Highly coloured, very delicate and beautifully executed, Ragamalas were a form of art that flourished throughout the royal courts of India in the late 1400s, only to dwindle in the 1800s with the decline of aristocratic patronage.
In November our fine-art imprint Philip Wilson published Ragamala: Paintings From India. The book accompanies an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, running from the 25th January – 27th May 2012, which is presenting a fine and rare collection of twenty-four ragamala dating from 1605 to c.1770.
If you are unsure, or unfamilar as to what a ragamala is (a ‘garland of ragas‘), it is best described as a set of paintings depicting various musical modes, ragas, of Indian music. Each miniature illustrates a poem which evokes the mood of a particular raga, and the poems are generally written either on the top margin or at the reverse of the painting.
If etymology is your thing, the word raga derives from the Sanskrit root -ranj which means to tinge and to colour – usually in red, love, passion, and beauty, especially of a voice or song.
Below is a small selection of ragas currently on display at the exhibition, and featured in the book.
Click on a thumbnail to begin the slideshow.