Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:51 AM
In the Indian musical context a Raga has been defined as a permutation and combination of notes or frequencies illustrated by melodic movements, which are capable of producing a pleasant sensation, mood, or an emotion in the mind of the listener."
According to ancient Indian texts there are basically six Ragas or combinations of notes. Each Raga has five Raginis or wives and eight Ragaputras or sons. The Ragas, considered male, are pentatonic in scale while the Raginis have a heptatonic scale and are considered female.
The six principal Ragas Bhairava, Dipaka, Sri, Malkaunsa, Megha and Hindola are meant to be sung during the six seasons of the year: summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter, winter and spring. Thus Raga Megha, as its name suggests, is a melody of clouds and rains and is meant to be sung during the monsoons. Its pictorial rendition may depict dark rain clouds or streaks of lightning while a joyous Krishna dallies with a bevy of maidens.
Apart from the seasons, the Ragas are also related to the different parts of the day. There are Ragas and Raginis that are suposed to be sung before dawn, after dawn, in the afternoon, at night and so on.
Ragamalas, literally meaning "garlands of Ragas," therefore, would be paintings which provide the viewer with a "mood of the particular season which he would have attained had he listened to a particular Raga."
It may be worthwhile to bring the reader's attention to the fact that though poets started to weave these musical movements into a series of verses a millennium ago, it was as recently as some 400 years ago, that painters established a successful depiction of musical themes and melodies through line, colour and form.
With the introduction of paper and a blossoming miniature painting tradition in many parts of India, the first 'consumers' of Ragamala paintings were the aristocracy Hindu and Muslim rulers and noblemen whose leisurely lifestyle these paintings managed to mirror.
When the Indian subcontinent was divided into small kingdoms or states, the artists of each kingdom evolved their own art styles in terms florin, figure, and use of colour and so on. Each such style was identified as a particular school of painting depending upon the place. of its origin. In the Hindu kingdoms, the revival of the Vaishnava expression of the Hindu view of life particularly the Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha cult saw artisans depicting various themes with Krishna as the central figure.
The earliest Ragamala paintings are from the Deccan. These were probably painted for Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur, an authority on painting and a great patron of the arts. Mughal painting flourished under Emperor Akbar and along with other styles, Ragamala subjects were also commissioned. Rajasthan and the Hill States of Punjab were home to a number of Ragamalas in a variety of styles. This was dependent on which part of the State the painter came from and his creative expression and interpretation of the particular theme.
In most Ragamala albums, Bhairava is the head of the first family of Ragas and is visualized as a form of Lord Shiva. Sung prior to dawn to evoke vitality, the Raga spells out the rhythmic image of Shiva in his Bhairava form. In contrast to the divine image of Lord Bhairava, Malkaunsa is represented as a human lord. Fair complexioned and aristocratic, his Raginis are considered to be dyed in the colour of love. As a Raga, Malkaunsa has unfathomable depth and is usually sung after midnight.
Raga Hindola is depicted, as its name suggests, by a swing. A prince, or Lord Krishna, with or
without his consort, is shown seated on the swing with several female companions in attendance. Often rain is shown in the background of the painting, signifying the change to a cooler season.
Raga Dipaka, meaning flame, is supposed to have started a palace fire when Tansen, the famous musician at the court of Emperor Akbar, was ordered to sing it. Painters, however, have had no problem illustrating this Raga. Each school of Indian miniature painting treats the obligatory flame a different way. It could be associated with Diwali, the festival of lights, or could be depicted as a lamp in the room of a pair of regal lovers.
Raga Sri, named after the Goddess Lakshini was originally associated with the fortunes of harvest. The Raga is visualised in numerous ways but the presence of a horse-headed kinnara la heavenly musician) is a feature exclusive to Sri. When it is missing, the iconography can easily be mistaken for that of Malkaunsa.
Ragamalas thus have a special significance of their own. They express an artist's finer feelings in one form of art based on an entirely different form, thereby widening the horizon of creative representation.
Writer – Arun Vaidhya