Punjabi/Urdu/Hindi: maahii

Wolverine9

Senior Member
American English
I've heard 'maahii' (and its variation 'maahiyaa') used commonly in movies and songs, both in an Urdu and Hindi context as well as a Punjabi influenced one. It seems the word means 'beloved' (more or less). Yet, I haven't seen this word defined as such in any dictionary. Invariably, from what I've seen, dictionaries only list the word 'maahii' as fish. However, I don't believe 'maahii' as used in Bollywood is related to the Persian word for fish, unless fish represents beloved metaphorically. So does anyone know the exact meaning or origin of this word?
 
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  • Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I've heard 'maahii' (and its variation 'maahiyaa') used commonly in movies and songs, both in an Urdu and Hindi context as well as a Punjabi influenced one. It seems the word means 'beloved' (more or less). Yet, I haven't seen this word defined as such in any dictionary. Invariably, from what I've seen, dictionaries only list the word 'maahii' as fish. However, I don't believe 'maahii' as used in Bollywood is related to the Persian word for fish, unless fish represents beloved metaphorically. So does anyone know the exact meaning or origin of this word?
    Wolverine9, thank you for asking such an interesting question. It is interesting for me because I have often wondered about the etymology/meaning of this word and you have today acted as a catalyst in my solving the mystery (I think).

    Firstly, it has nothing to do with the Farsi "maahii" (fish). Neither is it linked to the Farsi "maah" (moon) as I once thought. "maahii" is the simple word and "maahiyaa" is the vocative. "maahiyaa" is also a Punjabi literary form where the first line just sets the scene/tune and has seemingly nothing to do with the rest of the piece. An example may be helpful.

    gaDDii aa ga'ii ve Sarse nuuN
    meraa ve salaam aakhiiN
    mere maahiye be-tarse nuuN

    The train has arrived at Sars (station)
    Please do pass on my salutations
    To my lover who is quite pitiless

    Now to your question! Have you heard of the famous lovers "SohNRii te MahiiNvaal" (SohNRii and the Buffalo Keeper)? Well "mahiiN" is one word for a water-buffalo in Punjabi. And the word you are after, maahii, is another form of mahiiN. The full compound would be "maahii-vaal" (i.e maahii-valaa). So, "maahii" in essence is the truncated form of maahii-vaal, a herdsman (of buffaloes). Now imagine a scene in rural Punjab where the lady falls in love with this "Buffalo-Bill" and he then begins to symbolise the "lover" figure. "maahii" also has the significance of a "husband".

    I hope this has brought some clarity to your understanding.
     
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    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    Qureshpor SaaHib, I agree completely with your explanation regarding the etymology. Your explanation of the usage is very appreciated as well. According to a reliable source which I had consulted before, its etymology is Prakrit/Sanskrit. Please compare the word bhaiNs and the word mhaiNs which I think I mentioned in the [mh] thread. Both of them, together with the Punjabi word you were kind to submit, mahiiN, take their roots in the Sanskrit mahiSha which has the same meaning. This word, on its turn, when undergoes an internal change to maahiSha, becomes an adjective/noun of the meaning ''bhaiNs waalaa'' - 'a buffalo-herdsman'.
     

    Wolverine9

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thanks for the responses everyone.

    I haven't heard of those famous lovers, but the explanation makes sense. I would've never guessed a connection with the word for buffalo.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Qureshpor SaaHib, I agree completely with your explanation regarding the etymology. Your explanation of the usage is very appreciated as well. According to a reliable source which I had consulted before, its etymology is Prakrit/Sanskrit. Please compare the word bhaiNs and the word mhaiNs which I think I mentioned in the [mh] thread. Both of them, together with the Punjabi word you were kind to submit, mahiiN, take their roots in the Sanskrit mahiSha which has the same meaning. This word, on its turn, when undergoes an internal change to maahiSha, becomes an adjective/noun of the meaning ''bhaiNs waalaa'' - 'a buffalo-herdsman'.
    Thank you for etymological details, marrish SaaHib. I wonder how "majj" (majjh?) is linked with all this.
     

    hindiurdu

    Senior Member
    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    Wow! Very unexpected for me. I would have bet anything it came from 'maah' until I read this! A very compelling read, thank you.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Wow! Very unexpected for me. I would have bet anything it came from 'maah' until I read this! A very compelling read, thank you.
    Well, hindiurdu SaaHib, thank you for your compliments but perhaps they are not deserved because we could still be wrong. However, I have found "maahii" to mean a "buffalo herdsman" in a Punjabi dictionary.

    One "proof", that "maahii" can not be linked to a "moon" is that we get the compound "chan-maahii" (maahii who resembles a moon in beauty) as demonstrated in the title of a Pakistani Punjabi film made in 1956.

    A well known Punjabi (Saraiki) folk song also has both chan and maahii occurring together. Here is a small piece from it.

    chan kitthaaN guzaarii aa'ii raat ve
    meNDaa jii daliilaaN de vaat ve

    koThe te piR koThRaa ve maahii koThe baiThaa kaaN* p_halaa
    tuuN taaN maiN kuuN p_hul giyoN e maiN aje vii taiDii haaN p_halaa

    koThe te piR koThRaa ve maahii koThe de vich baariyaaN
    huNR taa vaapas aa maahii tuuN jittiyo te maiN haarii aaN

    I shall make a bold attempt at translating this for the benefit of those who do not understand Punjabi. The song is a (female) lover's lament at the beloved's absence. I don't know the meaning of the word "piR" in the way it is used in this song.

