Baabul mora naihar chooto jaaye is a popular thumri that expresses the sadness of a bride leaving her father’s home. Renditions of this thumri include those by Bhimsen Joshi (a personal fav), K. L. Saigal, Girija Devi, and Jagjit Singh among others. Hidden in these lines is a lesser known story – an allegorical reference to the agony of a deposed king separated from his home, his people, and exiled in a faraway land.

बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया उठायें
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए
आँगना तो पर्बत भयो और देहरी भयी बिदेश
जे बाबुल घर आपनो , मैं चली पिया के देस

babul mora naihar chuuto hi jaaye
chaar kahaar mil, mori Doliiyaa uthaaye
more apanaa begana chhuTo hi jaaye
anganaa to parbat bhaye, dehlii bhayi bides
je baabul ghar aapano, mai chali piya ke des

that translates to

O father, I depart forcibly from my home
Four men gathered to lift my palanquin
my loved ones will become strangers
the innermost portals of my home will be unreachable
as I leave my father’s home and go to my husband’s country.

On 7th Feb, 1856, Wajid Ali Shah, poet of the above thumri was finally deposed of his title as the Nawab of Avadh by the British and sent into exile to Matiaburj, in the neighborhood of Calcutta. Wajid Ali Shah has been described, at the one extreme as a voluptuary that “lived exclusively in the society of fiddlers, eunuchs and women, and at the other extreme as an avid patron of the arts responsible for a revival of the kathak and thumri, enhancing Lucknow’s reputation as the cultural center of that age.

While it is difficult to decipher the real Wajid Ali Shah from all that has been written about him, his own words such as the thumri above offer a window into some of his thoughts. One can well imagine a king in exile, saddened by separation from his home, his people, and a past that remains a fleeting memory, and perhaps consoling himself that, like the new bride moving to her husband’s home, he will recreate aspects of his home in this place of exile.

The reference to the ‘four bearers of the palanquin’ (chaar kahaar mil, mori Doliiyaa uthaaye ) has also been interpreted as the four bearers of the coffin. The Nawab may have thought of the move to depose him as portending the end of his life , and interpreted thus, the thumri takes on a heightened sense of melancholy.

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