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A RAGINI. Bijapur, 1590—1600. National Museum, New Delhi
A RAGINI


The group to which this raga illustration belongs comprises ten pictures, eight of which are in the collection of H.H. the Maharaja of Bikaner and one in the State Museum, Baroda. Our picture also belonged to the Bikaner collection. A further example3 in the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras, is in the same style, though not perhaps from the same set.
The two Sanskrit verses describe how a lovely woman, her body at ease after love, sings to the accompaniment of her lute, unaware that her sari has slipped from her shoulder. Her companions fan her. At the top of the page is written in Devanagari characters Patahansika 6 (presumably the number in the series) and in Arabic characters Patahansika Ragini. This is the only picture of the set in which the musical mode is not explicitly mentioned in the verses. The significance of the black elephant is obscure.
The women with their heavy chignons and long saris seem to develop from the Nujum al-Ulum rather than from the Ahmadnagar type. Our artist also shares with the Nujum al-Ulum a fondness for patterned grounds, which we shall find later at Golconda. It is however unwise to labour the point since the three main kingdoms were related by marriage - Husain I of Ahmadnagar's famous sister, Chand Bibi, was the wife of Ali I of Bijapur - and artists, like musicians, may have been interchanged.
An interesting feature of this series is the horizontal division of the composition into two or three zones, as if the artist were not happy with the upright Persian format and preferred the square or horizontal oblong of the Indian manuscript tradition. The curious 'brick' filling at the base of the Ahmadnagar page is found again on the raga in Baroda. Sometimes an illuminated panel or a peacock flanked by trees or a 'cloud' motif is used. This convention is continued in so-called Malwa painting of the 17th century.