Fire and Rain

Heh indeedy. Since climate change is a myth in the bizarro world of political/religious conservatives, it makes sense that they’d ask for the intercession of mythical agents rather than recognize physical reality and, you know, actual evidence.

RENO, Nev. – Religious leaders and farmers in Nevada and Utah held special events to ask for divine intervention in delivering the West from drought.

The plea to above comes weeks after the federal government declared parts of 11 parched Western and Central states natural disaster areas.

Faith leaders prayed for snow and rain during a multifaith service Saturday in the Reno suburb of Sparks.


Rajan Zed, who organized the Nevada service, says it drew Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and other faith leaders.

Well, of course Hindus were included. After all, anyone with a modicum of acculturation in Indian tradition knows the legend of Tansen, the great musician at the court of Emperor Akbar:

A lot of Akbar’s courtiers where jealous of Tansen’s privileges. They schemed to set him up for failure. They spread the word that Tansen could make an oil lamp light up with his singing. The courtiers thought that if Tansen fails in doing this, obviously his music skills are just ordinary. But if he succeeds he could die singing the “Raag”, because it would produce so much heat, that his body would be burnt. Akbar obviously heard about this talent and asked Tansen to perform the feat, knowing well that some pranksters were up to mischief to harm Tansen. But, knowing Tansen as he did , the Emperor knew he would find a way out of the mess….and he did indeed!

Now Tansen was in a fix. Sure , he could do this feat. But what would happen then? He would surely burn and things around him may burn as well. The only antidote for this was for him to sing “Raag Megh Malhar” immediately after he sings “Raag Deepak”. “Raag Megh Malhar” would bring pouring rain and cool him and his surroundings. But surely he would be unable to sing this after snging “Raag Deepak”, as he would be very weak. He could not say ‘no ‘to the great emperor! No one else, he thought, could sing “Megh Malhar”.

His worries were evident to his daughter. She suggested that after he sang “Deepak Raag”, she would sing “Raag Megh Malhar”. “Raag Deepak” would light the lamps. She would sing “Raag Megh Malhar” which would bring rains and cool Tansen and extinguish the flames of the oil lamps around him. Tansen had taught tRaag Megh Malhar” to his daughter.and she was as wonderful and exponent as himself! This was Tansen’s best option. He would sing or die trying.

Day of performance arrived. The emperor’s assembly was adorned with countless oil lamps, which were waiting to light up. Tansen started singing “Raag Deepak ” . Soon the temperature of the terrace started rising. People could not believe the fact that temperatures were soaring. Things started melting. And lo! Suddenly the hall was lit with countless oil lamps..!!! But Tansen was sick with fever! He ran to an open area. He was hoping that his daughter’s singing would work. Back in th village Tansen’s daughter started singing “Raag Megh Malhar”. Soon clouds moved in over the village. Yes, it started raining!! Tansen lived!!

The point needs to be made, BTW, that the retelling of the Raga Dipak/Raga Megh legend above is drawn, not from some ancient source passed on from parent to child through generations of oral tradition, but from modern India’s favored method of cultural transmission, Amar Chitra Katha:

Their comic version of the Tansen legend is now officially the true past; no arguments.

Here’s a film version of the same story, from the 1943 Hindi movie, Tansen.

And a more contemporary musical retelling by singer-songwriter Vijaya Sundaram*:

* to whom I have the good fortune of being married.

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