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Ramayana - Pages 23 and 24

Pages 23 and 24
Copyright © The British Library Board

Add. MS 15296(2)

ff.4v (text) and 5r (picture)

The third book of the Mewar Ramayana, the Book of the Forest, is still in Udaipur. In it, Rama and his companions retreated further into the wilderness of the Dandaka Forest, where many demons lurked. Here they stayed for many years. Their presence came to the notice of the demon king Ravana who abducted Sita and took her to his kingdom of Lanka. The only witness to the abduction was Jatayu King of the Vultures, whom Ravana defeated in an aerial battle. Rama found the dying Jatayu while wandering in despair through the forest looking for his lost wife. After Jatayu told him what had happened Rama made his way to the monkey kingdom of Kiskindha to enlist help.

This illustration is from the fourth book, the Book of Kiskindha. Rama and Laksmana have come upon the great monkey Hanuman, son of the wind god and minister to Sugriva, the exiled king of the monkeys. Sugriva's kingdom and wife have been stolen by his brother Bali . Hanuman has brought Rama and Laksmana into the presence of Sugriva on the Risyamuka mountain. Rama and Sugriva swear friendship, clasping hands and walking round a sacred fire kindled by Hanuman, and afterwards promise each other help: Sugriva to recover his kingdom and Rama his wife. Rama and Laksmana are now depicted without their bark garments. Instead they wear skirts of leaves or animal skins with scarves wound round their upper bodies in the Deccani fashion.

The 34 paintings of this book are mostly in an anonymous style heavily influenced by the painting schools of the southern sultanates of the Deccan, parts of which had long been identified with the monkey kingdom of Kiskindha itself. Jagat Singh's contemporary princes of Rajasthan were required to undertake political and military service in the vast Mogul empire, particularly in the wars of the Deccan in the mid-seventeenth century. The rulers of Mewar were personally exempt from this service, but not their vassals. Artists and paintings passed back and forth between the Deccan and Rajasthan. In this picture an artist from the Deccan is attempting to work in a Mewar style. The viewpoint, unlike the high overhead viewpoint of Sahib Din's school, is more naturalistic and the artists are more concerned with modelling and shading of their figures. The colour palette is more sombre, figures are larger and often the artists (several hands may be discerned) concentrate on a single episode of the story. Only the barbaric splendour of the palace of the monkeys in Kiskindha is indicative of contemporary Rajput architecture.

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