Around the Banyan Tree

At Christian weddings, the groom and bride take turns at saying, “I (name), take you (name), as my (husband/wife) to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”. The Hindus have the saptapadi, the seven vows of marriage, symbolized by their seven rounds around a fire. A key vow is the fifth one, part of which says, “Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow”.

Through the centuries, this idea of sharing in the ups and downs of life has characterized good marriages universally. In our culture, the idea of sacrifice and devotion has come down from the Mahabharata too, through the remarkable story of Sati Savitri, so much so that her name has become instantly-recognized shorthand for a sacrificing woman who will stay by her husband, come what may. Such a woman is called an ardhangini, which means one half of the husband, being with him throughout the journey of his existence. In the west, husbands call their wife their better half, but not always is that term used in praise.

A prime real-life example of a devoted wife from our cinema is singer Jagjit Kaur, married to composer Khayyam for six decades. You meet the maestro and just as soon as any comfort level is reached, he tells you what a wonderful ardhangini she has been. Seen in that light, it is fascinating that it was the same Jagjit Kaur, under the baton of the same Khayyam, who sang the ultimate song of devotion penned by Sahir Ludhianvi in Shagun (1964). Here’s how that ghazal went:

Tum apna ranj-o-gham apni pareshaani mujhe de do

Tumhen gham ki qasam is dil ki veeraani mujhe de do


Ye maana main kisi qaabil naheen hoon in nigaahon mein

Bura kya hai agar ye dukh ye hairaani mujhe de do


Main dekhoon to sahi duniya tumhen kaise sataati hai

Koi din ke liye apni nigehbaani mujhe de do


Wo dil jo maine maanga tha magar ghairon ne paaya tha

Badi shai hai agar uski pashemaani mujhe de do

Three days from now, on 27 June 2018, is Vat Purnima, which is also called Vat Savitri.  On that day, which happens once a year, tens of thousands of married Hindu women, mainly in western parts of India, will keep a fast and come out dressed in lovely saris. Seven times they will go around a banyan tree to tie a white cotton thread around its trunk. They will put fruits and flowers in banana leaves and light joss sticks at the foot of the tree. They will put a tikka on the tree, and if there’s more than one woman around, they will put tikkas on each other. They will do an aarti of the tree, as they pray for the same husband over many lifetimes. They will ask for devotion through this symbolic set of gestures. In essence, they will be praying to learn samarpan, meaning surrender.


How all this started

In the days of the Mahabharata, a king’s daughter named Savitri, forced by circumstances to find a husband for herself, identified the right candidate: Satyavan, a blind king’s son. But there was a catch. It was predicted that this man would die exactly a year after his marriage. She went ahead anyway. Near the end of the year, she took a vow to undertake a severe fast for three days, and, wanting to be vigilant, ignored even her sleep. They all told her she was being too hard on herself, but she wasn’t going to listen to them. On the day itself, Satyavan inexplicably threw up, turned pale and weak, and then passed away. She calmly placed his body under a banyan tree and waited there for the arrival of Yama, the God of Death, to take her husband’s soul away. Yama came, took possession of the dead man’s soul, and headed back. Savitri followed Yama on his return journey and began singing praises to her husband while appealing to the strength and sense of fair play of Yama himself. Long story short: so impressed was Lord Yama, that he granted her some wishes, and she somehow manoeuvred things to get her husband’s life back. Legend has been very helpful to her reputation, so much so that whenever a wife offers unflinching support to her husband, she is called a Sati Savitri.

The steadfastness of Sati Savitri is exemplified in a wonderful song written by Bharat Vyas that Lata sang in a film outlining the lady’s life, ie Sati Savitri (1964): Jeevan dor tumhi sung baandhi, Kya todenge is bandhan ko jag ke toofaan aandhi re aandhi.

Not all the women singing songs listed below belong to a specific religion. Devoted wives exist in all faiths. Nor are all these women shown married in their films. But if they aren’t, they are certainly getting ready to become excellent wives and face the vicissitudes of married life. That’s because surrender and devotion do form the basis for these songs, as is clear in the lyrics at some point in the song. The lyricist is mentioned with the singer:

