Hindi Language Blog

Onomatopoeias through Bollywood Lens Posted by on Mar 2, 2017 in Hindi Language

When I was at grocery store today, buying bitter gourd करेला (karela), green bell peppers शिमला मिर्च (Shimla mirch), and carrots गाजर (gaajar) the popular Bollywood number (from the movie Mohra featuring Raveena Tandon and Akshay Kumar, was sizzling over the speakers. … Tip-tip barsa paani टिप टिप बरसा पानी … .” (Tip-tip denotes the sound of the rain water.)

“Rain on my Window”
Image on Flickr by Melissa Mathies

I could imagine the rain-drenched Raveena Tandon wildly swinging her hair as droplets of water dripped from her sharply chiseled face. The song was all the rave when the movie released in 1994.
टिप टिप sparked the idea for my next blog–words that denote sounds. टिप टिप describes the sound made by dripping water. Even between Indian languages, these terms vary greatly, and they certainly do so between world languages.
Here are some other words/terms that describe or stand for sounds.

This next example is from the movie Lagaan. Listen for ghanan-ghanan घनन घनन, dhamak-dhamak धमक धमक, and chamak-chamak चमक चमक.

Villagers sing this song when thunder rumbles and dark clouds seize the sky before rainfall. This song has several terms that denote sounds:

ghanan-ghanan घनन घनन = the rumbling of thunder as rain clouds envelope the skies
dhamak-dhamak धमक धमक = the clap of thunder
chamak-chamak चमक चमक = the crackle of lightning

Here is an interpretation of the first few lines:

घनन घनन घिर घिर आये बदरा, घन घन घोर काले छाए बदरा
The clouds/skies rumble (ghanan-ghanan) overhead as the dark clouds बदरा (badra) envelope the skies

धमक धमक गूंजे बदरा की डंकी
The clap of thunder (dhamak-dhamak) is likened to a drum डंकी (dunky).

चमक चमक देखो बिजुरिया चमके देखो बिजुरिया चमके
The lightning बिजुरिया (bijuriya) crackles (chamak-chamak)

Image by Oliver Hammond on Flickr.com

In another beautiful song from Bollywood, musical great, the late Manna Dey, sings of the melodious tinkling sound of anklets/ankle bells worn while dancing.

छम छम बाजे रे पायलिया
The ankle bells पायलिया (payuliya) go छम छम (chham-chham)

Bollywood’s attempt at recreating Bonnie and Clyde resulted in Bunty aur Babli, which has several catchy songs, including धड़क धड़क (dhadak-dhadak… .

धड़क धड़क = the rhythmic sound made when a train thunders down on its tracks

Image by Belur Ashok on Flickr.com

धड़क धड़क धड़क धड़क धुँआ उड़ाए रे
The train rolls past धड़क धड़क and blows steam धुँआ उड़ाए (dhooaan udaaye).

धड़क धड़क धड़क धड़क सीटी बजाए रे
The train rolls past धड़क धड़क and whistles सीटी बजाए (seetee bajaaye).

The list of onomatopoeias is long, however I would be remiss to not include these two:

धक धक (dhuk-dhuk) = the sound of the heart beating
धक धक करने लगा (which means, my heart is beating)… an immensely popular song featuring the star duo, Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit.

To end on a sweet and mellifluous note, listen to कुहू कुहू बोले कोयलिया. This song describes the beautiful song of the कोयल koyal bird.

कुहू कुहू = the cooing sound of the कोयल (koyal)
कुहू कुहू बोले कोयलिया = The कोयल sings कुहू कुहू.

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About the Author: Nitya

Namaste, friends. My name is Nitya. I was born and raised in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). I'm a native Hindi speaker. However, as life took me through school, college, work, and waves of friends from different parts of India, my repertoire of Hindi flavors and dialects grew and added dimension to my native fluency. Casual, formal, colloquial, and regional ... Hindi is a language with incredible variety and localization. Through this blog, I will help you learn Hindi through conversations, vocabulary, colloquialisms, and glimpses of Indian culture. आओ, मिलकर हिंदी सीखते हैं। (Aao, milkar Hindi seekhte hain!) Come, let's learn Hindi together.


  1. A~:

    This is great! I knew a few of them, but some of these were new. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nitya:

      @A~ My pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed them.