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Religion 101: Mahatma Gandhi’s Favourite, Powerful Ram Dhun Bhajan

ram dhun bhajan mahatma gandhi louis fisher history richard attenborough

I still remember that I was still in primary school when Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi movie was shown in the local cinemas but we did not have the chance to watch it in the local cinemas. It is also well that the Mahatma is a firm believer in Lord Rama to the point, that his last words after he was shot dead were alleged to be “Hey Ram”. Image Source: dailyoffice.com.

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Origin & Changes by Mahatma Gandhi

Ram Dhun Bhajan is often linked with Mahatma Gandhi but he was not the original composer although he did tweak the lyrics for the secular India that was emerging after the long British rules. There are different write-ups on the origin of the bhajan.

One is this:-

“Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram” (also called Ram Dhun) is a bhajan (devotional song) widely popularised by Mahatma Gandhi and set to tune by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

The precise origins of the Ram Dhun are not entirely clear. It is believed to have been either written by Tulsidas (or based on his work Ramcharitmanas) or based on a 17th-century sung-prayer by the Marathi saint-poet Ramdas.

There have been many versions of the Ramdhun, and the version that Mahatma Gandhi used had an “ecumenical flavour” to it. Gandhi modified the original bhajan, adding that the Ishwar of the Hindus and the Allah of the Muslims were one and the same, to make the song more secular-looking and to spread the message of reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims.

The song was extensively used to project a secular and composite vision of Indian society — it was sung during the 1930 Salt March.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Another is this:-

It is believed that the above song is influenced by the work, Nama Ramayana. It is a hymn in praise of Lord Rama, which in turn illustrates the qualities of Lord Rama by citing various incidents from the Ramayana. Lakshmanacharya, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama composed this melodious work.

(Source: Thedal)

And yet the mystery deepens as the original Lakshmanacharya bhajan do not have the common words:-

The Raghupati Raghav song, for example, has a fascinating history that is not recorded on YouTube. Moreover, the commercially recorded version available on the site does not preserve the entire song.

You have to go to Wikipedia to discover that this commercial version sung by Pandit D.V. Paluskar was set to music by his father, the visionary musicologist Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

The fact that this song was sung by Gandhi and his followers during their 24-day Dandi Salt March is what makes it a historically significant piece of our collective cultural heritage.

But the Wikipedia only reveals a partial genealogy of Raghupati Raghav. The lyrics favoured by Bapu were adapted from an “original Hindu text Shri Nama Ramayanam written by Lakshmanacharya”.

By digging elsewhere one finds that Lakshmanacharya was a Sri Vaishnava devotee. He collated the 108 names of Sri Rama, ostensibly in the 17th century, by placing the names chronologically as in the cantos composed by the first poet (AdiKavi) of Sanskrit, Valmiki.

But who changed, “Sundaravigrahameghashyam/ Ganga tulsishaligram” to “Iswar Allah tero naam/ sabko sanmati de bhagwan”?

(Source: One India One People)

In the end, the modern rendition stayed and was mainly attributed to the Mahatma and it has remained the same since then.

Modern Rendition of Ram Dhun

Ram Dhun is actually a famous bhajan that has appeared in numerous movies, starting with the ending credit scene of the 1982 movie:-

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But the younger generations would probably be aware of the one that was appeared in Shah Rukh & Kajol acted 1998 Hindi blockbuster movie, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which interestingly sticks to the Gandhi’s version:-

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Personally, I like this version by Armonian which is using the original lyrics and is remade with high definition devotional & religious music:-

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Lyrics & Meaning

This is the Gandhi’s version which includes the change to mention of Allah in the bhajan to represent a secular India (which may not go well with hardcore religious zealots):-

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram
English: Praise King Ram, Lord of the Raghu dynasty

Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)
English: Praise Sita Ram, who purifies even the sinners

Sitaram, Sitaram, Bhaj Pyare Tu Sitaram
English: Lovingly recite Sitaram Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram

Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Ishwar Allah Tero Nam, Sabako Sanmati De Bhagawan
English: Also known as Ishwar (God) or Allah. May He give everyone nobel thoughts

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Mukhmen Tulsi, Ghatamen Ram, Jab Bolo Tab Sitaram
English: In your mouth is the Tulsi (holy plant) leaf, your body is filled with Ram’s name. At every opportunity chant Sita Ram

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Hathose Karo Gharka Kam, Mukhase Bolo Sitaram
English: While doing household chores. Recite Sita Ram

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Kaushalyaka Vhala Ram, Dashrathjika Pyara Ram
English: Ram who is the darling of Mother Kaushalya. Ram the favourite of King Dasharath

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Bansivala Hay Ghanshyam, Dhanushya Dhari Sitaram Ghanshyam
English: (Krishna) who plays the flute, Lord Rama who carries a bow

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

Ratre nindra divase kam, Kyare bhajaso Sitaram
English: At night we rest and work during the day. In between since Sitaram

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram Patita Pavana Sitaram (x2)

(Source: 108 Puzzle)

This is just one of the versions that are used in the Bhajans and official events thanks to Mahatma Gandhi who heavily used it in his events and freedom movement against the British.

adam's bridge ramayana gandhi religion history nature

Just how true is the story of Ramayana? Did Lord Rama actually cross mainland India to Sri Lanka to rescue his beloved Sita in ancient times? This bridge seems to be one the evidence for this but is it man-made? Image source: Newsclick

Final Say

There is another famous song on Lord Rama and this one is made famous by Boy George who had written down experience travelling India. Bow Down Mister lyrics are pretty much simple and easy to follow.

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