The background of my series of musical painting.

In this article, I am just intending to disclose the background concept of my Ragamala series. In the earlier times, I have composed a book concerning to this concept which I considered as unique, however, regrettably, very few Indian artists have emphasized their interest in this concept. This idea is mutually related to music and art. I came across some of the most ancient mythological books of painting, which deals with the grammatical aspects of painting. The author of those scriptures clearly explained the role of Indian monks and yogis, behind the creation of a wonderful concept of figurativeness based on the tunes of Indian classical music.

There are many opinions regarding this actual conceptualization of the monks, however, I haven’t found any clear documentary evidence yet regarding those unique ideas; but it is clear that the concept is great and unique. By adopting this concept, great Indian singers and critiques have considered that it is quite possible to portray a specific visible figurative form of a musical tune that would be comparable to a specified season of nature.

Sree Raga With Ragini Malasree.

I made a series of paintings by following that ancient concept performed in the mythological period. I do not claim to be the artist, who depict this musical series at the first. During the 16th century, miniature artists of India depicted world’s largest series of musical paintings included more than 1000 paintings. It was the first time in the world when Indian classical music converted into painting and rhythms were visible on the canvas! I’ve tried to put forward the painting technique used during that period which I'll publish in next episode. I’ll also try to discuss related to the fundamental difference between the treatments of the miniature artists during the 16th-century and my creation.

Old miniature painting of Raga-Mala series.
Old miniature painting of Raga-Mala series.

In India, artists created a human-like figure of God by adopting the unique beliefs and imaginary descriptions of Hindu monks, which they clearly extended in mythological Vedic scriptures. After that, they thought, if it is possible to create a figure of God (which is non- visible matter), then why it would not possible to create a human-like model of musical rhythms and its tune, on canvas? It is well known that music also creates a specific feeling in human mind.

Basanta Raag (second rhythm)

It is quite plausible to create a model of a specific musical tune that concurrently convey the impact of a specific season in human mind. Indian classical music is divided into six rhythms (which are most basic) and thirty-six sub-rhythms, which governs the six seasons of Indian climate. Not only that; the creators of those rhythms, also described their unique feelings behind these creations. They discovered that each season creates a specific impact in the human mind, and by following it, they created some rhythms which are very near to that specific seasonal feeling. They also define the specific time of use of every rhythm, which they consider the perfect for that specific rhythm. 

Vairaba Raag. (third rhythm)

According to their definition, –

                   Sree Raga (first rhythm) – perfect time – 5 pm to 8pm.

                   Basanta Raga (second rhythm) perfect time – 9 am to 12am.

                   Vairaba Raga  (third rhythm) perfect time -  4 am to 6 am.

                   Megh Raga ( forth rhythm) perfect time -  after 9 am.

                   Pancham Raga (fifth rhythm) time not found.

                   Natanarayana Raga – no time mentioned, because this rhythm created for battlefield.


 I requested a few Indian singers for the time of Pancham Raga, however, they were not sanguine regarding the perfect time associated with the rhythm. Moreover, I haven’t found the time on that ancient book. 


however, then they designed a human-like figure with their imagination by keeping up the relation with a particular season and related musical rhythm. Consequently, artists have successfully pressed out those unique imaginations on their canvas.



Megh Raag (forth rhythm)

We can easily able to understand behind the reason of this thought, because we usually have felt that a specific time of a day creates a specific effect in our body and mind. At the time of the sunrise is not similar to the time of high noon and our mind also goes to change by following the time of a day. 



At this point, I would prefer to present a historical matter. Those musical Ragamala Paintings composed during the time of Mughal period by the demand of Emperor Akbar. Akbar was illiterate. It means that it was out of his ability to read any book. Although he had an unbeatable inquisitiveness on almost any subject. Once he came across a book (Indian musical scripture) he ordered to his court’s artists to let him know in details by illustrating this book. Thank goodness, he was illiterate. Thus for the first time in India, miniature artists of Rajasthan represented these rhythms in their own traditional style and form, by following the descriptions of that musical scripture.


