Painting of "Asavari Ragini" - ROM2010_11287_4


Painting of "Asavari Ragini"

Medium:opaque watercolour on paper
Geography: Jaipur?, Rajasthan, India
Date: 18th century
19.2 x 11.7 cm
Object number: 971.281.9
Not on view
DescriptionThe 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. This particular painting is the Asavari Ragini. Unlike some other Raginis that are depicted differently in various artists’ workshops, Asavari’s iconography is always consistent – as a woman in forest clothing with tamed snakes. The name Asavari has been linked to a tribe of jungle dwellers renowned for their specialization in snake charming. Inscriptions often accompanying paintings of Asavari Ragini describe her as "the variegated one drawing to herself from the sandal-wood tree the serpent –… (and) wear[ing] it as a bracelet…”
South Asia
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