"This is an album (muraqqaʿ) compiled in the late 13th century AH / 19th CE, or possibly later. It contains nineteen Deccani paintings and four pages of shikastah calligraphy, one of which is dated 1211 AH / 1796 CE (f. The paintings, which date to the late 12th century AH / 18th CE or 13th century AH / 19th CE, come from a ragmala series attributable to the Deccan. A ragmala is a visualization of a musical mode or melody. This album contains a mix of visualizations of ragas (male musical modes) and raginis (female musical modes considered to be the wives of the male musical modes)." [Source: Walters Art Museum W. 669]
"Ragamala paintings are pages from a garland (mala) of visual melodies (ragas). Each page visualises a particular mode (five or more musical tones), and is frequently accompanied by a brief inscription or poem that suggests the time of day, season and even mood of the raga.
The transformation of expression from music, through poetry to painting was a gradual one, most likely stimulated by the invention of paper. Medieval musicians would associate each raga or mode with a deity and name it, perhaps as a means of memorising a melody. Intrigued poets of the late medieval period then personified these ragas and elaborated their tales in vivid verbal imagery. These stories along with other influential musical texts provided the poetic source for ragamala painting." [source: What is Ragamala?]
Female performing a ritual at night with a full moon
(Malakausika, Malakausa, Malkos raga)
Dipaka raga (Dipak)
(possibly Vasanta ragini)
Vasanta ragini (Vasant)
An Indian woman, holding a fan, at a pond
Karnata ragini (Kanada ragini)
(known in some sets as Sindhu ragini)
The writing surface of the album is 13.5cm x 21cm and features Persian as the primary language, written in the shikastah calligraphy script. There are 19 Indian Rajput-style miniatures together with borders of various colours, together with gold frames. The images above have been cropped back to the outer border and the colour saturation has been very mildly increased. The goatskin binding is not original and the manuscript came into the possession of Walters Art Museum from a bequest in the 1930s.
- Walters Ms. W.669, Album of Indian miniatures and Persian calligraphy is available online in full from Digital Waters at the Walters Art Museum.
- See previous post -- Ragamala Miniatures -- featuring a contemporary album from Western India. Both manuscripts have their aesthetic and stylistic merits and it's arguable which has the more exquisite, painted details. The older blog post has further general background commentary/links.
- Walters Art Museum has also posted the (uncropped) Ragamala album images to theirFlickr account.
- Ragamala products at Amazon.
- This post first appeared on the BibliOdyssey website.