About the Book
Several Persian and Urdu manuscripts of the medieval period are very precious and provide valuable information and insights into various aspects of Indian musicology. Most of them contain translations and references to ancient Sanskrit texts which could not be preserved and are not available now for various reasons.
One such rare manuscript is Tashrih- ul-Moosiqui, written by Hakeem Mohammad Arzani during the seventeenth century. It is the Persian translation of Tansen’s work Budh Prakash. Like Man Kautuhal, of which only Persian translation Raag Darpan is available, probably Budh Prakash may also be available only in this form.
The present work is an English translation of Tashrih-ul-Moosiqui that consists of eight chapters containing description of Origin of Music, Types of Samaah, Attributes of Musicians, Svara, Classification and Time Theory of Ragas, Tala and Musical Instruments. The most significant and comprehensive part of the manuscript is the seventh chapter which is about Mishra Ragas where the author has used the word Miloni for a combination of ragas, in place of the well-known terms like Chhayalag, Sankeerna and Mishra Ragas, used by the other authors of the period. It elaborates the classification system of the wide range of well-known ragas mentioned in Budh Prakash that has some different nuances as compared to the description given in Persian works of later medieval period.
It is hoped that this work will bring to light the work of the great musician Tansen. In addition to the translation of the manuscript, the author has provided brief commentary and critique wherever required.
About the Author
Najma Perveen Ahmad, former Dean and Head of the Department of Music, University of Delhi, is a teacher, scholar and vocalist in Hindustani Classical Music belonging to Delhi Gharana. She has been deeply involved in research on Musicology, especially in the comparative study of the Persian, Urdu and Sanskrit manuscripts of the medieval period. More than 40 research scholars have been awarded Ph.D degree at the University of Delhi under her supervision. She has published several research based articles and books. Two of her books: Hindustani Music: A Study of its Development in 17th and 18th Centuries, and Research Methods in Indian Music, are widely acclaimed. She has presented papers in several national and international conferences and seminars in India and abroad. At present she is Emeritus Fellow of UGC at the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, University of Delhi.
During the medieval period of Indian history, Hindustani music went through a process of transformation, synergistically absorbing the Arab, Persian and Central Asian influences that led to several scintillating and novel developments. There was also an intermingling of ideas and techniques in several other aesthetic fields. However, in music the synthesis of such influences was so profound that it would not be possible to delineate the Indian and foreign elements.
Hindustani music that developed as a result of such interaction is essentially based on the rich Indian heritage, its deeply embedded traditions and their refinement through beautifully blending the external influences.
Music was patronized and thrived at the imperial courts and at the centres of provincial kingdoms during the Mughal period. As is well known, among all the emperors of Mughal dynasty, the reign of Akbar (AD 1556-1605) stands out as a golden era for the patronage and development of music and fine arts. Akbar’s period has been immortalized by a number of great musicians like Tansen.
Abul Fazl in Ain-e-Akbari testifies to the fond attention given by the emperor to music, and the patronage extended by him to the musicians. Akbar’s fondness for music IS vividly described by Abul Fazl:
His majesty pays much attention to music, and is the patron of all who practice this enchanting art. There are numerous musicians at the court-Hindus, Iranis, T uranis, Kashmiris, both men and women. The court musicians are arranged .in seven divisions-one for each day in the week. When His Majesty orders, they let the wind of harmony flow, and thus increase intoxication in some and sobriety in others.
During this period the well-known Ragas, such as Darbari Kanhra, Mian Ki Todi, Mian Malhar, and Mian Ki Sarang were innovated. These Ragas are attributed to Tansen, who was included among the nine gems of Akbar’s court.
Tansen’s birth is ascribed to the prayer and blessings of Sheikh Mohammad Ghaus. It is believed that when he was five years’ old, his father brought him to the Sheikh. Since then Tansen lived with him. According to I.A. Arshi (Hindustan Ke Chand Mashhoor Moosiqar’, Aaaj Kal, 1956):
“Tansen was deeply impressed by the compositions of Nayak Bakshoo and he decided to learn the art of music. After the death of Mohammad Ghaus he went to Daulat Khan, the son of Sher Shah.” Later he moved over to Raja Ramchandra Baghela of Rewa, where he was highly honoured. Tansen’s fame impressed Emperor Akbar so much that he persuaded the Raja to send him to his court. Tansen lived at Akbar’s court with great honour and respect. He died in the year AD 1580.
Emperor Akbar realized that the main reason for hostility between the Hindus and Muslims was their ignorance of each other’s religion and culture. Therefore, under his instructions, a large number of translations were undertaken of works on various subjects-both religious and secular. With the result that a considerable number of standard works on music, both in original and translations from Sanskrit were undertaken. Apart from educating the readers about the various aspects of music, the writers during this time were also motivated by the spirit to preserve the rich heritage of Indian Music as contained in the Sanskrit works, and to make it available to future generations of musicians and musicologists.
The earliest known Persian writings on Indian music are Ghunyat-ul-Munya (AD 1374) and Lahjat-e-Sikandar Shahi (Lodi period-AD 1414-1526). The only one copy of Ghunyat-ul-Munya, written in Gujarat in 1374-5, is known to exist in India Office Library in London. It was translated in English and published by Prof. Shahab Sarmadi in 2003. It is based on Sanskrit works, some of which are no longer available. Lahjat-e-Sikandar Shahi was written in the fifteenth century under the patronage of Khawas Khan and was dedicated to Sultan Sikandar Lodi. This work has been edited and published in its Persian form by Dr. Syeda Bilqis Fatema Husseini. Among the known manuscripts in Indian musicology a reference is often made about the works of Tansen. The three works which are generally attributed to him are-Sangeetsar, Raag Sagar and Raagmala.
Preface to the Manuscript Tashrih-ul-Moosiqui
In the preface to the manuscript the author has expressed gratitude and appreciation for the blessings of ‘Allah’ the God Almighty, Prophet Mohammad and all the ancestors who have inspired him to undertake this work. In his words:
The majesty of God Almighty is so great that no human I being can ever describe it in words. All admiration is for Allah who inspired the hearts and souls of the elder musicians to recite music by the grace of La- Daha- Dlallah (God is one and there is no god except Him). All salutations to the Prophet and his progeny, who was chosen by God to guide us to follow the virtuous path in life.
Following it, the author has quoted Arabic couplets in admiration of Allah, Prophet Mohammad and the elder musicians.
The author has mentioned his name as Mohammad Akbar urf Mohammad Arzani, son of Mohammad Hakeem. According to him the knowledge of the art of music is very complex and difficult to describe and explain. He states:
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