The Song of Songs – Swapna Dutta

Akbar was the Mughal Emperor of a large area of India, including today’s Pakistan. He was one of the noblest of kings. Being a noble king, he was down to the earth, he loved music and art and he honored sages and artists. One day he heard from his favorite singer Tansen that there was a better singer in the kingdom and that was his Guru Sant Haridas. Story summary, questions and answers.

Questions & Answers
  1. What makes us like Tansen for qualities beyond his qualities as a singer?
    Tansen was one of the greatest of singers India ever had. Apart from his musical talents, what attracts the reader to him is his humble attitude. When he was asked
  2. Why was Tansen half scared?
    Tansen was half scared beause it was very difficult to refuse an emperor’s order. However, he was half scared because he knew that Akbar would not react badly.
  3. How did Akbar feel Sant Haridas’ singing?
    Listening to Sant Haridas sing, Akbar realized that he had not known that music could be so heavenly.
  4. How does Tansen explain the difference between the two singers – himself and his guru, Sant Haridas?
    According to Tansen, while he sang at the command of the Emperor of Hindustan, Akbar, Sant Haridas sang for the one who is the King of kings, that is God.
  5. How do you know that Akbar liked Sant Haridas’ singing more than Tansen’s?
RTC – Reference to Context
  1. Slowly, gently, the exhausted musician laid his tanpura on the carpet. The exquisite strains of raag darbari still vibrated within the hall. Emperor Akbar looked up, his eyes lit with admiration. “Wonderful!” he said. “Superb! I listen to you every day, but I can’t seem to have enough!”
    1. Who is the exhausted musician? Why was he exhausted?
    2. What is raag darbaari?
    3. What line suggests that Akbar had greatly admired Tansen’s song?
  2. Tansen bowed in silent gratitude. “I think you have the most wonderful voice in the world!” said Akbar.
    “But I don’t, Shahenshah!” said Tansen with a smile. “There is someone who sings far better than I do.”

    1. What made Tansen feel grateful (gratitude) to Akbar?
    2. Who is being addressed Shahenshah?
    3. Whom is Tansen referring to as the one who sang far better than he did?
  3. “Really?” cried the disbelieving Akbar. “Then I must have him sing in my court. Can you arrange it?” Tansen shook his head. “I’m afraid he will not come, Sire.”
    1. Why was Tansen doubtful about arranging to have Sant Haridas sing in front of Akbar?
  4. “What! Not even if he hears that the emperor himself summoned him?” “No, not even then.” This reply would have enraged any other emperor. But Akbar was different. “Very well, Ustadji,” said Akbar, smiling into Tansen’s half-scared eyes. “If he doesn’t come, I shall go to him myself. Will you take me to him?”
    1. How was Akbar different from other emperors?
    2. Why was Tansen scared?
    3. Write any three character traits of Akbar.
  5. How did Akbar visit Sant Haridas?
    Akbar visited Sant Haridas as a humble lover of music.
  6. Who was Sant Haridas?
    Sant Haridas was Tansen’s music teacher. He lived the austere life of a hermit.
  7. Why was Sant Haridas not willing to sing?
    Sant Haridas never sang to please human beings. He sang only to please God. Besides, he was aged, long past the age for singing.
  8. But Tansen knew how to get round him. How did he get around him?
    Tansen had to trick Sant Haridas into singing. He offered to sing before his guru but made a deliberate mistake. Quite shocked to hear Tansen singing on a wrong note, Sant Haridas took the tanpura and began singing.
  9. The melody of his voice spread across the forest, like the first glimmer of dawn or the fragrance of jasmine. Both Akbar and Tansen listened to him as if they were hypnotized, and the emperor realized that Tansen had spoken the truth. He had not known that music could be like this! He had certainly never heard anything like it before.
    1. Whom did Tansen and Akbar listen to? What did they listen to?
    2. From the expression, ‘as if hypnotized,’ what do understand about the skill of the person in question?
  10. As they walked back, the emperor suddenly broke the silence to ask Tansen, “Why can’t you sing like him, Ustadji?”
  11. Tansen smiled. “Shahenshah, I sing at your command – the command of the emperor of Hindustan. But Guruji sings for one who is king of kings! His music springs from the depths of his soul, free and unasked for. How can my music hope to reach those heights?”

What do you think?

LCM – Least Common Multiple

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