Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

Saaqi ki har nigaah pe bal kha ke pee gaya

Posted on: June 20, 2015

This article is written by Sadanand Kamath, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a regular contributor to this blog. This article is meant to be posted in If this article appears in sites like and etc then it is piracy of the copyright content of and is a punishable offence under the existing laws.

I am thankful to Ava Suri who, about a month back, had suggested to me to consider presenting a NFS ghazal ‘saaqi ki har nigaah pe bal khaa ke pee gaya’ (1965) sung by Rafi. Let me confess that I had missed listening to this great ghazal of Jigar Moradabadi all these years. This request gave me an opportunity to study in detail the ghazals of Jigar Moradabadi who was considered the last icon of classical Urdu poetry. He was such an interesting personality that I am tempted to write a full length article on him for the Blog which I will do in the near future.

One of the challenging features of poetry writing is to build into it the background for the readers and listeners in a few lines. In fact, I feel that it is more challenging for poets who write she’rs (couplets), the collections of which make the ghazals. Hence, poets have to use imageries and metaphors as a means to communicate with the readers/listeners, a much larger canvass of a she’r than what is implied in the literal meaning. The vagueness resulting from the limitation of length of a she’r gives an opportunity to readers to interpret its wider meaning in their own way. I will give an example of a beautiful she’r by Ghalib:

unke dekhe se jo aa jaati hai muhn par raunaq
wo samajhten hain ke beemaar ka haal achchaa hai

[A mere sight of the beloved brings luster to my face.
Alas, she thinks that the patient has recovered].

Now the background to the event described in the she’r can have multiple interpretations. My own interpretation is that, as it often happens in ghazals, it is an unrequited love in which the response from the beloved is cold. So the lover thinks that when the beloved comes to know about his illness (may be a serious illness), she would come to see him and he would get not only her sympathetic assurance but an opportunity to spend some time with her for a tete-e-tete. But the lover’s prospective plan gets spoiled by his natural response to beloved’s arrival. The beloved leaves lover’s house without talking to him under the impression that he is well. So there is a bit of tragedy embedded in this she’r.

Many Urdu poets have written about ‘saaqi’, ‘maikada’ or ‘maikhaana’, ‘sharaab’ and ‘jaam’ in their ghazals/she’rs. But the meanings of these words can have different connotation depending upon whether these words have been used in the context of ‘earthly love’ or ‘divine love’. For example ‘saaqi’ may mean ‘wine-giver’ or a ‘bartender’ but in Sufi ghazal ‘saaqi’ would generally mean ‘spiritual teacher’ or ‘a divine-giver’. ‘Maikada’ or ‘Maikhaana’ is a tavern or a pub. But Sufi poets would use these words for a place where the spiritual teacher reside. So for Sufi poets, ‘saaqi’ is akin to God and ‘Maikhaana’ is the world. The means to reach the God is through getting intoxicated by sharaab (wine) of the divine love.

The ghazal under discussion is from the point of view of ‘earthly lover’. Jigar Moradabadi was a heavy drinker until 1938 when he gave it up. He was an admirer of beauties and had numerous failed love affairs. Yet one would rarely find melancholy in his ghazals. If at all it was there, it was in a subdued form. With this background, let me discuss the 4 she’rs in this recorded ghazal (out of 7 she’rs in the original ghazal).

saaqi ki har nigaah pe balkhaa ke pee gaya
laharon se khelta huaa lahara ke pee gaya

(With every glance of the wine-giver, I swayed and drank (wine) .
Feeling ecstatic, I drank with waves of ecstasy).
In my view, the meaning of the words ‘lahar’ or ‘lahra’ is something more than the waves. In relation to drinking wine, the poet may have meant the ‘waves of ecstasy’ or ‘exuberance’.

