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GIRLS SWIMMING. Illustration to the Indian musical mode, Sindhuri Ragini. Garhwal, c. 1790. Ram Gopal Collection, London
GIRLS SWIMMING


During the sixteenth century, ragas and raginisthe conventional modes of Indian musicbegan to be intimately associated with poetry and painting. Each raga was visualised either as a god or a prince, its five raginis being treated as ladies or queens. Poems were then written describing their accomplishments and attributing to them particular emotional attitudes or special kinds of behaviour. In the pictures which came to accompany the verses, these 'musical princes' and their ladies were portrayed either in typical postures or through scenes suggestive of their character. In most systems of Northern India, six ragas, each with five ladies, made up a total of thirty-six. In the Punjab Hills, on the other hand, beginning in Basohli and thence spreading via Guler to Garhwal, a more extended system was the rule - each raga having eight sons in addition to his five raginis, the total number of pictures in a set being eighty-four.
In the present picture, the character of Sindhuri Ragini, a lady of Hindola Raga (the 'swinging' music) is suggested by a party of girls swimming in a lotus-pond. The floats which sustain them are empty upturned pitchers, plugged with strawa device still used in Northern India. It was the unwitting use of an unfired pitcher which caused disaster in the famous tale of Sohni and Mahinwalthe Hero and Leander of Indian legend.