Faculty: Balaji Venkatachary

Exploring Architecture as represented in the Ragamala paintings of 16th to 19th century India

This research attempts to analyze the architectural representations of performing spaces in the Indian
Ragamala paintings. Ragamala is a painting tradition from the 16th to 19th century India, belonging to
the various regional courts of Rajasthan, Deccan and the northern hill regions. These paintings represent
the melodic modes in classical Indian music tradition, called Raga.
These paintings are unique in a way that they represent performance spaces, emotions and seasons
associated with these Ragas. In the absence of photographs from the period under study, these paintings
serve as significant sources to understand and partially reconstruct the architecture of performing spaces
and their socio-cultural dynamics.
The Ragamala paintings selected for the study are curated by the Cornell University Digital Library, New
York. This exhaustive collection consists of around 4000 paintings and will serve as the primary source for
this exercise. The sample from this collection will be designed to represent various time periods and
regional variations. These paintings will be studied to understand the use of architectural
compositions/elements in the folios to represent the spirit of performance. On the other hand, the
paintings also complement our understanding of the architecture from the chosen period/region which
is otherwise not fully informed by the conventional sources.