Eid at the tombs of Tansen and Mohammad Ghaus in Gwalior

I celebrated Eid at the twin tombs of Tansen and Mohammad Ghaus in Gwalior, and came back with so much more respect for these spectacular mystics and musicians from the 16th century. Gwalior as a city is full of beautiful heritage monuments, yet these tombs are unique in their own way and are the best examples of the flourishing Indo-Islamic form of architecture during that era. The two tombs have contrasting styles, yet they compliment each other perfectly and co-exist in harmony.

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaua

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Much simpler Tansen tomb

A little bit about Tansen

Most of us know Tansen as a musician in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar. He wasn't just one of the musicians but the most important one and was also a part of the legendary nav ratans (nine jewels) in Akbar's court. However, often we don't know much about his life before he joined Akbar's court. In fact he was already 60 years old when he moved from Gwalior to Delhi, and was already rather famous in North India.

Tansen was born in a Hindu family and his father was a famous musician and poet in Gwalior and Tansen also was musically inclined from early childhood. Tansen was trained under the legendary guru, Swami Haridas who was the musician in the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar. Maharaja also conferred the title of Tansen on the young man (his birth name was Ramtanu).

Tansen's music was also heavily influenced by his interactions with Mohammad Ghaus, a Sufi saint, poet and traveller. This was the time of Bhakti movement and when music broke through the shackles of Sanskrit and many compositions were made in local Brijbhasha and early Hindi. Tansen led this from the forefront.

Tansen's fame reached zenith at Akbar's court and was much loved by the king himself. Numerous court record from Akbar's era talk about Tansen and his legendary music, often miraculous in nature. He is most well known for two ragas - raag Deepak and raag megh malhar. When he sang raag Deepak, lamps used to light up and when he sand megh malhar, rains would follow.

Tombs of Mohammad Ghaus and Tansen

Conflicting reports exist about Tansen's death and last rites. Some accounts mention his last rites were conducted according to Muslim traditions while others mention that it was done as per Hindu traditions.

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Jali work inside the tomb


tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Large garden area in the complex

I attended the sound and light show at Gwalior fort and that talks about how Akbar invited all musicians of the country to be a part of Tansen's funeral procession. His remains were buried in the mausoleum complex next to Mohammad Ghaus' tomb in Gwalior.

Why does Muhammad Ghaus have a tomb here?
Well, the Muslim saint assisted Babur when he conquered the fort of the city in 1526, and was much beloved by numerous Mughal emperors. Hence the tomb here in Gwalior.

Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus 

The tomb is fairly large in size and has a square plan. The dome is large and a little flattened as compared to the other Islamic tombs that you see in the subcontinent. Back in the days it was completely covered by blue ceramic tiles, though today only a few remain.

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Tomb of Ghaus Mohammad

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Inside the tomb of Ghaus Mohammad

I loved the walls of the tombs the most - they are all made with exquisite jaalis, different on all the walls. The jaalis allowed light and air to enter and kept the tomb well ventilated. I walked through the tomb late in the afternoon and completely well in love with the patterns that these jaalis made on the floor and inner walls of the tomb - it's a view unlike any other! Simply stunning...

"It has hexagonal domed kiosks at its corners together with sloping eaves that project from exterior, features both taken from the Hindu architectural tradition."Reference.

Tomb of Tansen

As compared to the tomb of Ghaus, Tansen's tomb is really small and it's easy to miss unless you actually look for it. I asked a few people in the complex about it and they pointed to a general direction, which didn't help much. The only reason I could identify the tomb was because of a small stone carving just outside.

tomb tansen mohammad ghaus gwalior photo
Old man taking a walk

Perhaps Tansen was a simple man and his tomb is meant to live up to his ways of living. I actually found it more peaceful and welcoming and I could simply sit next to his grave and imagine what life was like back then. Of course, it was simply my own imagination, influenced, of course by the early Bollywood movies on his life. In fact I think it's time to revisit some of those to appreciate Tansen's work even more.

There is a tradition of tying a thread at tombs of Muslim saints when you make a wish. When the wish gets fulfilled you need to come again to offer your gratitude and untie the thread - it need not be the same thread, but can be any thread. Curiously I didn't see fabric threads at Tansen's tomb but plastic ties. Wonder why that was...

Practical details:

Entry fee: Free
Timing: Sunrise to sunset
Toilets: Yes, right before the entrance
Address: Tansen Tomb, Tansen Nagar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh - 474002


To reach the tombs:

The best way to reach the tombs would be in an auto-rickshaw. Gwalior also has Ola cab service, so it's pretty easy to take those as well. If you have a full-day cab or driving on your own, parking is much easier at the back gate especially on the busy days.

Here's a map for reference:

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  2. Really its true about Tansen he was not only a poet but navratna nine jewels of Emperor Akbar's court. Amazing articulate to know about Tansen and his gurus Mohammad ghaus and Haridas. I will come here again and again.

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  3. I must admit that prior to reading this post I had never heard of these men. However, now that you've enlightened me (and many other readers, I believe) about them, plus the beautiful jaali work inside one of the tombs, this tomb compound seems very interesting. Maybe one day when I happen to be traveling around that part of India.

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  4. Tombs are beautiful......toms were made by mughal all over the india....

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  5. that really is a great trip, I will plan for a day to set foot on this discovery
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  6. Your photos are something else! Love the jali work on the walls. Thank you for taking me there through this post.

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  10. Lovely article and beautiful pictures. Such incredible stories and places to explore out there.

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