Tansen: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Miyan Tansen, an artists depiction
Background information
Birth name Ramtanu Pandey
Born c.1506
Died 1589
Genres Hindustani/Pakistani Classical Music
Occupations Classical Mughal Era Vocalist

Miyan Tansen or Ramtanu Pandey (1493 or 1506 – 1586 or 1589) is considered among the greatest composer-musicians in Hindustani/Pakistani classical music. He was an extraordinarily gifted vocalist, known for a large number of compositions, and also an instrumentalist who popularized and improved the rabab (of Central Asian origin).

He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar gave him the title Miyan (an honorific, meaning learned man).


Early life and background

Tansen as a historical personality is difficult to extract from the extensive legend that surrounds him. It is reasonably certain that he was born into a Hindu Brahmin family, possibly in 1506, though some legends give it as 1493[1]; possibly in the village Behat near Gwalior. His father Mukund Mishra was a poet and accomplished musician, who for some time was a temple priest in Varanasi. Tansen's name as a child was Ramtanu (he may have had other nicknames/names like Tanna and Mukul).

He was born at a time when a number of Persian and Central Asian motifs were fusing with Indian classical music, his influence was central to creating the Hindustani/Pakistani classical ethos as we know today. A number of descendants and disciples have also considerably enriched the tradition. Almost all gharanas of Hindustani/Pakistani classical music claim some connection with the Tansen lineage. Tansen later converted to Islam from Hinduism.[2][3]

According to legend, he was noted for his imitations of animal calls and birdsong.


At some point, he was discipled for some time to Swami Haridas, the legendary composer from Vrindavan and part of the stellar Gwalior court of Raja Mansingh Tomar (1486-1516 AD), specializing in the dhrupad style of singing. One legend has that Haridas was passing through the forests when the five-year old Ramtanu's imitation of a tiger impressed the musician saint. Another version is that his father sent him to Haridas. From Haridas, Tansen acquired not only his love for dhrupad but also his interest in compositions in the local language. This was the time when the Bhakti tradition was fomenting a shift from Sanskrit to the local idiom (Brajbhasa and Hindi), and Tansen's compositions also highlight this trend. At some point during his apprenticeship, Tansen's father died, and he returned home, where it is said he used to sing at a local Shiva temple.

In any event, Tansen went to Muhammad Ghaus who eventually became his spiritual mentor. He also married Husseini (lit. beautiful one),

"However, beyond a reference of Tansen's name in a list of his disciples Miyan Tansen's name is found among the names of the Mureeds (Fans) of the Shuttari Tariqat - a Sufi spiritual lineage founded by Shaykh Muhammad Ghaus of Gwalior."

The burial of Tansen in his shaykh's mausoleum is thought to indicate proof of his conversion to the faith of his spiritual guide. Usually, the most prominent disciples of a saint are buried near the master's mausoleum, not much historical detail is known about their actual encounter.

The interaction with Ghaus in the Sufi tradition and the earlier training with Swami Haridas in the Bhakti tradition led to a fusion of these streams in the work of Tansen. As it is, the mystic streams of Sufism and Bhakti had considerable philosophical and stylistic overlap; Ghaus in his text Bahr-ul-Hayat (Ocean of Life) devotes several chapters to Yoga practices. In Tansen's music, we find he continues to compose in Brajbhasha invoking traditional motifs such as Krishna or Shiva.

Tansen was also influenced by other singers in the Gwalior court and also the musically proficient queen, Mriganayani (lit. doe-eyed), whose romance with the king had been forged on her singing; she remained a friend even after the death of the king. Other musicians at Gwalior may have included Baiju Bawra.

Eventually, he joined the court of King Ramachandra Baghela of Rewa, India, where he remained from 1555-1562[4]. It appears that the Mughal emperor Akbar heard of his prowess and sent his emissary Jalaluddin Qurchi to Ramachandra, who had little choice but to acquiesce, and Tansen went to Akbar's court in 1562.

Another legend is that Akbar's daughter Meherunnissa was enamoured by Tansen and had a role in his coming to Akbar's court[1].

Akbar watching as Tansen receives a lesson from Swami Haridas. Imaginary situation depicted in Mughal miniature painting style (Rajasthani, c. 1750 AD).

Tansen joined Akbar's court eventually becoming one of the treasured Navaratnas (lit. nava=nine, ratna=jewel) of his court. It was Akbar who gave him the honorific title Miyan, and he is usually referred to today as Miyan Tansen. Legend has it that in his first performance, he was gifted one lakh (100,000) gold coins.

