from a Ragamala series: Madhu Madhavi Ragini
India, Madhya Pradesh, Malwa region
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
9 x 6 5/8 in.
This manuscript was produced in Malwa, a region in North-central India
that remained under Hindu rule even after the Mughal conquests. The native
Hindu rulers in Malwa were from the Rajput (literally "sons of kings")
clan. The Rajputs traced their ancestry to the sun, moon or fire gods,
and were known for their chivalric code.
folio, Madhu Madhavi Ragini, relates to a musical mode of the same name
and comes from a Ragamala series. A Ragamala is literally a "garland of
melody," and the word refers to a specific type of painting that illustrates
poems dealing with musical themes. The Ragamala joins three major art
forms--music, painting, and poetry--in a unique way. Ragamala paintings
often deal with themes of love and depict lovers or a hero and heroine.
to look at this work
This painting depicts a woman running through the rain to meet her lover.
The woman is braving the harsh rain and lightning in an effort to reach
the man, who is peacefully reclining inside awaiting her arrival. The
woman's figure shows motion, and it is easy to imagine her moving in
sync with the corresponding musical mode. This is a court painting and,
by the architecture in the background and clothing of the figures, we
can see that the man and woman belong to royalty.
The theme of this painting is love and this is manifested in the anticipation
the viewer feels as the woman runs to reach her lover. As the woman
is trying to escape the harsh elements to meet the man, she is associated
with a type of character that recurs in Indian love literature--one
who conquers all obstacles in order to be with her lover.
The dramatic mood of the painting is created by the weather, time of
day, and expressions of the woman. The rain and lightning create a threatening
mood and a need for the woman to rush indoors so quickly. Even the birds,
in the upper right hand corner, seem determined to flee the storm. This
scene takes place during the annual monsoon season, and it is early
evening-the time when the daily rains typically arrive. We can sense
the woman's anticipation of getting indoors and reaching her lover,
which adds to the excitement of the scene.
The architecture and interior in this work show that this scene takes
place in a royal Rajput court. The man's bedroom is in a palace, as
can be seen from the elegant building surrounding him. Though the palace
is not realistically rendered, it is reflective of the typical architecture
of Northern India in the16th and 17th Century. Even though this painting
was produced for a Hindu court, the main influence on the architecture
is Islamic. Typical Islamic elements include the use of marble, linear
columns on either side of the room, careful symmetry, and Iranian double
domes atop the roof. As he awaits his lover, the man leisurely reclines
on a bed in a way that men are often portrayed in painting of this time;
the source of his pose is from Mughal painting. Both his furniture and
the building itself are adorned with stylized decorations that have
Central Asian origins.
style and perspective
The painting shows a traditional visual style that was characteristic
of art from Malwa, with its uniform color and geometric lines. The space
of the painting is generally flat and two-dimensional, which imparts
a dreamlike, rather than realistic, sense. The man and woman, however,
are more carefully modeled because they are the focal points of the
painting, showing emotion and movement.
Rajput court painting comes from the tradition of illustrated manuscripts,
most Rajput paintings were not bound, but were collected and stored like
books, until they were brought out to be examined as one would a book.
As mentioned earlier, Ragamalas were meant to conjoin painting, poetry,
and music. This painting accompanied a specific musical mode also called
Madhu Madhavi Ragini, and was probably created for the royal court at
this object was made
The painting technique used was simple-opaque watercolor on paper. The
artist began by laying out the composition with think black ink applied
with either a brush or pen. This is called an "underdrawing." The artist
could then begin to paint, working from larger diffuse areas to smaller
detailed areas. During the process of painting, a work was often burnished,
a process that consists of placing the paper face down on a smooth slab
of stone and rubbing the back of the paper with a smooth stone. Burnishing
gave the painting its smooth surface. One of the last steps was to outline
the design elements in black. Artists sat on the floor, working on boards
or low tables.