Here, the Indian poet Valmiki is narrating the entire history of the Ramayana to his disciples. Valmiki lived a simple life as a poet and holy man in a hut in the forests of northern India. Valmiki was inspired to compose his verse after visits from the Gods Narada and Brahma. Valmiki had a burning question and asked Narada: who was the greatest person in the world – the most accomplished, wise and compassionate? Narada replied that the ideal human being was a famous king called Rama:
“He is strong and beautiful, wise and compassionate, pure in character and loved by all. He has deeply studied the ancient wisdom, is brilliant in archery and courageous in battle. In gravity he is like the ocean, in constancy like the Himalayas and in generosity like rain”.
Later Brahma came to give Valmiki divine inspiration for his verse and afterwards, Valmiki fell into a meditative trance and saw for himself the life and adventures of Rama and Sita. He composed the story in verse and taught it two his disciples as shown here. Then he travelled around northern India, reciting it to all who would listen.
This image is probably from the prologue of the Bala Kanda, the first book of the Ramayana. It is an illustration from an early 18th century Ramayana manuscript produced in Udaipur, India.