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LOVERS AT NIGHT Illustration to the Indian musical mode, Varari Ragini. Malwa, Central India, c. 1680. Gopi Krishna Kanoria Collection, Calcutta

An example of the second strand in Malwa painting popularized in the seventeenth century at Narsinghgarh.’ The subject is once again an an illustration to the kind of poem which accompanied and interpreted the thirty-six standard modes of music. A passion for Ragini pictures, as they were called, was current from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and suggests that central India specialized in music and its poetical interpretation. The famous singer of Akbar's court, Tan Sen, came from Gwalior in central India and it is possible that in indulging his passion for music, Baz Bahadur himself was not merely expressing the private likings of a Muslim prince but giving public expression to a whole vein in Malwa culture.
The present mode is feminine in character, Varari being one of the 'ladies' of the 'musical prince', Dipaka Raga, 'the candle music'. For this reason it focuses on the girl's eager adoration, stressing the fact that even when embraced by her lover, she continues to minister to his comfort and fans him with a white hair-plume. Hair-plumes or fly-whisks were usually made from yaks' tails, imported into India from Tibet. They appear in early Indian sculpture and played much the same role in Indian life and art as fans in Japan. In the present picture, the hair-plume gripped by the girl may have the further function of fanning 'the flame of love'.