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

Dilli se mol dupatta manga do

Posted on: January 3, 2019

This article is written by Sadanand Kamath, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a contributor to this blog. This article is meant to be posted in If this article appears in other sites without the knowledge and consent of the web administrator of, then it is piracy of the copyright content of and is a punishable offence under the existing laws.

Blog Day : 3821 Post No. : 14820

Nautanki (Indian Opera or Ballad) is one of the major forms of Hindi theatre which has been in vogue for over 200 years as a popular form of entertainment in the rural and semi-urban area in some parts of North India. It is believed that Nautanki originated around the present day Mathura-Vrindavan-Hathras regions in Uttar Pradesh in the forms of Raas leela, Swaang etc. Over a period of time, it become popular in Braj speaking areas such as eastern Rajasthan (Khayal, similar to Nautanki) and Northern Madhya Pradesh which are closed to the border of the western Uttar Pradesh. Later its influence got extended in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Bihar.

Initially, nautankis were staged in Brajbhasha. Later the writers used the hybrid of Hindi, Urdu and local dialects in keeping with the changing taste of the audience who were now exposed to Hindi films.

The stories for the Nautanki have come from mythology (example: Harishchandra-Taramati), history (Amar Singh Rathod), folklore (Laila-Majnu, Puranmal), romance (Pak Mohabbat), noble bandits (Sultana Daaku) and the contemporary social and political issues. The stories are depicted in both the dialogues and singing. There are two main style of Nautanki. Hathrasi style gives more preference to singing in opera style with melodic exchanges between the actors on the stage. The Kanpuri style has a mix of dialogues and fast-paced singing. Probably, Kanpuri style was influenced by the touring Parsee Theatres’ plays.

The lyrics and the tunes of the songs in Nautanki are mostly traditional having been passed on orally from one generation to the next. However, newly composed songs are also included keeping with the stories used in the Nautanki. The main musical instruments used in the traditional Nautanki were Nagada, Dholak and Harmonium. The sounding of Nagada was intimations to the people that a nautanki mandali had come to perform in the village. But by the end of 1950s, additional musical instruments like Sarangi, Clarinet etc were introduced. The modern Nautanki theatres uses Keyboards, Drums and even Guitar in keeping with the music trends.

People would be attracted to watch the nautanki if the actors had powerful voice (there was no mike those days)- both for singing and dialogues and their effective interpretations of the lyrics of the songs through the facial expressions, the hand gestures and the dances. A couple of traditional folk songs are sung by the singers-dancers in between the acts as fillers to keep the audience’s interest intact during the nautanki shows.

Nautanki had been the male-dominated form of theatre when it had bloomed in the early 20th century. But one personality who has changed this tradition in early 1930s was Gulab Bai who became the first female artist to join the male-dominated Nautanki theatre. There are more ‘firsts’ to her credit. She was the first female who owned a successful Nautanki Mandali called Great Gulab Theatre Company’. She was the first recipient among the Nautanki artists to get Sangeet Natak Akadamy Award (1985) and ‘Padma Shri’ Award from Government of India (1990). Gulab Bai is a story of a girl born in extreme poverty who rose to the status of a nationally honoured nautanki artist. Yet she died sad and disappointed as the form of nautanki which she had actively nurtured had almost vanished in front of her own eyes.

Gulab Bai (C.1920 – 13/07/1996) was born in Balpurva village in the present day Kannauj district in Uttar Pradesh. She was the eldest among the 12 siblings. Her father’s was a wanderer who would go to forest for hunting and bring home small games like rabbit and birds. He also indulged in petty pilfering like stealing from agricultural fields. Her family belonged to Bedia community where the girls were bread earners by way of street performance as singers and the entertainers to the wealthy traders and businessmen. The Bedia men-folk seldom worked. Naturally, Gulab Bai’s father encouraged her to sing and dance to add to his income. She had inclination to learn singing and dancing from her childhood as she had been brought up among the other female members of her extended family who were performing artists.

A chanced visit to a nearby town called Makanpur with her father for the Annual Urs of Madar Shah, a Sufi saint, changed the outlook of Gulab Bai to become something greater than the street singer. During the Urs, one of the visiting Nautanki Mandalis called Tirmohan Lal’s Nautanki Theatre was staging ‘Harishchandra-Taramati’. Gulab Bai watched the nautanki and was impressed by the musical presentation with actors singing and dancing. She told her father that she would be interested in joining the nautanki theatre. Those days, both male and female roles in the nautanki were enacted by males only. There was no way that Gulab Bai would be taken in any nautanki mandalis. Nonetheless, her father took Gulab Bai to Tirmohan Lal, the owner of the Nautanki.

