Skip Navigation

Mandalika Ragini, Page from a Dispersed Ragamala Series

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, Arts of South Asia, 2nd floor
Indian Paintings of Musical Themes

The most prevalent form of classical music in northern India is the raga. A raga is not a composed piece of music but an established set of tonal, rhythmic, and expressive guidelines from which a musician creates an improvised performance. The guidelines are specific enough that a seasoned listener can recognize any particular raga if it is performed properly. There are many different ragas, and over the centuries they have been organized into categories, described as families, in which related musical themes—called raginis—are considered the wives of a raga, and still others—calledraga-putras—are considered the raga’s sons and daughters.

Each raga is associated with an emotional state and a time of the day and year. Poets imagined brief narratives to capture the feelings inspired by specific ragas—mostly involving the various stages of a romantic relationship—and connoisseurs later commissioned artists to illustrate the poems. These envisioned musical themes, gathered into manuscripts called Ragamalas (“Garlands of Ragas”), became some of the most popular subjects for miniature painting among the ruling elite of northern India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Ragamala subjects were not as popular among South Indian painting patrons as they were among their counterparts in the north. This relatively rare example of a southern ragini painting reflects considerable Persian influence in its use of multiple, layered patterns and a hilly, grass-tufted background. However, the subject, women relaxing in a luxurious setting, is typical of Indian paintings, which often offer imagined views of the forbidden world of the zenana, or women’s quarters of a palace. The central woman is holding a vina, astringed instrument similar to a sitar. Ragamala paintings often contain small references to the music that inspired them.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolors on paper
DATES mid 18th century
DIMENSIONS sheet: 12 1/4 x 7 in. (31.1 x 17.8 cm) image: 10 1/2 x 5 3/8 in. (26.7 x 13.7 cm)  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS The Sanskrit text in the upper border, written in black ink in Telegu script reads: “Forever I think of Mandalika. Her hair waves with garlands of syavantika and vakila flowers; she is an auspicious woman with a lovely vina in her hands, and she sits under the divine tree in tortoise position." (Trans. V. Narayana Rao)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. Farooq Jaffer
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Arts of South Asia, 2nd floor
CAPTION Indian. Mandalika Ragini, Page from a Dispersed Ragamala Series, mid 18th century. Opaque watercolors on paper, sheet: 12 1/4 x 7 in. (31.1 x 17.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Farooq Jaffer, 79.266 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 79.266_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 79.266_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement. You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act. The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals. For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.