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India In Love: A Collection Of Poems

6 Indian poems through the ages that sing of love, fantasy, and a democracy of desires.

Do you “set out in ecstasy”? Have you ever been “pierced by a love-wound”? Perhaps you pine for a “dark bearded young man”?
From two-millenia-old Tamil Sangam verse and 18th century Punjabi lyrics to queer poetry from 2016, we bring you a crackling selection of poems about love and its varied accompaniments -- joy, longing, pain, desire, and among many other things, sex!
Poem 1: By Mirabai (Marwari), 1498CE to 1546 CE
तेरा कोई नहीं रोकणहार, मगन होय मीरा चली। (टेर )
लाज, सरम , कुल की मरजादा, सिर से दूर करी।
मान �
पमान दोउ धर पटके , निकली हूँ ज्ञान गली।। १
ऊंची �
टरिया लाल किवड़िया , निर्गुण सेझ बिछी
पचरंगी भालर सुभ सोहै , फूलन फूल कली।। २
बाजूबंद कड़ू ला सोहे , माँग सिंदूर भरी।
सुमीरन थाल हाथ में लीन्हां , सोभा �
धिक भली ।। ३
सेज सुखमरण मीरा सोवै , धन सुभ आज धरी।
तुम जावो राणा घर �
पने , मेरी तेरी नाहिं सरी ।। ४


(Translated By Ruth Vanita)
No one can stop you - Mira set out in ecstasy.
Modesty, shame, family honour - all these I put aside.
Flinging away praise and blame, i took the the path of knowledge.
Tall the towers, red the windows - a formless bed is spread,
Auspicious the five coloured necklace, made of flowers and buds,
Beautiful armlets and bracelets, vermilion in my hair parting
The tray of remembrance in my hand- a beauty more true
Mira sleeps on the bed of happiness - auspicious the hour today.
Rana you go to your house - you and I cannot pull together.
No one can stop you- Mira sets out in ecstacy

Poem 2: Old Sangam Poetry (Tamil), 1st Century BCE- 5th Century BCE

டி புனை தொடுகழல், மை �
ணல் காளைக்கு என்
தொடி கழித்திடுதல் யான் யாய் �
டு தோள் முயங்கல் �
வை நாணுவலே;
என் போல் பெரு விதுப்புறுக என்றும்
ஒரு பாற் படா�
இரு பாற் பட்ட இம் மையல் ஊரே.


(Translated by Chenthil Nathan, sourced from
Puranaanooru – 83
I fear mother noticing that my bangles slip out
as I pine for the anklet wearing, dark bearded young man;
I’m shy to embrace his valorous shoulders in public;
May this indecisive town which doesn’t decide
either in favour of mother or myself
but vacillates between us two,
tremble as much as I do.

Poem 3: Heer by Waris Shah (Punjabi), 1766

sohni vich dareya de dubb moi
jado lagga su ishq da sool miyan
waris shah je jaan gavavni e
kar ishq di marz kabool miyan
sir ditteyan baaj na ishq pakke
eh nahi sukhaliyan yarian ve
ode zakham na hashgar tak hon razi
jinna laggiyan prem katarian ve
heer aakhdi ranjheya kehr hoya
rahi sharm di lajj na kaa menu
jogan ho vibhoot main la bethi
bhora mehr na aundi zara tenu
duniya dar na rahega koi ethe
ashiq fakkar hi sab rehnge ni
apo ap maloom kar len sabhe
jado hashar nu mamle pen ge


(Translated By Rudraksh Cheeba, sourced from
Pierced with a love-wound
Sohni threw herself in that love-river and drowned
Miyan Waris Shah, if you would shrug off this thing called your life
Then you can embrace no better ailment than love
This love won’t ripen without heads sacrificed
These bonds they aren’t easy to keep
Their wounds stubbornly refuse to heal
Who’ve been pierced by the dagger of love
Heer says to Ranjha, calamity has struck
Look, I’m left with no shame or guilt!
I’ve become a jogan, and smeared my forehead with hermit’s ash
O dawn, for you feel no pity for my wound
No denizens of the sensible world roam here
Only lovers survive and thrive
Each facing their true inner being
To account for themselves on Doomsday!