  • Pati charnan gun gaoon (Munshi ‘Dil’/Khursheed/Shaadi, 1941)
  • Tu pyaar kare ya thukraaye (Rajinder Krishan/Lata/Dekh Kabira Roya, 1957)
  • Ye jee chaahta hai (Rajinder Krishan/Asha/Amar Deep, 1958)
  • Tumhaare sang main bhi chaloongi piya (Shakeel/Lata/Sohni Mahiwal, 1958)
  • Jahaan mein ayesa kaun hai (Sahir/Asha/Hum Dono, 1961)
  • Tera mera pyaar amar (Shailendra/Lata/Asli Naqli, 1962)
  • Wo dil kahaan se laoon teri yaad jo bhula de (Rajinder Krishan/Lata/Bharosa, 1963)
  • Hum tere pyaar mein saara aalam (Hasrat Jaipuri/Lata/Dil Ek Mandir, 1963)
  • Apne piya ki main to bani re joganiya (Bharat Vyas/Suman/Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan, 1963)
  • Agar mujhse muhabbat hai (Raja Mehdi Ali Khan/Lata/Aap Ki Parchhaiyan, 1964)
  • Tumhi mere mandir tumhi meri pooja (Rajinder Krishan/Lata/Khandaan, 1965)
  • Maine rang li aaj chunariya sajna tore rang mein (Raja Mehdi Ali Khan/Lata/Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, 1966)
  • Tu jahaan jahaan chalega mera saaya saath hoga (Raja Mehdi Ali Khan/Lata/Mera Saaya, 1966)
  • Apne piya ki prem pujaran (Hasrat Jaipuri/Lata/Aman, 1967)
  • Aaja piya tohe pyaar doon (Majrooh/Lata/Baharon Ke Sapne, 1967)
  • Sharm aati hai magar aaj ye kehna hoga (Rajinder Krishan/Lata/Padosan, 1968)
  • Ganga maiya mein jab tak ye paani rahe (Indeewar/Lata/Suhaag Raat, 1968)
  • Saanjh savere adhron pe mere (Anand Bakshi/Lata/Madhavi, 1969)
  • Jaise Radha ne maala japi Shyam ki (Neeraj/Lata/Tere Mere Sapne, 1971)
  • Mera antar ek mandir hai tera (Neeraj/Lata/Tere Mere Sapne, 1971)
  • Ab to hai tumse har khushi apni (Majrooh/Lata/Abhimaan, 1973)
  • Tan man tere rang rangoongi (Neeraj/Lata/Archana, 1973)
  • Tera mera saath rahe (Ravindra Jain/Lata/Saudagar, 1973)
  • Mere devta main tumhaari hoon daasi (Ravi/Lata/Ghatna, 1974)
  • Dil mein tujhe bittha ke (Ravindra Jain/Lata/Fakeera, 1976)
  • Tumhen dekhti hoon (Naqsh Lyallpuri/Lata/Tumhaare Liye, 1978)

As we saw above, on Vat Purnima, the faithfulness of women is symbolised by strings tied to a banyan tree, as if the tree itself is the husband. This is not to be confused with someone else tying up your husband or lover to a tree. Such a thing has happened a few times, for instance in Changez Khan (1957) when Premnath was tied to a tree, with his girlfriend Bina Rai far away, initially unable to help him. Muhabbat zinda rehti hai, muhabbat mar naheen sakti, went the hero. For a change, the lady rushed to untie the rope around the tree.


Originally published in DNA Jaipur on 24 June 2018 page 13

Featured image on top: Saira Banu in Sharm aati hai magar aaj ye kehna hoga

13 thoughts on “Around the Banyan Tree

  1. What a beautiful re-cap of the devotion and rituals followed by Indian women. In the current era, modern women emphasize the men are lucky to have them by their side.

    All the songs do justice to the women’s sentiments. A comprehensive list. Doubt that you left any aside. Your topics and thoughts are always astounding. Keep it up, Sir!

    1. Grateful Sneh _()_ But I am almost always less than comprehensive. Music nuts reintroduce me to the ones I forgot. That apart, the editor gives me half a page every week, that translates into 1200 words, can’t go beyond that, though I do 🙂

