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Raga Bhairava

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Raga Bhairava
  • Description

    Painting from an album bound in red silk designed fabric containing a complete set of Jaipur 19th century Ragamala paintings.

    Raga Bhairava is usually the first in a ragamala series; it is a melody sung in the morning. The green and gold haloed deity, Śiva as Bhairava (one of his many manifestations) sits on a carpeted platform on a terrace. A black snake winds its way around his neck and a white snake sits on top of his head. He is bare chested and clothed in a pale lilac dhoti and shawl. Śiva's iconographical details, the sacred river Ganges flowing from his locks and the third eye on his brow are finely delineated. A garland of skulls around his chest completes the iconography of Bhairava, a fearful aspect of the enigmatic God. The bluish/white coloured jeweled deity glances at his consort, Bhairavi who holds a vessel containing sandalpaste with which she is smearing the body of her Lord. Sandalpaste is usually reserved for Kṛṣṇa in his role as Universal Lover of the gopis, while Śiva's body is usually covered with vibhuti or ashes. Kṛṣṇas attributes and ways of worshipping him are scattered in many paintings in this series -- perhaps identifying the patron as a Vaisnavite. Five lady musicians seated to the extreme left of the painting amuse the holy couple, a lady attendant with flywhisk stands behind Bhairava, her upraised arm in a position of fanning her Lord. Another lady attendant in the right foreground grinds sandalpaste on an oblong stone. The ladies are sumptuously garbed in gold and brightly coloured skirts, brief blouses and transparent odhnis (veils) in hues ranging from bright orange and dark brown to black. Costumes are finely detailed with an abundance of gold dots and flecked patterns while veils are outlined in thick bands of gold paint. The ornate pavilion in the background painted in rich hues of royal blue, orange, burgundy and white is patterned in an exceedingly decorative flowered gold design with the lavish use of gold paint, as is the orange and gold patterned carpet covering the terrace. A bright blue sky with thick billowing clouds is painted in the left background of the canvas: orange streaks of sunlight below indicating the rising sun and imminent daybreak. Neatly ordered rows of bushy flowering plants deeply shaded with minute flowers in lilac, red and white border the terrace above and below.


  • School/style

  • Date

    • 19thC(early)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 32 centimetres (page)
    • Width: 24 centimetres
    • Height: 25.5 centimetres (painting including all margins)
    • Width: 20.7 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

        braj bhasa
      • Inscription Translation

        His form is of incomparable beauty He is besmeared with ashes and the crescent is on his head, The river ganges glistens in the midst of his matted locks, Garland of heads is around his neck, and snakes add their beauty Beginning from the note 'Dha' (A) -- he is sung in the morning. He is in the company of ladies, dressed for dalliance. This is the mode of contemplating the Bhairava Raga (who is) the instrument of an inner spiritual realization.
      • Inscription Comment

        Translation taken from Gangoly, O.C. 'Ragas and Raginis,' Vol. 2. Plate 111, Bhairava Raga.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        Front cover of Album
      • Inscription Language

        local dialect, probably Rajasthani
      • Inscription Transliteration

        (Difficult to transliterate the beginning. Text unclear). - - Pana muraqqo pame 36. Labar 2.
      • Inscription Translation

        ( -? - ). Album has 36 folios. Number 2.
      • Inscription Comment

        The text inscribed above each illustration is attributed to a poet named Lal by the scholar Ebeling, K. in 'Ragamala Painting' and most translations have been verified by matching the original with the brajbhasa texts in O.C.Gangoly's book 'Ragas and Raginis, Vol.2.' Some have been translated with the help of Dr. Rupert Snell from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
  • Curator's comments

    The series is a complete one of thirty six based on the 'standardized painters system' existing in Jaipur during the 19th century. Black ink floral sprays on first and last pages.
    Jaipur 19th century Ragamala paintings characteristically depict text in enclosed decorative panels or cartouches on top of each painting. (Ebeling, K., 'Ragamala Painting', 1973. Pg.228, illustration 148.) The music that Ragamala paintings interpreted contributes to the rasa or emotional content or mood of the painting; in this case the rasa is spiritual.


  • Condition


  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    13 December 2010

    Treatment proposal

    Provide with custom-made archival box for storage.


    In good condition but requires protection from physical damage, dust, atmospheric pollutants and light during storage.

    Treatment details

    The album was housed in a custom-made box. This constisted of an inner envelope of Manilla 225 gsm paper and an outer box constructed using Boxboard and Filmoplast T 6472. The envelope and box were adhered to each other with double sided tape and cotton ties were attached using Culminal (non ionic ether).

    About these records 

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Object reference number: RFI35310

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