Lalit Ragini, folio from a Ragamala

Historical period(s)
ca. 1605-1610
perhaps Marwar school
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (painting): 17.2 × 12.4 cm (6 3/4 × 4 7/8 in) H x W (overall): 21.3 × 15 cm (8 3/8 × 5 15/16 in)
India, Rajasthan state, perhaps Marwar
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


flower, garden, India, man, pavilion, ragamala, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, woman

To 1969
Sundaram, New Delhi [1]

From 1969 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), purchased from Sundaram, New Delhi in November in 1969 [2]

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, by inheritance from Ralph Benkaim in 2001

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glynn Benkaim


[1] According to information from Catherin Glynn Benkaim.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Catherine Glynn Benkaim
Sundaram New Dehli, India, active 1960's


Recto inscription in devanagari script: Praful sapt chad malya dhari … yuva ch gauro salochan sri. vinihi sratra vasre grahat pragyati. vilasivesho lalit pradishtah. Lalit Ragini
The hero holds a a garland of seven blooming flowers (saptchad). He is young and fair with beautiful eyes. He leaves the house early morning in a (self-indulgent) state (remnant of the passionate night) and looks extremely beautiful. Lalit Ragini

[The last sentence could also mean that he is leaving the sleeping beauty quietly, wary of her presence, to see someone else (possibly another lady love). Shagufta Parekh 2009]


A lady sleeps in a bedchamber while her lover, holding a garland in each hand, steals away, glancing back longingly.
Raga (Sanskrit, color or passion) is the term for a classical music mode, a set framework for improvisation. Having originated in the first millennium, ragas were systematized and classified during the thirteenth through sixteenth century, they were classified into ragamalas, meaning garlands of musical modes. A common system recognized six raga husbands, each "married" to five ragini wives for a total of thirty-six "families." Families of musical modes sometimes included sons or ragaputras as well. By the fifteenth century, ragas had become associated with specific moods, times, seasons, affective properties, deities, lovers, and heroes. Around 1590-1620, illustrated ragamala series became a favorite subject for Rajput patrons, as well as for some Mughals, such as Abd-ur Rahim, patron of the Freer Ramayana and the Laud Ragamala. Specific iconographies were developed for depicting each mode. These formulae lent themselves to variations, which were sometimes dependent on region.

Illustrated ragas evoke mood and engender feeling, as do musical compositions. But the connection seems to be indirect. Although some connoisseurs of music may have internally "heard" a composition when viewing its image, ragamalas were probably more broadly valued for their poetic and pictorial pleasures. The commission of a ragamala series would also have been understood as a sign of a patron's cultivated sensibility.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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