Ragamala Paintings



A Ragamala painting is the ultimate example of the correlation between the arts. It is in a Ragamala painting that music, poetry and painting come together to mesmerize the senses. Here is synesthesia at its best.

‘Ragamala' literally means ‘A Garland of Melodies'. It is the depiction of a raga, in the >form of a painting. To appreciate Ragamala paintings, then, it is perhaps necessary to begin by understanding what a raga is.

Ragas form the foundation of Indian Classical music . A raga is a combination of notes and frequencies, to form melodic movements. It is believed that these melodies are capable of producing a pleasant sensation, mood or an emotion in the listener. There are six principal ragas: Bhairava , Dipika , Sri , Malkaunsa , Megha and Hindola , and these are meant to be sung during the six seasons of the year; summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter, winter and spring. Apart from seasons the ragas are also related to different parts of the day; dawn, morning, afternoon, evening, night and midnight. During the monsoon, for example, many of the Malhar group of ragas that are associated with the monsoon, are performed. However with increasing influence on this traditional basis of Indian Classical music, ragas have become increasingly flexible regarding their time of performance.

In the late medieval period, Indian musicologists personified ragas and converted them into verse.

This poetry was often amorous, illustrating the love affair of a man and his maiden. This became the source of the Ragamala painting. Under the patronage of the aristocracy, Ragamala artists explored, in great depth, the relationship that governs sound and sentiment. And they translated their understanding of the nuances of music and poetry, into an art form defined by color and mood: the vibrant Ragamala painting.

The earliest Ragamala paintings are from the Deccan . They were probably painted for Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur, who was an authority on painting and a fine artist and illuminator himself.

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