There are many legends that never fade, whether they are pure history or fictionalised, as it often happens, by various people. One of my favourite such stories is that of Baiju Bawra. He was said to be extremely crazy about music, which is why his name was appended with ‘Bawra’ that means crazy.
According to most historical records, he lived in the Mughal period and was a compatriot of another great musical legend, Tansen. The legends in the books preserved in Gwalior where he belonged say that he could light oil lamps and/or make it rain by singing the relevant raags.
When I visited Fatehpur Sikri a few years back, the guide showed us the chamber where music sessions were held by Akbar and where the famed competition took place between Tansen and Baiju Bawra. It is said that it was Baiju who won the competition. When asked to select anything he wanted as his prize, he requested Akbar not to devalue music by having such competitions of showcasing one as superior to the other as his prize.
After showing us the entire area, the guide said people remembered Baiju not just for his talent but for his attitude in not wishing to show anyone as inferior to himself.
A Hindustani musician who taught me the popular song “Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj,” in the film that was made on him confirmed that the above was a fact (again as per what he had heard). He also told me that as per his knowledge, Baiju never wanted any power or to be in the court but wanted only to keep on improving his singing. He told me one more tidbit that I had not known earlier. He enlightened me that in that song, “Hari” refers to both the Lord Hari and also the guru of both Baiju and Tansen whose name happened to be Swami Hari Das.
I do not know how true all the above facts are but I do know that India itself is replete with such learnings through stories whether we call it history, mythology or in Indian terms, ‘Kathas’.
Since Baiju showed me what true passion is and also showed me how not to focus on one’s own personal ego, this ‘Katha’ that was and is still one of my favourites.