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Ragini Telangi

Ragini Telangi
Item Code: HI55
Watercolor on Paper
7.2 inches X 7.8 inches
An otherwise exotic theme, a royal damsel half-dipped into a lotus pond for a bath with her two maids anointing her figure, arms in special, with some herbal paste, or oil, and doing massage, the tradition of miniature painting considers it as one of the sets of imagery representing Ragini Telangi, the first consort of Raga Hindol, one of the six principal Ragas – modes of classical music, vocal or instrumental, the other five being Bhairava, Malkaus, Dipaka, Shri and Megha. Each of the six Ragas has five consorts –Raginis, Telangi being the first Ragini of Raga Hindol. The painting reproduces in absolute exactness a mid-eighteenth century masterpiece from Basohli, the pioneer school of Pahari art style. It has the same face-type, large eyes, slanting forehead, long dark black hair, graceful and tenderly conceived figures as if carved out of marble with its soft touch and plasticity, the same balloons-like trees, and golden yellow background, largely the Basohli art’s common features.

The Ragini Telangi’s name consists of two terms : ‘tel’ meaning oil, and ‘anga’ meaning body or a body-organ. Thus, the Ragini Telangi relates to oil and body, or one of its parts, suggesting that the Ragini Telangi manifests when oil is applied to the body. The essence of the imagery of Ragini Telangi consists, thus, in oil being applied to the body, the primary emphasis being on this aspect other facets of the imagery manifesting Ragini Telangi kept changing or deviating. Other schools of Pahari art, such as Kangra, and those of Rajasthani miniatures, while retaining its essential aspect – the oil-body relationship, made subtle changes in the rest. In such sets of imagery, the venue where the oil is applied to the body is shifted from the lotus pond to an open or canopied palatial terrace where two maids, in some sets, nude or semi-nude, while in other, in normal costumes, are represented as applying oil to their mistress, usually a semi-nude royal lady, and doing massage.

In this miniature, representing one of the early examples of Ragamala illustrations in Indian painting, and the earliest in any of the Pahari art schools, Ragini Telangi has been conceived as a royal lady taking bath in a lotus pond and two maids, attending on her, applying oil or some herbal paste on her arms. The pond, venue of the theme, covers almost one-third of the canvas space, has four large lotuses growing in it, and has a periphery well defined with white marble ashlars. The lady in the centre, obviously the mistress of the other two, seems to stand on an elevated ground under the water so that she finds it convenient to lay her arms on the shoulders of her maids rubbing and kneading them. Maybe, the Basohli artist, for giving his visualization a romantic twist, blended with it the bathing aspect of Ragini Sinduri, which is conceived as four damsels, sometimes more, bathing in a pond and swimming with or without earthen pots to support them. The style of hair of all three ladies is alike, though their body-colours are different; while that of the royal lady is pinkish, of the maid on the right, fair, and of the one on the left, grayish. The upper halves of all of them, the mistress and the maids, are uncovered; the lower halves of the maids are under water, while that of the royal lady is covered with white antariya – lower wear, with golden stripes.

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.

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