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The magnificence of Raga Malhar

The magnificence of Raga Malhar

Whenever we hear the name Tansen, the first thing that strikes us are the legendary stories about how he could control the ragas and cause rains with his magical voice. Being one of the nine jewels in Akbar’s court and the Emperor’s favorite, he had a number of jealous courtiers who wanted to set him up for failure. What started as a mere lie to prove that Tansen is an ordinary musician, ended up making him the royal singer.

A lot of Akbar’s courtiers were jealous of Tansen's privileges. They schemed to set him up for failure. They spread the word that Tansen could make an oil lamp light up with his singing. The courtiers thought that if Tansen failed in doing this, obviously his music skills are just ordinary. But if he succeeds he could die singing the raga because it would produce so much heat, that his body would be burnt. Akbar obviously heard about this talent and asked Tansen to perform the feat, knowing well that some pranksters were up to mischief to harm Tansen. But, knowing Tansen as he did, the Emperor knew he would find a way out of the mess, and he did indeed!

Now Tansen was in a fix. Sure, he could do this feat. But what would happen then? He would surely burn and may cause collateral damage as well. The only antidote for this was for him to sing Raag Megh Malhar immediately after he sings Raag Deepak. Raag Megh Malhar would bring pouring rain and cool him and his surroundings. But surely, he would be unable to sing this as he would be very weak. But, he could not say 'no' to the great Emperor! And no one else could sing Megh Malhar, he thought.

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His worries were evident to his daughter. She suggested that after he sang Deepak Raag, she would sing Raag Megh Malhar. Raag Deepak would light the lamps. She would sing Raag Megh Malhar, which would bring rains and cool Tansen and extinguish the flames of the oil lamps around him. Tansen had taught Raag Megh Malhar to his daughter and she was as wonderful and exponent as himself! This was Tansen’s best option. He would sing or die trying.

Day of performance arrived. The Emperor’s assembly was adorned with countless oil lamps, which were waiting to light up. Tansen started singing Raag Deepak. Soon, the temperature of the terrace started rising. People could not believe the fact that temperatures were soaring. Things started melting. And suddenly the hall was lit with countless oil lamps! But Tansen was sick with fever! He ran to an open area. He was hoping that his daughter’s singing would work. Back in the village, Tansen’s daughter started singing Raag Megh Malhar. Soon clouds moved in over the village. Yes, it started raining!! Tansen lived!

If you can't believe this, please visit Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra fort where the Taj Mahal is situated and you will see the terrace where this great feat was conquered. Needless to say, Tansen was awarded by the Emperor and made the royal singer. They remained, forever, the best of friends, and the Emperor always relieved his burdened soul listening to Tansen's soulful ragas.

That’s how rich Indian music is, its study will tire researchers, but the learning won’t end.