  2. Manekji. You continue to amaze us with your pick of topics and the exhaustive research plus a comprehensive list of related songs. Kudos! I think you have limited to ‘devotional’ songs by the female soul-mates, and excluded the mutually reciprocal ones like ‘Tumhi to meri pooja ho’ (‘Suhagan’, Lata-Talat), ‘Tum gagan ke chandrama ho’ (‘Sati Savitri’, Lata-Manna De). Another song from ‘Tumhare Liye’ which goes ‘Tumhe dekhti hoon to lagta hai jaise’, could perhaps qualify to be in your list. Another two songs of total surrender by the female come to mind, ‘Tu pyar kare ya tukraye, hum to hain tere deewanonmein’, and ‘Tum mujhe bhool bhi jao to ye hak hai tumko …’, but while Sudha Malhotra expresses love for the man, Mukesh says he loves ‘em all … like a true polygamist! While some may dismiss all these songs as ‘subservient’, ‘regressive’ etc., the soothing effect of such songs is what makes them still memorable. Every man needs to be ‘babied’ at times, and these songs exactly do that. The best of ‘em is of course, ‘Tum apna ranjh-o-gham’, as Dilip Apte Saab says. ‘Main dekhoon to sahi, duniya tumhe kaise satati hai’. Uff! What a song! Hats off to Khayyam-Jagjit Kaur jodi and of course, Sahir Ludhianvi.

    BTW, I note that your list of songs ends with 1976. Do we assume that in modern times, the woman would rather have her man tied to a banyan tree … and given a whiplash, if you please! Just a frightful thought, as we have a banyan tree right behind our house!

    1. Nathan Ji, you write so well. I am also wondering if the so called modern day women libbers are in agreement with the present essay.

      Some time ago, a song going by the words : tumhi mere mandir from Khandaan /picturised on Nutan was posted on the RTS group. Whilst most were nostalgic about the lyrics, they also agreed that this was not in consonnance with the current times.

    2. “BTW, I note that your list of songs ends with 1976. Do we assume that in modern times, the woman would rather have her man tied to a banyan tree … and given a whiplash, if you please! Just a frightful thought, as we have a banyan tree right behind our house” Oh my goodness! I am bursting over that one 🙂 In your backyard? You want to see women in your neighbourhood lashed? 🙂

      And that suggestion, Tumhen dekhti hoon…wow, adding, thanks 🙂 Also Tu pyaar kare ya thukraaye…super _()_

  3. Nice informative write – up Manek G , with all ” Ek se badhkar ek ” songs of surrender nd devotion.

    The note about Khayyam – Jagjit Kaur pair nd song ” tum apna ranj – o – gum ” touched the heart.

    Manek G , now it is a request to U to write post of husband’s side also , showing feeling of love nd affection for their better half.
    ” Aaina hoon main tera ” song comes to mind , well , U will give tons of examples.

    Enjoyed this Sunday breakfast from ” Manek G’s song khazana ” .

    Thnx a lot.

    1. Pramod ji, thank you! In fact this song was going to be part of my story, but only in passing. That the reverse also happens now and then. Sadly, I crossed my brief of 1200 words, so I gave it a miss. Sadly also, I don’t know many songs where men sing their faithfulness 🙁

  4. Tum apna ranj-o-gham apni pareshaani mujhe de do
    Tumhen gham ki qasam is dil ki veeraani mujhe de do
    continues to be among my favourite songs,ever since 1964

  5. What a timely write-up Manek. You are a person who always has an ear to the ground.

    At the back of the yard where I stayed earlier in Matunga Road [West],my father had planted a Banyan tree in 1952, to mark the birth date of my sister [ who incidentally is no more ]. Over the years this all consuming tree [ it does not allow any other tree or plant to flourish in the vicinity ] has grown to gargantuan proportions , so much so that it even threatened the existence of the building I stayed in. It was good providence that the building went into redevelopment .
    Development or no development -the Banyan Tree continues its expansion program.

    Then and even today, women from surrounding areas, start gathering there since early morning ,to offer their prayers for the long life of their husbands.

    Ha ha – wherever there are flowers bees are attracted. Seeing the womenfolk gathering- some priests { Maharaj’s ] are also there ,to guide the women in their Puja and collect the plentiful offerings as Yama[ the God of death ] has many other places to attend to.

  6. manekbhai,

    this write of yours is sure to make many a lady happy as it is actually glorifying her true and loving self giving her all to the man whom she has surrendered to in life and to further cement it with devotionally going through the rituals in ” Vat Purnima ” signalling and singling him out as her partner for ever. 🙂

    Sati Savitri is folklore and Sita is mythology. We probably are left with Savitri and no Sati. 🙂 I dont think that is God’s order of Life. 🙂

    Abhee zyaadaa bolegaa – toh mera VAAT lag jaayegaa ( please laugh )

    This article puts us thinking – do men reciprocate the feelings of women – ?

    I pray the Lord fills more thoughts into your thinking cap and convert it into an ” akshayapatra ” of wisdom – 🙂

    God Bless You.

    R N K

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