Tirmohan Lal, first refused to take Gulab Bai as in male-dominated nautanki theatres, females had no place. However, later he relented on the conditions that Gulab Bai would be paid only for her upkeep and she would have to travel to Kanpur where they had programmes lined up for a long duration. So this was the start of Gulab Bai’s first exposure to nautanki theatre. Her father or brother accompanied Gulab Bai to Kanpur.

Initially, Tirmohan Lal gave her job of singing dadras, rasiyas and lavanis in-between the nautanki acts and scenes as fillers (something, I guess, akin to ‘item number songs’ in Hindi films). Her songs were applauded by the audience which made Tirmohan Lal to consider her for higher roles in the nautanki. Her days were spent in learning the finer nuances of nautanki music from Tirmohan Lal. She also received the training from Mohammed Khan of Hathras who was well-versed in Hindustani classical raags and nautanki music. Thus she was groomed for taking subsidiary roles in the nautanki which she did admirably.

Over a period of time, with her natural flavour for singing and dancing and the audience’s favourable response, Tirmohan Lal gave her the lead roles of Taramati in ‘Harishchandra-Taramati’, Rani Haadi in ‘Amar Singh Rathod’, Laila in ‘Laila Majnu’, Shirin in ‘Shirin-Farhad’ etc. Her tremendous success and popularity among the nautanki audience motivated other female artists to join the other nautanki theatres most of whom were from the extended family of Gulab Bai.

By early 1940s, Gulab Bai had become the topmost nautanki artists with her monthly salary rising to Rs.2000/-. Tirmohan Lal’s Nautanki Theatre had become one of the topmost nautanki theatres due mainly to the popularity of Gulab Bai. A few of the competing nautanki theatres tried to lure Gulab Bai to join them at a higher salary. But she declined the offer as her loyalty was with Tirmohan Lal. On his part, Tirmohan Lal also raised her salary in keeping with her earning capacity for his nautanki theatre.

Sometime in 1954, Gulab Bai was need of some money urgently to meet the medical expenses for one of her younger sisters who had accidentally fallen from the staircase of her haveli. Gulab Bai was in Kanpur for that night’s nautanki show. Gulab Bai requested Timohan Lal for a day’s leave and Rs.100 for the medical treatment which he refused both. This attitude of Tirmohan Lal for whom she had worked for nearly 2 decades, made Gulab Bai upset. She left Tirmohan Lal’s nautanki, arranged money from her colleagues to attend to her sister’s medical treatment. After this incidence, Gulab Bai did not perform for Tirmohan’s nautanki.

In 1955, Gulab Bai formed her own nautanki theatre called the Great Gulab Theatre Company. Her 3 younger sisters and Raja, the hero from Tirmohan Lal’s nautanki joined her. In all her nautankis, Gulab Bai continued to be the heroin while Raja acted opposite her mostly in lead roles. During this period, Raja amd Gulab Bai started living together as husband-wife though they never legally married. He was the second ‘husband’ for her, as she had separated from the first sometime in the late 1940s. In a short time, Great Gulab Theatre became an established name churning show after show based on the popular stories in the various places. At one point of time, the Great Gulab Theatre had 120 artists on its role.

Towards, the end of 1970s, the fortune of Great Gulab Theatre Company was on the decline so also of others due to declining patronage of audience. With the advent of TV, VCDs and VCRs, the new generation of audience had different expectation from the Nautankis akin to what was churned out in Bollywood films. The Government had imposed entertainment tax on Nautanki shows. At the same time, Gulab Bai was in no mood to compromise on the production value of her Nautankis.

Gulab Bai must have sung hundreds of songs during her active career in the nautanki theatres. Unfortunately, very few songs have been released on the gramophone records. So far, 16 songs have been listed as being released on 78 RPM gramophone records. Her two most popular dadras, ‘nadi naare na jaao Shyam paiyyan padoon’ and ‘moko peehar mein mat chhed baalam’ were recorded and released in the late 1940s by HMV on 78 RPM gramophone record. These dadras were often played on wedding functions. Later, she also sang these on All India Radio.

