The Doyenne of Vintage Era: Khursheed

November 1, 2014

A tribute in her Centenary year

KhursheedI realised somewhat late that Khursheed’s Birth Centenary (b. 14 April 1914, d. 18 April 2001) fell this year. But she is such a prominent singer of the Vintage Era that I had to pay my tribute with her selected songs. Vintage Era refers to not only a period of time, i.e. the 1930s through 40s, but also, and more importantly, a different style of singing, which became extinct with the arrival of Lata Mangeshkar. No singer represented this contrast better than Khursheed. Endowed with a full-throated, open and powerful voice, she was one of the leading singers of the Vintage Era. Blessed with a beautiful face and charming personality, she was also the leading lady in many films. Her roles as actor-singer against the legend, KL Saigal, in Bhakt Surdas (1942) and Tansen (1943) has given her an important place in the history of Hindi cinema. The songs of these films are remembered today as much for Khursheed as for Saigal. Besides these two films, she sang for most of the great composers of the era.

Born Ishrat Jahan in village Chuniyan near Lahore, she started her film career in silent films in 1931 with Eye For An Eye. It may be mentioned that the initial few years were a period of overlap when silent films too continued to be made.  In Lahore, she joined Hindmata Cinetone where she was the actor-singer in the first Punjabi talkie film Ishq-e-Punjab or Mirja Saahibaan. The same year, her role opposite Prithviraj Kapoor in Lahore’s National Movietone’s Swarg Ki Seedhi became quite famous, and she soon moved from Lahore to Bombay.

In Bombay, she was the lead actor-singer in many films from 1935 to 1938, but no gramophone record could be issued for any of her songs. It was from Aap Ki Marzi (1939), composed by Gyan Dutt, that her commercial records were first issued (I have taken this information from Anil Bhargav’s ‘Swaron Ki Yatra’. This probably needs revision as YT now has her songs from 1936 films, which are most likely from commercial records). The same year, she sang a number of songs for Khemchand Prakash in Meri Aankhen. The turn of the decade, 1941, marked her rise to the top with immensely popular songs in Beti (by Gyan Dutt) and Pardesi (by Khemchand Prakash). Two songs from Pardesi have already appeared on this blog – Pahle jo mohbbat se inkaar kiya hota and Mori atariya hai sooni sajan nahi aaye. Under Khemchand Prakash, she sang in Shaadi (1941) and Chaandni (1942) too, which became quite popular.

She reached the peak of her career in Bhakt Surdas and Tansen opposite KL Saigal – befittingly under Gyan Dutt and Khemchand Prakash respectively, the two most important composers in her career. Her later remarkable songs were in Moorti (1945), composed by Bulo C Rani.

She was among the artistes who chose to move to Pakistan post-partition. Her last film in India was Aap Beeti (1948). Many years later, she acted in two Pakistani films in 1956 – Fankaar and Mandi. In spite of the music by Rafiq Gazanavi, the films flopped. Thus, Pakistan proved disastrous for her career, as it did for many others who migrated there.

In Pakistan, she married her manager and small-time actor, Lala Yaqub (not the famous comic character actor, Yaqub). This marriage was not successful; after divorce she remarried a successful businessman, Yusuf Bhai Miyan. She died in Karachi on April 18, 2001, four days after her 87th birth anniversary, after a prolonged illness

Let me pay my tributes to Khursheed in her centenary year with my most favourite songs by her.

1. Mera chaand aa gaya mere dwaare (with Surendra) from Manjhdhaar (1947), lyrics Shams Lakhanavi, music Anil Biswas

When I decided to write on her, the first thought was how nice it would be if I could include Khursheed songs by Anil Biswas. Because of the rigidities of the studio system, many great contemporaries could not come together – one such sad miss was Anil Biswas-KL Saigal combination. Anil Biswas-Khursheed combo is equally rare. But, luckily, his filmography lists at least her two songs composed by him – one in the film Shokh Dlruba (1936), and the other in Manjhdhaar (1947). I had no hopes for the first, and very slender hope for the second. We must thank the uploader who has put up this song on YT, which is a duet with Surendra. The film was a Surendra-Khursheed starrer, therefore, the song must have been picturised on these actors-singers. Apparently, it also had a solo version in the voice of Surendra. The YT link mentions Ghulam Haider as the music director, but HFGK mentions that this was composed by Anil Bisaws – this was the only song he did in the film, whereas four other songs were composed by Ghulam Haider and four by Gyan Dutt. Let us start with this rare song where the two centenarians come together. Some readers might be fantasising about an Anil Biswas-Khursheed-Begum Akhtar triad song. One can be almost sure no such song exists.  These legends would not have realised that many decades later there would be anything like the Internet, and the music lovers of Songs of Yore who would be remembering them with such fondness on their centenary.


