Monday, May 23, 2016

Ragamala Paintings from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Ragamala painting is a particular genre of Indian miniature painting, mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. Ragamala means 'garland of ragas'. A raga is a particular mood, colour, season, time of day, or emotional state. A ragamala painting evokes one of these ragas in pictorial form.

There are six main 'parent' ragas, corresponding to the six Indian seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter, winter and spring.
Each of the male parent ragas has five 'wives' (ragini), and eight 'sons' (ragaputra) and 'daughters' (ragaputri), making a series, or garland, of eighty four.

The six main ragas are:

Bhairava raga - associated with winter, early morning, and the god Shiva.
Malkauns raga - autumn.
Hindol raga - spring.
Deepak (Dipaka) corresponds to the heat of summer.
Sri (Shree) raga - winter and sunset.
Megh raga - associated with the clouds of the rainy  monsoon season.

The concept of raga is also found in Indian classical music and poetry. Some ragamala paintings illustrate the story of a hero (nayaka) or heroine (nayika).

Here is a collection of beautiful Ragamala paintings from the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.