Tansen was waiting with his tampura in hand and as soon as the Emperor entered and sat on the throne, the great musician began alap --- the first portion of a raga. As he sang on, the surrounding air got warmer and warmer. The audience started perspiring. Leaves and flowers in the garden dried and fell to the ground. Water in the fountains began to boil. Birds flew away in fright. The unlit lamps on the walls lighted up mysteriously and flames appeared in the air. People fled the court in terror while the fire generated by the raga raged on, burning the curtains to cinder. As the emperor got up and stood listening with awe, the rose that he often held in his hand drooped and died.
Now Tansen's body was hot and feverish but, absorbed in Rag Deepak, he continued to sing vigorously. Such was the power of Rag Deepak, rightly named after `flame`… the raga that brought fire on rendition.
Music is truly magical, every tune, every tone, every note… all sending across the right vibes to soothe the nerves. It emerges as the most powerful medicine of all, as well as the best form of entertainment.
There once existed ragas that could do miracles like Rag Deepak. History has it that the flames of the raga were supposedly doused by yet another raga, Megh Malhar. As the name suggests, Megh Malhar gathered up the clouds and it rained! While up north it is known so, in South Indian style of classical music, it is known as Amrithavarshini.
This rare talent to do magic with ragas is called `nada siddhi’ in Sanskrit. “It’s almost lost… dead with the first generation of Tansen’s disciples,” says Radhe, an ardent patriarch of music, who also owns plenty of blogs and websites of classical music downloads. “It has lost its fervour but one cannot say that it is a lost art, for it does exist in various other forms, sung in different styles,” she concludes.
Ragas can be really mysterious. There are different ragas in Indian music and each raga creates a different mood. A raga can make you so happy that you may want to dance or it can make you so sad that it brings tears to your eyes. Besides performing in the court, Tansen is believed to have often sung alone for Emperor Akbar. At night he sang ragas that would soothe and help Akbar fall asleep and in the morning Tansen sang special ragas that would gently awaken the Emperor.
“Only traces of those melodies exist in the present world
of remixed and mirch-masala music.Carnatic music itself has very few followers these days,” complains S Padmavathy, a renowned musician from Chennai. Rakesh, a young singer, also feels the same. “Music is so powerful,” he says; “Unfortunately, only a few realise its potential.” Music can be such a good healer. “No intake of medicines, no side effects, no expenses… Just a leisurely day and a good old tape recorder. That’s what music therapy is all about,” says Ragini, who runs a music therapy centre. “There is a raga for every situation, every condition,” she says.
“Ragas really are therapeutic. Call them magical if you wish to, but they do have the powers to bring rain and fire. However, it is all in the singing that they manifest their true powers. All the musical exponents I’ve known believe that if properly sung, these ragas really do work wonders. The musician must really be extraordinarily brilliant and devoted to music for this to happen,” opines Archana, a singer.
The ragas are full of unexplored beauty, mystique and depth --- something utterly magical. Yet another powerful raga is Yaman. It is a veritable ocean - fathomless, horizonless, tranquil, full of dignity and repose. “What we musicians play is only the tip of its musical iceberg. Yaman is a raga for every mood, every ras, every situation. It is unmistakably the one raga that serves as a divine channel for communicating with God,” says Radhe.
Raga Darbari works its magic with the help of minutely flattened intervals recalling the harmonic ambience of the blues. It is a deeply moving, emotionally intense raga with enough detail and nuance to repay repeated listening. Raga Darbari is like, what we say, a dialect of the original raga of Tansen. Many such mystic ragas are ascribed to Tansen. Ragas like Mian ki Malhar, Mian ki Todi and Darbari Kanada are the most famous and are existent today too.
Says Rakesh, a finalist of the Superstar Global, a reality-cum-musical talent hunt: “I think there exists a world which truly is unknown for a normal human being here, on earth... some call it the spiritual presence or the omnipresent force. Music promotes positive energy to that force. This is not only done by the singer but also by the listeners.”
“I think it is this positive energy that is reflected as rain or fire. Nowadays, there are not enough aspirants to sing those ragas with 100 per cent efficiency and there are no spirited listeners who appreciate great music. All these account for the absence of miracles.”
“Like fables and folklore, these musical wonders have changed through time. No one knows the ancient real McCoy but it still goes down generations with personal touches and changes. No one can bring rain or create fire anymore… It happens only in stories of the great Tansen,”concludes Shravan, a music composer.