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Tansen – The Magical Musician

Tansen – The Magical Musician

Almost exactly in the centre of India is a town called Gwalior. In this town is the tomb of Tansen, one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. Next to his beautifully carved stone tomb stands a little tamarind tree. It is believed that by eating a leaf of this tree and touching the tomb, a singer can improve his voice. If this sounds like magic, the story of Tansen is equally magical. Even today, many famous musicians follow the style of music created by Tansen known as the “Gwalior Gharana”....

The Emperor and Hawai Elephant

The Emperor and Hawai Elephant

It happened more than 400 years ago. Mughal emperor Akbar was very fond of taming elephants and riding them. Hawai was the most magnificent elephant in the royal stable. Despite his huge size, the male elephant was a swift runner. He was as quick in losing his temper. Even the best riders had problems getting on to him; the thought of making him take part in a fight was unthinkable. And that was a challenge Akbar simply could not refuse....

The King Who Tested Babies

The King Who Tested Babies

Children are always asking questions, like ‘Why is the sky blue’, or ‘Why do we have only one nose’. And sometimes they also open up things like clocks to understand how they work. Emperor Akbar was also like that — always wanting to know this or that. He continued to ask such questions even after becoming the emperor. Once he asked a very interesting question. How do babies learn to speak? Was it by listening to people talk?...

The Emperor who Won a Toy in a Fight

The Emperor who Won a Toy in a Fight

Akbar was three years old in 1545. He was then staying with his uncle Kamran. On a special day, there was a feast. And Kamran had bought a kettle drum for his son, Ibrahim Mirza. Akbar took a fancy to it and decided he must have it. Ibrahim Mirza, who was older than Akbar, was not in a mood to part with his toy. So he set a condition. He suggested a wrestling match. Whoever won would take the toy....

The Emperor and Chitranjan Cheetah

The Emperor and Chitranjan Cheetah

Mughal emperor Akbar loved hunting. Four hundred and twenty eight years ago, when he was passing through Rajasthan, he decided to go for a hunt. He used to keep cheetahs in his hunting party. Being very fast they were quick to catch their prey. But on that day he chose to hunt without the help of his cheetahs. He only took his attendants with him. Without meaning to do so the attendants freed a royal cheetah in the hunting area....

The Emperor who Rolled his Eyes

The Emperor who Rolled his Eyes

At the age of 18, Akbar had been emperor of the Mughal empire for four years. This was 440 years ago, in the year 1560. But the king still had many desires that any ordinary young man would have at his age. He loved cock-fights and he liked to play practical jokes. He also had a great curiosity to know about the lives of ordinary people. For that reason he would go to places where festivals were celebrated — not as emperor but as an ordinary man without any fanfare surrounding him....

We Would All Scream Without Ice Cream

We Would All Scream Without Ice Cream

Can you imagine a summer without ice creams? It seems the Chinese, too, couldn’t. For it was they who gave the world its first ice cream. In India, the Mughals are said to have introduced their kind of ice cream — the kulfi. The exact date of origin of the ice cream is not known. Kulfi is a mixture of khoa, pistachio nuts and saffron essence frozen in conical metal containers after sealing it with dough — exactly the same way as it is made today!...

The Only Time when the Emperor Smoked

The Only Time when the Emperor Smoked

It was the year 1604 — 392 years ago. An officer under Mughal emperor Akbar had just got back from the south. And this time the officer, Asad Beg Qazwini, had brought several presents for his king. There was one present that he knew would excite the emperor no end — a superbly made jewelled hookah or pipe, a golden burner for lighting the pipe, and a golden box filled with tobacco leaves. All this he kept on a silver tray and presented to Akbar....

The Emperor who Hated Schooling

The Emperor who Hated Schooling

Emperors too were children once. Even Mughal emperor Akbar, who has been given the title of Akbar the Great. He was more interested in bunking lessons rather than learn from his tutor. Being his own master from a young age, one day he decided that he did not want to study. He made the highest minister in his father Humayun’s court tell his teacher that it was to be an off day! Later in life, he went out of his way to tell people that he was illiterate....

When a Whacky King Turned Serious

When a Whacky King Turned Serious

As a young emperor, Akbar seems to have had a whacky sense of fun. Since he was very fond of cock fights, he once announced that anyone coming to see him must bring a fighting cock with him. One person who got a real taste of Akbar’s sense of humour was the governor of Punjab, Shamsudin Atka. He was on his way to meet the emperor when he received an order from Akbar that he should have his head shaved....

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