Difference Between Two Musicians
King Akbar kept nine distinguished men in his court; they were
referred to as 'the nine gems'. One of them was a musician named
Tansen. In his time, had no equal in the entire world. It is said
that by playing deepak raaga (i.e. the lamp song) he could put out all
lamps in the city of Agra, and by another variant of the song light
One evening after an inspiring performance Akbar asked Tansen if he
knew anyone anywhere who played better music. "Yes," said Tansen.
Akbar was surprised and wanted to know who he could be. Tansen
replied. " My guru Haridas, of course."
"Invite him to our court; we would like to hear his music." Tansen was
quiet for a long moment and then said, "But that is impossible. He
will not come. To hear him we will have to go to him." Akbar agreed.
So, one day, disguised as a peasant he accompanied Tansen to Guru
Haridas's humble hut outside a small village.
Tansen asked Akbar to sit under a tree while he went inside the hut.
The guru was taking a siesta. Tansen went quietly to the veena and
deliberately struck a wrong note. The guru opened his eyes and seeing
Tansen on the musical instrument shouted a strong complaint: "Tansen,
you fool, all your training has gone to waste."
Tansen folded his hands and fell at the guru's feet. "Guruji, I have
come to hear you sing so that Ma Saraswati will again smile on me."
Smiling, Guru Haridas said, 'You rascal,' and picked up the veena. As
he played, whole universe became still. Birds in the sky lost their
sense of direction and trees began to sway. Animals, insects, plants,
human beings, air and water listened with rapt attention. It was a
rare feast for all. Akbar was in a trance.
After the guru stopped playing, the spell he had caused lingered for a
bit and then all returned to normal again. Tansen returned to Akbar
and found him in rapture. When he came to, he said, "This is sublime
music. Why can't you sing like that? Will the time ever come when you
too can play like your guru?"
"No, I am afraid, sir, never."
"Why not Tansen? You are the world's best musician. What is the
difference between you and your guru?
"The difference, sir, is this. My guru sings to the master of the
universe and I to a mere Emperor."
May 20, 2006