Tansen Samaroh: Remembering the Sangit Samrat

The recently concluded Tansen Samaroh was a big success with no place to stand on the penultimate evening when I witnessed a couple of classical music performances including a fusion by an international troupe comprising of Indian, Hungarian and American musicians. Music to ears as it may sound, there is need to develop these events into tourism products that can also attract tourists at a time when the calling is to create new and niche tourism products. Madhya Pradesh Tourism shows the way.

When it comes to developing tourism, few States in India look at their past the way MP is beginning to do. Indian cultural icons from bygone eras or events surrounding their legendary excellence have rarely been thought of as potential tourism products and attractions.

Whereas Europe, which is home to most of the world’s top tourist destinations like France, Spain, Italy among others, has attracted for years visitors in hordes for its cultural icons like Leonardo da Vincis, Van Gogs, Picassos and others. In India it’s still sometime for the states before they learn to package and present their past in an engrossing and interesting manner that it can be classified as attractive tourism product.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s initiative to promote MP’s annual 5-day Tansen Samaroh, a classical Indian musical feast organised in the backdrop of the historical city of Gwalior makes it an attractive musical and cultural event for travellers.

Hailed no less than the father of Indian classical music, Tansen was one of the Navratnas (Nine Jewels) of Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar. The Samaroh being organised in his name for about a century has only gained greater momentum in the recent years. It’s a homage to the great maestro from the contemporary classical musicians and also offers a reputed platform to perform. And importantly, it’s a place for the classical music lovers, tourists and locals to understand and relish the rich Indian classical music traditions.

Although little details are available on Tansen’s first encounter with Emperor Akbar, legend has it that Tansen was given one hundred thousand gold coins on his first performance in the court of Emepror Akbar. And in the aftermath, the fort of Fatehpur Sikri continued to reverberate with the sonorous rendition of the maestro for many-many years to come.

Legends abound about Tansen bringing down rains with Rag Megh-malhar or lighting lamps with Rag Deepak and even mesmerising wild animals to come to listen to his renditions with attention. It is said that once when a wild white elephant was captured Emperor Akbar wanted to ride him. However the elephant was fierce and could not be tamed. Finally, Tansen sang to the elephant who calmed down and the emperor was able to ride him.

The venue of Tansen Samaroh is one of Gwalior’s famous landmark and is a place that is very closely associated with the maestro. Tansen is buried next to his spiritual mentor sufi saint Shaikh Mohammad Ghaus, whose palatial tomb along with Tansen’s serves as the backdrop for the annual December musical.


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