18.4 x 13.5cm image; 20.0 x 14.9cm sheet
'Divided from her darling,
most unhappy in love,
like a nun renouncing the world,
this Todi abides in the grove and
charms the hearts of the deers.'
(Pal, 1978, 128, quoting Coomaraswamy)
The lone lady, symbolic of love in separation or loss, is a leitmotif of ragamala paintings. Whether gathering flowers, wandering through the forest, or ruefully strumming a musical instrument, the lady yearns for her absent lover. One of the most easily recognisable and common images is that of the Todi ragini, where the lady holds a 'rudra vina' ('bin'), and is surrounded by deer. The physical attraction of bucks for human females has been used as a recurring sexual metaphor in Sanskrit poetry from antiquity. (Pal, 1978, 128) and significantly, in this image as most other Todi ragini, the lady faces the buck rather than the fawn. The musical raga is to be played in the first quarter of the day from sunrise; its expression tender and loving. It is believed that originally Todi was a song of village girls guarding the ripening fields against the deer who became so absorbed in listening, they would stop feeding (Ebeling, 1973, 60).
The delicate drawing of this image, the fineness of detail focussed on the central figure, and the minimal background, is typical of late Mughal styles. Different texts on Todi ragini allude to the lady's limbs being tinged and perfumed with saffron and camphor.
Jackie Menzies, 'Dancing to the flute - Music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 300-302.
Pratapaditya Pal (Bangladesh; United States of America, b.1935) (Author), Pratapaditya Pal (Bangladesh; United States of America, b.1935) (Editor), Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Sydney, 1997, 300, 302, 303 (colour illus.). cat.no. 198 See 'Further Information' for text.
Jim Masselos (Australia) (Author), Divine and Courtly Life in Indian Painting, Domain, 1991. cat.no. 6.9
Haema Sivanesan (Australia) (Assistant Curator), Indian Painting, Sydney, 2001. cat.no. 3.13
Rachel Kent (Australia) (Author), Shahzia Sikander, Sydney, 2007, 97 (colour illus.).
Divine and Courtly Life in Indian Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 04 Oct 1991–08 Jan 1992.
Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 12 Jun 1997–24 Aug 1997.
Indian Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 06 Apr 2001–11 Jun 2001.
Miniatures: works from the Contemporary Asian Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, 30 May 2004–29 Aug 2004.
Intimate Encounters: Indian paintings from Australian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 22 Feb 2007–04 May 2007.
Shahzia Sikander, Museum of Contemporary Art, 27 Nov 2007–17 Feb 2008.