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Bhairavi Ragini from the Manley Ragamala, an album painting in gouache on paper


Collected by William Watson

Asia OA 1973.9-17.03


    Bhairavi Ragini from the Manley Ragamala, an album painting in gouache on paper

    Probably Amber, Rajasthan, India
    Sub-Imperial Mughal style, around AD 1610

    Two women worship Shiva in a lotus-filled lake, an illustration to a musical and poetic mood

    Painting, music and poetry came together in the courts of northern India from the sixteenth century in the production of paintings known as ragamala ('garland of ragas'). A raga is a musical phrase that evokes an emotional response in the listener, and is associated with a particular time of day, season and mood. 'Male' ragas were joined with 'female' raginis.

    This painting is of the Bhairavi ragini, a lady worshipping a linga in a shrine by a lake. The lake is often described in texts as being near Mt. Kailash, Shiva's holy mountain. While one woman garlands the black linga with flowers, the other chants and beats the rhythm with a pair of cymbals. Various ritual vessels are placed around the linga. The pool in which the shrine is set is filled with lotuses on which butterflies and wild-birds rest.

    This painting is one of thirty-four in a ragamala album named after its last owner, Dr W.B. Manley. The earliest European owner was William Watson, who acquired the paintings in 1774 in or near Delhi. The previous owners included the original patron who commissioned the Sanskrit captions to the pictures, as well as at least one later patron who could read the Urdu numbering of the pages.

    M.C. Beach, Mughal and Rajput painting (Cambridge University Press, 1992)

    T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


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