'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.
Woman holding a vina
Late Mughal circa 1720 - 1857 → India
late 18th century
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
Shown in 7 exhibitions
Divine and Courtly Life in Indian Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Oct 1991–08 Jan 1992
Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jun 1997–24 Aug 1997
Indian Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Apr 2001–11 Jun 2001
Miniatures: works from the Contemporary Asian Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 30 May 2004–29 Aug 2004
Intimate Encounters: Indian paintings from Australian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Feb 2007–04 May 2007
Shahzia Sikander, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, 27 Nov 2007–17 Feb 2008
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–13 Mar 2016
Referenced in 7 publications
Jackie Menzies, Look, Love in India, pg 12-13, Sydney, Oct 2014, 12.
Haema Sivanesan, Indian painting, 'Indian Painting', verso of poster., Sydney, 2001. cat.no. 3.13
Yvonne Tan, Asian Art Newspaper, 'Intimate Encounters, Indian Paintings from Australian Collections', London, Apr 2008, 13(illus.).
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Oct 2014, 41(colour illus.).
Unknown, Shahzia Sikander, Sydney, 2007, 97 (colour illus.).
Jim Masselos, Divine and Courtly Life in Indian Painting, Sydney, 1991. cat.no. 6.9
Pratapaditya Pal, 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.