Posted on

Barhmasha & Ragmala

The Barhmasha And Ragmaala : Depiction in Indian Miniature Painting

The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are –

Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season. 


Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), 


Bhadon (August-September), 

Ashvin (September-October),

Kartikka (October-November), 

Margasirsa (November-December), 


Magha ( January-February) and 

Phalguna (February-March).

The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favor with Mughal miniatures and Decani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Decani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the miniature format. and also, on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigments were derived from minerals, plants, conches and precious stones too! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted a various theme from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a ruler’s legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur, Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting. The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal, Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide, varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colors. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees, cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men, animals, dry pools, birds hiding in trees, lions and tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits, corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree have shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved!

The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.


Ramaala paintings are a form of Indian Miniature Painting. a set of illustrative paintings of the Ramaala or “Garland of Ragas”, depicting various of the Indian musical modes called Ragas. They stand as a classical example of the amalgamation of art, poetry and classical music in medieval India.

Ramaala paintings were created in most schools of Indian painting, starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are today named accordingly as Pahari Ramaala, Rajasthan or Rajput Ramaala, Deccan Ramaala, and Mughal Ramaala.

In these painting each raga is personified by a color, mood, a verse describing a story of a hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika), it also elucidates the season and the time of day and night in which a particular raga is to be sung; and finally most paintings also demarcate the specific Hindu deities attached with the raga, like Bhairava or Bhairavi to Shiva, Sri to Devi etc. The paintings depict not just the Ragas, but also their wives, (raginis), their numerous sons (ragaputra) and daughters (ragaputri ).

The six principal ragas present in the Ragamala are Bhairava, Dipika, Sri, Malkaunsa, Megha and Hindola and these are meant to be sung during the six seasons of the year – summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter, winter and spring.