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Celebration of Love, à la Mohammed Rafi

By Ronny Noor

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

You could never forget me
Yes, you could never forget me
Whenever you listen to my song
You will always hum along.
– Hasrat Jaipuri

There does not seem to be a four-letter word that is dearer to the human heart than love. It is the most potent force that inspires us to action. Lanka was set ablaze for it and the Taj Mahal was built for it. That is why it resonates most from the pens of great poets to the pages of great books. Although it is often confused with lust, true love is not about sensual feelings, as the celluloid diva Mumtaz teaches her screen partner Sanjay Khan in the movie Upasana. It is about what the title of the movie indicates, devotion, or literally, sitting near God or getting close to a deity. It may sound simple but it is of great philosophical depth. We need to go back to the beginning of spiritual history in order to grasp its essence. According to Mumtaz, there is no difference between one’s love for a deity or one’s love for a person. This is evident in what Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: “Only by love can men see me, and know me, and come unto me.” Hence, the great Persian poet Saadi exhorts us in Gulistan:

It is not meritorious to amass the
world’s goods,
win One Heart if you can.

But how do we win that heart, the heart of a deity? We win it by loving our fellow humans, as Krishna suggests, because, in the spirit of the Gita, the grace of God is the reward of the love of humans. However, love for another person almost always poses a great challenge because the longed-for soul is like a coveted rose that is surrounded by thorns like nationality, race, religion, status, or wealth with which we have superficially shackled ourselves. That is why Saadi cautions us:

Treasure and snake, rose and thorn, sorrow
and joy are joined together.

The result is the legends of Radha-Krishna, Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet, and countless others around the globe. That is the reason why most songs are about love and the bard of the millennium Mohammed Rafi sang thousands of them that tug at our hearts. He captured love in all its shades, from the Jumping Jack Jeetendra’s romp in the open fields in Farz to the lovesick Dev Anand’s lonely nights with a distressed heart in Guide. And, of course, he celebrated love in duets because love can be celebrated best together, some of which will be addressed here, beginning with the duet with Lata Mangeshkar in Upasana, as mentioned above, where Mumtaz sings about love being transcendental:

The flower’s fragrance
The breeze’s appearance
Have you ever seen . . .
You’ve seen the body
But the soul’s shape
Have you ever seen . . .
Love is not a desire
It is a devotion

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

Thus, true love opens the inner eye to see what the naked eye cannot, transcending the superficial to help us perceive ordinary things in an extraordinary way. It is boundless as in Khandan, where Nutan considers her farmer husband Sunil Dutt her “temple” and her “idol” despite him being physically challenged, his right side having been paralyzed in an accident. Even in abject hardship, when the ground cakes and the crops wither in intense heat, their love does not wane, as is often the case in a libidinous city life where far less distress could strain a relationship. On the contrary, they celebrate their bond in the open, singing in the pristine, idyllic environment surrounded by wheat fields, Sunil Dutt limping with his disabled hand held close to his bosom and Nutan dancing like a country belle in her colorful garb of ghagra choli, the dupatta billowing in the wind. Their jollity spills into the air in Rafi and Asha’s enchanting melody, the husband praying to the dark clouds in the sky to provide a trifle shade, a soothing relief from the stifling heat, and the wife urging the birds not to devour the crops while they are still green:

Our crops are burning in the heat
O clouds in the blue sky
Give us some shade
Go away, you frisky birds
The crops aren’t ripe yet
Eat them when they’re ready

Such heartfelt love resides not only in the simple hamlets of the farmers but also in the majestic palaces of the emperors where the lovers’ path is decked with flowers, as seen in Taj Mahal, a movie about the courtly romance of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz, which has been captured in a remarkably touching manner in the following melody:

The promise that you made
Has to be kept
If the world or God stops
You must still come . . .

As long as the moon shines
As long as the stars shine
The promises that you made
Shall not be broken

Yes, the king of the world who promised his beloved that he would build a unique monument in memory of their love kept his word by raising the most iconic marble mausoleum in honor of that supernal beauty, before whom even the moon hid its face. And true to his promise, too, he was united with her in death as in life when he was laid beside her remains after his demise. That’s the death-defying love the two lovers sang about in the above song, rendered so deftly by Rafi and Lata that its wistful melody touches our very soul, moves our very spirit, making us wonder if love could be felt more deeply.