2. Bin taake na maaro more raja karejawa mein naino ke baan from Sipahsalar (1936), lyrics Munshi Rafiq, music Mir Saheb

Now enjoy the real vintage singing. You are transported to a courtesan’s kotha, where the singing is seductive, the harmonium is an essential part of the experience, creating a magic of its own, while being careful not to overshadow the singer. Notice how Khursheed sings दिल में उतर गई तिरछी नज़रिया, when some letters become rounded, and you can feel the gaze of the courtesan piercing your heart. Lata era smoothened such inflexions.


3. Baanke sainyaan ne bainyaan marod daali from Kimiagar (1936), lyrics Munshi Shams and Munshi Rafiq, music Mir Saheb

Mir Saheb repeats the tune of Bin taake na maaro in this song. Even the top composers had a right to auto-inspiration. But the tune is so good I do not mind the repetition.


4. Aaj mere ghar mehmaan aaye from Aap Ki Marzi (1939), lyrics PL Santoshi, music Gyan Dutt

Its claim to be the first commercial record of Khursheed seems to have been overtaken, as I have mentioned above. The rounding of certain syllables and phrases was typical of the vintage era female singers, Khursheed being its leading exponent.


5. Tera anokha singaar from Shaadi (1941), lyrics (?), music Khemchand Prakash

An important part of our wedding celebrations are the traditional songs, associated with various rituals and customs,  sung by the ladies of the family and relatives. We are familiar with plastic wedding songs in films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Let us go back to the vintage era with this Banno song, which is much closer to reality.


6. Giridhari Giridhari chhed wo muraliya pyaari from Chaandni (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Khemchand Prakash

Krishna-Radha lore combines shringaar and bhakti. There is romance when Radha pleads with Krishna – in the voice of Khursheed – to play his flute.


7. Bansiwale Shyam bansuriya baja ja from Prabhu Ka Ghar (1945), lyrics Pt Indra, music Khemchand Prakash

Shyam and baansuri again, but the mood changes subtly from romantic to philosophical – Geeta ka gyan suna ja Kanhaiya/ Kaljug ko satjug bana ja.


8. Itana bhi na wo samjha ke gaye kyun shama bichari jalti hai from Moorti (1945), lyrics Pt Indra, music Bulo C Rani

A Mukesh-Khursheed-Hameeda Bano triad song from this film – Badariya baras gayi us paar – is very well known to the lovers of old film music. I heard Itana bhi na wo samajha ke gaye for the first time in the Internet era, and I am completely enchanted by it.


9. Ghata ghanghor ghor mor machaave shor from Tansen (1943), lyrics DN Madhok, music Khemchand Prakash

This film with Khursheed’s four solos and a duet with KL Saigal (two versions- happy and sad) was the apogee of her career, and Ghata ghanghor ghor, with which the film opens, her most iconic song. This song must have made generations of music lovers restless, as it made the legendary singer Tansen (Saigal), who was passing by. Drawn inexorably towards the voice, he meets the innocent, but ebullient village girl, Tani (Khursheed), who was singing as she grazed her cattle. An interesting exchange follows between the two, coming from two different worlds on music – he, the learned one, who tells her Ae ladki jaanati ho tum kya raga ga rahi ho? Gaao to raga gaao; and she, the illiterate, but gifted one, giving him back in full measure – Raga kya hota hai? Now it is the end of the day, can you call back my cows by your singing as I have to go home? (He laughs at the suggestion, and she goes on to demonstrate her prowess with her next song, Aao Gauri Aao Shyama saanjh bhai ghar aao – and her cattle Shyama, Gauri etc. duly respond to her call). A fabulous movie, it is available on YT, but its audio is very poor quality. However, a good quality DVD is commercially available. 


