Painting of "Dipak Raga" - ROM2010_11325_1


Painting of "Dipak Raga"

Medium:Opaque watercolour (gouche) on paper
Geography: Lucknow or Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh (Oudh), India, South Asia
Date: 1765-1770
Period: Mughal
37.9 x 26 cm (painting 21.1 x 15.9 cm)
Object number: 920.83.2
Credit Line: Museum Purchase; Gift of Rous & Mann Ltd., Toronto
Not on view

This particular painting is the Dipak Raga. The word "Dipak" means flame. In the Rajasthani Ragamala painting tradition, Dipak shows two royal lovers, but each school treats the obligatory flames differently. According to legend, Tansen, the famous court musician to the Mughal Emperor Akbar, started a palace fire when he was ordered to sing Dipak raga against his judgement. Ever since, musicians awed by the power of the music as well as fearing another disaster, have refrained from performing this raga. The painting has a border flecked with silver leaf (now tarnished to a dark colour), matching several other paintings in the collection, 920.83.1-.7.

The genre of Ragamala paintings flourished in western India, the Deccan, and the Pahari region during the 16th to 19th centuries. Ragamala painting is a confluence of three artistic forms: music, poetry, and painting. They are illustrations of poetic verses composed to go along with codified modes of classical Indian music. Ragamala paintings correspond to modes of classical Indian music called "Ragas". A Raga can be loosely translated as a melody, cluster of notes, or tonal framework for composition and improvisation that evokes a particular musical idea and is associated with a certain emotive state. The word raga comes from the Sanskrit root "ranga", meaning ‘colour’ and is said to be “that which tinges the mind with colour”. Mala means ‘necklace’ or ‘garland’. Thus Ragamala refers to a set or garland of musical modes. Applied to visual art, the term refers to the set of paintings of which this painting would have originally been a part. In the evolution of Indian music, Ragas became associated with certain Hindu deities who were understood to ‘descend’ into the music during a particularly inspired performance. To address the deified form, prayer formulas (dhyanas) were devised and passed from teacher to student. In the 15th -16th centuries, with the resurgence of popular Hinduism commonly referred to as The Bhakti Movement, poets and preachers captured the hearts of people with songs and poems extolling the human characteristics of the divine. Poets composed verses to go along with Ragas that described deities in various situations, especially devotional, romantic, or heroic contexts. These poems, often inscribed on the back or front of the works themselves, serve as the basis of the visual imagery in Ragamala painting.

South Asia
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