KIRSAAN

AP Dhillon

Coming off of hits like Faraar and Most Wanted, Kirsaan by AP Dhillon and Gurinder Gill differs from the rest of their discography. The vocals combined with Shinda Kahlon’s powerful lyrics and the documentary-style music video show off this group's versatility and portray an impactful exposé of the Punjabi farmer.

Lyrics Overview

Shinda Kahlon’s lyrics chronicle the struggles of the modern-day Punjabi farmer. Gurinder Gill paints a picture of farmers’ physical and mental stress, while AP Dhillon goes on to express their frustration with unfair compensation. The second half of the song examines the farmer’s connection to the land where Punjab’s groundwater is diminishing and heavy pesticide and fertilizer use is damaging the environment.

Lyrics Translated

Verse 1

[Gurinder Gill]

Oh chardaa vasakh (1) te paneeri jatt beej daa
At the start of April, Jatt (farmer) sows seeds for his crops

Rakhda khayal rata-rata jinni cheej daa
He takes care of every little thing

Pehla di lavayi koi shakayat hi na la davay
He worries, “What if someone files a complaint on my crops?"

Shehron aan babu saraa takk hi na vaa davay
“The inspector could come clear my whole field”

Es samay barsatan vi ni pendiyan
“During this month it doesn’t even rain”

Oh tikhi dhupan vich firre nakay mordaa
Under the harsh sun, he irrigates his field

Chorus

[Gurinder Gill]

Roti baajo marey duniya
People are starving without food

Jatt ann (2) vich paisay vekho jorda
Look, the farmer makes money from growing food

Verse 2

[AP Dhillon]

Beej ke kamaad saraa saal rehndey gorhdey
The whole year they work the soil to grow sugarcane

Mila baar line laggi hundi payi aa road te
Long lines form on the road outside the sugar mills

Gitte godde rehn sadde baana vich tasde
Our ankles and knees are entrenched in field

Parchuniye (3) ne aa ke mull mehntaan da dasde
But the distributor is going to tell me the value of my hard work

Assi jamm de hi fasse, mull mahinga takki lorh da
We are born stuck in this cycle of looking for proper compensation for our hardwork

Chorus

[AP Dhillon]

Roti baajo marey duniya
People are starving without food

Jatt ann vich paisay vekho jorda
Look, he makes money from growing food

Verse 3

[Gurinder Gill]

Nehran tobay sukk gaye talaab vi koi rahe na
Rivers, lakes, and ponds have all dried

La la dam pani dakke rahe, tere layi koi vahe na
They have collected all the water in the dam, but they won’t spare any water for you

Shinde paani da paddar thale peen nu ni jurhna
Shinda, the groundwater is diminishing. We won’t have any to drink.

Vasdaa Punjab samaa kithe hun murhna
The prosperous Punjab is never going to return

Booha tutaa chhatt marhi nahh, hun mahal hai crore daa
Broken doors and roofs are now replaced with million dollar houses

Chorus

[Gurinder Gill]

Roti baajo marey duniya
People are starving without food

Jatt ann vich paisay vekho jorda
Look, he makes money from growing food

Verse 4

[AP Dhillon]

Gal sunea tu jatta aa ha tera ve kasoor aa
Oh Farmer, all of this is your fault too

Sauda ann da tu kare marhi honi ta zaroor aa
You’re in the business of food, you’re certainly going to suffer

Pani sadee dharti nu Maa dooji dasde
The water belongs to our Earth and Earth is our second Mother.

Te tu Maa te rasayan firre rorh da
You’re polluting our mother (Earth), covering it with chemicals.

Chorus

[AP Dhillon]

Roti baajo marey duniya
People are starving without food

Jatt ann vich paisay vekho jorda
Look, he makes money from growing food

Outro

[AP Dhillon]

Roti baajo marey duniya
People are starving without food

Jatt ann vich paisay vekho jorda
Look, he makes money from growing food


Vocab

ਕਿਰਸਾਨ, Kirsaan (noun, masculine): peasant farmer. Same as ਕਿਸਾਨ, kisaan.

1. ਵਸਾਖ, Vaisakh (noun, masculine): Corresponds to the second month of the Nankshahi calendar. Vaisakhi is an important celebration during this month (April 14 - May 14)

2. ਪਰਚੂਣਏ, Parchuniye (noun, masculine):  a grocery retailer.

3. ਅੰਨ, Ann (noun, masculine): food

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Song Breakdown

Vasda Punjab

Before we can break down the lyrics of Kirsaan, we need to establish the role farming plays in Punjabi culture and the concept of "Vasda Punjab".

Farming is intertwined with Punjabi culture and identity. The word “Punjab” means “land of five rivers” - "punj" meaning 5, and "ab" meaning river. Punjab is rich with natural resources that make it ripe for farming. It has rich alluvial soil full of nutrients, and two monsoons per year allow for two full harvesting seasons. "Vasda Punjab" refers to this agricultural affluence.

