Growth of Indian Music under Muslim Rulers

The Muslims Sufis and rulers patronized Indian music wholeheartedly but the Sufis took interest in the early thirteenth century much before the Muslims rulers. Some Sufi orders established in India specially the Chistia and Suhrawardiya permitted listening to music (Sama).

The best singers and musicians of Multan, Oudh, Delhi and other places attended the Khanqah of the living Sufi’s or the mausoleums of deal Saints and sang Hindi devotional songs with music for blessings and for advancement in graced and virtue. The verses and poems they sang most of the time were Hindi but sometimes also in Persian. Hindi geet and doha and Persian ghazals were popular.

Khwaja Gesu Daraz of Gulbarga was specially a votary of Hindi songs. The rulers of the Khalji and Tughlaq dynasties also patronized Indian music. The contributions of other independent Muslims states of India in this respect such as the Bahmani Kingdom of the Deccan, the Nizam Shahi of Golconda, the Adil-Shahi of Bijapur are also substantial. Some of the rulers, princes and chiefs were not only patrons and connoisseurs of Indian Music but they composed and practiced it.

Some of the contributions of Amir Khusrau to Indian Music might be exaggerated but there is no doubt that they are substantial and original. He possessed a technical knowledge of the Persian maqamat and Indian classical music which was highly and fully developed at that time. He added a new dimension to Indian music by combining the Persian and Indian styles. By suitable combinations, he could invent seventeen talas (timing). Instead of pakhwaj he introduced the Dholak and in place of Veena he used a new instrument the Sitar which was originally composed of three strings only. By inventing an ingenious instrument like that Sitar, Khusrau has left to posterity an easy means of bringing the two schools (northern and southern) as near each other as possible.

With the combination of Persian and Indian styles, Amir Khusrau invented many new Rags. One of the Ragini’s invented by him was called Badi Bahar. Qawwali, similar to the Hindu Bhajan, was invented by him and it became very popular among the Sufi-Saints of India and it is so even to-day.

Tarana or ‘do bayti’ or ‘char bayti’ was also developed by him. In assessing briefly the contributions of Amir Khusrau, it has to be stated that he not only contributed substantially to the development of Indian music but also made it popular in the circles of the Sufis and the courts of the Muslim rulers of India.

Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627) of Bijapur patronized the musicians who assembled at his court from all parts of India, Iran, Turkestan and Byzantium. He was himself an expert in playing on three Indian instruments. But perhaps the greatest votary of Indian music after Amir Khusrau was the Sultan Hussain Sharqi of Jaunpur whose own contribution to Indian music is not insignificant. He is credited to have invented new ragas and raginis by combination and permutations of old ones. Two different kinds of Kanada and a new Rag by the combination of Hijaz and Yaman were invented by him. By combining Shyam Kalyan with different other Ragas, he composed ten different Rags such as, Bhopal Shyam, Gandhir Shyam, Purabi Shyam, Basant Shyam, etc. he composed fourteen different Ragas by combining Todi with other Rags and the Raga Shuddha Bhairawin was his invention. Moreover, he popularized Khayal in place of Dhrupad. His Khayal reached a high water-mark during the time of Mughal King Muhammad Shah in which the two musicians Shah Sada Rang and Shah Ada Rang much fame and popularity.

Among the Mughal rulers Babar and Humayun were patrons of Indian music but Akbar surpassed all of them. Akbar’s deep interest in Indian music is attested by Abul Fazl in the Ain-i-Akbari. Of the hundreds of Hindu, Muslim, Irani, Turanian and Kashmiri both men and women, singers and musicians who adorned his court, Tansen occupied the highest position.

There was another singer Ram Das at the Court of Akbar who was second only Tansen. Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana presented one million rupees to Ram Das as a mark of the appreciation of his art and talent.

Like Khusrau, Tansen also made valuable and original contributions to Indian music especially in Darbari Kanada and Dhrupad.

Abdul-Fazl gives a list of the singers, musicians and instrumentalists who had gathered at the court of Akbar at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri from all parts of India, of which the majority were Muslims.

The Iqbal Nama records the names of the court musicians of Jahangir.

Shahjahan was himself a good musician and singer and patronised many musicians. Shahjahan had given the title of Gun Samundar to Lal Khan. Ram Das and Mahaputra were the famous instrumentalists of the court of Shahjahan. Once this emperor had Jagan Nath and Lal Khan weighed in silver and it was presented to them.

Indian music suffered a temporary set-back under Auranazeb although Rag Darpan was written by Faqirullah Saif Khan in 1765-66 during his reign.

Among the later Mughal rulers, Muhammad Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar were votaries of Indian music. By this time, Indian music had grown much in excellence and after the fall of the Mughal Kingdom, it was patronised by the rulers of Oudh especially by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who was the inventor of Thumri, sung mainly by ladies.

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