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The text above the painting identifies it as Gauri Ragini, a wife of Malkos Raga, and describes the dark complexion and beautiful face of the heroine. The text also gives the musical scale of the Ragini. Gauri Ragini is an evening melody of autumn. Its alternate names, Gaudi and Gaudika, suggest that it may have originated in Ganda (West Bengal). Representations of Gauri Ragini in the Rajasthani and, as shown here, Amber traditions typically portray a lady walking in the forest carrying two flower-wands and often accompanied by two peacocks.
This illustration of Gaud Ragini is from the earliest known Ragamala produced at Amber, the capital of the Amber/Jaipur court prior to the founding of Jaipur in 1727. Comparisons with two Amber Ragamalas attributed to about 17oo and with one dated 1709 (Ebeling 1973, pp. 185-87), point to a date of about 168o for this painting, a date first suggested for this series in Spink 1987. Characteristic of Amber/Jaipur painting are the distinctive vertical white swath where the diaphanous robe of the heroine is gathered in front, the personified sun in the sky, and the two Mughal-descended formalized flowering plants in the right middle ground of the painting.
Amber Ragamalas represent a distinct iconographical arrangement within the Rajasthani tradition. They combine the painters system and Hanuman's system with additional innovative variations in imagery (Ebeling 1973). Most Amber Ragamalas are inscribed, as is the present painting, with identifications and descriptive passages from a Hindi text by the poet Paida, which was based on the early seventeenth-century Sanskrit verses of Damodara Misra's Sangiladarpana (Ebeling 1973).
This painting is identified in its upper border as Dhanasri Ragini, leaf number 12 (of the Ragamala). The ragini is a soft and sensual midday melody associated with early winter. In the Rajasthani tradition she is generally regarded as the wife of Dipak Raga and is shown as a lady painting a portrait of her absent lover while attended by maidservants. Occasionally she paints another image, such as the flower here, or writes a couplet. Some representations of Dhanasri Ragini also have a smaller-scale ancillary scene with the beloved lord approaching on horseback.
This illustration of Dhanasri Ragini exemplifies the superb Ragamalas produced by the workshops active in the principality of Sirohi during the late seventeenth century. Brilliant reds and yellows predominate. Figures are animated, and the architecture is detailed and luxurious. The painting appears to be from a set that has been published as dating from about 168o, The treatment of the figures and architecture, the palette and color scheme, and rven the compositional motifs and handwriting style are all identical. The only design difference between this painting and the published Desvarari Ragini belonging to this set is the reversal of the directional order oldie foreground motifs and interior wall colors, a feature that is presumably indicative of the original left-or right-side album page location. Moreover, the set of about 168o is recorded as including a Dhanasri Ragini, number precisely what is inscribed on this painting. Another Sirohi Ragamala set is also known, but it is attributed to a decade later, about 1690, and is coarser in draftsmanship and expression than the earlier set and the present work.
Writer – Janice Leoshko