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Introduction to Todi Ragini

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:42 PM

Todi RaginiTodi Ragini

An inscription on the reverse of this painting confirms it to represent Todi Ragini, the wife of Hindola, and describes the heroine's beauty and her attraction for deer (see Appendix). Todi Ragini is a late morning melody char-acterized by a mood of gentle adoration. Tradition holds that it was originally a song sung by young girls to lure deer and keep them from foraging in the village fields. Illustrations of Todi Ragini created in the Rajasthani tradition, which is followed in Malwa Ragamalas, typically depict a young woman in a forest carrying or playing a vina with an attentive audience of deer and/or antelopes.

This illustration of Todi Ragini accords with the Rajasthani tradition except for one important detail. Just as the heroine in the Bundi Asavari Ragini (no. 32B) was recast as the goddess Savari, so too in this painting has the ragini been deified. In this case the goddess may be Gauri, a popular form of Siva's wife, Parvati, in her gracious aspect as a corn goddess. This identification is suggested by the long floral garland she wears and the gesture of benevolence she displays with her left hand, two iconographic features associated with the goddess and unknown in most standard representations of the ragini, in which she is shown without the garland and handing a floral or pearl necklace to a deer instead of gesticulating. Her blue skin implies a tribal heritage for this ragini. 
Ragini Todi

Stylistically this painting differs considerably from the Malwa folio depicting Hindola Raga from the seventeenth century (no. 33). The abstract shapes and flat plane of the earlier example have given way to a more representational and more three-dimensional treatment of the landscape. Forms recede into the background and the flora- and fauna-filled composition is much more complex. Figures are depicted in a more accomplished and naturalistic manlier. The primal intensity of the earlier Malwa work has dissipated, leaving the eighteenth-century painting visually much closer to its Rajasthani peers.

Writer - Pratapaditya Pal
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