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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
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ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2
|Paintings on Ragas in Pahari Art
Raga means a
musical mode in general sense, but in the subtle way the meaning goes much deeper.
Raga is not just any ordinary musical mode or rhythmic tune, and there are much deeper
implications. These implications are dependent on certain hypothesis.
According to ancient scriptures, the basic musical modes with their rhythmic setups were
created by Shiva.
These special musical modes are presentations of the basic forces of nature in forms of
rhythm and tune.
These tunes can be in forms of vocal melodies or have instrumental presentations.
Now, the hypothesis that is rather difficult for a materialistic person to understand or
accept, takes us to the realm that is generally "unseen" or little known in the
According to the ancient scriptures, these special musical modes, Ragas, and Raginis, have
"conscious souls" that are parts of the Universal vibration or "Nada".
The entire existence in which countless universes are being born and destroyed each and
every moment is made of vibrations. All the visual forms and invisible forms are created
The Ragas and their female counterparts, Raginis are part of that Eternal force of
vibrations that create and recreate in this everlasting play of birth, existence and
For a materialistic person influenced by the psychic limitations of so called
"scientific reasoning", such a spiritualistic hypothesis concerning musical
modes may not be acceptable, but the theory of Ragas had been based on such ancient
knowledge about the world of the hidden for thousands of years.
So when appreciating Ragamala paintings we must keep these age old theories in mind, or
else we will not be able to realize the motivation and the philosophy of the master
artists of olden times who painted the visual forms of the musical modes.
The attempts to render physical forms to metaphysical world, keeping the mood and the
inner meaning of the musical mode intact, is not easy to innovate.
In fact the artists of the earlier era, based their compositions on those that had been
used in paintings of Rajasthan and other places of India when depicting pictorial
representations of Ragas and Raginis.
It is interesting to note, that though the basic form is more or less the same and the
idea must have been carried on from master to pupil throughout the ages, regional
influences are visible in such paintings.
Stylistic differences also are important when depicting such subjects through different
traditional schools of art in different parts of India.
The subjective depth of each Raga has its individual importance and the symbolic
personification introducing the apparently unseen in the realm of material presentations
has to be accurate in regard to the philosophy of the concerned musical mode.
The later artists, obviously repeatedly copied the set compositions concerning these
subjects of subtle philosophy.
Minor variations are normal, but no major change in the composition was possible when
depicting this subject.
The personifications of the "musical modes" evoke the mood of the musical mode,
and this mood when created through Pahari paintings, was presented in fine details of
decorative oriental art.
Undoubtedly these Ragamala paintings in Pahari miniature art were popular amongst
understanding and music loving people in the hills and the orientation of the modes of
classical Indian music was much greater in the society at that time than today.
Ragamala paintings not only speak of the skill of the artists but also of the refined
attitude of the discerning art and classical music lovers of those times.
Prabal Pramanik ©
(from the published book
"My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2