The presence of musicians like Tansen in Akbar's court has been related by historians to the theoretical position of making the empire's audible presence felt among the population, a mechanism related to Naubat or ritual performance[5].

Fatehpur Sikri audience chambers, with Anup Talao on the left

The fort at Fatehpur Sikri is strongly associated with Tansen's tenure at Akbar's court. Near the emperor's chambers, a pond was built with a small island in the middle, where musical performances were given. Today, this tank, called Anup Talao, can be seen near the public audience hall Diwan-i-Aam - a central platform reachable via four footbridges. It is said that Tansen would perform different ragas at different times of day, and the emperor and his select audience would honour him with coins.

Tansen's alleged residence is also nearby.


Tanras Khan, Bilas Khan, Hamirsen, Suratsen and Saraswati Devi, all musicians. Bilas Khan is said to have created raga Bilaskhani Todi after Tansen's death; an interesting legend of this improvisation (it differs only in detail from Tansen's Todi), has it that Bilas composed it while grief-stricken at the wake itself, and that Tansen's corpse moved one hand in approval of the new melody.

Tansen's blood descendants – the Senia gharana - held considerable prestige in musical circles for several centuries. The royal courts of Rewa, India, Rampur and Jaipur among others, retained many noted members of Tansen lineage, including Nayak Wazir Khan (guru of Allauddin Khan) and Mohammed Ali Khan. Wazir Khan, who is of Saraswati Devi lineage, was also a musicologist who wrote the Risala Mousibi. One of the last of the line, Dr Dabir Khan, (1905-1972, Saraswati Devi lineage) was a dhrupadiya and a beenkar, at Radio Calcutta.

Musical legacy

The legendary musical prowess of Tansen surpasses all other legends in Indian and Pakistani music. In terms of influence, he can be compared only to the prolific sufi composer Amir Khusro (1253-1325), or to bhakti tradition composers such as Kabir or Haridas. The sitar is said to have been invented by Amir Khusro (1253-1325), a devotee of the Chistiyya order, after the Persian ‘Setar’, from the saz group of musical instruments

Several of his raga compositions have become mainstays of the Hindustani/Ancient Pakistani tradition, and these are often prefaced with Miyan ki ("of the Miyan"), e.g. Miyan ki Todi, Miyan ki Malhar, Miyan ki Mand, Miyan ka Sarang; in addition he is the creator of major ragas like Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, and Rageshwari.

Tansen also authored Sangeeta Sara and Rajmala which constitute important documents on music.

Almost every gharana (school) tries to trace its origin to him, though some try to go further back to Amir Khusro[6]. As for the Dhrupad style of singing, this was formalized essentially through the practice by composers like Tansen and Haridas, as well as others like Baiju Bawra who may have been a contemporary.

After Tansen, some of the ideas from the rabab were fused with the traditional Indian stringed instrument, veena; one of the results of this fusion is the instrument sarod, which does not have frets and is popular today because of its perceived closeness to the vocal style.

The famous qawwals, the Sabri Brothers of Pakistan claim lineage from Miyan Tansen [7]



The bulk of Tansen's biography as it is handed down in the musical literature consists of legends[8].

Among the legends about Tansen are stories of his bringing down the rains with Raga Megh Malhar and starting fires with the legendary raga Deepak [9]. Other legends tell of his ability to bring wild animals to listen with attention (or to talk their language). Once, a wild white elephant was captured, but it was fierce and could not be tamed. Finally, Tansen sang to the elephant who calmed down and the emperor was able to ride him.

Many aficionados are convinced that his death was caused by a conflagration while he was singing the raga Deepak.

Tansen's tomb in Gwalior, near the tomb of his Sufi master Muhammad Ghaus


According to one version of the story, Tansen died on 26 April 1586, and that Akbar and much of his court attended the funeral procession[1]. Other versions give 1589 as the year of his death. Tansen was buried in the mausoleum complex of his Sufi guru Shaikh Muhammad Ghaus in Gwalior. According to legend, Tansen's son Bilas Khan, in his grief, composed Bilaskhani Todi.

Every year in December, an annual festival, the Tansen Samaroh, is held in Gwalior to celebrate Tansen[10].

Popular Culture

  Tansen's story was extensively researched and showcased in a Pakistani Televisions series in the late 80's where the classical singer's entire life was explored.


