Page from a dispersed ragamala series (Garland of Ragas)
Artist/maker unknown, India
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The very first raga in the standard ragamala set is presided over by Bhairava, a terrifying aspect of the god Shiva. The wrathful Bhairava usually wears an apron of human bones and carries a skull, double drum, noose, and trident in his many hands. In the ragamala tradition, however, he assumes a more benign form. He is shown here with only two arms. He rests on a lotus throne, his wife Parvati seated beside him. Rather than his typical implements, he holds only a stringed instrument known as a vina. This tamer version of Bhairava may have better suited the aesthetic sensibilities of the royal connoisseurs for whom these ragamala series were made.