Under Indian classicism, matured over centuries of dedicated efforts, music defined man’s power to pour himself out revealing his intrinsic being, his emotional world : all its concerns and dimensions, the same as a discourse revealed his mind. However, music was considered and accordingly cultivated as the dialogue of the soul not only revealing an emotion but also nourishing it; a discourse, a mere formal thing, revealed only what the mind had in it. As such, Indian music was developed for giving expression not only to the main emotions but also to their subsidiary offshoots, situations and visual imagery to correspond with the verbal, which being accordingly classified gave birth to various systems of classical music, the main Ragas expressing main emotions, Raginis, the situations in which such Ragas best revealed, and Raga-putras, to subsidiary emotions and situations. The concept of Raga paintings, which had its beginning at least in fifteenth century, was thus based on the idea of visually manifesting the image that a Raga, Ragini or Raga-putra bred in the listener’s or singer’s mind. It revealed an emotion and nourished a corresponding one in the listener. Ragas have been conceived thus as having an inner substance which is divine by nature elevating music to the status of service rendered to God : a ritual.
This ‘pata-chitra’, a horizontally conceived canvas, has been divided into forty-two identical and equally sized compartments for the Ragas, Raginis and Raga-putras. The flanking space on either side : right and left, has been further divided into another six compartments taking the total to fifty-four. These twelve flanking rectangles portray various musical instruments used in Indian musical tradition since long to include even a conch, used from the battlefield to a shrine, and drums of various styles. Of the rest forty-two those on extreme right represent the main six Ragas. Their identical manifestations are repeated in the six compartments on the extreme left. Though no definite system of ordering these Ragas prevail except that Bhairava is revered as the king of Ragas, that is, the foremost of them, and Deepak, the most fiery and hence the ultimate for the practiser to attain, the painter seems to have adhered to the more accepted order. Beginning from the bottom, the first is Raga Bhairava, and the last, on the top, Raga Deepak. In the same order, second from the bottom is Raga Malakaunsa, third, Raga Megha-Malhar, fourth, Hindola, and fifth, Raga Shri.
In five compartments between the right and left extremes portraying the repeats of a Raga, the artist seems to illustrate in horizontal sequence the concerned Raga’s five Raginis : feminine aspects, though influenced by some more powerful Raga-putras he could not resist them from infiltrating. The ‘five’ is obviously the number of Raginis but among the represented forms some are the Raga-putras. On the bottom in between the two repeats of Raga Bhairava there are manifest forms of Pata-manjari, Nata, Bhairavi, Lalita and Malashri; in them Lalita and Nata are Raga-putras, while other three, Raginis. Malakaunsa has been illustrated with all its five Raginis : Gaudi, Gunakali, Malvi, Ramakali and Khamvavati. The third, Megha Malhar has been illustrated with Kukubha, Gujari, Vibhasha, Gaunda Malhar and Bangal; of these Gaunda Malhar and Bangal are Raga-putras. Similarly, Hindola has been illustrated with Todi, Bilabali, Dev Gandhara, Madhu Madhavi and Dashaksha; of them Dev Gandhara and Dashaksha are Raga-putras. Shri Raga, the most resplendent of all Ragas representing riches and prosperity, has been portrayed with Panchama, a Raga-putra, Kamod, Dev Gandhari and Ashavari, Raginis, and Kedar, another Raga-putra. Though in the Ragamala hierarchy they are Raga-putras, Panchama and Kedar enjoy the status of independent Ragas. Deepak has been illustrated with Barari, Kanedi, Desh Bharti – only the other form of Barari, Vasanta and Dhanashri; of these Vasanta is a Raga-putra.
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.