Gouda Mallar Ragini: Tribal Women in the Forest
Page from a dispersed ragamala series (Garland of musical modes)
Artist/maker unknown, India
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Against a blue background with a high, curved horizon, two tribal women stand atop a stylized hill in a dense forest. Dressed in peacock-feather skirts and crowns, one woman holds a string instrument (vina) while another grasps a peacock-feather fan (morchaal). Two peacocks voice their presence from tall, symmetrical trees. Peacocks produce loud calls, especially during their breeding season, which coincides with the lush vegetation and heavy air of the monsoon. The flamboyantly colored birds are associated with the rainy season: the shape of the peacock’s tail articulates the movement of the wind and pattern of the rain. Gouda mallar ragani, a representation of the musical mode in painting, song, and verse, usually depicts the tender longing of unrequited love. Portraying the penetrating cry of the peacock, symbolic of an absent lover, is a fitting symbol.
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