The Demon King Ravana Wakes His Mountain-Sized Brother Kumbhakarana To Plan Battle

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

Kumbhakarana discussing battle strategy with Ravana (Early 19th Century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

Feeling desperate at the death of the mighty demon Prahasta, who had been killed in the battle against Rama and the monkey army, Ravana the king of the demons himself appeared on the battle-front for an encounter, along with an array of chosen demons known for their ferocity and might.

After fierce combat with the valiant warriors of Rama’s army, Ravana finally encountered Rama in battle, and sustaining a mortifying defeat at Rama’s hands and barely escaping with his life, he withdrew to safety.

Ravana, afflicted with the fear of Rama's arrows and astonished at his defeat at the hands of a mere mortal, called for his brother Kumbhakarana, a mighty demon “who was taller than a mountain” “with a mouth of gaping hell” his huge eyes, “resembling flames of fire”, who Ravana believed alone could vanquish Rama’s army.

Kumbhakarana, however had to be roused from sleep; gorging upon blood and heap of flesh ‘as tall as mount Meru’, he had plunged into a deep sleep that would usually last for months at an end, and Ravana ordered an army of demons to awaken the slumbering colossus.

The Valmiki Ramayana devotes an entire chapter on how the mighty Kumbhakarana was stirred from his sleep, with an army of demons resorting to various types stratagems and tricks to stimulate him, enticing him with the smell of food, raising up a tumultuous sound such that “filled Lanka with its mountains and grooves with great noise” but the snoozing demon still slept on. 

Finally awakening from sleep the mighty Rakshasa stood up “resembling Time at the dissolution of the world, prepared to devour all beings”.

The artist depicts the event of the meeting between Ravana and Kumbhakarana after the latter had been roused from his sleep.

Kumbhakarana assumes centre-stage. Although seated, he looms large..

..over an assemblage of demons on the right..

..and his brother Ravana on the left.

Apart from his enormous height and a pair of horns on his head, the artist endows him with no other demonic quality.

The terrace site of the meeting of Ravana and Kumbhakarana..

..with the green foliage in the background..

..the jali work of the balustrade..

..and a rolled up curtain in the background are typical features of the Guler-Kangra style as are the architectural structures rendered in white that contrast with the bright colours used in the rest of the painting.

The coarse style of work however, suggests that the work might not have been made for an elite patron, but for the Bazaar at large.

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