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The Birth of Sita - Raja Janaka of Mithila carrying her in his lap

UnknownEarly 18th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

From the Shangri Ramayana

The painting depicts the birth of Sita, an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. According to many versions of the Ramayana, she is described as the daughter of the Earth, the goddess Bhumi, or Prithvi. King Janaka found her while ploughing as part of the Vedic ritual that he was performing, as a gift from the Earth goddess and adopted her as his daughter. He named her Sita, a word in Sanskrit which means the furrow.

The painting depicts King Janaka cradling the infant in his lap, seated on a sprigged white cloth, under a tree, presumably having just found her as the yoked oxen with the plough on the left suggests. The attendants of the king surround him carrying kingly weapons and emblems such as the bow and quiver of arrows, and the sword, and the attendant on our right gesticulates his astonishment at the miraculous discovery of the king. In recognition of the fortunate discovery of Sita, who is the embodiment of fecundity and prosperity, the gods and celestial beings emerge from clouds in the sky to bless the king and the child, showering dainty snowflake-like flowers upon the duo. One divine being drums a naqqara, its reverberations announce the miraculous discovery of King Janaka.

The scene is rendered in the manner of playful poetry, with remarkable freedom in rendering the fantastical foliage that animates the painting. A happy pink hue envelops the figures. The trees are imagined with a decorative abandon - delicate tree trunks hold aloft a happy profusion of leaves, in clumps, or radiating in rosette-like ornamentation. Wisps of clouds fill up the cool blue sky above, a promise of the fertilising rain that will bless King Janaka’s kingdom.

Although the scene narrates the epic Ramayana, the figures are dressed in contemporary fashion wearing the jamas and patkas (sash on the waist) and the turbans of the period. The figures are delineated with assured fluid lines, the exquisite brushwork at the same time brings out the ornamental details – of the lovely strings of pearls, the folds of the clothes and the motifs on them, edges of the leaves and the hair on the oxen. While the gazes of the human attendants and even the celestial figures seem to dreamily stare ahead, the artist has depicted the oxen with warmth and empathy, as they seem to delightfully tug at the plough.

Details

  • Title: The Birth of Sita - Raja Janaka of Mithila carrying her in his lap
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Early 18th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 21 cm x 31.2 cm
  • Exhibition History: 2020 Ramayana exhibition in Kolkata
  • Accession Number: 62.2521

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