10. Baraso re baraso re from Tansen, lyrics Pt Indra

I end her solos with this great song from Tansen, which again makes a point about the intrinsic nature of music. Tansen has been made to sing Raga Deepak (Diya jalaao) in a court conspiracy by his rivals, causing him terrible fever, which the Hakim is unable to cure. Birbal says Raga Megh is antidote to Deepak, but they could not find anyone who could sing this Raga. Tansen asks Akbar to send him back to his friend, Raja Ram Singh, whom he had promised to meet before he died.  At a village well, his paalki stops, and he asks the girls to pour water on his head. Tani, who is among them, is aghast at his condition.  She is told that Tansen could be cured if she could sing Raga Megh Malhar. She does not know any Raga. But she knows love, she can sing and pray, and what heavenly song she sings.


Duets with KL Saigal

11. Jis jogi ka jog liya ho (with KL Saigal) from Bhakt Surdas (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Gyan Dutt

We can see how she fares when she is pitted against KL Saigal in a duet. Khursheed’s open, full throated voice, combined with Saigal’s soft and mellifluous voice creates a unique magic.


12. More balapan ke saathi chhaila bhool jaiyo na (with KL Saigal) from Tansen, lyrics Pt Indra, music Khemchand Prakash

We have seen her two superb solos in the movie. I end this post with her duet against Saigal in the landmark movie. Needless to say, it is her voice that lingers on. The first is a sad version, when Tansen is leaving for Akbar’s court. The second, short happy version comes at the end of the movie, when Tansen has finally come back to Tani.

(Sad version)


(Happy version)



1.   I have taken most of the biographical details from Anil Bhargav’s Swaron Ki Yatra, which I gratefully acknowledge.
2.  Some information I have taken from an article by Gajendra Khanna on
3.  Mahadevan, gives a very interesting description of Saigal-Khursheed’s first encounter in Tansen on
4.  Cineplot has her interview taken in 1992 in Pakistan, said to be her last interview.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SSW November 1, 2014 at 6:28 pm

AK, this is lovely bouquet you have brought us. Khursheed as other voices in those days had her own unique style.

2 arvindersharma November 1, 2014 at 9:01 pm

AK Ji,
All your posts of vintage era, this one included, are tutorials for untrained music lovers like me.
Except ‘Ghata ghanghor ghor’, a song which I like very much, all are unfamiliar to me and it will be a pleasure to go through them.
Thanks a ton, sir.

3 AK November 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. Interesting aspect is that the vintage voices are very different from Lata-model, they are very distinct from each other.

You are too generous. But I am happy you enjoyed the songs. My some friends who really love old film songs have a mental barrier at 1949, and are not able to relate to earlier songs. I fell for vintage songs at a very young age.

4 AK November 1, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Dear Readers,
Based on the information from Swaron Ki Yatra by Anil Bhargava I had mentioned earlier in the post that Khursheed entered the film world under the pseudonym ‘Shehla’. Our Living Encyclopaedia, Arunkumar Deshmukh, informs me that Shehla was a different person altogether, and people erroneously confuse Khursheed with her. I have since corrected it. He gives some more useful information I am quoting below. Thanks a lot Arunji.

Arunji gives an extract from an article by Kamalakar Pasupuleti from his blog:

“Miss Shehla was one of the earliest actresses of the Hindustani stage and screen . She is often mistaken for veteran actress and singer Khursheed . Needless to say they both are entirely different persons born in different cities hundreds of miles apart . It is not the purpose of this blog to write about Khursheed as plenty has been written about her .

The only theater company Shehla worked for was Madan Theaters of Calcutta . Her career commenced in 1928 as a stage actress and ended after seven years in 1935 .