Poem 4: Zabanon Ka Bosa By Fahmida Riaz (Urdu), b. 1945-

زبانوں کے رس �
یں یہ کیسی �
ہک ہے!
یہ بوسہ کہ جس سے �
حبت کی صہبا کی اڑتی ہے خوشبو
یہ بد �
ست خوشبو جو گہرا غنودہ نشہ لا رہی ہے
یہ کیسا نشہ ہے
رے ذہن کے ریزے ریزے �
یں ایک آنکھ سی کھل گئی ہے
اپنی زباں �
یرے �
نہ �
یں رکھے جیسے پاتال سے �
یری جاں کھینچتے ہو
یہ بھیگا ہوا گر�
و تاریک بوسہ
اوس کی کالی برستی ہوئی رات جیسے ا�
ڈتی چلی آ رہی ہے
کہیں کوئی ساعت ازل سے ر�
ری روح کے دشت �
یں اڑ رہی تھی
وہ ساعت قریں تر چلی آ رہی ہے
جھے ایسا لگتا ہے
تاریکیوں کے
لرزتے ہوئے پل کو
یں پار کرتی چلی جا رہی ہوں
یہ پل خت�
ہونے کو ہے
اور اب
اس کے آگے
کہیں روشنی ہے
zabānoñ ke ras meñ ye kaisī mahak hai
ye bosa ki jis se mohabbat kī sahbā kī uḌtī hai ḳhushbū
ye bad-mast ḳhushbū jo gahrā ġhunūda nasha lā rahī hai
ye kaisā nasha hai
mere zehn ke reze reze meñ ek aañkh sī khul ga.ī hai
tum apnī zabāñ mere muñh meñ rakhe jaise pātāl se merī jaañ khīñchte ho
ye bhīgā huā garm o tārīk bosa
amāvas kī kaalī barastī huī raat jaise umaDtī chalī aa rahī hai
kahīñ koī azal se ramīda
mirī ruuh ke dasht meñ uḌ rahī thī
vo qarīñ-tar chalī aa rahī hai
mujhe aisā lagtā hai
tārīkiyoñ ke
larazte hue pul ko
maiñ paar kartī chalī jā rahī huuñ
ye pul ḳhatm hone ko hai
aur ab
us ke aage
kahīñ raushnī hai


(Translated by Patricia L. Sharpe, sourced from
Deep myrrh-scented kiss,
deep with the tongue, suffused
with the musky perfume
of the wine of love: I'm reeling
with intoxication, languid
to the point of numbness,
yet with a mind so roused
an eye flies open
in every cell.
And you! Sucking my breath,
my life, from its deepest,
most ancient abode.
Wet, warm, dark.
Pitch black!
Like a moonless night,
when rain comes flooding in.
A glint of runaway time
fleeing in the wilderness of my soul
seems to be drawing closer.
I sway across a shadowy bridge.
It's about to end, I think,
somewhere ahead,
there is light.

Poem 5: I want to 377 you so bad* By Akhil Katyal (English), 2016

till even the sheets hurt i want to
ache your knees singe your skin
line you brown breathe you in i want to
mouth you in words neck you in red
i want to beg your body insane into sepals
i want to 377 you like a star falling off the brown
i want to feel you till my nails turn water
i want to suck you seven different skies
i want to be a squatter in your head when
it sleeps when its dark i want to break laws
with you in bed and in streets and in parks
*This refers to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial era law that criminalises homosexual acts. In 2013, the Supreme Court of India upheld the legality of this law. LGBT activists and other human rights legal practitioners have launched several challenges to this law.

(Source:  Katyal, A. (2016). I want to 377 you so bad*. Feminist Dissent, (1), 117-118. Retrieved from:


Poem 6: A TIME FOR BIRDSONG by Sukirtharani, 2013

 (Translated from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström, sourced from
You and I travel together
as if we were leading a bridegroom,
carrying a vessel of picked flowers.
Like a practised guide, I point out
the ashen mouth of a volcano,
crevices of mountains like human thighs,
deep valleys.
Forest streams melt our clothes
and hold us tight in their arms.
Trees shed upon us the embryo scent
wrapped deep within their flowers.
We make love inside the waters
as fallen jasmine cover us
and our bodies’ sap flows away, foaming.
You hold out your hands to me, pleading
to stay longer in my body’s embrace.
I climb ashore, naked.
Birds never forget
when they should sing.
Our thanks to Anjali Panjabi and Rana Safvi for their help in suggesting some poems here.
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