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Todi Ragini

late 18th century


Unknown Artist


'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.


Other Titles


Woman holding a vina

Place where the work was made

North India India


late 18th century

Materials used

opaque watercolour with gold on paper


18.4 x 13.5 cm image; 20.0 x 14.9 cm sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Bequest of Mr J. Kitto 1986


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 7 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Rachel Kent, Shahzia Sikander, Sydney, 2007, 97 (colour illus.).

Jim Masselos, Divine and Courtly Life in Indian Painting, Sydney, 1991. 6.9

Jackie Menzies, Look, Love in India, pg 12-13, Sydney, Oct 2014, 12.

Pratapaditya Pal, Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Sydney, 1997, 300, 302, 303 (colour illus.). 198 See 'Further Information' for text.

Haema Sivanesan, Indian painting, 'Indian Painting', verso of poster., Sydney, 2001. 3.13

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Oct 2014, 41(colour illus.).

Yvonne Tan, Asian Art Newspaper, 'Intimate Encounters, Indian Paintings from Australian Collections', London, Apr 2008, 13(illus.).