Her real name was ShamsunNisa . She belonged to a good Muslim family ofKanpur . She was educated in Lucknow . Like her mother she wished to be a good house wife . She was an average looking girl and had no knowledge of dancing and singing . After her father’s death her mother got her married to a youth who was working on stage for Madan theatrical Co , After marriage her husband started pressurizing her to work on the stage .Shahla was unwilling as she always thought singing and dancing on stage is not meant for a domestic wife . She was unable to convince her husband , so she joined the Madan theatersunwillingly . After joining the theater her husband deserted her . Poor and helpless Shehlawas left with no option but to earn her living through acting . She kept on roaming where ever she was made to act . She acted in many stage dramas . Her first role in talkie was Laila Majnu – 1931 in which she performed a good dance , later in the same year she acted inShakuntala . She was given major roles in Hatheli Dulhan & Chatra Bakavali . She played the lead role of a heroine in Muflis Aashiq -1932 and Naqli Doctor – 1933 and established herself as a heroine . Her later film was Diljaani – 1935 . She did not get much recognition as a singer . She spoke chaste Urdu and lead a simple life .

Filmography of Shehla

As stage actress ( 1928 – 1930 )

Alibaba –
Harishchandra –

Movies of Shehla

1931 Laila Majnu – Mst Nissar , Kajjan
1931 Shakuntala – Mst Nissar , Kajjan
1932 Muflis Ashaq – Vittaldas , Mukhtar Begum
1932 Hathili Dulhan- Abbas , Patience Cooper , Mukhtar Begum
1932 Chatra Bakavali – Mst Nissar , Kajjan , Mukhtar Begum
1933 Aankh Ka Nasha – Cawasji , Kajjan & Laxmi

1933 Nakli Doctor – Surajram , Patience C , Miss Badami
1935 Diljaani – Mst Fida Hussain , Leelavati

Filmi Duniya a monthly magazine in Urdu of 1930’s published from Hyderabad Deccan updates in a note that Shehla fell gravely ill in 1934 . Her neighbor a petty businessman took care of her . On her recovery they got married . Shehla proved lucky for him as his business flourished . After completing her assignment at Madan theaters the couple moved over to Lucknow . Shehla was a devotee Hazrat Waris Ali Shah of Deva Sherief , Barabanki .”

5 ksbhatia November 2, 2014 at 12:06 am

AK ‘ji, Many thanks for this beautiful collection of best of Khursheed . She has a beautiful melancoly sort of voice which really touches your heart. At least two songs brought me the great era of vintage melodies back to my memories…..Barso re barso re ….and …..Ghata ghanghor. I faintly remember to have listen to these songs during 1948 / 49 when i was hardly three year old. At that moment of time another song that created an impression was…….”Prem nagar main banaungi ghar ” by Uma shashi and KL Saigal . Ak’ji I want to know whether Khursheed bano ever sang under Naushad sahib also? Arvinder sharma ji, I am sitting beside you in this class.

6 AK November 2, 2014 at 9:51 am

KS Bhatiaji,
Interesting that you should mention Prem nagar mein basaaungi ghar main. This was one of my greatest favourites, and naturally figures at the top of one of my earliest posts New Theatres’ romance with Prem. Khursheed’s songs you have mentioned I put in the same bracket.

Naushad-Khursheed: I scanned all the available information. I don’t think there is any song of this combo. It is surprising because Naushad has songs with all the prominent singers of the vintage era, including an unlikely Parul Ghosh.

You and Sharmaji in my tutorial class, I am flattered! The only problem is that one of my biggest shortcomings is I get easily carried away by praise, and start believing all that is said about me. I had mentioned this earlier too, so you have to be careful that I don’t start floating in the air. 🙂

7 maheshmamadapur November 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

AK ji,

Further to our mail interactions, I went home to confirm the DOB of Khurshid in the only music book I possess. Ashok Da Ranade’s famous book “Hindi Film Song” starts the very line of Khurshid’s article saying ” Born in Lahore in 1918…….
However 1914 seems to be correct.

Like arvindersharma ji only #9 song was known to me in addition of off-course the popular triad with Mukesh and Hamida Banu in Moorthi 1945.

Khursheed did have one duet with Rafi saab in Aage Badho 1947.
Here it is.

Apart from this duet with Rafi saab and the triad with Mukesh, I dont think there is anything else of these combo. Also, I think she never had any duet with Talat saab.

