Tansen

It is believed that by touching the tomb of the renowned musician Tansen, and by eating a leaf from the tamarind tree that grows beside it, a singer can improve his voice. Magic? Yes, the stories of Tansen and Indian music are magical indeed.

Tansen (1506-1589) was born as 'Ramtanu' to Makaranda Pande, a resident of Gwalior. He soon became a disciple of Swami Haridas of Brindavan and learnt classical music from him. He later joined the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior and enhanced the dhrupad style of singing. Seeing his musical genius Emperor Akbar had brought and installed him as one of the Nine Jewels of his court in 1552 AD and conferred on him the title of 'Tansen' (meaning the 'King of Melody'). It is said that Akbar got a special seat, Anup Talao, constructed for Tansen in the middle of a pond facing his palace at Fatehpur Sikhri. Tansen composed many new Ragas, such as Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, Miyan Ki Todi, Miya ki Malhar and Miya ki Sarang, and laid down the foundations of North Indian classical music through 300 Dhrupad compositions. Tansen had a Hindu wife as well as a Muslim wife, called Mehrunissa. From the latter he got a son Bilas Khan (composer of the Raga Bilaskhani Todi) and from the Hindu wife he had three children Tan-Taranga, Suratsen and Saraswati Devi. Tansen composed about one thousand Dhruvapadas which are even now remembered not only for the wonderful exposition of the Ragas contained in them but also for their very high poetic value. Tansen died in 1589 AD and was buried in Gwalior. Tansen's mausoleum lies close to the tomb of Saint Shaikh Mohammed Ghaus, under whose influence he was converted to Islam.