Song Sketch

And The Ganga Flows – Ganga Aaye Kahan Se – Kabuliwala

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In the realm of filmmaking, lyrics of a song are usually sidelined. The lyricists are often undervalued even if they have given us some metaphorical, philosophical beauties. But there are certain lyricists whose words and works stand so tall in this realm that you cannot ignore them. On the contrary they compel the listeners to take in each word attentively. Their words make so much sense and secures a place in the deepest corner of your heart. Gulzar is one such lyricist who has risen high up with his words. His penchant for vivid and haunting words have given us so many lyrically rich songs.

At the beginning of his career, Gulzar has written just 1 or 2 songs per film. While the rest of the songs were written by the then well known lyricists. Bimal Roy’s Kabuliwala (1961) is one such film where Gulzar has written only one song Ganga aaye kahan se, while the rest are by Prem Dhawan. In this song too the initial lines were suggested by Rajendra Krishan (info courtesy Pavan Jha). Kabuliwala is a celluloid adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poignant short story by the same name. It is the story of an unconditional love shared between a small girl Mini and a dry fruit seller Pathan (Balraj Sahni), who hails from Afghanistan. It delightfully captures the ethos of their tender love.

This ethical song though picturised on Balraj Sahni, it isn’t he who lip syncs. The actor who lip-syncs is M. V. Rajan. A typical Bimal Roy highlight, where a song is picturised on an unknown actor. A well rendered song by Hemant Kumar (one of his best, as a singer). Those who think Hemant Kumar’s singing ability was limited, should certainly check out this song. His voice is deep and resonating, yet it is as serene as the Ganga. Salil Chowdhury has used folk influence in his music. The song is based on deep rooted Bengali music. A Bhatiali song, peppered with Baul. The Bengali version of this song rendered by Manna Dey is equally good. Both versions have the earthy, haunting quality.

It is no doubt a masterpiece by Gulzar.
Ganga aaye kahan se
Ganga jaaye kahan re
Leharaye paani mein jaise dhoop-chhaanv re
– The Ganga flows through the unexplored paths, carrying along with her enormous experiences of life. She shows you the bright and dark paths of life, like her waves ripple in sun and shade.

Raat kaari din ujiyara mil gaye donon saaye Saanjh ne dekho rang roop ke kaise bhed mitaye re
The dusk on her banks, where the day meets the night at her horizon, asks to erase the discrimination of caste, colour and creed.

Kaanch koi maati koi rang-birange pyaale
Pyaas lage to ek barabar jis mein paani daale re

Whether poor or rich, they may also have different wares to show. From silver to glass to clay. But when you are thirsty, the water tastes the same in all the vessels. The Ganga is not biased whether for rich or for poor.

Naam koi boli koi laakhon roop aur chehre
Khol ke dekho pyar ki aankhen sab tere sab mere

People from all walks of life come to her, different languages, different cultures, different traditions. But she being the lovable mother, sees all as her own.

Assimilating experiences of life with her and enriching the mankind along her path, the philosophical Ganga flows towards her destination!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan


  1. manojchandra mishra

    April 19, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Beautifully written. Thanks Deepa…

    • Deepa

      April 19, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      Thank you for appreciating 🙂

  2. Venkatram Bachoti

    February 13, 2022 at 1:00 am

    What a perfect tribute to this great song and everyone in this song from Bimal Roy to Salil Chowdhury to Hemant Kumar to Gulzar to Rjendra Krishan to MV Rajan ! Well done. The translation is smooth preserving the nativity ..not an easy task translating film songs into English. Thank you for the tip on Manna Dey’s version. Just sang and recorded this song. That’s my tribute.

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