In Indian classical music, there are two parts, one is- "RAGA", and another is "RAGINI". RAGA is male, and RAGINI is female. RAGA (rhythm) is a basic part of Indian classical music, which is divided into six parts by following the six seasons of India. RAGINI is a sub-rhythm of the RAGA born by recomposing the basic rhythm. Each RAGA (rhythm) has six RAGINI (sub-rhythms). They just imagined as the wives of RAGA. As an example,"SREE-RAGA". It is the first rhythm of classical music and he has six RAGINIs respectively, Malashree, Tribani, Gouri, Bhupali, Barati, and Kalyani. 

Example of few miniature paintings of Raag-Mala series, depicted by the oldest miniature artists of India, at the time of historical period

Pancham Raga (fifth rhythm)

Miniature artists of India, tried to represent that particular feeling of a specific tune by composing a various colors, like the various scales of tune. (G-sharp, b-flat, etc.) They divided colors in three shades and mixed those colors in several ways to create their unique feelings. I think, it is a beautiful game with six rhythms and varieties of colors. 


In the series of musical paintings, miniature artists also tried to capture the social structure of that historical era. I think it is very important matter of their paintings. But it would be more better if they gave some importance on the subject by following the actual description, . Merely it is applicable exclusively for those artists of Rajasthan and their institutions. In my series of paintings , I followed the actual description of that book just to recognize what was the actual thought.


 The Raga-Mala series is not just the largest series of paintings rather it is a document of the medieval civilization. It includes a clear information of the human lifespan of that ancient era depended mainly on the agriculture. Miniature artists of the Mughal era also psychologically accompanied by their surrounded nature which assists them to recognize the secret reality of each musical rhythm related to the emotional impact of nature. If you often take a look at any miniature painting of the Raga-Mala series, you’ll realize that they never ignored even in an insignificant element of nature. They effectively represented the flavor of human life as well as its secrets in this greatest series of paintings. They took out inspiration from creepers, flowers, as well as other opulent of nature.

It’s a significant matter that they not only represented those figurative forms as young aged boy and girl in their every painting of that series rather sometimes they presented old aged figures as a metaphor of rhythm and sub-rhythm wherever they considered necessary, depends on the tonal gravity, emotion, and sensations of the musical rhythm. Simultaneously , it is applicable to additional figurative characters in the painting, placed with the principal figurative model of the Raga and Ragini.

Some of the old foreign art critiques considered that Ragamala paintings were just unemotional and uninspiring, moreover, those are flat type two-dimensional art which in fact obtained no impact in the human heart. Here are the answers to this criticism, -

first of all, the intensity of sunlight in India and other Asian countries always prevents to find out the depth of the model, moreover, it dissolve all the dimensional effects of an object and make it flat. Only remains the length and width. Indian artists never snub the impact of this Asian sunlight and therefore, they were more familiar with two-dimensional flat type form which they reformed with their artistic talent and brought another aesthetic value in oriental painting.


Secondly, to get inspired it is necessary to have a knowledge about the classical music of India. In my blog, I arranged to enjoy those basic rhythms in the audio player. My readers will gain in-depth knowledge about each music and will realize the figurative forms of those musical sounds.


And finally, to understand the emotions of Ragamala paintings, it is necessary to learn more about the Indian ancient human society and its beliefs related to the various aspects of mythological and spiritual myths. Those myths had the widest impact on human life and society. I personally visited several places in India related to those myths and have watched that still, those myths have a noticeable impact on the lifespan of those villagers which is unavoidable. In their social life they still respect and obey those ancient mythological cultures traditionally. 

It is a very common matter that to understand the cultural side of any country, it is must to have a deep knowledge regarding the social life and traditional beliefs related to that country.    


I am regretted to say that quite a few paintings of this series are now viewable in Indian National Art Gallery of Delhi, because the fact was the rest of all paintings of this series were smashed by a tremendous conflagration in London, during the time of an exhibition. That was the time of British period in India.


At 1958, the ministry of education brought eighty paintings of this musical series for the National Art Gallery of Delhi. But not a single one of those paintings obtained the signature of artist or mentioned the year of painting. Specialists and historians have recognized those paintings by researching the technique and color composition related to the approximate time period.


In the world of modern Indian classical music, still every singer makes their earnest reverence to this concept.  

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