Ragamala series: Raga Bhairava and Raga Malakaushik

Ragamala paintings are a beautiful fusion of art, poetry and music that are inspired by the classical musical moods called Ragas. They have the capacity to evoke certain emotions depending on the type of Raga represented. Each Raga is used to represent a particular season, day, and even time of the day. The paintings generally represent a love theme that depicts nayaka-nayika in human form, epitomising the emotion of the Raga. 

Raga Bhairava 

Raga Bhairava in Ragamala paintings is the first Raga in the musical notes as well as the first one to be depicted in miniature paintings. Each Raga is represented in the form of a deity. Bhairava, who is another fierce form of God Shiva is personified as Raga Bhairava.

 

 Raga Bhairava

 

In this set of Kishangarh paintings, lord Shiva sits in a rocky terrain under the shade of a green tree amidst the mountains. The text at the top of the painting describes the appearance of Raga Bhairava that says ‘one who has Ganga flowing from the top of his hair, adorned with a crescent moon on his forehead, he who has three eyes and is ornamented with snakes, who wears skull garland around his neck, holds trident (trishul) in his hand and who wears white clothes, this Raga is called Bhairava’. God Shiva is usually accompanied by his wife Parvati who is probably the one, sitting on the left side, offering a bowl of fruits to the god while another female attendant looks on. 

Each Raga is accompanied by Raginis who are said to be the consorts. Bhairava Raga is usually associated with five Raginis called Madhyamati, Bhairavi, Bengali, Saindhavi and Verari. 

 

          Bhairavi Ragini

 

In Bhairavi Ragini, a woman is depicted worshipping Shiva Linga in a small shrine, on the outskirts of the city. The Bhairavi Ragini is personified as a woman here, who according to the text written at the top of the painting, sits on white marble, playing cymbals in the lap of Kailash mountains and offers lotus flowers to the Shiva linga and has a yellow-coloured body, such is the personification of Raga Bhairavi. Ragini is shown devoted to her consort. In this musical melody, Bhairavi Ragini is usually played at the end of the evening. 

Bengali Ragini

 

Bengali Ragini

 

Bengali Ragini is personified as a woman who has taken up an ascetic life, living in the forest away from the hustle-bustle of city life. Surrounded by greenery, birds, flowers and lotus-filled lakes, she sits with a trident in her hand, illuminating with ash adorning her body. She carries a flower bag attached to her waist, probably to offer flowers to her deity. The big-eyed Ragini personifies an early morning sun and is most probably sung in the mornings when the world is waking up to nature's sounds and colourful visuals.

Ragini Varari

 

Ragini Varari

 

Ragini Varari is represented by a woman who is distinguished by her beautiful hair, she pleases her lover, who is sitting on a chair while she stands with a fly whisk. The two are engaged in a conversation under a full moon night. 

Raga Malakaushik

A very important Raga in Hindustani classical music, Raga Malakaushik is portrayed as a brave man, possibly a warrior who has a red body owing to the sharpness of his courage that reflects on his body. He wears a garland of the skulls of his enemies around his neck and holds a wooden stick. Sung after midnight, this Raga is portrayed as a warrior/king with his lover on a terrace who sits by his side. Two female attendants accompany them, one of them offers flowers to the king while another stands behind them with a fly whisk. 

 

Raga Malakaushik

 

Raga Malakaushik is represented by five Raginis or consorts that are portrayed by women. These Raginis are todi, Khambavati, Gauri, Gunkari and Kaikubha

Todi Ragini

This Ragini is portrayed as a woman who is shown with a veena in her hand, surrounded by deers amidst the forest. According to the verse written at the top of the painting, ‘one whose body’s complexion is as white and pure as snow, who has adorned her body with saffron and camphor, who loves and feeds deers, such Ragini is called Todi.’ 

 

Todi Ragini

 

Ragini Khambavati

 

Ragini Khambavati

 

Khambavati Ragini is represented by a woman who is fond of music, whose voice is like that of a bird koyal and who is a beauty personified. She is shown sitting on the terrace, listening to two female musicians while another attendant stands behind her with a fly whisk. The full moon illuminates the sky as Khambavati Ragini enjoys the music with all her heart.

Ragini Gauri

 

Ragini Gauri

 

Ragini gauri is dark in complexion, sitting amidst the forest. She has the loveliest voice that attracts birds around her, nature seems to come alive as she sings in a confident demeanour, in the middle of the forest. 

Ragini Gunakari

Gunakari Ragini is a woman who personifies a deep grief, maybe due to separation from her lover. She sits with her head stooping low in sadness as her friend tries to console her. She is described as having a colour like that of earth and her eyes have become red due to incessant crying. 

 

Ragini Gunakari

 

Ragini Kaikubh

 

Ragini Kaikubh

 

Kaikubh Ragini is beautifully portrayed as a woman with a musical instrument in her hand surrounded by peacocks. According to the inscription, she is the one whose face is like a moon, wearing a garland of Champa flowers, who looks with sarcasm and is very unpredictable in her manner, she is Kaikubha Ragini. 

 

  • Google Arts & Culture. “Painting of ‘Bhairavi Ragini’ - Unknown Artist - Google Arts & Culture,” n.d.
  • Asia Research News. “Visualising Melodies: The Ragamala Paintings,” June 5, 2023. 
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Ragamala,” May 18, 2022. 
  • Google Arts & Culture. “Colour Meets Sound - Google Arts & Culture,” n.d

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