But it can be, when it comes to the melody monarch Rafi. We feel the profundity of pathos in his voice when he sings in Shola Aur Shabnam about love being an abiding bond, a bond of a lifetime, a bond that can create a heaven on earth:

We will win in the end
Let the game not be abandoned
Bond of love, bond of life
Let not the bond of life break
Where the sky meets with the earth
Come, let us go there
You for me, me for you
Let us reject this world
Far from here
Let’s create a paradise of love
That this world may not rob
Bond of love, bond of life

It is one of the most poignant, most touching songs he ever sang, the last word in the opening stanza completely synchronizing with the single note produced by gently pressing the piano key before the music picks up. The romantic setting has been enhanced by Dharmendra singing at the piano and Tarla Mehta turning off the lights one by one, joining him in the middle of the song in the faint glow of a single light bulb as childhood memories well up. This soulful melody transports us to some Xanadu of love as every word sinks in, the cadence seeping into our hearts, making it, true to the lyrics, simply a paradisiacal experience of placidity and tranquility.

So it is understandable why countless listeners want to leave this world listening to this song because it creates a mood that transcends the physical world to penetrate our souls. The music director Ravi was so right when he said that you can hear all other great singers with your ears, but you need to hear Rafi with your heart. Yes, life can be sweet even in pain if it can be sung in such a manner because every note Rafi sang sprang “from his very life,” to use Rabi Tagore’s words. As there was true love in his heart, that devotional love that Mumtaz sings about in Upasana, he felt in the marrow of his bones what poured out of his lips. That is why he could celebrate love with such fervor, his voice suffused with passion and verve, making his songs a truly sublime experience for us all. It is evident in many bhajans he sang, especially in the one below penned by Rajinder Krishan:

Whether you’re a king or a beggar
The end will be the same
You live on the alms of others
Why don’t you look inside you
You looked up to the shining skin
And did not bother to clean your heart

He sent forth essentially a similar message to his listeners intoning a famous hamd composed by the legendary Bengali poet Nazrul Islam:

The prophet who gave up to man
The rights of man . . .
Who wore for humanity’s sake
The mantle of poverty
Who wiped out all distinctions
Between the prince and the pauper

This is what religion truly is: love for one’s fellow humans. It is indeed a good deed through which we reach God, or the symbol of goodness, in whatever name we call it. In the ancient Vedic religion, the religion of the Aryans, this symbol of goodness was represented by Indra. Vishnu, as well as his avatar Krishna, came to represent that symbol later in Hinduism. The Persian prophet Zarathustra had the same philosophical view when he came up with the idea of monotheism – from which religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were derived – because his Ahura Mazda, later called Ormazd, was the representative of the good principle. Therefore, philosophically speaking, Zarathustra’s Ormazd is no different from Indra or Vishnu. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi famously claimed that God had no religion. What he meant was that God did not belong to any particular organized religion because He is simply the symbol of goodness in all religions that are the product of moral forces, a reason for which the eminent sage Ramakrishna maintained that all religions were in essence the same. They are about goodness, or good deeds. And love is the best of all good deeds. Hence, even Buddha, who did not believe in a deity or, rather, did not ascribe a name to the symbol of goodness, exhorted people “to cultivate good” and considered love one of the four immeasurables or Brahma Viharas. This love, of course, is about doing good to others, not lust, which, according to the Dhammapada, has a short taste and causes pain, as T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock realizes so keenly later in life. Such love can be found in great souls like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who candidly declared: “Let me feel that I am to be a lover. I am to see to it that the world is better for me.” Yes, Rafi tried to make the world a better place for us all through his love songs, which he sang with such exuberance, with such joy that only true love can give us. He could do so because his heart was pure; it was devotional. And if we all follow in his footsteps, in other words, if we all become lovers like him, then, according to the transcendentalist Emerson, “every calamity will be dissolved in the universal sunshine.” That is why Rafi celebrated love in the most memorable way, proclaiming to the world at large in the classic movie Mughal-E-Azam to protest against the inhuman decision of an otherwise humane Emperor Akbar, Shah Jahan’s grandfather, who stood in the way of his heir’s love for the court dancer Anarkali, depriving the future Emperor Jahangir a union with his beloved:

You’re found in temples and mosques and in all faiths
It is you alone in the notes of the flute and in the azaan
Only by your existence does religion reside on this earth
Long live! Long live! Oh, long live, Love!

