“Challa” is a very popular folk song of Punjab, originated centuries ago in united India. It was famous in West Punjab and parts of Gujarat ( now in Pakistan). It is said that Challa was the name of a boatman’s son who got drowned in the river as his boat capsized during a storm and the first two lines of Challa song have been written as a tribute to him from his mother.
“Jaavo ni koi mor liyavo, ni mere naal gaya ajj lad ke,
oh allah kare jeh aa jaave sohna, devan jaan kadma vich dhar ke.”
‘Someone should go and bring him back as he has gone after a tussle with me, If God wishes and my beloved returns, I shall lay down my life at his feet.’
Challa also means a Ring which a lover gifts to her beloved and while they are separated from each other, the beloved sings in memory of his lover addressing her ring.
Challa was first formally written by owner of “Nautonky theater” later called “Pakistan Theater” by Fazal Shah and the music was composed by his wife “Amman Iqbal” and sung by their adopted son Aashiq Hussain Jatt and was released on LP by HMV in 1934.” In 1970’s it was sung by Inyat Ali and thereafter it has been sung by many singers like Gurdas Mann of India. The song in many different lyrics has been adopted in Bollywood Hindi as well as Punjabi movies.
Comparing with the conventional Indian poetry of two introductory lines (Mukhra) and four lines stanza (Aantra) , Challa has three lines stanza followed by two closing lines thus making it a five lines poem as against a conventional a six lines verse. There are various parodies of this song adapted for different situations.
I quote a few five line stanzas which embodies beautiful and subtle expressions along with their English translation.
“ho challa gal di ve gani,
ve tur gaye dilan de jani
ve meri dukhan di kahani,
ve aa ke sunja dhola
ve tethon khada ee ohla”
The beloved states that Challa is like her necklace, and her lover has gone away. This has caused a tremendous grief to her. She further appeals to her lover to return and listen to her vows as she does not want to hide anything from her.
Another beautiful thought regarding son and mother relations are depicted in Challa Song. To quote.
“ho challa nau nau theve,
ve puttar mithde meve,
ve allah sabh nu deve,
ve gall sun challeya kanvaan,
ve manvaan thandiyan chaanvan.”
The Challa (Ring) has nine carvings in it, Sons are very sweet and like Raisins, God should bless everyone with them. Listen to me O Crow (A crow sitting on the wall of a house and cawing indicates arrival of a Guest as per traditions of Indian subcontinent), “ Mothers are like the coolest shades in summer”.
Some humorous variations of Challa also signify the lighter side of Punjabi life, like.
“ Challa Jhang Maghiane,
Jat Giya Thane,
Jatti Picho Maujan Mane.”
The Challa (Ring) is at Jhang Maghiana (Parts of now Pakistan), the Farmer (Jat) who is the owner of the house has been arrested by Police and is in the Police Station and his wife (Jatti) is having good time in his absence ( with her paramours).
Challa has also found its way in Bollywood films and one such rhyme depicts the life of Punjabi immigrants working hard and earning good dollars. (Film Crook)
“Challa India tu aaya,
Ve jindri nu kam te laya,
Ni dil nu khichdi maya.
Rat din taxi chalaunda,
Ve motey Dollar kamaunda.”
Challa has come from India (Referring to an immigrant to USA, Canada Australia etc) and has straightway put himself on hard work as earning money is a big attraction. Day and night he plies a taxi and makes good amount of Dollars. So true, the exact sentiments of migrant labor has been summed up in this variation of Challa Song.
To sum up, I would like to leave a link to listen to the original Challa song (Courtesy you tube).
Enjoy and have a Good Day.