  1. ^ a b c Maryam Juzer Kherulla (12 October 2002). "Profile: Tansen — the mesmerizing maestro". Dawn (newspaper). http://dawn.com/weekly/yworld/archive/021012/yworld5.htm. Retrieved 2 October 2007.  
  2. ^ India Divided, By Rajendra Prasad, pg. 63
  3. ^ A History of Hindi Literature, By F. E. Keay, pg. 36
  4. ^ S K Banerjee (2003). "The classical music tradition of Rewa (M.P.) in the 19th and 20th century A.D". Journal of the ITC-SRA 17,.  
  5. ^ Wade, Bonnie C. (1998). Imaging Sound : An Ethnomusicological Study of Music, Art, and Culture in Mughal India. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-86840-0.  
  6. ^ The Dagar family of dhrupad singers believe themselves to be the direct descendants of not Tansen but his guru, Haridas Swami.
  7. ^ Template:Url=http://www.answers.com/topic/sabri-brothers
  8. ^ Ashok Davar (1987). Tansen - The Magical Musician. National Book Trust, India. http://www.4to40.com/story/index.asp?id=514.  This is well-written and well-illustrated children's book is a good source for the Tansen legend
  9. ^ Raga Megh Malhar is still in the mainstream repertoire, but raga Deepak is no longer known; three different variants exist in the Bilawal, Poorvi and Khamaj thaats. It is not clear which, if any, corresponds to the Deepak of Tansen's time. There is a popular myth that it disappeared because it could indeed bring fire, and so was simply too dangerous to sing.
  10. ^ "Strains of a raga ... in Gwalior". The Hindu. 11 January 2004. http://www.hindu.com/mag/2004/01/11/stories/2004011100040100.htm.   report on the annual Tansen Samaroh in Gwalior. Also has picture of his mausoleum

See also

I never heard "pakistani classical music", it's the first time. there are plenty of musicians who were muslims and contributed a lot to hindustani music but there is no need to use "hindustani/pakistani classical music just for the sake of it.

Tansen converted into Islam because he was about to marry Akbar's daughter.

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Tansen is a city in District in Western Nepal.


Tansen is an old western Newari city with an amazing history and some marvelous Nawari architecture. It lies about 30 kilometers north of Butwal and 120 kilometers from Pokhara. Approach roads are mostly good but winding. Altitude is higher than Kathmandu (4600 ft/1500 mtrs) so weather is lovely in hot monsoon season!

It is a wonderful "hill station" in development with great views of the Himals and very interesting Palpali culture and history.

Get in

By air

Via Kathmandu to Bhairahawa Airport, one of Nepal's busiest, takes 45 minutes, and costs about $200 for foreigners and $115 for nationals. Carriers include Buddha Air, Yeti Air, 160 NRs airport tax applies for all domestic flights. Change to bus/taxi/jeep to drive north about 2.5 hours to Tansen.

By bus

Via Dehli, Gorakpur, Sunauli, India/Belahiya, Nepal. 24 - 30 hours. Change to bus/taxi/jeep to drive north about 2.5 hours to Tansen.

Via Kathmandu, Narayangarh/Bharatpur (var. Narayanghat), Butwal, Tansen. 7 - 10 hours.

Via Pokhara, Palpa/Tanzan, (potholed, windy road, but beautiful views) 2-4 hours.

By train

Via Delhi - Gorakpur. Transfer to narrow gauge track to Nautanwa. Transfer to taxi/bus/rickshaw to Sunauli, India (about 5 kilometers). Cross border to Belahiya and Nepal's Immigration. Transfer to bus/taxi rickshaw for 3 kilometers to Bhairahawa. Change to bus/taxi/jeep to drive north about 2.5 hours to Tansen. Total time approximately 14 - 20 hours.

Via Kolkata, Patna, Gorakpur. Transfer to narrow gauge track to Nautanwa. Transfer to taxi/bus/rickshaw to Sunauli, India (approximately 5 kilometers). Cross border to Belahiya, and Nepal's Immigration. Change to bus/taxi/jeep to drive north about 2.5 hours to Tansen. Total time approximately 12 - 14 hours.

By car

Very good but windy roads up from Butwal and down Pokhara. It is accessible with good roads from the south (Butwal) and from the north (Pokhara).

