The Demon King Ravana Plots His Revenge

A scene from the Ramayana, the Indian epic that follows Prince Rama's quest to rescue his beloved wife from the demon King Ravana

Ravana discussed with Maricha his plan for the abduction of Sita (Early 18th Century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

Upon hearing of the disgrace of Surpanakha, his sister, Ravana decided to avenge Rama. Surpanaka had kindled the desire for Sita in Ravana, by praising her beauty, and Ravana resolved to abduct her.

Realising the prowess of Rama, Ravana decided to enlist the help of Maricha, a demon-ascetic, whose brother and mother had been killed by Rama, and who had once himself tasted defeat at Rama's hands.

The miniature depicts Ravana approaching the wise demon-ascetic Maricha, asking his help in the abduction of Sita, to which Maricha only unwillingly agrees.

The folio is arranged in three layers of horizontal planes

At the top is the horizon rendered in a graduated tone of blue, above a body of softly swelling water, lyrically rendered with..

..delicate silver-grey sinuous waves teeming with fish.

The water seems to rush forth cutting across the plane of the action in an undulating slant.

The diagonal movement attenuates the flow of the ocean across the painting, whose waters barely seem to be contained, and threaten to spill over the pale yellow register below.

In the middle foreground, the folio depicts the twenty-armed and ten-headed Ravana in conversation with the demon Maricha.

Ravana is attired in a pale salmon pink delicately patterned Jama tied to the left. 

In his numerous arms he holds various weapons arrayed around his body, creating the impression of a whirling motion around him.

The pink colour of his attire strikingly attenuates his grey blue skin, and the weapons rendered in the same colour as his skin appear as they are a part of his body.

The lavish use of gold in his many crowns and ornaments that he wears, his luminous large eyes, tinted pursed lips and slight shading in red in the area around the eyes and the upper cheek present him as an arresting figure.

A team of donkeys tended by a horned-headed demon pull his chariot. 

The donkeys are an allusion to Ravana’s cupidity and ignorance, and Pahari painters have traditionally associated donkeys with Ravana underlining this aspect.

The demonic character of Maricha is suggested by his sinister looking long curled nails highlighted with gold.

The painting style is strong and self-assured, the artist expresses the scene with comfortable ease employing stylistic features of space and pictorial conventions.

The figures are drawn firmly and with clarity, and stand out against the warm flat colours of the background. Assured lines and light modelling defines the forms.

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