Folio from a Ragamala Series:
Madhu Madhavi Ragini

India, Madhya Pradesh, Malwa region
About 1660-1680
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
9 x 6 5/8 in. (22.9 x 16.8 cm); 1979.57



Artist Comments

Pico Iyer
This piece does not oblige the prejudices of the moment, perhaps (a man reclining while a woman hastens towards him); and yet what I see in it most deeply, and most elegantly, is a vision of grace and leisure-of space, you could say-inside an exquisite pavilion whose very orderliness confers on us a sense of calm. The woman is hurrying through the rain to her beloved, I read, but when I look at it I see a man-a prince, perhaps-waiting for a woman to dance for him; and I see the woman nonetheless as the one with the power, leading his eyes (and ours) up towards the two birds who fly neither ahead of one another, nor behind.

The East has always seemed to me the great spiritual home of the miniature- a moment distilled into something so compressed that it explodes in the heart of someone who sees it on the far side of the world. In this beautiful example I see a dance of motion and stillness that lifts us up from the brownish earth towards the bluish heavens.

Bill Viola
Hurry! Warm electricity flowing from the loins up into the stomach and rising along the spinal cord to the brain, clouding vision and sight with only one purpose-to be one with the lover. Running, running through the perfumed night air bristling with energy from a rising storm. Arriving close, now at the bedroom's threshold, breathing heavy with heat and desire-his smell and presence fill the air. Mad with passion, heart pounding, hand enters the sacred chamber, inches away from the touch of his bare skin. CRACK! A massive thunderclap resounds as nature herself can no longer hold back. Sexual heat and love energy are discharged from heaven in the electric fire of a jagged lightening bolt leaping from the turbulent sky, startling two white egrets who take flight. The orderly parallel lines of raindrops belie the fact that even nature herself is unstable in this moment of great anticipation. Time and Space collapse; Creation and Destruction merge; Birth and Death embrace. Fear, Shock, Surprise, Joy, Excitement, Anticipation, Guilt, Sorrow, Passion, Love fuse into one awakened instant, revealing the singular root of all human emotions and their place within the larger moods and seasons of Nature.

Ragmala painting is the visual component of an ancient comprehensive artistic system in Indian culture that encompasses images, language (poetry and literature), music (ragas), human emotion (rasas), and the cycles of nature. All are individual manifestations, written in their own local language (sight, sound, speech, etc.), of a deeper, underlying spiritual reality where all creative expressions share the same fundamental form.