Monday, August 22, 2011

Tansen the Magical Musician of India

        Tansen (1493 or 1506 – 1586 or 1589) is considered to be one of the greatest musicians of India that ever lived. Normally referred to as just Tansen, he is said to have played a pivotal role in crating the classical genre of north Indian music we know today. He first served as a court musician of the King Ramchandra of Mewa and then of the emperor Akbar. He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was conferred the title of Miyan, by emperor Akbar and since came to be knonw as Miyan Tansen

Though born in a Hindu Brahmin family possibly in 1506. Tansen embraced Islam in his later life. Tansen was born in a Hindu family in a place called Gwalior located in Madhya Pradesh. His father was a famous poet by the name of Mukund Mishra. Tansen was named Tannu Mishra when he was born. Having an inclination towards music from childhood, this boy started taking a musical training under the legendary Shri Haridas Swamy from the Indian holy city of Brindavan who was considered to be a legendary teacher of that time. It is said that Tansen has no equal apart from his teacher. Later became a singer in the court of King Ramchandra of Reva. From here, he was passed on to the court of Emperor Akbar as a gift. And it was here that the life history of Miyan Tansen changed forever. 

The title Miyan was conferred upon Tansen by Emperor Akbar and he embraced Islam at the hands of the great Sufi mystic Shaykh Muhammad Ghaus of Gwalior, who acted as both his teacher and spiritual guide. Apart from his own guru, Tansen is said to have no equal during his time. It is to be said Akbar's daughter Meherunnissa was enamoured by Tansen and had a role in his coming to Akbar's court. Tansen converted to Islam from Hinduism, apparently on the eve of his marriage with Akbar's daughter. 

He is said to have no equals in music and it is believed that he had performed miracles through his music. He could bring rain by singing in a particular Raag known as Megh Malhar. Similarly he could start a fire by singing in Raag Deepak. Such was the power of his music that when he used to sing in the court of Akbar, candles used to light up automatically.

The fort at Fatehpur Sikri is strongly associated with Tansen's tenure at Akbar's court. Near the emperor's chambers, a pond was built with a small island in the middle, where musical performances were given. Today, this tank, called Anup Talao, can be seen near the public audience hall Diwan-i-Aam - a central platform reachable via four footbridges. It is said that Tansen would perform different ragas at different times of day, and the emperor and his select audience would honour him with coins. 

He has also composed several Ragas that have been the foundation of classical music like Bhairav, Darbari Todi, Darbari Kanada, Malhar, Sarang and Rageshwari. The famous Dhrupad style of singing is believed to be started by Tansen and his teacher Swami Haridas. He wrote two important documents on music namely Sangeeta Sara and Rajmala. He was a mystic musician. 

Many aficionados are convinced that his death was caused by a conflagration while he was singing the raga Deepaka. His tomb is in Gwalior near the tomb of Saint Hazrat Ghaus whose teaching influenced him to convert to Islam. There is a tamarind tree near Tansen's tomb, believed to be as old as the tomb. According to a legend a person who chews the leaves of this tamarind tree is blessed with the great musical qualities. The descendants of Tansen are referred to as the 'Senia Gharana'. 

 Even today, Tansen is considered to be the greatest of all and there is no comparison when it comes to his style of singing. His contribution to the world of music is priceless and is still worshipped by leading singers and composers of the world.

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1 comment:

  1. "tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :) and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders. we are the fifth largest speakers!

    we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)

    its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn't speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world.

    did you know that the FAMOUS SEARS TOWER is architectured by another bengali?"

    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India