Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 10:52 PM
On the reverse of this painting are inscribed in the Takri and Devanagari scripts, respectively, Punyaki Ragini and Purvi Ragini. Analysis of the painting's iconography resolves the disparity and corroborates the former identification. Both inscriptions label it correctly as the wife of Bhairava Raga, number 4. Punyaki Ragini is a wife of Bhairava Raga according to the Kshemakarna system, in which the melody is compared to the .sound of rushing water. The term punya means the earning of religious merit through charity. Consequently, as Indian religious ceremonies often involve the pouring of consecrated water over a holy man's hands, representations of Punyaki Ragini frequently portray the ablution of a mendicant's hands by the lady of a house or palace.
This illustration of Punyaki Ragini differs in that the lady is shown giving alms in the form of coins to a Saiva mendicant rather than pouring water over his hands. Nevertheless, the underlying rationale is the same, as it is still a meritorious act that is being stressed in the painting. Indeed, other iconographic variations are known, including the offering to the mendicant of a piece of jewelry or even a sheaf of barley.
Ragamalas were a particularly popular subject in Bilaspur painting between 1650 and 1780, a period coinciding with the political and cultural zenith of the court. At least twenty-one Ragamala sets were produced by the workshops of Bilaspur. Out of these sets, two other representations of Punyaki Ragini are known to have survived: one from about 1690-95 and the other from about 1750. The three examples differ somewhat in composition and expression, with the example of about 1690-95 and the present painting being the closest in style. A number of Bilaspur stylistic features are common to these two paintings, including a long spiraling lock of hair in place of a sideburn for the mendicants, somewhat short figures, substantial depictions of brickwork, and a distinctive, sultry palette.
In the upper border are rather indistinct Takri and Devanagari inscriptions that both identify the painting as Harsha Ragaputra, a son of Bhairava Raga. Kshemakarna's classification likens the melody to the sound of running water and pictures the hero as an impetuous, fair-skinned adolescent wearing a blue garment and a pearl necklace. The name Harsha means rapture, especially that of a sexual nature. Pahari paintings of the melody apparently take their inspiration from the description of the personified hero and the lustful connotations of the name. They typically portray the young hero seated or standing with a woman, usually in a bedchamber. Often the couple are shown enjoying betel nut.
This representation of Harsha Ragaputra generally accords with the above iconographic description. A hero and heroine are seated in a pavilion bedchamber. He wears a long strand of pearls and rubies over his shoulder and a blue-striped purple garment, thus basically agreeing with his prescribed adornment and garb. In place of sharing betel-nut delicacies, however, the couple is shown gesticulating dramatically, and each figure inexplicably holds a handkerchief. Another unusual feature of this painting and the series to which it belongs, common to "only a few early Pahari ragamalas", is that within the set the colors of the borders and the backgrounds are coordinated for each raga's family. Hence, for this series of the Bhairava family the borders are yellow and within them the backgrounds are flaming orange.
This painting is from an important Basohli series known generally as the Tandan Ragamala after the name of the author who first published it. The set once belonged to the family of the former court astrologer of Basohli. With sixty-five extant folios, it is the most extensive of the early Pahari Ragamalas known to have survived. The paintings were executed during the reign of Dhiraj Pal, who was a scholar and patron of the arts. It has been dated to about 1700 by Tandan and to about 1707-15 by Khandalavala, either of which would place it in the middle of the four other known Basohli Ragamalas ranging in date from about 1675 to about 1720. Stylistically, the present painting exhibits a number of characteristic Basohli motifs and features. The most significant of these are the brilliant palette, the distinctive elongated facial types with sloped foreheads, the single tall cypress tree, the presence of small sections of iridescent beetle thorax casing used to imitate emeralds, and the distinctive bejeweled golden pendant worn by the hero, which is found only in Basohli portraits.
The Takri inscription in the border above this painting states it to be Madhu Ragaputra, a son of Bhairava Raga. According to Kshemakarna, whose verse 20 describes the personification of the melody, the protagonist is a handsome and knowledgeable man dressed in red garments. In contrast, however, most Pahari representations of the melody, including the present example, show a hero fondling his beloved's breasts. Alternatively, the couple are depicted as drinking, with or without-a female attendant.
This Chamba painting of about 1715 exhibits strong stylistic influence from contemporary Basohli works. Figural and facial types are similar, and coloration schemes of deep intense hues and monochromatic backgrounds are analogous. In contrast, in contemporary Chamba painting figures are generally somewhat less stylized, drapery and fauna conventions differ, the palette is generally more subdued, and small sections of beetle thorax casing arc never used for decoration as they are in the Basohli tradition. The Ragamala set of which this painting was once a part originally belonged to the Chamba royal family. It is now in the Bhuri Singh Museum of Chamba except for some twelve dispersed pages. At least three other Ragamala sets, all later than that of the present work, were also painted by the Chamba ateliers.
Writer Name:- Pratapaditya Pal