An image of Vasant Ragini

Bundi School

(India circa 1680 – )

Vasant Ragini

Other titles:
Krishna Dancing with Three Female Musicians
Location
Not on display
Further information

'I know where Krisna tarries in these
early days of Spring,
When every wind from warm Malay
brings fragrance on its wing ...
He is dancing with the dancers to a
laughter moving tone,
In the soft awakening Spring-time, when
'tis hard to live alone.'

(Waldschmidt, II, 1975, p35 quoting Arnold's translation)

Of the six Indian seasons - summer, monsoon, autumn, winter, cool season, spring - it is sping when music, dance and love predominate. The raga most closely associated with spring is that of Vasant and, since the major spring festival Holi, 'the festival of colours', is a predominantly Vaishnava festival, the raga is also dedicated to the Vaishnava god, Krishna, whose love adventures are detailed in the 'Gitagovinda'.

In this vibrantly coloured image, rendered with a fem-cutter's precision, Krishna dances to the music of three young women, by a lotus-filled lake in a glade whose luxuriant foliage symbolises the creativity and fecundity of spring. In one hand he exultantly holds high a vase full of blossoms, while his other hand grasps a stylised vina of one gourd. Krishna wears a distinctive layered dancing skirt, each layer a different colour, tasselled shoes, a jewelled crown, and a long garland of white blossoms, while the body is covered in pearls and jewels. He is the focus of attention for the three ladies: one with an end-blown flute another beating the classical two-faced drum ('mridangam'), while the lady opposite them marks time with 'tala'.

This exquisite painting is a folio from a very large set of ragamala pictures that includes representations not only of the six raga and their ragini, but also of numerous sons (ragaputra) and daughters (ragaputri). The series is known as the 'Boston' series since the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston owns some thirteen paintings from the series. The series now is generally credited to Kota, a small rajput kingdom in southeatern Rajasthan which became a separate kingdom in 1625 when the Mughal emperor Jahangir divided the kingdom of Bundi in half, each half being ruled by related branches of the Hara clan.

Jackie Menzies, 'Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW 1997 pg. 286-288.

Place of origin
Kota, Rajasthan, India
Period
India: Rajput circa 1500–1947
Year
circa 1770
Media
Miniature, Painting, Watercolour
Medium
opaque watercolour with gold on paper
Dimensions
18.2 x 12.2 cm image; 31.9 x 23.8 cm sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Credit
Purchased 1997
Accession number
82.1997