The contribution of Mughals in the field of Music
The Mughals were patrons of music. According to Lane-Poole, "the art of improving quatrain on the spot, quoting Persian classics, writing a good hand and singing a good song were appreciated in the time of Babur who himself was fond of music. He not only liked music but himself wrote poetry.
Humayun was also fond of musicians and singers and had fixed Mondays and Wednesdays for that purpose. It is stated that when Humayun captured Mandu in 1535 and ordered a wholesale massacre of all the prisoners, he came to know that Bachchu, a musician, was among the captives.
Not only his life was saved, he was also made a musician of the court. As regards the members of the Sur dynasty, Badauni says that they "were enticed from the path of fortitude and self- restraint by all sorts of sense-ravishing allurements." Adil Shah was so great a patron of music that he gave Bhagat, a musician boy, Mansab of 10,000.
Akbar was also a great lover of music. According to Abul Fazal. "His Majesty pays much attention to music and is the patron of all who practise this enchanting art. There are numerous musicians at the court, Hindus, Iranis, Turanis, kashmiris, both men and women.
The court musicians are arranged in seven divisions, one for each day of the week." Abul Fazal gives us a list of 36 singers and performers on various instruments. The name of Baz Bahadur, the ex-king of Malwa, is one of them. It is stated that he was appointed a Mansabdar of 1,000 and he is described as a singer without rival.
According to Abul Fazal. "Akbar was the master of such knowledge of the science of music as trained musicians do not possess; and he had likewise an excellent hand at performing especially on the Sakarah (kettle-drum)." "Akbar made a special study of Hindi Vocalization under Lai Kalawant or Miyan Lai who taught him every breathing and sign that appertains to the Hindi Language." The Ain-i-Akbari contains details of the daily routine of performances by the palace band.
Mian Tansen was the best singer of Akbar's time. His original name was Raman Pande. He was born in 1506. His father's name was Makaranda Pande, a resident of Gwalior. His talent in music became manifest when he was a mere boy. The natural gift of the boy was developed by the famous musicians of the time, Swami Haridas of Brindavan. It is said that when the Swami was passing along a field, He heard a strange musical voice; it was the voice of young Raman who was imitating the cries of various animals, particularly tigers, to scare away trespassers.
Haridas took Ramtanu to Brindavan and gave him a sound training in the finer points of music. On return to his village, Ramtanu continued to work hard and eventually emerged as a seasoned musician. Much of his time was now spent in singing devotional songs, composing and teaching. He gradually came to the notice of Raja Ram Chand who made him one of his court singers. The Raja was so overwhelmed by the music of Ramtanu that he once made a present of one crore of Tankas in appreciation of his performances.
When his fame reached Akbar, he sent Jalalud-din-Qurchi to bring Ramtanu to his court at Agra. This was in 1563. Raja Ram Chand was reluctant to lose his favourite, but could do nothing to resist Akbar's demand. Akbar was so moved on hearing Ramtanu that he presented him with 2 lakhs of rupees and conferred on him the title of Tansen.
He was so much honoured and encouraged by the Mughal Emperor that most of Tansen's later compositions are in praise of Akbar in whom he sought inspiration for the final bloom of his talents. Abul Fazal says of Miyan Tansen, "A singer like him has not been known in India for the last thousand years. He was by far the best of the group of musicians of the imperial court of whom at least 36 are enumerated in history.
Numerous musicians were attached to Akbar's court-Hindus, Iranis, Turanis, Kashmiris, both men and women. They formed 7 groups, one for each day of the week." Tansen was the greatest luminary on the horizon of classical music of Northern India, the renowned discoverer of several Ragas and a few instruments. He is credited with the discovery of the Rudra Vina and is said to be the innovator of two famous Ragas, Miyan-ki-Tod and Darbari Kanada-probably after his own name and the name of the imperial court which he had the privilege to serve.
Tansen died at the age of 83 in 1589, full of years and honours. His body was taken to Gwalior and buried near the sacred mausoleum of bis benefactor and spiritual guru, Mohammad Ghaus. The other famous musicians were Baba Ram Da, Baiju Bawara and Sur Das. Babu Ram Das was second only to Tansen. A reward of one lakh of Tankas was given to him by Bairam Khan. In the time of Akbar, the different systems of music were fused together and a New Indian Music came into being.
Like his father, Jahangir had an ear for music. He kept in his court a large number of musicians. According to William Finch, "Many hundred of musicians and dancing girls attended there day and night, yet as their several turns-every seventh day, that they may be ready when the King or his women shall please to call any of them to sing or dance in his Mahal, he was giving to every one of them stipend according to their worth." Jahangir was himself the author of many Hindi songs which were very interesting. Mohammad Salih and his brothers were great singers of Hindi songs. Jagannath and Janardhan Bhatt of Bikaner were great musicians.
Shah Jahan was also a lower of music. In the evenings, he used to hear the best of the songs of the musicians. Vocal and instrumental music was given every day in the Diwan-i-Khas. On occasions, Shah Jahan himself took part in music. According to J.N. Sarkar, "the voice of Shah Jahan was so attractive that "many pure-souled Sufis and holy men with hearts withdrawn from the world who attended these evening assemblies lost their senses in the ecstasy produced by his singing." Shah Jahan patronised musicians. Ram Das and Maha Patra were chief vocalists at the court of Shah Jahan. On one occasion, Shah Jahan was so much pleased with the music of Jagannath that he had him weighed against gold and gave him the amount as his fee."
It is pointed out that during the first ten years of his reign, Aurangzeb was fond of music. He maintained a large number of singers at his court. According to Saqi Mustad Khan, "Sweet voiced singers and charming players on musical instruments were gathered in numbers around his throne, and in the first few years of his reign he occasionally listened to their music." However, as Aurangzeb began to grow, he became an opponent of music and no wonder turned out the court musicians.
Of course, the people were allowed to sing privately. As the court musicians were hit by the orders of the Emperor, they organised a funeral procession on a Friday when Aurangzeb was to go to the mosque for prayers. When Aurangzeb heard of their weeping, he enquired of the reason.
He was informed that as the orders of the Emperor had killed music; they were taking her to the grave. The reply of Aurangzeb was that "they should pray for the soul of music and see that she was thoroughly buried." However, in spite of the orders of the Emperor, music continued to flourish as the members of the royal family, the nobility and the courtiers were no prepared to go without it.
It is worthy of notice that, with the Hindus, music was pre-eminently a religious art and devotion to it either professionally or otherwise did not involve social degradation. As a matter of fact, even today many great masters of music in South India are Brahmans of the highest social position. However, although music was patronised in Muslim Courts, it became a degraded profession as the main body of the performers were dancing girls of bad repute.
Their position was similar to that of the actors and actresses in Europe at that time. The result was that music was not popular with the educated middle classes who looked upon it as one of the luxuries of the nobles. Education in music was discouraged among the ordinary people. The result was that a distinction arose between the music of the schools and Ustads and Folk Music of the people.