Ragamala series: Bhairon Raga

Accession Number

Ragamala series: Bhairon Raga

Artist Unknown, India, Rajasthan, Jaipur School

Object Creation Date
circa 1750

Medium & Support
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

10 7/8 in x 7 7/8 in (27.62 cm x 20 cm);19 3/8 in x 14 3/8 in (49.2 cm x 36.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel.

Subject matter
Ragamala paintings draw from aspects of human experience in order to visualize specific moods, emotions, and qualities such as love, anguish, valor, weakness, and strength. A raga in Indian music is a melody consisting of a string of notes in a particular arrangement. Raginis are derivations from or variations of ragas in feminine mode (the basis of these classifications remains unexplained in many cases), and could have different or similar musical structures as ragas. Specific ragas are associated with specific times of the day, seasons, and emotions. When visualized, as here, ragas and raginis are meant to evoke the same affective responses that are allied to their musical modes. The text above the illustration refers to stories or incidents associated with the depicted raga/ ragini, but may not necessarily be narrative-like or descriptive. Drawn from literary tropes and tales that sophisticated writers and viewers would be aware of, the inscriptions are an integral part of the overall experience of this miniature painting. An illiterate viewer, however, could still enjoy the scene without reading the text.

Bhairava is an alternative name for the Hindu God Siva in his terrifying form. The Raga is usually associated with dawn, and its mood spiritual and devotional. However, many versions of this raga exist in visual format. In some, the male figure depicted is Siva or a Siva devotee. In this version, as in many others, Bhairava is shown as a nayak (male hero), who lovingly adores his lover. His lover feeds him a betel leaf. Furthermore, he is surrounded by other female figures who attend to him in various ways. As in other representations, the female figure shown in the lower right could be filling pitchers with water, in preparation for the day--another symbolic association with dawn. Or, she could be (and this is perhaps more likely) preparing a sandalwood paste annointment by grinding on the stone in front of her.

Physical Description
A male figure, seated in a palace chamber, is surrounded by five adoring females. One of them sits on the same throne as the male figure, and feeds him a betel leaf, as he holds her arm. The other females carry various objects in their hands. On the left, one holds a fly whisk, the other a box/basket-like object. On the right, a woman holds a chalice. Musicians and attendants are depicted in the lower register, where they squat and look in the direction of the scene shown above. The palace exterior is rendered in exquisite detail.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
fans (costume accessories)

4 Related Resources

Art of the Mughal Empire
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Food Cultures
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Miniature Paintings Across Cultures 
(Part of: Visual Cultures of Islam )

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted