In Indian classicism, Deshakhya is perceived as the fifth son of Bhairava ? Bhairavashya panchamah putro Deshakhoyah. Of all Ragas, Bhairava is the most masculine and sturdy. Obviously, Deshakhya, which represents the spirit of physical strength, and is personified in sturdy athletes performing various physical exercises, could belong to the family of Bhairava alone. Harivallabha, one of the four acharyas who initiated their own system of Ragas, perceives Deshakhya as the picture of an athlete. Sangita-damodara perceives the Ragini Deshakhya as : '(a man) of athletis figure, who manifests bristling of the hair on account of shaking (his arms), whose large arms are obstructed and joined in wrestling, who is tall, impetuous in running and white like the moon.' Stella Kramrisch and some other scholars think that Deshakhya could be a musical mode to which were set rites sung when sports and athletic activities, associated with some annual or half yearly desi, rural festival, were begun. These scholars feel that as in ancient Olympia, Greeks celebrated almost every occasion with athletic feats so would have been doing ancient India.
Broadly, Deshakhya is visualised as the master of the art of wrestling or athletics and as a man of mighty body, strong arms, firm shoulders and a shaved head, though not without a strand left on head's apex. In different schools of miniature art, Ragini Deshakhya has been variously depicted ? from sportive horse riding to display of physical strength in whatever manner. However, more commonly, athletes, engaged in weight-lifting, swinging maces, wrestling, doing gymnastics, or any kind of physical exercise, are seen as representing Ragini Deshakhya. In this miniature, Ragini Deshakhya has been represented by two youths, one exactly 'white like the moon' as the Sangita-damodara prescribed and the other as much apt by other parameters. One of the two is swinging mace, while the other is engaged in physical exercise. The available means of exercise are quite limited ? two weights, one gymnastic pole and one mace. Both youth are in usual loincloth, though the scarf tied on their arms are exceptional. Except a waving strand on head's apex, they have almost shaved heads.
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.
Of Related Interest:
Gallery of Mughal Paintings
Another Medieval Gymnasium
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