    O beloved! Where did you spend last night?
    My mind is trying to find reasons for my plight

    You know, O beloved, on my house is a hut, sitting on it now is a crow
    I know you have forgotten me! Yet I am still yours, Oh how little you know

    You know, O beloved, on my house is a hut that is adorned with windows
    If not before, come now, O beloved! I accept you have won and I have lost

    * kaaN, a crow. In our cultural background, when a crow crows on the roof top, it signifies some visitor coming to the household. Here the lover is seeing the crow as a good sign.
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I've heard 'maahii' (and its variation 'maahiyaa') used commonly in movies and songs, both in an Urdu and Hindi context as well as a Punjabi influenced one.
    Wolverine9, here are a couple of examples, one Punjabi and one Urdu of the genre of poetry known as "maahiyaa". (First and the third lines rhyme).

    ko'ii kaavaaN ve bol na'iiN
    ik meraa dil zaxmii
    duujaa maahiyaa vii kol nai'iiN

    Oh crow, pray crow not for me
    One, I have a wounded heart
    Two, my lover is not with me

    baaGoN meN paRe jhuule
    tum bhuul ga'e ham ko
    ham tum ko nahiiN bhuule

    In the garden is many a swing
    You appear to have forgotten me
    But I have not forgotten a thing
     

    Wolverine9

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you for the poems, qureshpor saahib. The lyrics are very nice.

    I think you've made a successful case that it is connected to buffalo herdsman and not moon. However, isn't maahii/maahiyaa also used by males for their female love interests? I'm thinking of the song "aajaa mahiyaa" from Fiza.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you for the poems, qureshpor saahib. The lyrics are very nice.

    I think you've made a successful case that it is connected to buffalo herdsman and not moon. However, isn't maahii/maahiyaa also used by males for their female love interests? I'm thinking of the song "aajaa mahiyaa" from Fiza.
    I don't know about the film because I don't really have any interest in the modern day Bollywood films. I think it is fair to say that traditionally in languages such as Punjabi, Awadhi, Bojhpuri, Braj etc, the lover is the female.

    A well known example is Amir Khusrau's bi-lingual Ghazal (Farsi line followed by a Braj line) which begins with the words zi Haal-i-miskiin ma-kun taGaaful...

    http://ghazalistan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/zihale-miskin-makun-taghaful-amir.html

    shabaan-i-hijraaN daraaz chuuN zulf va roz-i-vasl-ash chuuN 3umr-i-kotaah
    sakhii piyaa ko jo maiN nah dekhuuN to kaaTuuN kaise aNdherii ratiyaaN

    (Please PM me if you need a translation for these lines).
     
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    UrduMedium

    Senior Member
    Urdu (Karachi)
    I don't know about the film because I don't really have any interest in the modern day Bollywood films. I think it is fair to say that traditionally in languages such as Punjabi, Awadhi, Bojhpuri, Braj etc, the lover is the female.

    A well known example is Amir Khusrau's bi-lingual Ghazal (Farsi line followed by a Braj line) which begins with the words zi Haal-i-miskiin ma-kun taGaaful...

    http://ghazalistan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/zihale-miskin-makun-taghaful-amir.html

    shabaan-i-hijraaN daraaz chuuN zulf va roz-i-vasl-ash chuuN 3umr-i-kotaah
    sakhii piyaa ko jo maiN nah dekhuuN to kaaTuuN kaise aNdherii ratiyaaN

    (Please PM me if you need a translation for these lines).

    Reminded me of a TED Talk by Tariq Rahman, author of "From Hindi to Urdu" where he talks about the lover gender difference between Persian and Indian contexts. See Youtube (/watch?v=fl4xppek2gY) and start listening roughly at 3:30.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    A well known example is Amir Khusrau's bi-lingual Ghazal (Farsi line followed by a Braj line) which begins with the words zi Haal-i-miskiin ma-kun taGaaful...

    http://ghazalistan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/zihale-miskin-makun-taghaful-amir.html

    shabaan-i-hijraaN daraaz chuuN zulf va roz-i-vasl-ash chuuN 3umr-i-kotaah
    sakhii piyaa ko jo maiN nah dekhuuN to kaaTuuN kaise aNdherii ratiyaaN

    (Please PM me if you need a translation for these lines).
    Corrections to the transliteration of the above opening line as well as the above couplet.

    zi Haal-i-miskiiN ma-kun taGhaaful..

    shabaan-i-hijraaN daraaz chuuN zulf-o-roz-i-vasl-at chuuN 3umr kotaah

    sakhii piyaa ko jo maiN nah dekhuuN to kaaTuuN kaise aNdherii ratiyaaN
     

    Wolverine9

    Senior Member
    American English
    Corrections to the transliteration of the above opening line as well as the above couplet.

    zi Haal-i-miskiiN ma-kun taGhaaful..

    shabaan-i-hijraaN daraaz chuuN zulf-o-roz-i-vasl-at chuuN 3umr kotaah

    sakhii piyaa ko jo maiN nah dekhuuN to kaaTuuN kaise aNdherii ratiyaaN

    I didn't know Farsi also has the nasalized n sound (N) or is it just the Indic pronunciation?
     
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