Legendary Tansen could bring rain with music

Akbari Mosque Overlooking Ganges by Sita Ram
Akbari Mosque Overlooking Ganges by Sita Ram

The history of Indian classical music is enriched with numerous artists who were able to channel very specific moods set in time, from entire seasons to certain hours of the day. One such musician was the legendary Mian Tansen, who lived during Mughal Emperor Akbar's time in the 16th century. 

Tansen was working as a singer in the court of King Ram Chand of Rewa State. His musical skills were such that stories of his talent and greatness spread all over the region. Soon, the word reached Emperor Akbar himself who couldn’t help his curiosity and summoned Tansen in his court. 

Even though Tansen was a real figure, his life is associated with many legends. Some of the most common ones describe his ability to create rain and fire by using only his musical skills, while in others Tansen's talents include communicating with animals through his ragas.

In one such legend it is said that a fierce elephant was brought into the court of Akbar. No one could tame the animal and all hopes were pinned on Tansen. The emperor’s favorite singer not only calmed the elephant with his songs but also encouraged Akbar to ride on it, which according to the story, Akbar did.

This pleasing serene atmosphere can be found in many of Tansen's ragas, including Raga Alhaiya Bilawal which is mainly based on the Bilaval Thaat scale, the one identical to the Western major scale.

Listen to the Raga Alhaiya Bilawal performed by the great musician and teacher Allaudin Khan, the descendant of Tansen:

Being the greatest musician in India to this day, Tansen is credited with the creation of the classical music that dominates the north of the country. He was one of the first documented Indian musicians to have introduced new ragas and compositions, invented instruments and written books on music. In fact, every school of music that exists today in India tries to trace its origin back to him.

Share this story
you may also like
  • The History of Popular Music

    Discover stories from each decade. Listen to gems from the 1960s, 1970s, and more.
  • Early Music

    Read all about the formative music of the past centuries. Enjoy the regal yet easy sounds of the Baroque and Renaissance.
  • Indian Classical Music

    Dive into the South Asian philosophy through Indian classical music. Learn about musical traditions of the Hindustani and Carnatic culture.
  • The Epoch of Romanticism

    Get a taste of the most beloved and fruitful music period. See the personalities behind the major shift of the eras — from Classical to Romantic.