That is exactly what the screen diva Mumtaz means by love in Upasana, which Rafi sang about time and time again like a prayer. Love à la Rafi transcends the superficial shackles of nationality, race, religion, status, or wealth to celebrate the unity of all humans. Thus, liberating ourselves from such self-inflicted manacles through love, we rise to the best in us and, by rising to the best, we rise to God. That is the reason why we hum along whenever we hear Rafi’s love songs for they sing about our deepest desire, the desire to seek harmony with all, human and God.

The End

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19 Blog Comments to “Celebration of Love, à la Mohammed Rafi”

  1. Binu Nair says:

    Congrats Rafi saaheb Lovers…

    In cnn ibn ranking rafi saaheb is in 12th position. Nehru ji his close friend is below at 13 and indira gandhi above rafi saaheb is at 11.

    today tuesday 25/6 some 7000 votes were polled and rafi saahebs tally jumped from 13,200 to 20, 000.

    please google : ‘ the greatest indian ‘ and go to leader list for the full details.

    Legend Yesudas sir today just returned from malaysia and voted for rafi saaheb and called us and congraluted all mohd rafi lovers for the great listing.

    He told us : we are very happy and we will always love the legend.

    for starters lets mention herein that many rafi contemporaries are lagging behind which includes lata mangeshkar, dev anand, dilip kumar, amitabh bachaan and many others. in the morning itself oscar a.r. rehman was toppled as expected.

    this is a cnn ibn poll with outlook magazine.

    mohd rafi lovers have shown the media what is the positioin of mohd rafi today when make believe ear shattering noise is passed on under labe of music and attempts made to dwarf our real music legends and achievers.

    congrats mohd rafi lover for rising to the occassion and gathering 7000 odd votes on a singer working monday – from all corners of the country.

    binu nair…. the rafi foundation,mumbai

    cell : 9833 250 701.

    mail ;

  2. Binu Nair says:

    Mohd Rafi is leading in the Poll : ‘Who is the greatest indian after Mahatma Gandhiji……

    Pls keep up the tempo as today 25/6 is the last day ( up to 12.00 am )

    Pls give a miss call at : 0 8 0 8 2891031

    the rafi foundation. mumbai

    cell : 9833 250 701

  3. Binu Nair says:

    Good and Great News….

    Mohd Rafi Saaheb has pipped the nightingale of india and amitabh bachan today in the…

    cnn i b n polling on : ‘ who is the greatest indian after mahatma gandhiji ‘…

    please, please please,

    give a miss call today now on any and every mobile phone in the family at :

    0 8 0 8 2 8 9 1 0 3 1 .

    pls to note. missed call from any and every phone in the family and friends. you can vote just once from one phone set.

    yesterday, a mohd rafi fan business unit sent 400 votes to rafi saaheb.

    do vote now…….

  4. Ahamed Kutty says:

    respectful rafians,
    to have in the top 10 position,rafi saab need atleast 8700
    votes and the first phase will be closed by tomorrow.
    hence please vote for him by giving a missed call to

  5. P. Haldar says:

    Professor Noor Saheb,

    ??? ???? ??????? | Please keep writing on this forum. After reading your piece, I was reminded of Tagore, the universal poet, who never thought along ethnic, religious or even nationalistic lines. The greatness about Rafi saab was that he thought of everyone as a fellow human being, not as a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil or Malayalee. If more people thought the way you do, the world would have been a much better place.

    With warm regards,
    P. Haldar

  6. andrea correa says:

    there must be religious plurality, democratisation and freedom of thoughts. i support your views mudabirra and your right to write your thoughts with relation to mohd rafi saabs songs and life. ( post 10 and 13 )

    that’s timely as mohd rafi himself worshipped all gods, did his prayers and lived like a true muslim…..

    and, the fact remains that very few people can lead a life led by rafi saaheb.

    many will give sermons like our politicians – and we dont need them.

  7. mudabirra says:

    Post 11,

    there is a moderator, who has read my mail & has found nothing wrong
    in posting the same. Period !! Still If you really wish to know the reason why
    i have shared a line about my personal life, it’s the same reason why you
    have not shared abt. your personal life. this is rafi sab’s forum & you and i
    are visitors, so, let’s mind the same.

  8. Binu Nair says:

    less responses to a good and great article about love……. of rafi saaheb’s songs.

    its very simple to explain.

    like people like ‘less’ rafi songs of the fifties and late forties which are undiluted gold compared to the songs of sixties and seventies,

    same way

    a heady article ( a bit philosophical ) which hits the mind will be less understood and followed.

    but, the point about rafi saaheb is made and proved.

    thank you prof ronny noor.

    from the rafi foundation….. Mumbai

    Mail :

  9. Zaheendanish says:

    post 10

    by the way why do you declare your personal life here on this public website??????

    is it necessary????????????????????????????????

