We have seen in the songs of atariya how its vantage location at the back of a house makes it an ideal secret meeting point for the lovers. Aangan or angana, i.e. courtyard, on the other hand, is a central feature of the house. Open to the sky, and surrounded on the four sides by verandah and living rooms, this quadrangle is the place where the family lives out its life, does all its mundane chores of daily existence, and also holds all its ceremonies and special occasions.
The most prominent image of an aangan in my mind is of drying of papads, pickles, chillies, spices and grains. After drying, they need to be pounded, dehusked and ground. Therefore, chakki, okhal, dhenki and assorted such primary processors, operated by hand or foot, would be placed in the aangan. Since we are a deeply religious society, there would be a tulsi plant, too, in the aangan, evoking Main tulsi tere aangan ki. In the afternoon winter sun, this would be the place where women would be doing their knitting. Come evening, the chulha or tandoor would be fired in some corner of the aangan. And after the family is done for the day, cots would be spread in the aangan for the people to sleep in natural air-conditioning. Readers would recall the overgrown country wastrel Amitabh Bachchan, in deep slumber in the aangan in Haryana heartland, being dragged out of his sleep by his exasperated Daddu, Om Prakash, in Namak Halaal.
Then there are sanskaars, ceremonies and special occasions. Where else can the mandap for marriage be set up? Many families at the transition between tradition and modernity, while they have the modern part of the celebrations, such as Jaimaal and the banquet, at a five-star hotel, revert late night to their modest aangan to complete the religious marriage rituals to Hamaare angana aaj baaje shehnaai and traditional wedding songs by women.
And after the child is born, where do you think the toddler would crawl on all the fours? Tulsi’s child Ram (ठुमक चलत रामचंद्र बाजत पैजनिया) and Surdas’s child Krishna (घुटरुन चलत रेणु तन मण्डित; यशोदा हरि पालने झुलावे) played out their बालक्रीड़ा in the aangan to their mothers’ delight, inspiring some of the most memorable poetry by Bhakti poets.
This beautiful feature of our homes is on the verge of extinction under the pressure of urbanization when we are forced to go vertical. While the high-rise builders would continue to sell a three-feet protrusion in a match-box apartment as a balcony, they can’t even make such a pretense for aangan. And with the aangan, their songs too would become extinct.
But in the days gone by, we had beautiful songs of aangan or angana, no less than atariya songs. Let me present some of my favourites.
1. Gori kaahe khadi angana atariya pe aao by Anil Biswas and Maya Banerjee from Apna Paraya (1942), lyrics Pt. Indra, music Anil Biswas
It is obvious that angana is a chaotic public square in a private home. Conscious of the fact that such a place can be hardly suitable for a romantic meeting, the tradition-bound Anil Biswas invites the lady to come to the atariya instead. The lady is quite prompt in accepting the invite. I have to thank two readers, Canasya and DP Rangan, for retrieving and restoring this song, which had been removed by YT. I can’t still figure out the ways of YT. They permit all kinds of vulgarity on the site, but they remove a 75-year old song on some prankish third-party claim. Canasya deserves double thanks for he was the one who first introduced us to this song in my series on Anil Biswas.
2. Kabhi yaad kar ke gali paar kar ke chali aana hamare angana by Chitalkar and Binapani Mukherjee from Safar (1946), lyrics GS Nepali, music C Ramchandra
However, Anil Biswas’s protégé C Ramchandra became famous for breaking traditions. He has no qualms about calling the lady in the angana itself. You might have seen most anganas also have a backdoor. I presume, he would have set up this rendezvous in the night when most of the family would have been away for some reason. The lady here, too, is quite enthusiastic – Raja mere man ke, teri rani ban ke chali aaun tumhare angana.
3. More angana mein aaye aali main chaal chalun matwali by Kanan Devi from Vidyapati (1937), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music RC Boral
The guys can be brazen, but a dainty lady like Kanan Devi would be more restrained. There would be just a little lilt in her gait. You don’t often find the literary word ‘aali’ in film songs.
4. More angana mein balma aye main sharmai by Shamshad Begum and Moti from Nishan (1949), lyrics Pt Indra, music Rajeshwar Rao (and MD Pathasarathy and BK Kalla)
Shamshad Begum’s reaction on balma’s coming would be very different from Kanan Devi’s on the arrival of her aali. Though she declares that she is bashful, the lady is anything but. You can see Bhanumati getting out from the backdoor of the aangan to meet her lover, Ranjan.
