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Two Folios from a Ragamala Series

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:58 AM
Kedar Ragini
The presence of two paintings from the same series in the Green collection provides an opportunity for viewers to study the stylistic and compositional relationships between illustrations of different ragas/raginis within a given Ragamala set. The present comparison is especially instructive, for the careful observer will discern that the two paintings, although clearly from the same series, were in fact painted by two different artists. The major comparable features of the two include the visually dominant expanses of white architecture and the division of the paintings into four registers, composed of a row of niches with flowering plants and parrots along the bottom, the figures and palatial setting in the middle, the lines of trees in the penultimate register, and the lengthy poetic passages, written in the same hand, in the yellow panel at the top.

Closer scrutiny of the two paintings, however, reveals innumerable minute differences in detail. The treatment of the pink lotus petals covering the surface of the architectural domes differs considerably between the two: the dome of painting A has petals radiating outward in a lively arrangement, but those of painting a lie in stiff horizontal rows. The detailing in ink of the architecture, intended to represent carved marble forms, is much finer and more complex in painting A than in B. The vegetal and floral forms are related but differ in botanical structure and array, with those of painting A generally more boldly portrayed. Figures and animals are more supple and naturalistic in painting A. Given these variances in detail and execution, painting A seems more accomplished than B and, by extension, so was its painter. For other paintings from this series, see Pal 1978, pp. 114-15, no. 34 (Panchama Ragini); Pal 1981, p. 58, no. 47 (Kanhra Ragini); and Sotheby's 1996, lot 186 (Malkos Raga). An additional unpublished illustration of Mcgha-Mallar Raga from this series is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Desakhya RaginiA.)   This painting is identified and described by the text in its upper panel as representing Kedar Ragini, who is described as a love-torn, emaciated woman wearing earrings, smeared with ashes as an ascetic, and playing a vina. The ragini, a wife of Hindola Raga, is an early night melody characterized by tenderness and believed to possess magical healing properties. In the Rajasthani tradition Kedar Ragini is portrayed as a night scene with an ascetic either playing or holding a vina or listening to a musician playing the instrument. Surprisingly, the ascetic in this illustration is shown holding a tambura rather "than a vina, while both instruments are being played by two female musicians. In the sky above the trees an antelope pulls a celestial chariot bearing a crescent moon, a symbol of Siva, the arch-ascetic of Indian culture.

B.)  Here the text in the upper panel identities the heroine as Desakhya Ragini, a wife of Sri Raga, and describes her as a lovely woman wearing a sari in Marathi fashion and performing an acrobatic movement on the upright pillar. Desakhya Ragini is a late morning melody stressing the heroic sentiment. Depictions of the ragini in the Rajasthani tradition feature a group of acrobats performing feats of strength and coordination. Occasionally, as shown here, women athletes are shown in place of their male counterparts in order to reconcile the traditionally male quality of physical prowess with the feminine gender of the melody.

Writer Name:- Pratapaditya Pal

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