Interestingly, these two dadras were used in Sunil Dutt’s film, ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ (1963) sung by Asha Bhonsle. These songs became more popular than the original ones sung by Gulab Bai since early 1930s due to film’s pan India reach. Lawyers of Kanpur approached her to file a case against the producer of the film for using her songs without acknowledgement and compensation. She reprimanded the lawyers by saying that these were songs from the Braj. Women of Braj had been singing these songs for ages with their dholaks. There is nothing to write or compose. These are folk songs.

I guess, the issue of copyrights which was all over the newspaper must have given an opportunity for HMV to make money by bringing out Gulab Bai’s recorded songs in public by way of a LP. In 1969, HMV released 12 songs on LP. Probably, this was a better way of earning her dues by way of royalties than fighting a case in the court.

After Gulab Bai was awarded Sangeet Natak Akadamy Award in 1985, Government began inviting her company to perform on some state functions. Even though such invitations came in few and far between, Gulab Bai preferred state patronage as it was hassle free. She received a lump sum payment without the tension of a box office failure. Also there was no pressure from the audience for the cheap entertainment. Hereafter, her company reduced the public performances and did only the commissioned performances.

Gulab Bai breathed her last on July 13, 1996 after a short illness. She left behind her two sons one of which worked with SBI as an Officer. Her two daughters, Asha and Madhu are educated and married. They are traditional Nautanki artists.

During her active days in nautanki theatres, Gulab Bai had trained many artists so as to ensure that the folk theatres strive and there is continuity in the keeping alive the tradition. One of her wishes was that the Government should set up a Nautanki Academy in Kanpur to keep alive the folk tradition of nautanki by enrolling young people as nautanki artists. Unfortunately, her suggestion was never considered. She rued this just a few days before her death in a TV interview by way of couplet from Jigar Muradabadi which she told her daughter to sing.

<em.‘yahaan insaaf kis se maangne aaye ho ‘Jigar’
chalo yahaan se ye andhon ki rajdhaani hai

I was toying with the idea of selecting one of her 12 non-film songs in the LP for presenting along with this write-up. While looking for the video clip of the song on YT, I accidentally came across a video clip of a film song ‘Dilli se mol dupatta manga do’ sung by Gulab Bai in an obscure film ‘Diwanji’ (1950). So here is that song. While the lyricist is unattributed, the nautanki type song is set to music by Sushant Bannerjee.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the only song which Gulab Bai sang for a Hindi film.
1. Gulab Bai : The Queen of Nautanki Theatre by Deepti Priya Mehrotra (2006).
2. Nautanki – Folk Theatre: A Study of Women Performers And Audiences in Mathura, UP by Vyomika Sharma-Bhardwaj (2013).
3. ‘Ek Thhi Gulab Bai’ – TV documentary by Krishna Raghava (1996).

Audio Clip :

Song-Dilli se mol dupatta manga do (Divanji)(1950) Singer-Gulab Bai, MD-Sushant Bannerji


Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa
laakhon kahi is ne ek na maani
laakhon kahi is ne ek na maani
kaise chhipaaun mein uthhti jawaani
uthhti jawaani
kaise chhipaaun mein uthati jawaani
uthati jawaani
ab koi reet bataa do
bataa do
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyan

Dhaake ki malmal ho rang ho dhaaani
Dhaake ki malmal ho rang ho dhaani
cham cham chamkegi mori jawaani
cham cham chamkegi mori jawaani
uspe gota kinaari lagaa do
uspe gota kinaari lagaa do
aur malmal manga do
malmal manga do
malmal manga do
malmal manga do
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa

pahan dupatta ?? raani banoongi
raani banoongi
pahan dupatta ?? raani banoongi
raani banoongi
apne dewariya se binti karoongi
apni dewariya se binti karoongi
sainyyan se
sainyyan se mohe milaa do
do o
sainyyan se mohe milaa do
aur malmal manga do
malmal manga do
malmal manga do
malmal manga do
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa
Dilli se mol dupatta manga do
manga do sainyyaa


4 Responses to "Dilli se mol dupatta manga do"

Sadanand ji,
Thanks for an engrossing and informative article on Nautanki and Gulab bai.
Your articles always provide some ‘ hat ke ‘ topics, personalities or exclusive songs.
Thanks a lot for being there to provide us good reading material and make us wiser.


Arun ji,
Thanks for your appreciation.


I can not thank you enough for distributing aanand hi aanand by informative and interesting articles.


Very informative article on a genre I have little knowledge of. The song has a typical appeal. Thanks for the post


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