Get around

There are no rickshaws or taxis in Tansen. But as it is a small town the best option is walking. The better hotels can arrange a vehicle or a motorcycle hire. You can rent a bicycle at some guest houses. Like most hill stations Tansen lies on the side of a hill so walking at times is invigorating


Amar Narayan Temple This temple is a traditional three-tiered pagoda-style temple built in 1806. It has well carved doors and has some intricate woodwork. It has erotic figures on the roof struts. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful temples outside of Kathmandu Valley. The temple was built by Amar Singh Thapa, who annexed Tansen to become part of Nepal.

Bhagwati Temple This temple, near the Tansen Durbar was originally built in 1815 to commemorate the victory over the British at Butwal. It was renovated in 1935 and 1974 after earthquakes. In the area there are small temples dedicated by Ganesh, Saraswati and Siva.

Tansen Durbar / Palace In the center of the town lies a 64 room Palace, a representation of arts and crafts of the ancient Palpa. Sadly, of the morning of the 31st of January 2006, Maoist's launched attacks in Tansen. They fought with local authorities and bombarded many ancient buildings including the Palace which had housed government offices. Many historical buildings including the Tansen palace was destroyed.


Srinagar Park Can be a bitr noisey/busy on Saturdays with Nepalese picnicing but still the jewel of Tanzen. With hiking trails weaving in and out of the forest on a clear day you can see the peaks of Machhapuchhare/Fishtail, the Annapurnas, Gauri Shankar and Daulagiri. Its also a small hike of about a kilometer from the bazaar, up hill.

Palpa Ranighat Visit the old ruins of a palace set on a massive rock bed at the bank of the Kali Gandaki river for viewing palace garden, stone walls, and a small shrine. This palace was built in 1892 by Governor Khadka Shamser in memory of his wife Tej Kumari, and is often called the Taj Mahal of Nepal. It is a 2 hour hike down from Srinagar Park. The path is well marked, the way/walking isnot difficult and of course has wonderful forest and village sceneries and chances for wildlife/bird viewing.

Bhairabsthan Or Kal Bhairab is an easy trek of 6 miles from Tansen, brings you to a beautiful spot, the Bhairabsthan temple. From here you can view Himalayas including Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Machhapuchhare and witness cultural attractions. The temple has a large Trishul (Trident), and it receives a large number of visitors on every Saturday and Tuesday. People sacrifice animals and offer grains, and fruits to please the Hindu God Bhairab, whose figure is believed to be kept hidden under the floor of the temple and the figure is identically to the Kal Bhairab status of Kathmandu, located at Durbar Square. Kal Bhairab is the Nepalese God of Destruction. Temples dedicated to him are located in many parts of Nepal.

Tanahu is a beautiful hill town, which is located only about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Tansen, liked by a road. It is a favroute nearby destination of Tansen town. Tanahu offers beautiful natural forests, farm lands and views of the mountains and valleys. One can enjoy here, the Rambha forest, Rimbha lekh and Kaaude and Hatti pond (Lekh or Tal in Nepali)


Palpali Brass Search the bazaar for good deals on famous Palpali brass wear such as kuruwas, diwas, and statuary still produced in in and around Tansen.

Dhaka Cloth the most popular hand woven cloth of Nepal comes from this region. The Nepali topi (national cap) is made of Dhaka and You can see the weavers at work on their looms or see a bazaar of Dhakas in Tansen.


Nanglo West, a branch of a Kathmandu-based Nanglo's and Bakery Cafes, has a pleasant indoor and outdoor seating area. It serves really good Nepali and Newar food, and decent Western food.

Doko Restaurant has Tibetan and Newari food.

Hotel Srinagar has a good restaurant.


Hotel Srinagar Also has dining facilities, and a conference hall with capacity for 100 people and 23 standard rooms. Kailashnagar, Tansen near the entrance to Srinagar Park. Phone : 977-75-20045 | 20595 Fax : 977-75-20590 E-mail : srinagar@mos.com.np Website : http://www.hotelsrinagar.com/

Siddhartha Gautam Hotel up the hill, has basic, quiet, 10 clean rooms for Rs 160. Bishalbazar, Tansen Phone: 977-75-520280

Bajra Hotel a little up the hill, has 14 clean rooms with common bath for Rs 100/150 and with attached bath and hot water for Rs 250/350. Campus Road, Tansen Phone: 977-75-520443

Milan Guest Gouse small family operated guest house. Common shower/toilet. Rs 150.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address