A scene from the Ramayana, the painting depicts the episode of the visit of the divine Sage Narada to the purported author of the Ramayana, Sage Valmiki’s hermitage. Upon Sage Valmiki’s inquiry whether there was a perfect human being living on this earth, Sage Narada narrates the story of Lord Rama, Vishnu’s incarnate, and urges Sage Valmiki to write the story of Rama’s life.
This scene is beautifully rendered in the Kangra style of painting known for its delicacy of detailing, mellow grace and the incredibly fine fluency of the line.
The painter presents us with an idyllic setting of the hermitage in the forest, matching its poetic descriptions of the text of the Ramayana. The hermitage of Sage Valmiki is harmoniously set amidst a flowing river rendered with graceful waves. Delicate pink and white blossoms ornament the edge of the waters, while flowering trees are interspersed within the exquisitely rendered groves of trees. The painter renders with such incredible delicacy the simple thatched huts of the hermits, that the form transcends their earthy quality. The colours are soft, mellow with the cornflower blue sky harmoniously blending with the pale pinks, rich reds, dazzling yellows, dull greys, and lush variegated greens with masterly skill. Delicate strokes of the brush animate the colours even further. Minute brushwork ornaments the leaves on the trees, enlivens the waves of the waters and the delicate swerves of lilies.
The group of conversing sages in the middle ground are distinguished by their iconographic details. The youthful Sage Narada holds a sumptuously jewel encrusted gold veena in his hands and is given the honoured seat of the guest - that of a white cloth. Sage Valmiki sits on a leopard skin. All the three sages wear sectarian marks of Vaishnavites on their forehead. Their forms are rendered with languid grace. Everything is exquisitely delineated – the matted locks of the sages- in the case of Narada’s disciple coiled into a top bun, the strings of rudraksha beads that ornament the Sage Valmiki and his disciple’s necks and ears. The ornaments of the divine Sage Narada are gold studded with rubies, pearls and emeralds. Sinuous lines detail the clothes, the gesturing hands, the arched eyebrows, the lovely almond shaped eyes and features of the face.
Details of the painting reveal meticulous shading that animate the surfaces painted- the thatched huts, the grassy plains, the softly molded cheek, and the fine hair.