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Activity / challenge

Musical pictures

musicians in a garden
a lady performs a worship ritual before a figure of Brahma

Khambarati Ragini c.1760 ©

Ragamala paintings are pictures of music which represent different ragas, or melodies. Ragas are associated with one of the seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter); they are connected to different times of the day (morning, afternoon and evening), and also to certain feelings or moods.

Musical pictures recreate these moods and feelings through the details of the paintings. Can you use the clues in these ragamala paintings to find out what sort of raga is being played?

  • In this ragamala painting, what time of day is it?
  • What season does this picture show – spring, summer, autumn or winter?
  • Is there a lot of action in this image? Do you think this music would be fast or slow?

Raga Khambhavati is a melody to be performed in the early evening – can you see that the sky is becoming dark? The scene is set in early autumn, and the woman is sitting to perform a fire ritual to the Hindu god Brahma. The music of this raga would be slow.

Lady seated in palace chamber

Proshitapika Nayika 1820-30 ©

In this image, Proshitabhartrika Nayika, what do you think:

  • the weather is like?
  • the lady in yellow might be feeling?
  • the music for this picture might sound like? Can you think of any words to describe it based on what you can see or feel from the picture?

The weather in this scene is very bad indeed – there is about to be heavy rain, called a monsoon. Can you see the dark clouds in the background of the picture? The lady is sad as her lover has gone away, and so the music for this picture would probably be sad and slow.

lady playing music in the forest


In this final musical picture, can you find clues in the picture to tell you:

  • where the lady is, and what time of day it is?
  • what she might be singing about, and what her song might sound like?

This musical picture depicts Raga Todi. The lady is playing her instrument very early one summer morning. She is in the forest, surrounded by trees and greenery. Her lover has gone away and so she is singing about missing him – but her playing is so beautiful that animals of the forest are coming near to hear it! Can you imagine what the melody might sound like?

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Eastern Encounters

The long relationship between the Crown and South Asia