The Indus civilization is among the oldest in the world and its cradle was in Punjab. Its size and prosperity grew due to Punjab's rich natural resources and the development of sophisticated irrigation and water storage systems. Punjab was also British India’s model agricultural province, and it became the primary recipient of agrarian technology. Cash crops like wheat, tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton were introduced by the 1920's, and Punjab soon produced 1/10th of India’s total cotton and 1/3rd of its wheat. As a result, agricultural prices and land values soared in the province.

Green Revolution

In the 1960's, the Green Revolution introduced new agricultural practices and high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice. This movement traded traditional agricultural practices for industrialized farming in Punjab due to the growing Indian population. The revolution and its impact on Punjab’s farming identity is the basis for Kirsaan. Yield per acre first doubled, then tripled. Despite its impact in yield, the Green Revolution was not without consequence.

The Farmer's Struggle

The song’s first verses allow us to see life through the farmer’s eyes, a life mired with challenges. Gurinder Gill sings about the regulatory challenges, where failure to comply can result in heavy fines or seizure of land. With increasing pressure to produce high agricultural yield for crops like rice paddy and wheat, farmers incur large amounts of debt for expenses like machinery, pesticides, and wells. Conventional banks refuse to lend to farmers, forcing them to turn to predatory private lenders. Almost 92% of loans that farmers take out come from informal sources [1].

Shehron aan babu saraa takk hi na vaa davay
The inspector could come clear the whole field


The next verse discusses proper compensation, a long-standing issue for farmers. The minimum support price (MSP) is the price at which the government purchases crops from the farmers. Farmers have long fought for this price to be enough to offset their costs. However, MSP severely underestimates farming costs in their calculation [2].

Assi jamm de hi fasse, mull mahinga takki lorh da
We are born stuck in this cycle of looking for proper compensation for our hardwork


This stress has led to a mental health crisis among Punjabi farmers. There have been over 20,000 farmer suicides in Punjab, with 87% due to indebtedness.

Some suggest an organic farming system as a solution, but in a comparative study:

  • Organic farms expended 12% more on irrigation and 7% more on labor force than conventional farms
  • Conventional farmers yield was higher than that of the organic farmers by 11%

Punjab's Water Crisis

Verse 3 delves into how Punjab’s water is being consumed. Rice and wheat are the most water intensive crops, needing the most hydration per tonne. In 1960 the Indian government supported initiatives to increase rice output by subsidizing electricity for tube wells. Extracting groundwater, unsustainable farming techniques, and years of mismanagement have created a devastating water crisis.


Now the land of five rivers is facing drought, depleted resources, and political battles. Columbia Water Center states, "[P]otential effects of groundwater depletion include the drying up of wells, reduced stream flows, deteriorating water quality and sinking land as well as increased costs and lower profit margins for farmers."

Shinde paani da paddar thale peen nu ni jurhna
Shinda, the groundwater is diminishing. We won’t have any to drink.

The Central Groundwater Authority proposes groundwater recharge and crop diversification to help combat groundwater depletion. However, both strategies require a monumental shift away from rice production and massive changes to the farming system.

What about river water? Redistributing river water is a highly contested political issue. However, even if it were usable, groundwater would still be necessary to sustain Punjab’s farms. For farmers who have a deep historical connection to the land, the grave social and ecological consequences of this crisis are accompanied by cultural grievances as well.

Poisoning of Punjab

The heavy chemicals found in fertilizers and pesticides have accumulated into Punjab's ecosystem. These pesticides have devastating effects on the body, and farming communities have increased exposure to these chemicals. Researchers have taken blood samples from Punjabi villagers and found at least six pesticides in virtually all blood samples. It’s no wonder that cancer, diabetes, and cerebral palsy cases are increasing in these communities. Economic reality for these farmers has led them to choose productivity before health.

Increased agricultural output means more dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. But these products lose effectiveness over time. Pests develop resistance and fertilizers strip the soil of its nutrients. Farmers are then forced to buy more expensive pesticides and fertilizer every several years. Without these chemicals, farmers have no chance of growing their crop and making money, and so they become trapped in this cycle of pesticide and fertilizer use.

In regards to the environment, Punjabis have a deep connection with the land, referring to it as their "second Mother." The bond between the farmer and his land is sacred, as Verse 4 parallels a passage of the Guru Granth Sahib, the central Sikh religious scripture.


Throughout the song, listeners are put in a position to empathize with the plight of farmers. However, AP Dhillon strikes a balance at the end of his verse by holding farmers accountable for their heavy pesticide and fertilizer use.

Te tu Maa te rasayan firre rorh da
You’re polluting our mother (Earth), covering it with chemicals


This balance serves to remind us that all of the players in this system should be held responsible, and it’s on all of us to restore the promise of "Vasda Punjab".

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