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Saleema Khawaja


Saleema J. Khawaja from Lahore, Pakistan, is a lawyer by profession. She has been involved with learning music since the age of seven. Her main focus has been Punjabi folk. Sometime between the years 2007 to 2009 she started learning Gurbani Sangita Sabadritas (compositions of Sikh tradition) from Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand belonging to the Rabbabi tradition and remained his student till shortly before his death on 29 April 2015.

Saleema’s Introduction to Bhai Ghulam Muhammad ‘Chand’

Saleema’s introduction to Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand was through a small informal concert hosted by her parents, Bina Jawwad and Jawwad S. Khawaja, at their residence located at 24E/1 Gulberg III, Lahore, sometime before 08 April, 2006.

Saleema started taking lessons from Bhai Ghulam Muhammad ‘Chand’ at 49 Jail Road, Lahore, through the forum of the Sangat that has been held by Najm Hosain Syed for over 45 years and where Bhai Ghulam Muhammad ‘Chand’ could be found and where she first approached him for his tutelage. The lessons were then shifted to her home where her sisters, Zainab Jawwad and Ismet Jawwad also joined in the learning. Video snippets of the lessons taken by Saleema are available here:

(See video files 1101, 1103 and 1104 provided.)



On 21 November 2018, Akram Varraich visited Harsukh and video recorded two renditions of Kirtan for Kitab Trinjan, as taught to Saleema by Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand. The recordings are available on the Kitab Trinjan Facebook platform and may be accessed here and here.

Having encountered these videos in December 2018, Amardeep Singh, a Singaporean author of a two volume comprehensive book series – Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, contacted Saleema. He along with his wife Vininder Kaur, visited Harsukh to discuss Saleema’s involvement in their project to make a docuseries on the travels of Guru Nanak through nine countries. According to them, Saleema was the most appropriate female vocalist for their project, a multi-episode documentary titled Allegory: A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels.

This project initiated Saleema’s study of Gurmat Sangeet, according to standards developed in the Sikh tradition with which Saleema was otherwise unfamiliar. Amardeep Singh and Vininder Kaur facilitated the study by arranging online classes with Satninder Singh Bodal, an Ustad of Gurmat Sangeet based in India and, before that for a short period, Satnam Singh who was then based in Melbourne, Australia guided her.

The availability of requisite technology allowed Saleema to obtain the necessary training online that would enable her to compose more than 130 select extracts of Shabads of Guru Nanak in the 37 Raags said to form the base for compositions of Guru Nanak’s work. According to the couple, Amardeep Singh and Vininder Kaur, Saleema in current times is the first and only Pakistani who has sung all the raags in which Guru Nanak’s verses are scribed. Some samples of the work may be found here with information on where they may be located in the documentary freely available on

Bhooli Bhooli
Episode 18  
at 55mins 15 secs

      Sri Raag Guru Nanak Dev

ਭੂਲੀ ਭੂਲੀ ਥਲਿ ਚੜਾ ਥਲਿ ਚੜਿ ਡੂਗਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥

Bhoolee Bhoolee Thhal Charraa Thhal Charr Ddoogar Jaao ||

Wandering around and making mistakes, I climb the plateau; having climbed the plateau, I go up the mountain.

ਬਨ ਮਹਿ ਭੂਲੀ ਜੇ ਫਿਰਾ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਪਾਉ ॥

Ban Mehi Bhoolee Jae Firaa Bin Gur Boojh N Paao ||

But now I have lost my way, and I am wandering around in the forest; without the Guru, I do not understand.

ਨਾਵਹੁ ਭੂਲੀ ਜੇ ਫਿਰਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਆਵਉ ਜਾਉ ॥੭॥

Naavahu Bhoolee Jae Firaa Fir Fir Aavo Jaao ||7||

If I wander around forgetting God’s Name, I shall continue coming and going in reincarnation, over and over again. ||7||

Jiyo Laha
Episode 09
at 21 mins 16 secs


Aasaa Kaafee Mehalaa 1 Ghar 8 Asattapadheeaa

ਜਿਉ ਲਾਹਾ ਤੋਟਾ ਤਿਵੈ ਵਾਟ ਚਲਦੀ ਆਈ ॥

Jio Laahaa Thottaa Thivai Vaatt Chaladhee Aaee ||

As is the profit, so is the loss; this is the way of the world.

ਜੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਾਈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥੧੦॥੧੩॥

Jo This Bhaavai Naanakaa Saaee Vaddiaaee ||10||13||

Whatever pleases His Will, O Nanak, is glory for me. ||10||13||

Bhand Jammiye
Episode 22
at 42 mins 28 secs

Raag Asa Guru Nanak Dev

ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਵੀਆਹੁ ॥

Bhandd Janmeeai Bhandd Ninmeeai Bhandd Mangan Veeaahu ||

From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.

ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ ॥

Bhanddahu Hovai Dhosathee Bhanddahu Chalai Raahu ||

Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.

ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ ॥

Bhandd Muaa Bhandd Bhaaleeai Bhandd Hovai Bandhhaan ||

When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.

ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥

So Kio Mandhaa Aakheeai Jith Janmehi Raajaan ||

So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.

Sehs Thav Nain
Episode 14
at 10 mins 41 secs

Raag Dhanaasree Guru Nanak Dev

ਸਹਸ ਤਵ ਨੈਨ ਨਨ ਨੈਨ ਹਹਿ ਤੋਹਿ ਕਉ ਸਹਸ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਨਨਾ ਏਕ ਤਦ਼ਹੀ ॥

Sehas Thav Nain Nan Nain Hehi Thohi Ko Sehas Moorath Nanaa Eaek Thuohee ||

You have thousands of eyes, and yet You have no eyes. You have thousands of forms, and yet You do not have even one.

ਸਹਸ ਪਦ ਬਿਮਲ ਨਨ ਏਕ ਪਦ ਗੰਧ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਹਸ ਤਵ ਗੰਧ ਇਵ ਚਲਤ ਮੋਹੀ ॥੨॥

Sehas Padh Bimal Nan Eaek Padh Gandhh Bin Sehas Thav Gandhh Eiv Chalath Mohee ||2||

You have thousands of Lotus Feet, and yet You do not have even one foot. You have no nose, but you have thousands of noses. This Play of Yours entrances me. ||2||

When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.

ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥

So Kio Mandhaa Aakheeai Jith Janmehi Raajaan ||

So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.

The learning of the 37 Raags initially involved online video call based lessons with Satninder Singh where he would instruct on the aroh and avroh of a given Raag with brief demonstrations of the PakkaRalso known as the Mukh Ang with some improvisations. The form of the lessons evolved into exchange of voice recordings between the two supplemented with recordings of other singers available online. Once a piece had been composed by Saleema, it was approved by Satninder Singh before being finally recorded for purposes of the documentary. The process took over 2 years. The docuseries is freely available in English and Punjabi at and soon will be available in Hindi and Urdu too.

A quick guide of the 37 Raags learnt by Saleema will be available soon.

Gurmat Sangeet-37 Raags Quick Guide [08.07.2022].pdf

Related Information

During this time Saleema was also invited to and attended the International Conference Celebrating Guru Nanak’s 550th Birth Anniversary (10-12 October, 2019), organized by the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies of the Hofstra University, Hempstead in New York, to share her learning of the Rabbabi tradition as a student of Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand.

Saleema may be found on Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram by the name Saleema J. Khawaja though she is not very active on the forums and apologises in advance in case of delay in responding.