Meet Khushhal Khan, great-grandson of the famous Mughal musician Tansen, and discover the part played by music in the Mughal court
Perhaps the most famous anecdote of the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r.1658–1707) concerns his 'burial of music', a parodic funeral procession by devastated court musicians in protest at the Emperor having banned music in 1668. In legend, the leader of this procession was Khushhal Khan, who was 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 classical singer of exceptional merit and serious character.
Yet this was not how he was memorialised a century later. Rather he was remembered as the unprincipled protagonist in a shocking scandal that supernaturally sealed Shah Jahan’s fate, to be overthrown by his son Aurangzeb. The talk retells the story of Khushhal Khan from the vantage point of the 1750s using canonical Mughal writings on music of Shah Jahan’s and Aurangzeb’s reigns.
This talk is free and you don't need to book a ticket.Katherine Butler Schofield is Senior Lecturer in Music at King’s College London. She is currently a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.
Image: Opening pages of Sahasras, the 1000 dhrupad songs of Nayak Bakhshu (British Library, IO Islamic 1116)