5. Angan more aaoji sajan dheere dheere by Shamshad Begum from Rail Ka Dibba (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Aangan must have been very common in Punjab, and you find several songs by Shamshad Begum on this theme. Ghulam Mohammad was one of the best composers we had, though he was not officially reckoned among the biggest names. Here is a beautiful melody, with some hint of Naushad style, by Shamshad Begum, now in a pathos-filled song.
6. Tum aye more angana mein by Parul Ghosh from Seedha Rasta (1947), lyrics Amar Verma, music SK Pal
All the arrivals in the angana so far have been of lovers. In this poignant song, we see a young mother addressing her newly born in the cradle in the angana, whether she should be sad or happy at its arrival. The cut to flashback, when she is joyous at the child’s birth, suggests that the husband/lover has deserted her
7. Pawan more angana mein dheere dheere ana by Asha Bhosle from Shehnai (1964), music Ravi
Another mother-pulling-a-cradle song. The sad tune and the all-white dress indicates that not everything is all right. Ravi also developed his own stock orchestration. You can hear strains of some familiar tunes, such as Tujhe suraj kahun ya chanda.
8. Chanda dheere se aa aangan mein, nindiya ankhiyan mein soye meri laadli by Lata Mangeshkar from Sitara (1955), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Without the video I am not able to make out the context of the song’s picturisation. Here is another soft lori, now by Lata Mangeshkar, composed by the great Ghulam Mohammad again. I came across this song for the first time while working on this post.
9. More angana mein laaga amua ka ped by Anil Biswas & chorus from Aurat (1940), lyrics Safdar ‘Aah’, music Anil Biswas
Tulsi plant is quite common in aangan, but amua ka ped? If it means mango tree, it must be a huge aangan. Not impossible – in the days gone by, we did live in very open spaces. There was a charming Marathi movie (I am forgetting its name) in which the young man, accompanied by his wife, goes to his village to sell off his huge ancestral house in order to buy a tiny apartment in Mumbai. It is the wife, having no roots or sentimental attachment with the place, who persuades the husband not to run away from his past, including his heart-breaks in the village, which was a part of his identity. (I would be grateful if any reader can give its details.)
10. Mere angane mein tumhara kya kaam hai by Amitabh Bachchan from Lawaris (1981), lyrics Anjan, music Kalyanji-Anandji
Angana songs are about inviting and eagerly waiting for someone. But here is a contrast in which the guy is very blunt that he does not need her in his angana, though he can accept someone who is too short, or too tall, or too fat, or too dark-skinned.
11. Angana mein baba duare pe ma by Kumar Sanu and Sadhna Sargam from Ankhen (1993), music Bappi Lahiri
We should grant it to Bappi Lahiri and Govinda – they say it boldly. The man is doubtful how he could come, with the father in the angana and mother at the front door, but the girl assures him that the father has gone to the fields and the mother to the market.
12. Nihure nihure bahaare anganawa goriya nihure, Purvi folk by Begum Akhtar
Songs of atariya was dedicated to Begum Akhtar for her immortal Hamri atariya pe aa ja re sanwariya dekha dekhi balam hoi jaye. Can she create a similar magic for angana? All the unpleasant household chores would be thrust upon the newly-wed, which would also include sweeping the angana. You would think the lady would be wiping off sweat and grime and cursing her new ‘family’. But no, in Begum Akhtar’s imagination, the lady is wearing bracelet (कंगना पहन गोरिया अंगना बुहारे) and stealing sly glances to her man who might be hiding himself behind one of the columns surrounding the angana (झुकी झुकी ताके नयनवा). I present this purvi by the Queen of Thumri, Dadra, Kajri and folk of Eastern UP. There is some doubt created by the comments on the YT about the singer of this song. If it is another singer, then she deserves our compliments, because there couldn’t be a truer reproduction of Begum Akhtar’s voice and technique, not even by Shanti Hiranand and Rita Ganguly.
13. Sundar angana baithi nikas ke by Ustad Amir Khan (Raga Shahana)
Angana is a place of contrasts, and we have seen contrasts in angana songs. We just heard Begum Akhtar’s folk. For purists, classical is the other extreme of folk. Among the doyens of classical music, no one could be purer than Ustad Amir Khan. Known as a musicians’ musician, he didn’t sing for ‘popularity’ – his singing was meditative. From someone who could do alaap in Marwa for an hour, here is a rare 3-minute 78rpm rendering of the romantic bandish Sundar angana baithi nikas ke in Raga Shahana. This is a great favourite with singers across gharanas and generations. Our expert Ashwin can post dozens of classical songs on the theme of angana. I would keenly wait for Ustad Rashid Khan’s Sundar angana and Ustad Shujat Khan’s lec-dem of Shahana in his series ‘Mausiqui Ek Khoj’ on DD Bharti.