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In the tradition of Ragas, as it evolved over a period of time with their early innovations found in the Sam-Veda and Atharva-Veda, Megh is one of the six principal Ragas, the other five being Bhairava, Malkaunsa, Shri-raga, Hindola and Deepak. The wider concept of Ragamala includes the feminine aspects of these six Ragas, known as Raginis, and their offshoots, known as Ragaputras. The aggregate number of the Ragas, Raginis and Ragaputras vary from 84 under one system to 108, under another. Each of the Ragas, Raginis and Ragaputras has the capacity of invoking one emotion or the other and very often attune with one hour of the day or other, as also with one season or period in the seasonal cycle of the year or the other. In its power to inspire one emotion or the other a Raga is an instrument capable of analyzing man’s total inner being with scientific as well as aesthetic accuracy. The Baramasa illustrations are the epitome of the Indian perception of music which perceives in it the visuality or visual forms as well as its abstractness, and eroticism as well as transcendence.
As suggests its very name, Megh is the Raga related to clouds, thick and dark and with lightening accompanying them. While personifying the spirit of Raga Megh the Indian masters have visualised it by associating with it the human world, sometimes as delighting when clouds melt into showers and fall, sometimes as welcoming them by singing, dancing and playing on instruments, and sometimes as personifying them into a divine form. Usually Ragamala paintings include the human world in a characteristic emotional frame which on one hand is in harmony with the spirit of the depicted Raga and on the other is associated with such elements of nature and its surroundings which such Raga heralds.
In this folio the Raga Megh has been personified in the divine form of Lord Krishna. For giving his form further breadth he has been conceived more like Vishnu who in scriptural tradition is the presiding deity of the space and of all that it contains. The sky is covered by deep dark clouds and lightening waving across like variously coloured serpents. Around the divine figure of the Raga there are singers, dancers and the standard/chowri bearing attendant. The divine figure is carrying a ‘vina’ not merely to define the mood of the moment but also seeking to distance him from the divine frame and bring him closer to the Raga, which is both divine and erotic.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.