Baithak Jum Gaya

August 13, 2009

by Anas Khwaja

Baithak – a part of an ongoing greater celebration is a household word for Dhaka Nawab family members. This is an after dinner party where family members sing songs gathered on the floor. It is as old as the family history, embedded deep in our culture and shows no sign of ebbing. It has made its way from Gol Talab to the wintry nights across the Atlantic in America.

Baithak (H Baithana to sit):
The literal meanings of Baithak are drawing room, sitting posture adopted by the performers, assembly or presentations of music. See “A concise dictionary of Hindustani music” by Ashik Da Ranade .

Pretext: Kaan Chedan (ear piercing), Khatna (circumcision) and wedding.

Sponsors: Baithaks are pre announced and organized by immediate family members and friends either jointly or individually.

Musical Instruments: Dhol is mandatory whereas harmonium, bongo and jhunjhuni makes Baithak more musical.

Song slection: Indian movie songs from the forties and fifties and Pakistani movie songs from the fifties and the sixties are most popular. Nowadays Bengali band songs are making way in their own merit.
The first song of the baithak is always a religious one –“Jinka naam hai Muhammad”. Tona kaise Hoke Laga” is the grand finale on the last night’s Baithak. Tona song is intended to collect money from the listeners which are then distributed amongst the singers who put their heart and soul into the baithak.

Duration: Forty night long baithak of the past now has been curtailed to one to three night affairs.

Bonus attraction: From time to time popular radio TV artists are invited to perform in the Baithak.

Refreshment: Paneer (cheese), Kakcha buiscuit with Kashmiri ot Sheerin Chai is the soul of a baithak, usually served towards the very end. The moment chai is gulped guest start heading home.

Indirect participants: On the sideline of Baithak elderly play card, gossip, teenage girls put henna (mehendi). Women occupy themselves by chewing paan or sewing the bride’s saari ka paar (Border) or Gota pattha.

The Killer: In the midst of a baithak Chamki or Rang Khela Kheli or an overexcited person’s impromptu Naagin Naatch (Snake dance) causes biathak’s premature death.

Popular Singers: To name a few- Putul bhai (dhol player), Budda Bhai (thumri singer) , K.M.Farid, Bhola Bhai, K.M.Modassar, K.M. Manawar, K.M. Shukkur (for tali clapping), K.M.Aslam , K.M.Azam, K. Naqib (Goro ki na Kalo ki), Qayyum Reza Baba (Duniya Banane wale) , K.M.Adel (gazal singer) and K.Naim (flute player).
K.M.aslam son of K Ahsanullah-King of Kongo

Tidbits from 1920’s: Baclelor’s hockey player Khwaja Solaiman Quader & Khwaja Humayun Quader- the brother duo used to punish youngsters for staying late at Baithak compromising physical fitness and sporting skills.

Under Threat: With zillions of sopranos on dish and home loaded with VCR, internet, MP3 & Ipod who want’s to go to a Baithak today?

What to watch: Under the shadow of Baithak some young stars sit face to face, make eye contact, sing along and a new “Pyar’ is born. Pyar is a byproduct of Baithak.

If you have a facebook account click the link below to see a Baithak clipping posted by Mohd Talha.


12 Responses to “Baithak Jum Gaya”

  1. Good write up about the baithak, bring back old memories.

  2. raina a zafar Says:

    Yes, Baithaks were all that and more. Now, they have become too common and lost the ‘nawabi’ touch. Now we also have qawwals singing like the one in the picture.

  3. Fatima Says:

    this is a nice history on ‘Baithak’ and the picture is too memorable 🙂

    who knew it had to do with meanings of living room and sitting posture


  4. Syed Shahadat Says:

    When we hear Baithak first its come our mind Kashmiri chai N Panir, cool .I left my country long time ago. I missed My brother wedding. When I read BAITHAK article Its refresh me N took back home where i spend my lovely time

  5. arshi Says:

    Very informative & beautifully written piece of work.The unique ‘tona’ & men vs ladies song compitition that is & was sung by the nawabbarians cannot be compared to any other ghazals or qawwalis or bands performed in todays celebration.The deicacy & the taste of the Kashmiri chai(shirin&namkeen) cannot be substituted by ‘chai tea’,’coffee latte’,etc.The people in the picture are no qawwals but Khaled bhai & his family members singing with decency.’Nawabi adayein sabse alag,sabse juda’will be carried on from generation to generation,inshallah.

  6. raina a. zafar Says:

    whoops. I hope I didn’t hurt any feelings. I guess we old timers have a different image of the baithaks we used to have, and the singers were usually family members with dholaks,etc. Hicchu Bhaijan,Sabiha baji, Zia baji, and memorable others were always the most important part of these events. Qawwalis were held on separate dates with famous Qawwals holding forth with the most ‘decent’ qawwalis and ‘showered’ with money by the elders. Ofcourse, those were professionals.. Was there anything said about ‘DECENCY’?

  7. The article on baithaks,is very refreshing.Also like to add a lot of old and traditional songs,i.e, “AAj dulha banega”,BANDHO BAndho”& others have been carried on by different generations of the family.Baithaks starting from our ancestral home Ahsan manzil,was also a regular feature,in Dilkusha,twin house and so on,with the spreading out of members of the dhaka nawab family.Raina baji,i remember the grandeur & fun,night after night,we had before your wedding,in the late sixties.I am sure you meant no harm,when you thought the picture,was a scene of a qawali. As you are a person of great calibre,you are aware qawali is a very spiritual and decent form of music.Thanks Anas for keeping the members of the nawab family informed and updated.

  8. raina abu zafar Says:

    Thanks, Popsy.Qawwali, as we were taught, was indeed a spiritually inspired piece of expression which was usually connected to praise of Allah, the prophet( Kaley Kamliwala) and other spiritual themes. Remember,Abbu used to invite Qawwals to sing at our baithaks and they were so impressive.Times and outlooks have indeed changed.

  9. riffat azad Says:

    woooooooooooooooooooo!dear arshi baji,for your kind information,we are going to celebrate your wedding ceremony in bangladesh when u go nxt year inshallah ,coz tumra family members ne tumra shadi khaya ni and pls dont worry we`ll have a full form of baithak for a week inshallah,with shireenchai and bicuits but not digestives

  10. arshad nyc Says:

    Great Idea! Lets plan for it next year, and pray that Basma’s wedding does not happen before that.

  11. R.AZAD Says:


  12. Anas Khwaja Says:

    I was not exposed to the Baithak’s in Dilhusha, Paribagh or Daffodil or Twin House. Please accept my apology for not mentioning the names that were jewels of nine sharer’s baithak nights. Please feel free to fill in.
    It will be injustice to the article “baithak”- if I don’t mention few more names like K.M.Khaled (harmonium), K.M. Hanif (congo). K.M.Raees (Jhunjhuni), Gazal king Syed Soleman (Chelu) and Syed Javed Reza a.k.a.Chinu Bhai (Dhol).

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