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VASANTA RAGA. Ahmadnagar, 1591-5. National Museum, New Delhi
VASANTA RAGA


This picture, formerly in the Bikaner Collection, seems to be the sole survivor of the set. Two pictures of a second set closely related to the first are also in the Bikaner Collection. They are a fine Kakubha Ragini and a splendid fragment of a peacock in full flight against delicate foliage. A third set in the Roerich Collection remains unpublished.
At the top of the picture is written in Devanagari characters Vas (anta) and in Arabic characters Hindola Rag and Vasant Ragini. The raga depicted is in fact the Vasanta, the introduction of the swing (hindola) leading to the confusion of titles.
The Sanskrit verses describe how Vasanta (Spring) is sprayed by young maidens in a mango grove on a Kashmiri mountain. Praised by strings of bees he disports himself on a swing. Like a blue lotus (dark complexioned) and dressed in a tawny garment, he holds in his fingers the shoots of the fresh mango.
The young swarthy Spring wears a four-pointed coat. Its origin is obscure, but it was the prevalent fashion at the court of Akbar, and may have been adopted by him from Malwa. The distinctive feature of the women's costume is the projecting transparent veil. This, which occurs first in the Malwa Nimat Namah, was elaborated in the lovely series known as the Chaurapanchasika Group, which was perhaps developed in its classical form in Malwa or south Rajasthan during the second half of the 16th century. Whether this feature in our painting was drawn from the Chaurapanchasika Group or represents a parallel development from the Nimat Namah, it is difficult to decide. This detail of costume however does underline the northern Deccan origin of the Vasanta Raga. The textile design on the skirt of the girl on the swing is also found in the Chaurapanchasika Group.
The two women on the right are spraying the lovers on the swing with coloured water from bamboo syringes, as in the Holi Festival of Spring.