Miyan Tansen was
the premier court musician of Akbar, the sixteenth-century Moghul
emperor. Tansen was not only a performer of the highest calibre, but
was blessen with the rare gift of translating sound into the purest
expressions of the human soul. He understood this connection
directly, intuitively, which led to his discovery of several
profound ragas such as Miyan Ki Malhar, Miyan Ki Todi, Miyan Ki
Sarang and Darbari Kanada, all still cornerstones of the classical
repertoire. [It is sain that ragas are discovered and given names
for the identities they already possess: they are not created]. The
mythology of Hindustani classical music attributes magical powers to
Tansen: it is said that he was able to command the forces of nature
with the power of musical sound: bring rain with rainy season ragas,
generate fire with raga Dipak, and cause flowers to bloom with
springtime ragas. At the time of his death, as legend has it, a
struggle ensued for an heir to occupy Tansenís venerable position.
Tradition says that his sons were asked to sing at his funeral and
one of them, Bilas Khan, who had be leading the life of an ascetic,
sang a mournful, yet transcendent melody of such profoundity and
power that it caused the hand of the deceaced Tansen to move,
indicating Bilas Khan to be the true successor.
Such melody was later named
Bilaskhani Todi [from India Archives Music].
One day, after listening to Tansen, Akbar was so thrilled that he asked him: "Tansen, tell me who was your teacher?" "Swami Haridas, my lord" replied Tansen. Akbar asked again, "Is he as great a musician as you are?" Tansen said very humbly: "Please never compare me to my master. He is not a musician but music itself." Akbar was intruigued, "Then I would like to hear him sing." Tansen answered, "But he will never agree to come to the court to sing." "Then we will go to him", said Akbar. Tansen was still diffident, "My teacher sings of his own will and he wonít be happy if he is compelled to sing before the emperor". But Akbar was determined, "Then I will come with you, disguised as your servant."
So, Tansen and
Akbar travelled far the where the sage lived in a hut, his temple of
music. The sage received Tansen, his former pupil, and his servant
Akbar, with love and affection. He listened to their request but
remained silent. Three days passed. Then one day, just before
sunrise, Swami Haridas began to sing. Akbar and Tansen were
spellbound. It seemed as if the sound had no beginning and no end,
as if the trees, the stones, and all the living creatures had turned
into music and forgotten themselves. After some time, when the spell
was broken Akbar and Tansen found that they were alone in the hut.
Swami Haridas was nowhere to been seen. "Where is he?" asked Akbar.
"He has left this place forever, fearing that we may come again and
trouble him, "replied Tansen sadly. They turned to the palace,
slilent and withdrawn. Several days passed but Akbar never forget
the effect the song had had on him. One day he asked Tansen whether
he knew the raga and the song that Swami Haridas had sung. "Yes, I
learnt it from him", replied Tansen. At Akbarís request, Tansen sat
down and sang the raga as only he could. But Akbarís heart was not
satisfied, "Tansen, you sang beautifully. But still, why is it not
the same as when Swami Haridas sang". Tansen answered softly and
humbly, "My lord, I sing for you, the emperor among men. But my
master sings only for the lord and creator of the entire universe.
Herein lies the difference [from the book Alaap: a discovery