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Raga Gandhara
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Raga Gandhara

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description A gaunt ascetic with protruding ribs sits on a tiger skin as a disciple carrying a pouch approaches. With legs contorted into a complex posture, the seated yogi has engaged in such prolonged physical discipline as to appear androgynous. The jewelry adorning the emaciated body, however, identifies the figure as female. With loose hair that grows unchecked, she has removed herself from mainstream society in order to build yogic power through her austere practices. A fire burns before her; behind her, at the base of the trident holding a peacock-feather fan, a pot contains ashes, which she smears on her forehead to mark herself as a devotee of the god Shiva. In stark contrast to the ascetic woman's withered body, the river and tree near which she sits brim with life. This painting belongs to a genre known as "Ragamala" (“Garland of Ragas”), a series of poetic verses evoking the moods of specific musical modes, called "ragas" and "raginis." The text at the top of the folio identifies the subject as the masculine "Raga Gandhara," though usually the "Gandhara" mode (also known as "Devagandhara," "Gandhari," and other variants of the name) is identified as a feminine "ragini." Poets typically describe the mode as a woman whose distressed longing for her absent lover has left her emaciated like an ascetic. Sometimes the woman is said to engage in ascetic practices in order to please the gods and bring about her lover’s return. The jewelry the woman wears in this painting reminds us of her former wealth and beauty.
Date Description Narrative
1/11/2017Examinationexamined for acquisition
  • Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong. 2001-2003.
Provenance Jagdish Mittal, Hyderabad, India; purchased by John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, February 1998; given to Walters Art Museum, 2016.
Inscriptions two lines
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2016

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opaque watercolor and gold on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 8 7/8 x W: 6 11/16 in. (22.5 x 17 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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