A lady awaiting her lover in a grove, illustrating the musical mode Kamodani Ragini

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    During the 17th and 18th centuries the local styles of painting at the semi-independent Rajput courts of Rajasthan, Central India and the Punjab Hills were strongly influenced by the imperial Mughal School. But in spite of the new popularity of portraiture, hunting scenes and other Mughal genres, the earlier tradition of poetical and devotional manuscript illustration also continued to flourish. The most common theme was rāgamālā, the representation of musical modes (rāgas) were endowed with families of “wives” (rāgiṇīs) and, in some systems, “sons” (putras) as well. Most rāgamālās comprise 36 rāgas and rāginīs, but longer series are not uncommon. The conventional pictorial subjects are usually of ladies and princes seen in palaces or flowering groves, with a prevailing mood of erotic longing or fulfilment.

    In this page Kamodanī rāginī is depicted, according to a tradition followed at the neighbouring courts of Bundhi and Kotah in south-east Rajasthan, as a lady preparing for a lover’s tryst in a grove. According to the Sanskrit verses inscribed on the wide red border, she stretches out her lotus-like hand to collect the flowers, applied musk to her forehead, sits on a seat of flowers and has “a soft and fair body”. A young girl, like the apsaras Ra[ṁ]bha, dwelling in the heavenly realm, she is to be sung during the third watch of the day in the cold season, from the note Madhyama”. It belongs to a rāgamālā of 36 pages which has been identified by Ebeling as a short version deriving from a huge series of 240 rāga pictures painted at Kotah in 1768, most of which are in the Sarasvatī Bhavan Library, Udaipur. Other pages from the present series are in the National Museum, New Delhi.

    In: Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987)

Glossary of terms

Ragini

Further reading

Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 88 on pp. 79-80, pp. 79 & 93, pl. 16 (colour) & p. 80

Ebeling, Klaus, Ragamala Painting (Basel: Ravi Kumar, 1973), no. 220

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