Ganga Behti ho kyun. . . Mississipi Behti ho kyun??

Today morning I was crossing Mahim station when I saw a middle aged man beating a young guy severely with his belt. I didnt know the reason, and traffic didnt allowed me to stop there. luckily just 10 feets ahead a 3 policemen were standing, I went to them and told about the incident. They ran towards that and caught hold of that man. He just had a doubt that young guy was trying to pick his pocket. The young guy was crying and pleading, he didnt do that, but he was beaten brutally. I had to move on, as I was getting late, but that scene made me remind of a scene in the song Ganga behti ho kyun?

I suddenly started singing the song and whole day I was humming it. I had heard it many years ago and still remember its tune, Bhupen Hazarika’s voice and video. So, when I returned back first thing I did was Youtubing (when there’s googling, why not youtubing :-)). I found the song:

The Lyrics made me listen the song 3-4 times and the lyrics really is awesome! I did some Googling and found that the lyrics are written by Gulzar. Though I doubt cos, Gulzar, as far as I know, hasnt written such Vishudhh Hindi Lyrics before. But if he has, which he can, He’s done a marvellous job, very few people know of! Here are the lyrics:


Bisterno parorey, afankhya janore, hahakar sunio nisabdth nirovey,
Bhural hui tumhi, bhural hui bura ki aur……….

After reading, listening again, made me more curious about the song. And then I found this 1939’s video named -” Ol’ Man River” (music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstien II)

This song, which has the same tune asGanga Behti ho kyun‘ has a great history behind it. This is a song in the 1927 musical Show Boat, that contrasts African American hardship and struggles of the time with the endless, uncaring flow of the Mississippi River, from the view of a dock worker on a showboat.

The song is notable for several aspects: the lyrical pentatonic-scale melody, the subjects of toil and social class & metaphor to the Mississippi.

The most famous rendition of it, one that is still noted today, was sung by Paul Robeson in James Whale’s 1936 film version of Show Boat.

The song also has versions in the Indian languages Hindi, Bengali and Assamese sung by Bhupen Hazarika, who met Robeson while studying at Columbia University. The Assamese song is called Bistirno Parore, the Bengali version is Bistirno Dupare. The Hindi composition is known as “Ganga Behti Ho Kyon.” Instead of the Mississippi, the song is dedicated to the Brahmaputra river in the Assamese version and the Ganges river in the Bengali and Hindi versions. Whatever it may be, Ganga or Mississipi, the song delivers the message very well.

I am still looking for the Lyricist (if not Gulzar), & music director. Do you have any idea?

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention --

  • pooja

    well sudhindra… just tht the assamese lyrics is wrong…

    Bisterno parorey, afankhya janore, hahakar sunio nisabdth nirovey,
    Bhural hui tumhi, bhural hui bura ki aur……….

    (Its in Assamese. Bengali & Hindi version is a bit different. The pronunciations are in typical Assamese. )

    the corrections –
    Bisterno parorey, axonkhya janore, hahakar sunio nishabde nirobe,
    Burah luit tumi, burah luit tumi, bura luit juwa kiyo…


  • Rupam

    The lyrics in Assamese were penned by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. Like about 500 of his other songs, he wrote this poem, developed the tune, directed the music and sang the song himself. Translations in different languages were done by others.

    This song was in fact written drawing inspiration from Robeson’s “Ol’ Man River”. Dr. Hazarika did mention about it when the song was written and sang in Assamese decades ago.

    Yes, the song delievers the message very aptly like so many of his other songs. He is perhaps the only living mass/ballad singer in this country now with songs ranging from political commentary, social inequality, and some of the finest love songs. Unfortunately, you can never translate the fine nuances of language used to convey the emotion. While the Hindi translation is good, it pales in front of the original lyrics that has touch generations of Assamese men and women.


  • Pingback: Rabbi Shergills song – Jinhe Naaz hai Hind Par Woh Kahaan Hai? « Back to Bharat()

  • sharada

    the Hindi version is composed by Kaviraj Pandit Narendra Sharmaji – hope this is correct ! I have seen a dance- drama on this song at a Durga Puja function. I remember being completely blown away by the impact it had !


  • marthanda varma

    Gonga boicho keno? of Bhupen Hazarika was one of the most attractive song for me and I used to sing it for its voice and words impressing upon other.   It has also inspired the poet in me and I have written the song in my mother-tongue in connection with my homeland river – Nila, Bharathappuzha or Perar in Kerala, and named it “…NilE nee ozhukidunnooo…..” (that reminds the River Nile – This is Nila – mythologically famious.  This song is in Malayalam Languge and it is used to sing as if from the old songs:  two lines are the following:
    “Paschima ghatta – thilaanamalayil_ni – nnenno vannu – paschimadikke – kathakaliyaadi koodiyaattavum koodi – engo ozhukidunnoo….”
    “Thootappuzhayum, kalpathipuzhayum – pallipurathetti –   
    Thirunaavaayilum,  thiruvilwaadriyum, 
     chamaravattavum  theerthhangalaakki 
    ponnani yethan pannyoorethaan   –  nile nee ozhukidunnoooo……”
    Though my ancestry belong to old Vettathu Nadu (Thrur/Chamravattom)  I have not had the fortune to spend any part of my life with Her.  Still the sentiments of sonhood is filled and brewed in my mind when I listen Bhupen Hazarika.