Tansen was the greatest musician of our country. He was the only child of Mukandan Mishra, a singer who lived in Behat near Gwalior. As a naughty child Tansen often ran away to play in the forest and imitated perfectly the calls of birds and animals.
Swami Haridas, a famous singer was once travelling through the forest with his disciples. Tansen roared like a tiger and frightened the group of travellers. Swami Haridas did not punish Tansen, for his roaring, but convinced his father that Tansen can become a good singer. So Tansen left home at the age of ten and lived with Swamiji and learnt music for eleven years and thus he became a great singer.
At about this time his parents died. Mukandan Mishra’s dying wish was that Tansen should visit Mohammad Ghaus of Gwalior. While living in Gwalior with Mohammad Ghaus, Tansen was often taken to the court of Rani Mrignaini, who was a great musician herself. There he married Hussaini, who became a disciple of Swami Haridas. Tansen and Hussaini had five children who were all very musical.
By this time Tansen had become very famous. Impressed by Tansen Emperor Akbar insisted him to join his court. After joining Akbar’s court in 1556, Tansen soon became a great favourite of the Emperor. Akbar walked into Tansen’s house to hear him practice, called upon Tansen to sing at any time during the day or night and also gave him many presents.
Some of the courtiers became jealous of Tansen and wished to see him ruined. Shaukat Mian, a courtier plotted to get him killed. So he wanted Tansen to sing Raga Deepak which makes the air so hot that the singer is burnt to ashes.
Tansen could not disobey the Emperor, when he was ordered to sing Raga Deepak. But Tansen requested the Emperor to give him time to prepare himself. During this time, Tansen taught his daughter Saraswati and her friend Rupvati to sing Raga Megh, which will bring rain.
Tansen started singing Raga Deepak on the appointed day. The air became warm, the trees dried up, birds fell dead, flames shut up out of nowhere and lighted the lamps. Just then the two girls began to sing Raga Megh which brought the rain and Tansen was saved.
Tansen was very ill after this and so Akbar punished Tansen’s enemies. The entire city rejoiced when Tansen got well. Tansen remained Akbar’s court singer till 1585 when he died. He composed several new ragas. His tomb in Gwalior is a place of pilgrimage for musicians.