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Rama discusses war strategy with Sugriva, Vibhishana and Hanuman

UnknownEarly 19th century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

The folio depicts the scene from the epic Ramayana, after Rama arrives in Lanka to vanquish the demon King of Lanka, Ravana, who has abducted and imprisoned Rama’s wife Sita. Rama along with his brother Lakshmana, the king of the monkeys Sugriva, Ravana’s estranged brother Vibhishana, the mighty simian warrior Hanuman, and other combatants that make up the monkey army climb atop Suvela Mountain that overlooks the city of Lanka. From its lofty heights, they survey the city and its fortifications.

Likened to the celestial city of Amaravati of the king of gods Indra, Lanka has been described in the Valmiki Ramayana as a splendid city with towering city-gates resembling white clouds, adorned with golden palaces and “seven storied mansions”, beautiful gardens and groves and “the thousand-pillared mansion of Ravana with a height almost touching the skies”.

Surrounded by water and built on a mountain, Lanka was considered virtually impregnable. A massive rampart made of gold “inlaid at intervals with gems, corals, cat's eyes and pearls”, encircled the city, and fathomless moats infested with alligators surround the unassailable fortress.

An army of monkeys sit hunched in groups, scattered all along the mountain, hidden among the rocks and trees. A few monkeys clearly enjoy the environs of the Suvela mountain, with its green lawns and beautiful trees in full flowering, “trees laden with fragrant and greatly enchanting flowers and fruits, as human beings were laden with ornaments”; and loll about resting in its verdant lawns or climbing up its trees. The army of bears assisting Rama stand half-hidden in a thicket of trees in the centre right.

The city towers gleam in the distance, on the left, with a network of buildings, gateways and towers, rendered in an oblique perspective that reveal its lavish interiors with arched niches and glittering golden cupolas, the spaces guarded by demons, and surrounded by a moat. The artist renders the architecture with precise delineation of brick work, and ornamental details on the architectural mouldings and architraves.

Similar exquisite detail can be seen in the delineation of the leaves of the trees, the coiling creepers and flowers, and fine hair on the monkeys.

There is a great variation in depicting expressions and gestures of the members of the simian army which adds interest to the visual narrative. While most of the monkeys sit patiently waiting and watching or chatting with each other, one monkey in the centre grimaces while scratching his back.

Details

  • Title: Rama discusses war strategy with Sugriva, Vibhishana and Hanuman
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Early 19th century
  • Physical Dimensions: 40 cm x 53.4 cm

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