually a little surprised when I came across that while doing my research. I cannot imagine how such a lovely song had completely slipped out of my mind!

  11. I’ve been exploring old Hindi movies for the seven or eight years. I’ve come up with four more for this topic as below:

    This one by Rafi and composed by Ravi Shankar for the movie Godan:

    Another Rafi song from Khandan:

    And this one by Rafi with Shankar Jaikishan from Beti Bete. This one is really awesome:

    And the last one by Kishor Kumar:

    • Badi der bhayi Nandlala had been on my shortlist too, but since there were other songs which appealed to me more, this one got dropped.

      Radhike tune bansuri churaayi doesn’t really fit the theme, does it? It’s not addressed to Krishna; quite the opposite.

      • Yes I agree Radhike Tune…may not fit in this theme but since Sunil Dutt at one point in this video is shown in the costume of Krishna so I thought this might belong to the topic. Anyway, while writing these comments I just recalled one great song by Zeenat Begum and this song is really awesome. Here is it…

        And I’m really surprised why nobody has yet come up with this one since it’s quite popular

        • I had never heard Hamaari gali aayo Shyaam, akhiyaan bichaayein before. What a lovely song. Thanks for that!

          Jaise Radha ne maala japi Shyaam ki has possibly not been posted yet because it’s not addressed to Shyam – that is one of the criteria of the post.

  12. This lovely one from Anuradha. Saaware Saaware. Composed by Ravi Shankar. And from Do Phool, a film based on Heidi, kanha na chedo na chado bansuri re main to aagayi. Such a lovely number. There are others lurking around in the depths of memory…will post when they come to light

    • Another reader also linked to Saanwre saanwre. It had been on my shortlist, but didn’t make it to the final list, though it’s a lovely song.

      I had forgotten Kanha na chhedo na chhedo, but remembered it when I began listening to it. Thank you for that – a good song.

  13. Another old Krishna song which seems better than the copied one and used in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Compare both and the difference is obvious:

    and the copied one

    • I had never heard Aayi gori Radhika – thank you for that; quite a revelation for me. Yashomati maiyya is of course very familiar… at one time, it used to be heard all around.

      Not that either of the songs is actually addressed to Krishna, but still…

    • I usually remember the lists you made, Harvey (mainly because most of them were on such unusual themes!), but I’d forgotten all about this one. Thank you for reminding me of it. Only one overlap with my post, and that too the first song. :-)

  14. Since some non-film songs have been mentioned, here’s one that’s remarkable in many ways including the fact that it’s in Qawwali form.

    • Ae Kanhaiyya yaad hai kuchh bhi hamaari! Wow. This is brilliant, simply superb. I have a weakness for qawwali, and this one is excellent. Thank you so much – made my day.

  15. I have a favourite Krishna song, and that is ‘mohe panghat pe nandalal’ from Mughal-e-Azam. You know me, my penchant for trivia, I don’t know whether you are aware of this bit of trivial info, this song was for a long time credited to Shakil Badayuni, although it was originally written by Raskavi Raghunath Brahmabhatt. When the film re-released in colour the writer finally got his due.

    • That is a lovely song, yes, not that it would fit my constraints, as I’ve mentioned in the introduction to this post. :-) I do remember reading somewhere about how the actual lyricist was for a long time not credited for this song (I think it’s been a similar case with Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera), but had forgotten who the actual lyricist was.

      • Is that so? I did not know that. Usually what I have noticed is that these songs have their origins in folk and filmmakers often borrow these songs play around with the words and original composition a bit and use it. There are many such songs. You probably know that ‘nimbura nimbura’ from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was a Rajasthani folk song. The folk singers were furious. I remember them saying,”filmmakers lift our songs and when we sing them people thing we are singing film songs.”

        • Oh, yes. I had heard about Nimbooda nimbooda being a folk song, originally, but hadn’t known about the folk singers’ reaction. They certainly have a right to be annoyed, and I agree with the point too: every time I’ve heard a folk singer sing something which I know of from Hindi cinema, I’ve always wondered where the song was from, originally.

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