Disguised Akbar with Tansen Visit Swami Haridas

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Disguised Akbar with Tansen Visit Swami Haridas
Circa A.D. 1760

Place of Origin: Kishangarh, Rajasthan
Materials: Paper
Dimensions: L: 25 W: 31 cm
Acc. No. 48.14/61

One of the finest examples of imaginative tales transformed into a piece of canvas, like a short story the painting represents the popular folk that Akbar with Tansen once secretly visited Swami Haridas, the Vaishnava singer and poet, at Vrindavana when ignorant saint was performing all alone to his own delight and for delighting his Lord. The miniature represents on the left a lean and thin saintly figure, clad in a white sheet around his groins, singing and playing enrapt on his lyre, Tansen seated in the centre and a royal figure, obviously Mughal emperor Akbar, on the right.

As the tradition has it, Akbar wanted that Sant Haridas, a divine singer and born poet, writing, composing and singing his songs in devotion to Lord Krishna, and the teacher of Tansen, one of the nine jewels at his court at Agra, came to Mughal court and performed for him. However, the great saint declined his invitation as saints had their place in divine feet, not in the king's court. However, the tradition that saw in Swami Haridas a saint's self respect saw in Akbar also a great lover of music. Deciding that he shall see Swami Haridas perform, he planned with Tansen a secret visit to his hermitage and listen to him sing and perform.

The artist has re-created his fiction most wisely. Though disguised, obviously as a common man, he has portrayed Akbar in attire suitable to his imperial status. With no attendant to carry his things he himself carries a bag-like purse for laying, if required, his gifts at the saint's feet. The artist's reverence for a human Akbar reflects in other things too. He has painted a large sun-flower canopy like hung over him and placed him in between two banana plants shaped like a pavilion housing the royal throne besides multiple rows of ferns replacing royal tapestry. Tansen's identity reveals in his humbler attire and his lyre that lies close-by. The painting as wisely represents Swami Haridas, a shaven head and bare lean and thin body almost skeleton-like, playing on his lyre so absorbed as not to notice even the Mughal emperor Akbar's arrival. The shrubs of white and yellow flowers on his sides are as much meaningful. Overall spirit of the hermitage, its mysticism, peace, serenity... has been admirably arrested in lines and colours.

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Disguised Akbar with Tansen Visit Swami Haridas