  10. mudabirra says:

    Dear Prof Ronny Noor, I visit this site often becoz i am a great fan of Mohd rafi sahab. i see many articles that are informative & good. my own knowledge is so limited, i feel shy to write anything. but today reading your masterpiece, i am elated. i really have no words to explain. i am a muslim married to hindu and we both practice the our respective faiths. from my husband i have learnt a bit aobut hinduism, krishna & rama, etc. and i have shared the good ness in koran with him. your references are from all faiths & i am so thankful to read a secular article like this in this era of talibanisation of anything. usually the articles are full of responses which also i read, but for such a beautiful article of yours, which spreads message of love, i am saddened to see, that the response is not there. is it because you have made secular references? i hope not. let us learn to drop our identities and be one with rafi sab’s music. this is the best i have read in my entire life…

  11. achal rangaswamy says:

    dear prof noor sahab

    what a beautifully written essay!!! this piece of writing is inspirational and absolutely thought and awe inspiring.

    thank you sir for this great piece of tribute.

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  12. Israr Khan says:

    Assalamalekum, Mujhe Rafi Saab ke kuch events ke baare me bataiye please.

  13. Binu Nair says:

    Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai….

    imagine the bridegroom a trained singer in carnatic music singing this song with his bride next to him at the reception cum music-al evening in picturesque kerala where mohd raafi is virtually worshippped.

    it happened last month in kerala with yours truly attending the family wedding. about 8 mohd rafi songs were sung by guests and singers side by side of the reception. in-between the blessings, the groom mr.arvind, his dad dr gopinath menon a super specialist from u.a.e. and his brother and e n t specialist dr arjun regaled the guests.

    the iceing on the cake was : tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai with the audience standing up – clapping and enjoying the ‘ pyaara ‘ sapnes of life.

  14. sanjeev Dixit says:

    Great voting to Rafi Sahab from last 40 hours.He reached to 8785(20 rank) votes now from 6465(22 Rank) votes. A very nice effort from Rafi Bhakts.
    Please go more fast to reach Rafi sahab in top 10 & give a missed call on ” 08082891031″ Hurry forward to your friends and relatives.. Pls. pls. pls. Make no stone unturned.

  15. Zaheendanish says:

    gr8 analysis 🙂

  16. rajnish says:

    janab noor sahab adaab
    wah kya jhoob vayakhya ki hai ek ruhani jazbat ki ek farishte ke marfat aur jo upmaeinye aapne di hai bemisaal hai hum toh aapke teh dilse kayal ho gaye hai

  17. Dr.vasudha says:

    the way you have professed love in this write up, is in itself an encompassment of the innate human emotion which resides in all of us but manifests in different ways.You enrich the reader’s knowledge by quoting different authors and their thoughts.It is a pleasure to read what you write.
    rafi celebrated love in its myriad forms and you have spruced up the celebration by letting the world know how wonderful it is to love and be loved.
    sang sang tum bhi gungunaaoge—Yes rafi saab-jab kabhie bhi sunoongi geet tere I will forever hum the songs of love with who else but you!

  18. Nagesh Sidhanti says:

    Dear Prof. Ronny Noor Sab,

    Hearty congratulations on this remarkable essay on love, life and everything else that come in between. it reinforces our line of thinking that rafi sab was a messiah of goodness and love, who graced humanity in a musical form. Your interpretation of deep human values through the songs is commendable for the novelty in its treatment. The conundrums were great fun to solve.

    I’d be late for work this morning, but I have a very good explanation to give to myself.

    Adaab Rafi!!

    Nagesh Sidhanti
    Vice Chair
    Intl. Fellowship of Musician Rotarians

  19. Binu Nair says:

    Nice… Lovely, beautiful as the taj mahal .

    when the monarch singer mohd rafi sings it touch-es the the innermost chords of our heart .

    love songs and songs of every genre.

    “” aao tumhe mai pyar sikhadu, sikhla do na….”” the rafi-lata duet from movie upaasna composed by kalyanji anandji on sanjay khan and mumtaz is for al l seasons and times.

    millions will hum mohd rafis songs as they touch the heart chords.

    a nice essay Prof ronny noor.

    from the rafi foundation:

    email :

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