Saturday, July 14, 2007

Aurangzeb -- As he was according to Mughal Records -- Part VII -- Burial of Music

Sometime after February 1668, Aurangzeb issued orders that distinguished and well known musicians and gawwals who were in the service of the court should "desist from music" though to enable them to meet their wants, their mansabs, which determined their salaries were increased. General orders were also given for the prohibition of music and dancing. Khafi Khan (muntakhab-al Lubab p212-13)speaks about the above prohition of music of while describing Aurangzeb's measures for establishing the rules of the shariat and the orders and prohibitions of God.

It is true that in the first few years of his reign (1659 - 1707) Aurangzeb occasionally listened to the music of which he had a good understanding as the author of Maasir-i-Alamgiri writes but out of extreme abstinence, he (later on) totally gave up listening to music and granted daily stipends and land as "aid to living" to those chanters, singers and musicians who repented for their sinful art.

When asked by Mirza Mukarram Khan Safavi, who was an expert in music, about his views on music, Aurangzeb answered (in Arabic) "It is mubah, neither good nor bad.". The emperor said that he could not listen to music without flutes, especially pakhavaj "but that is unanimously prohibited (haram) so I have left off hearing of singing"

The above testimony of Maasir-i-Alamgiri lends credence to the account of the burial of music given by Kahfi Khan (p213). It is said that one day musicians collected together in a large crowd with great noise and tumult, prepared a bier with great dignity and carried it to the foot of the Jharokha Darshan wailing in front and behind the bier. When the matter was reported to Aurangazeb, he inquired about the funeral, the musicians said "Music (rag) is dead. We are going to bury it." "Bury it so deep under the earth" Aurangzeb remarked, "that no sound echo of it may rise again."

The artist has portrayed the above interesting scene, a telling satire of the musicians on the prohibition of their art by emperor Aurangzeb and which brings into focus the problem of following the seventh Century laws, regulations and opinions formulated in far off Arabia, in letter and spirit, irrespective of changes in times circumstances and cultural traditions which vary from country to country.

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