Tana and Riri, Tansen and Akbar

Tansen was one of the Nine Ratna’s (9 Gems or extraordinarily talented) of Moghul King Akbar the great. He was a great musician with complete his mastery over Indian classical music. He is said to have created fire by singing the Raag Deepak (Lamp). His body was filled with heat and burning and he was in great pain due to the heat generated. He tried so many cures but there was no respite from this burning and suffering. Akbar distressed, suggested that the maestro go back to his home at Gwalior for some time and recuperate there. He went to his home but his suffering was unabated. He embarked on a journey in search of the cure. Roaming the country, he reached a place called Vadnagar in Gujarat.

In the Vadnagar, lived two Brahmin “Nagar” sisters who were great singers and did everything singing and making music. You can say that music was their way of life. Like “Gurudev” Rabindranath, about whom it is said that poetry flowed in every deed he did. Tansen happened to saw them coming to fill pitchers with water from a village tank. After they filled the pitchers and started towards their home, he confronted them and told about his ailment and requested them to cure him. Due to the restrictions of the customs, the girls did not sing in front of anyone. But they took mercy on Tansen and agreed but under the condition that he will not divulge this to anybody.

He promised, and they sang Raag “Malhaar” which is related to the rains. There were cool showers of water raining only on the body of Tansen from nowhere and all his heat was soaked by the showers and taken away from his body and cured him. Tansen went back to Akbar’s court. Akbar was surprised and very happy. Naturally, his curiosity was aroused and he demanded about how (Tansen) got cured. Though Tansen remembered his promise to girls, who can face the wrath of emperor. He told the emperor the whole story. Akbar wanted that he should go and bring the girls to court. Girls refused as they said due to custom they could sing only in front of Devi (goddess) temple. But they feared retribution in case of refusal, they ended their lives by drowning in a well. When the news reached Akbar the Great he was greatly distressed and ordered Tansen to compose a Raaga in girls’ honor. Tansen created the Raaga called “Tana Riri” after their name.

A movie bearing the name Tanariri in Gujarati was made in 1975. It starred Sohrab Modi, Kanan Kaushal, Bindu, Naresh Kumar, Arvind Pandya, Urmila Bhatt, Rajiv. The songs were sung by Mahendra Kapoor, Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey, Usha Mangeshkar, Sulochna Vyas, Kamal Barot, Manhar, Hansa Dave, Maheshkumar, Laxmiprasad & Govindprasad. Lyrics were written by Kanti-Ashok and music was provided by Mahesh-Naresh.

Ranjit Singh

I am working as a scientist in the India's premium E&P oil company. Besides the commitment to my job, I read lot of literature especially good fiction, history and science. I belong to Chandigarh and did my Masters in Chemistry from Panjab University Chandigarh specializing in physical chemistry. I am fond of surfing the internet for good articles, social networking and giving vent to writing for which I have aptly chosen the blog in Wordpress. Thanks

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4 Responses

  1. Jai says:

    Basically I belong to Uttarakhand, old nanny’s stories are famous every where, A similar story was heard like—
    A couple at rural village was kept on quarelling and husband used to beat his wife badly whenever she commited a mistake. They had a son aged around 12yrs old. Once the wife became frustrated and she cooked dog’s meat for her husband and the boy saw it. When the husband returned home and started quarelling, the wife served the dogs meat. The boy was now in dielema that what to do if he tells the mother will be butchered if doesen’t then the father eats dog’s meat.

  2. Ranjit Singh says:

    Thanks for taking interest and telling this interesting story. In India story telling and oral tradition of passing the knowledge was very strong and there are stories with same thread of thoughts with minor variations. thanks

  3. advait says:

    There is an old gujarati movie based on Tana-riri. The music was really good in that movie.

  4. Neeta kacha says:

    “Guru chrno ni hu rajkan chhu” this is a superb guj song of this film.
    I want to see & hear the another song of “Tana-Riri” guj film song .A film ma malhar Raag uper adharit 1 song chhe j Tansen ni Agg ne bujavava Tana-Riri sisters gayu hatu.

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