Updated: Jan 18, 2019
The Mughal ruler Akbar (1542 -1605), despite his illiteracy, valued great minds and individuals. He surrounded himself with artists, intellectuals and creative minds.
Of the numerous courtiers nine were valued above all else. Known as 'Nav Ratnas' (the nine gems).
1. Abul Fazl, the poet and chronicler
2. Faizi, the poet and religious scholar.
3. Raja Birbal, the brilliant and intelligent advisor, poet and court jester
4. Raja Todar Mal, Akbar’s finance minister
5. Raja Man Singh, the trusted general in Akbar's army
6. Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, a poet and astrologer
7. Fakir Aziao-Din, the mystic, and advisor to Akbar
8. Mullah Do Piaza, the intelligent advisor
9. Tan Sen, the musician, vocalist and poet
The emperor so loved to hear Tansen sing.
One day Akbar asked Tansen, "You are a magnificent singer, who is your teacher? Who could be this great person to instil such passion and sweetness to your voice? How great must be your teacher to have a student like you?"
I want to meet your teacher. Fetch him and bring him to me. I wish to meet your teacher" demanded Akbar.
Tansen said "My Guru ji (teacher) is Swami Haridas ji. He dwells deep in the forest and lives all by himself". He will not leave the forest, and he submits to none other than God, not even to you, your majesty"
Akbar grew angry "I will have him beheaded if he refuses to come before me"
Tansen replied "He is a man of God and he fears nothing not even death. None can force Swami ji to do anything, if your majesty wishes to see him then your Majesty will have to go to him"
Akbar was fascinated. He felt compelled to go and meet Swami Haridas, Tansen's teacher. Akbar ordered his royal retinue to make ready for the march to the forest.
Tansen hurriedly intervened. "Your majesty, if my Guru ji sees you coming with arrogance he will definitely not meet you." He continued "We must go alone and meet him early in the morning at the ambrosial time (about 4 am).
Akbar was curious beyond belief. He agreed to all of Tansens's suggestions.
Very early the following morning they left the palace for the forest. Leaving the guards at the forest edge they rode on alone. At some distance from a large clearing near the river, they dismounted walked for a while. Finally they arrived and crept up slowly behind some bushes from where they could spy and eavesdrop on a small cottage.
In a short while they heard the most fantastic and melodious hymns. The Swami ji had arisen and started bathing and recitation of his prayers. He sang hymns with such divine devotion that Akbar was captivated.
After an enthralling hour the hermit felt silent having begun his meditation. The couple reluctantly crept away and rode back home.
On his return the emperor summoned Tansen and said " You are marvellous, but tell me, when you are your Guru ji's student, why can your voice not evoke the same feeling within me?"
Tansen bowed his head and said " Your majesty, I sing for your pleasure. I seek rewards and gifts from you. My song and poems are corrupted by the need for your appreciation.” “My teacher seeks no gain. He is filled with emotion which he expresses in his singing for his own pleasure and the praise of God".
Tansen concluded “ His song is rich because it is true and a reflection of the overflowing love and joy he feels.”
The emperor understood and he felt humbled. He gifted Tansen handsomely for a valuable lesson.
The stream gurgles musically. The birds sing and chirp melodiously because they just are. The wind wafts and whistles through the forest without hesitation. They all do this without care of who will listen and who will appreciate them. They sing because it is their nature and they are happy. They are the way Creation has made them.
We human beings can also be happy if we choose to be.
However we often sacrifice our happiness by constantly seeking approval from others for our talent, our actions and even our thoughts.
If our actions do not harm others and make us happy we should pursue them.
Sing because we are happy, play because we want to, write stories, poetry and whatever we choose because that allows us to reach into the depths of our intellect and soul. To actually discover ourselves and to live.
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul…
At the start of the Christian new year, I send you greetings and wishes that, may you be able to pursue your heart's desire.