Vedic Art: Indian Miniature Painting, Part 12

BY: SUN STAFF

Vasant Ragini
Malwa, Madhya Pradesh, c. 1630


Jan 23, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's artistic legacy in paintings, sculpture and temple architecture.


THE RAGAMALAS

We continue today with our discussion about the Ragamala renditions of Vasant Raga, the 'Melody of Spring'. This Raga is a study of our inherently joyful reaction to Spring and the regeneration of nature, and it appears to be the earliest known seasonal melody connected with Spring. The season of Spring is typically personified by the deities and devotees celebrating with music and dance, and Sri Krsna is the Deity most-often featured in Raga Vasanta paintings.


Vasant Ragini
Deccan, Hyderabad, c. 1799


The intense feelings invoked by Spring, and embodied in Raga Vasanta, are expressed in the following poem, which describes the cock (kukkutaka, who is singing the Vasant melody:

    chupayi !!
    saras basant sashi sushdayi riti vasnt pels aya ban aayi !!
    purush besh dhari kaa miyii gaavahi
    sashi sang sav saj banvahi !!

    varsha anup fuli amrayi gunjahi
    bhavar baas gahraayi!!
    mand sugadh payi sushkaari
    piya samip sush bilasahi naari !!
    gaavahi sashi kokala baayi chatur
    sabad sangeet bshayi !!

    doha !!
    gaavat naachat ras magna phirat saghan ban kunj !!
    piya deepak manbasikarau tehi basant sushapunj !!

    "In the garden, made to play, in a swarm of bees which are keen on the scent of flowers with fresh leaves, praised by the God shakra being at their head, that is Vasanta who is wearing a wreath, a crown and a horn as a wind instrument, who is having a betel lump in his mouth, is resembling Rati's spouse Kama, the God of Love, and has started great laughter in the turmoil of all musical instruments in the company of women.

    The Spring put in the shape of Krishna, that is the song she sings. And with all her companions she has made herself fair. Unparallelled color, mangoes in flower, seated upon them are the swarms of deep murmuring bees. Soft are the scented zephyrs and the water very pleasant. A woman deported in delight beside her love, Lord Krishna. Her comrade sings with the kokila voice."


Vasant Ragini Mughal, Rajasthan, early 17th c.


Raga Vasanta is nearly always represented in paintings as Lord Krsna, dancing joyfully to the enchanting music played by He and the milkmaid gopis. Beautiful Krsna, clad in bright yellow silk and Spring's fresh colors, is the most popular subject of this Raga, in associated dance, drama and paintings. In this Raga mood and season, Sri Krsna is the personification of the purusa, eternally active in the Spring. The gopis in Vasant Ragamala tableaux represent the jivatmas, desiring association with paramatma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord of the heart.


Vasant Ragini (Detail) Mughal, Rajasthan, early 17th c.


Raga Vasanta illustrations also correspond with the poetry of the song. This Raga is designated as a secondary modem, or Ragini in some traditional musical texts. However in the paintings, the presiding figure is always masculine in character, and is most often the Supreme Male, Sri Krsna.

In most Raga Vasanta paintings, the gopis are shown with dholak (drum), kartals and stringed instruments. Lush flowering creepers and shrubs are usually set in the foreground, with yellow, pink and white blooms, along with mango, banana and cyprus trees, all of which are commonly seen in the month of March in Kangra valley.


Raga Vasant - Uniara Ragamala Bundi, mid-18th c.


REFERENCES:

Sources: Excerpted and paraphrased from:
Includes excerpts, some paraphrased, from 'Ragamala Paintings & Rajput Art of India (18th c.)' by Rashmi Arvind Condra, M.A., Mumbai
Anand Coomarswamy, Rajput Paintings (Oxford, 1916) pp . 67 – 8


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