8 N Venkataraman November 2, 2014 at 3:17 pm

AK ji,
I came to know about Khursheed only in the Internet era. Before that I have heard about her and her Tansen songs from my uncle. Thanks for one more informative post. Vintage songs have a special charm. Khursheed Begum’s songs were no exception. I have read in an article by Manek Premchand that Khursheed did not actually like singing! Acting was her first love. She sang because she simply had to. Singing to her was a peripheral activity. After listening to her, the statement seems strange and surprising.
She was a great singer, had a good, natural, earthly voice. Let me add a few more to your wonderful dozen.
Main haari prabhuji, charan tihari, film Aage badho (1947), lyrics Amar Varma, music Sudhir Phadke

Bulbul aa tu bhi gaa, film Shahenshah Babar(1944), lyrics Pt.Indira(?), music Khemchand Prakash

The song Panchi Banwara from the film Bahakt Surdas is one of my favourites.
Thanks once again

9 Anu Warrier November 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I remember hearing most of these songs on my father’s old LPs, without knowing then, of course, who the singer was. I ‘discovered’ Khursheed again when I was in my twenties or so. She has the sort of ‘woman’s’ voice that I love.

And much as I love Lata in her heyday, I regret that her success meant that the female voices that came after her, all followed a set precedent. I agree with you that her arrival significantly reduced the rich diversity of female voices we had enjoyed until then.

Thank you for a very informative article.

10 AK November 2, 2014 at 8:59 pm

I am hearing the Rafi-Khursheed duet from Aage Badho for the first time. Thanks a lot. Khursheed era ends before Talat emerges as a major film singer.

Now we can’t think of Khursheed without her singing. Her Panchhi baawra is my great favourite too. In fact it is more famous than some of the songs I have included, but I am always tempted to include some unknown songs.

Thanks for the songs you have added.

Thanks for your appreciation. I am happy you were able to reconnect to your old memories.

11 mumbaikar8 November 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I was aware of few of Khursheed’s songs like the last four on your list, Panchhi Bawre mentioned by Venkataraman ji, and Ghat ghangor by Bhatia ji, but # 1 to # 8 are all new to me, I am completely bowled by the way she has sung” aaa…..” between Mera chand aa gaya mere dware, I get cannot get enough of it!
I enjoy most of the vintage songs, though watching them….I try to stay away…., but I found Khursheed very charming and feel that Meena Kumari in her earlier years was inspired by her.
Thank you very much for this special treat.
Duet by Mahesh is a bonus.
Thanks once again

12 AK November 3, 2014 at 7:29 am

You are welcome. Even I came to know of some of the songs in this post in the Internet era. I am happy you enjoyed the songs.

13 AK November 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

Dear readers,
This is to announce a new link ‘Open House’ for general discussions, displayed prominently at the top of this page. In an unfortunate coincidence, it opens with an obituary.

14 gaddeswarup November 4, 2014 at 7:40 am

I discovered Khursheed rather late and remember thinking that this lady is matching Saigal and sometimes surpassing him. Thanks for putting some of her best songs and information about her in one post.

15 Ashok M Vaishnav November 4, 2014 at 11:18 am

My introduction to Khursheed, and for that matter Who’s-Who of Vintage Era was through 78 RPM records that we used to play when we would be visiting my maternal grandmother’s home as very young children. Our grand role those days was to keep winding up the cranking mechanism when the record sides are being changed.
When I started collecting polyvinyls – 1973 till1983 – Khursheed LP record was one of the very early choices. But then, not many of the songs that we used to listen on those 78 RPMs could be found in that period.
Internet has made good that gap, which is so ably cemented up by this great post @ SoY.

16 AK November 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

17 ksbhatia November 5, 2014 at 12:18 am

AK ‘ji , The more I dig into vintage songs the more I become curious to know more. I think the vintage era of MDs belonged to Khemchand prakash., Anil biswas’, Bilo c irani, Husan lal Bhagatram, and finally Naushad [ from 1940 -49 ] where after the new era began . During the transition period singers like Suraiya , Zora bai, Rajkumari , Geeta dutt , Lata , Aasha all sang and gave beautiful melodies that had flavours of vintage style of singing. To quote ……1.” Mera sunder sapna beet gaya ” by Geeta dutt …..2 ” shaid woh ja rahen hain chhop ke meri nazar se ” by Zora bai ……3 ” Apne pai koi pashe man ho gaya ” by Lataji ……4 ” Ambua ki dari bole kaali koyaliya ” by Aasha’ji . This last song is so nicely sung that is has to be heard again and again It is so close to Geeta’s and Suraiya ‘s style of rendering a song. Incedently this is a private song with music by Nikhil ghosh [Brother of Pannalal ghosh ?] . I will end up here with another transition period song ” Sawan ke badlo unse ja kaho ” by Karan diwan and Zohra bai with music by Naushad . Note the interlude music which is very close to that of “pyar kiya to darna kya ” of Mughal e azam .

18 AK November 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

KS Bhatiaji,
In your list a significant omission is Ghulam Haider. I find Pt Govindram also gave some outstanding music. One needs to add Saraswati Devi too, who gave everlasting songs with non-singers (though she started in mid-30s). If you go further back, there would be Ustad Jhande Khan, Master Krishna Rao, Keshavrao Bhole and Shankarrao Vyas. I presume you are keeping the New Theatres’ stalwarts in a separate class – I am quite OK with that.

Saawan ke baadlo, I would not put as a transition song. Coming in 1944, it firmly belongs to the Vintage Era, both in period and style

19 arvindersharma November 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm

AK Ji, KS Bhatia Ji,
The musical journey into the vintage era is a real pleasure for me now, akin to enjoying some of the vegetables one has been hesitant to eat in childhood, but relishing at a later age.. Earlier, one used to depend upon radio or knowledgeable elders, to get to know these vintage gems. The dwindling fortunes of music stores, and rare to find knowledgeable attendants there, also added to these ironies.
YouTube has made everything so accessible, that one has only to have spare time at his disposal, and gem after gem unfolds itself before you.
And the added pleasure is the companionship of such wonderful and deeply knowledgeable persons I am interacting at SoY.
Lastly, prominent names which I found missing in the list are Shyam Sunder, Gyan Dutt, Ghulam Mohammed and Sajjad Husain from that era.

20 ksbhatia November 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm

AK’ji , Arvinder’ji, Thanks for the information and inputs . The MDs and singers are under my target . As i am in the reverse gear mode of this beautiful vintage journey, i am enjoying listenning to my old time favorites Saigal, Pankaj malik , Jagmohan and with KC Dey expect to reach the 1940’th milestone soon. Each song is worth weighing in gold. To name a few …. 1″ Babul mora “, 2″Jab dil hi toot gaya ” ,3 ” Tere mandir ka hun deepak jal raha “,4 ” Yeh raatein yeh mousam yeh hasna hassana “5 ” Dil ko hei tum se pyar kyun yeh na batta sakunga mein “,6″ Sapnoh mein mujhko pyar mila”.7 ” Guzar gaya yeh zamana kaisa” & so many more . During listening all these songs I noticed that Pankaj malik had some melodies based on western classic beats and rhythem like ” Challe pawan ki chall “, ” Piya milan ko jaana”, ” Pran caheen nain na jaye ” etc. Was he the only MD of that time who was influenced by western music ? I think Husanlal Bhagatram and Naushad followed this trend much later. Yes ; I missed Uma devi’s and Noor jahan’s name in the transition zone list in my previous observation @ 17.

21 chellamani November 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Has Kurshid ever worked with husnlal bhagatram, punkaj mullick, r c boral and ghulam haider ??

btw, the rafi-hurshid song is outstanding in my view and dev anand was the hero. the video with the scene is available on YT. that also rafi the only male singer to have sung with every less known female singer with the exception of kana devi !! simply marvellous on rafi saheb’s part !!!

22 AK November 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

I would rule out RC Boral and Pankaj Mullick straightaway – I don’t associate them with her voice. As I mentioned, Manjhdhaar had three music directors – Ghulam Haider, Gyan Dutt and Anil Biswas. The songs are separately credited in HFGK. It turns out Ghulam Haider has composed a number of songs for Khursheed. Here is one:

Naache hai man mauj magan mein by Khursheed from Manjhdhaar (1947), music Shams Lakhanvi, music Ghulam Haider

I had presumed HB would have composed for her, but it seems they didn’t, which is surprising.

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