It is said music has magical powers. It can drastically change the atmosphere as well as the mood of a person. In modern days, we all will admit to the fact that music can transcend us to another world, can heal a grief-stricken mind or can increase the ecstasy. But perhaps, we will doubt to the immense power of music to change even the happenings of nature and the way it works. We doubt it because such power can be exhibited only by ethereal music, a talent that born on earth one in every thousand years.
Yes, I’m talking about Tansen, the legendary musician who had magic in his voice. He was born about four hundred years ago, in a small village near Gwalior and became one of the ‘nine jewels’ of Emperor Akbar’s revered Navaratna Sabha.
There are many interesting stories about him and his divine skills of music. Under the tutelage of Haridas, he learnt the subtleties of Hindustani ragas and how each one of the ragas can create a different mood. A raga can make you so happy that you want to dance, or it can make you so sad that it brings tears to your eyes.
The legends go thus that when Tansen used to sing, birds and animals gathered around him, mesmerized by his divine tunes.
The most famous story about Tansen’s magical musical power is about his rendition of Deepak Raga. It was said when sung with perfection, Deepak Raga can set fire to the surrounding and even the singer himself could get burnt!
Emperor Akbar once became skeptical of Tansen’s skills and, ordered him to sing Deepak Raga. He wanted to examine Tansen’s musical power. People from distant lands reached Akbar’s court to witness the amazing performance. Unlit lamps were placed all around the court. As soon as Tansen started the ‘alaap’ or the prelude of the raga, the temperature around slowly began to change.
As Tansen sang on, it was getting warmer and warmer. The courtiers and the audience began to perspire profusely, flowers dried up in the garden, water in the fountains of the palace began to boil, birds escaped in fear, and, flames were appearing in the air out of nowhere as if like magic!
The lamps lit up on their own and, all the people were terrified.
By then, Tansen’s body became hot and feverish, but completely absorbed in Deepak Raga, he continued to sing vigorously. The audience and the Emperor himself tried to stop him but in vain. Like a sage in his meditation, Tansen kept on singing. Akbar understood what a blunder he had done and became anxious that he might lose his greatest jewel of Navaratna for his own whims.
But, before things got worse, Haridas, Tansen’s teacher, ordered one of his finest disciples Rupa, to sing the Megha Raga. As she started singing, her voice grew stronger and soared up and up to the sky, slowly dark clouds started overcasting. After a while, a downpour started and eventually, the great musician was saved from the raging blaze of fire produced by his own enchanting magical music.
Tansen was one of those singers who were no less that magicians. His voice could make impossibles, possible. He is the most gifted musician India has ever produced.
Still now, every year near Tansen’s tomb in Gwalior, a musical festival is held.