An image of Todi Ragini

Unknown Artist

Todi Ragini

Other titles:
Ragni, Woman holding a vina
Not on display
Further information

'Divided from her darling,
most unhappy in love,
like a nun renouncing the world,
this Todi abides in the grove and
charms the hearts of the deers.'

(Pal, 1978, 128, quoting Coomaraswamy)

The lone lady, symbolic of love in separation or loss, is a leitmotif of ragamala paintings. Whether gathering flowers, wandering through the forest, or ruefully strumming a musical instrument, the lady yearns for her absent lover. One of the most easily recognisable and common images is that of the Todi ragini, where the lady holds a 'rudra vina' ('bin'), and is surrounded by deer. The physical attraction of bucks for human females has been used as a recurring sexual metaphor in Sanskrit poetry from antiquity. (Pal, 1978, 128) and significantly, in this image as most other Todi ragini, the lady faces the buck rather than the fawn. The musical raga is to be played in the first quarter of the day from sunrise; its expression tender and loving. It is believed that originally Todi was a song of village girls guarding the ripening fields against the deer who became so absorbed in listening, they would stop feeding (Ebeling, 1973, 60).

The delicate drawing of this image, the fineness of detail focussed on the central figure, and the minimal background, is typical of late Mughal styles. Different texts on Todi ragini allude to the lady's limbs being tinged and perfumed with saffron and camphor.

Jackie Menzies, 'Dancing to the flute - Music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 300-302.

Place of origin
North India, India
India: Late Mughal circa 1720–1857
late 18th century
Miniature, Painting, Watercolour
opaque watercolour with gold on paper
18.4 x 13.5 cm image; 20.0 x 14.9 cm sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Bequest of Mr J. Kitto 1986
Accession number