Ragamala Paintings
"Garland of Melodies"

THE concept of illustrating musical modes in pictorial form as Ragamala paintings is a unique expression of Indian writers and artists. Indian melody or a raga is "a sonal composition of musical modes (swaras) having a sequence, form or a structure of a peculiar significance," as described by O.C. Ganguly.

The prevalent melodies were personified in vivid verbal imagery by Indian musicologists of the late mediaeval period, which provided the source of the Ragamala illustrations. The Sangeeta Ratnakara, an important treatise of the 12th century A.D. for the first time mentions the presiding deity of each raga associating them with certain gods.

Six folios of this set are illustrated here. It is contemporary with that of the famous Johnson Ragamala set in the India Office Library (in albums Vol. 37 and 43), but is much more carefully designed. There is descriptive text uniformly arranged in rectangular panels on top and bottom of the painting, giving the identification and family group of the raga, its appropriate time and season and other details, in Persian.

Elegantly dressed delicate female figures are portrayed in different moods exposing richly brocaded jamas and transparent gowns. Vast green expanse of undulating fields dotted with small trees typical of paintings form Hyderabad provide a soothing background to the human figures in the front. The opulent use of gold testifies to a rich or even a royal patronage of this set.

All the paintings are from Deccan, Hyderabad c. 1700-1725 A.D.


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