akbar palace

This painting represents a raga — a traditional composition of Indian classical music to be played at different times of the day or year. There are ragas for dusk, or the middle of the night, and others for the monsoon.

Candles in the foreground indicate that this represents ‘Dipak’, or ‘Lamp or Light’, raga. According to legend, this raga was last played by Tansen, the famous court musician of the Emperor Akbar, who set a palace alight with the mastery of his performance. Fearing a similar disaster, musicians have since refrained from playing the raga — a concern not shared by painters of the period, who were happy to represent Dipak in pictorial form.

At the centre of the painting, a princess sits in the company of two attendants. One draws her fingers to her lips — a gesture signifying that a significant piece of news has been shared.