By the way, Jigar Moradabadi had used, more or less, the same imagery in a she’r of another ghazal with different thoughts:

kabhi un madbhari aankhon se piyaa thhaa ek jaam
aaj tak hosh nahin, hosh nahin, hosh nahin

[Sometime back (I) had drunk a sip of wine flowing from her sensuous eyes.
Since then (I) am not in senses (remained intoxicated)].

zaahid ye meri shokhi-e-rindaa na dekhna
rahmat ko baaton baaton mein behlaa ke pee gaya

Zaahid= Religious/Pious Devout,
Shokhi-e-rindaa=Mischievous drunkard.
Rahmat= Mercy, Forgiveness,

[ O devout, do not see my mischief of drunkenness.
By begging for mercy again and again, I drank].

I feel that Jigar Moradabadi must have addressed ‘zaahid’ in this she’r to his friend cum brother-in-law and poet Asgar Gondvi whom he respected a lot as a spiritual and devout person. Asgar Gondvi had tried his best to bring Jigar Moradabadi out of his drinking habit and his vagabond nature but without any success.

ae rahmat-e-tamaam meri har khata muaaf
main intaha-e-shauq mein ghabaraa ke pee gaya

Intaha-e-shauq= Extreme/great pleasure

[O Lord, show mercy on me and forgive for all my sins.
The extreme pleasure made me jittery and I drank ].
Waah waah, what a beautiful she’r!. The pleasure and fear are two opposite moods. Perhaps, the poet feels that for him the pleasure was the beginning of anxiety and out of this fear, he drank. This is a novel imagery.

sarmasti-e-azal mujhe jab yaad aa gayi ee
duniya-e-aitbaar ko thukraa ke pee gaya aa

Sarmasti-e-azal=Intoxication in eternity, endless intoxication.
Duniya-e-aitbar= Trust/faith in world at large.

[When I recalled my endless intoxication,
(I) gave up (my) faith in this world and drank].
A somewhat similar thought was expressed in one of Sahir Ludhianvi’s she’rs which was used in the film ‘Pyaasa’ (1957):

thukra raha thhaa mujhko badi der se jahaan
main aaj sab jahaan ko thukra ke pee gaya

Note that while pathos in Sahir’s she’r is intense, in Jigar’s sher it is subtle.

Enjoy this beautiful ghazal with an equally beautiful rendition by Mohammed Rafi. The ghazal has been set to the music by Taj Ahmed Khan. The tune is based on Raag Todi as per Rajan P Parrikar’s Blog.


Song-Saaqi ki har nigaah pe bal khaa ke pee gaya (Rafi NFS)(1965) Singer-Rafi, Lyrics-Jigar Muradabadi, MD-Taj Ahmad Khan


o o o
o o
o o o
saaqi ki har nigaah pe
bal khaa ke pee gaya aa aa
lehron se khelta huaa
lehra ke pee gaya aa aa
saaqi ki har nigaah pe

o o o
o o o
o o
zaahid ye meri
shokhi-e-rindaa na dekhna aa
rindaa na dekhna
rahmat ko baaton baaton mein
behlaa ke pee gaya aa aa
rahmat ko baaton baaton mein

ae rahmat-e-tamaam
meri har khata muaaf
meri har khata muaaf
main intiha-e-shauq mein
ghabraa ke pee gaya aa aa
main intiha-e-shauq mein

sarmasti-e-azal mujhe
jab yaad aa gayi ee
jab yaad aa gayi
duniya-e-aitbaar ko thhukraa ke pee gaya aa aa
saaqi ki har nigaah pe
bal khaa ke pee gaya aa aa
saaqi ki har nigaah pe


3 Responses to "Saaqi ki har nigaah pe bal kha ke pee gaya"

Ah! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sadanandji. What a beautiful interpretation. I have loved this ghazal sung by Rafi. His voice sounds divine in this, don’t you think. It is as if the words, the music and voice come together from the heavens.

Thank you. I knew only you could do justice to this beautiful ghazal. I have struggled to understand its meaning by visiting several blogs. But now I feel satisfied.

Beautiful and well researched!

Love all of Rafi Saab’s NFSs.Rafi Saab’s voice sounds a bit different.

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