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The Orpheus of Delhi: The Maestro Khushhal Khan and the Mughal War of Succession, 1657-8

Authors: Schofield, Katherine;

The Orpheus of Delhi: The Maestro Khushhal Khan and the Mughal War of Succession, 1657-8

Abstract

The images that accompany this podcast may be found here: blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2…alamgirs-reign.html . What was the connection between the power of Indian music and the Mughal emperor’s sovereign power? And why is there a picture of Orpheus above the Mughal throne in Delhi? Perhaps the most famous anecdote of the reign of emperor Aurangzeb (r.1658–1707) concerns his “burial of music”, a parodic funeral procession put on by devastated court musicians in protest at the Emperor having banned music in 1668. In legend, the leader of this procession was Khushhal Khan “Gunasamudra” (fl. 1630s–70s), one of the most feted court musicians of his time. Great-grand-son of the most famous Mughal musician of them all, Tansen, and chief musician to the emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58), he was written about extensively in his lifetime as a virtuoso singer of exceptional merit and serious character. Yet this was not how he was memorialised a hundred years later in 1753, when nobleman Inayat Khan “Rasikh” put the legends of the great Mughal musicians of the past into a biographical collection for the first time. Rather, Khushhal was remembered as the protagonist in a shocking scandal that supernaturally sealed Shah Jahan’s fate:— to be overthrown by his son Aurangzeb in the Mughal War of Succession, 1657–8. In this podcast I retell this story from Khushhal Khan’s life from the vantage point of the 1750s looking back over the canonical Mughal writings on music of Shah Jahan’s and Aurangzeb’s reigns. And I reveal what all this tells us about the power and importance of music at the Mughal court, before everything began to unravel. 1. Panipat, 1753 – 0:00 2. The War of Succession, 1657-8 – 7:20 3. Khushhal Khan’s Story – 12:30 4. The Powers of Music – 26:02 5. Panipat, 1753 – 35:34 This podcast is part of the project Histories of the Ephemeral: Writing on Music in Late Mughal India, sponsored by the British Academy in association with the British Library; additional research was funded by the European Research Council. The Orpheus of Delhi was written by me, Katherine Butler Schofield (King's College London), and is based on my original research. It was produced by Chris Elcombe www.linkedin.com/in/chris-elcombe-523a60116/ and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC–BY-NC–ND)license. The recordings of Rag Bilaskhani Todi — the main form of Rag Todi in the time of Khushhal Khan, and legendarily created by his grandfather Bilas Khan — are courtesy of: Rakae Jamil on surbahar: Sanjannagar – Surbahar-rakae-edited . By permission. M V N Murthy on veena, Veena-Murthy-19-4-2011 recorded by xserra. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY 4.0: freesound.org/people/xserra/sounds/125655/ Pamulka Karunanayake on esraj: Pamalka-karunanayake – Raga-bilaskhani-todi-madhya-laya . By permission. Lothar Berger, Soumyojit Das & Sourendro Mullick, “Nachtgesang/Bilaskhani Todi”: Lothar-berger-music – Nachtgesang-bilaskhani-todi . By permission. Professor Ritwik Sanyal, dhrupad composition by Bilas Khan himself, recorded in Benares by Hans Wettstein in 1995: youtu.be/5l9hxmD5ul8 . By permission. With thanks to: the British Academy, the European Research Council, the British Library, Yale University Art Gallery, Ebba Koch, William Dalrymple and Bruce Wannell. For more episodes and information email katherine.schofield@kcl.ac.uk.

This podcast was funded by the British Academy. The research was funded by the European Research Council (MUSTECIO 263643) and the British Academy.

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Keywords

India, history, music, Mughals

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