Retelling the Ramayana With Crafts

Discover the representation of Ramayana in Indian textiles, Ganjifa cards, and wall paintings

By Crafts Museum

A sequence from 'Swayamvara' in the RamayanaCrafts Museum

Ramayana in Chitrakathi Art

A sequence from 'Swayamvara' in the Ramayana: This painting shows the ten-headed king of Lanka Ravana (Leftmost) at King Janak’s palace, where he lifts the Shiv Dhanush (bow of lord Shiva) but then drops it. Only Rama (prince from Ayodhya) was able to string the bow, which was the condition for the marriage, and emerged victorious at the swayamvara

Sage Vishwamitra (second from the right) is also seen in the painting who was responsible for bringing the two princes of Ayodhya, Rama and Lakshmana (Rightmost) to the swayamvar.

A sequence from 'Yuddha Kanda' of RamayanaCrafts Museum

A sequence from 'Yuddha Kanda' of Ramayana:

Yuddha means war and yuddha Kanda is the 6th section of Valmiki’s poem narrating the fateful battle between Rama and Ravana for the release of Sita from Lanka, hence, it is also termed ‘Lanka Kanda’. This painting shows the fierce battle of archery between Indrajit (Ravana’s eldest son) and Lakshmana. 

Hanuman is seen carrying Lakshmana, Vibhishana (Ravana’s brother) and members of the Vaanar sena, with his tail encircling the lot as they are attacked by stream of arrows released by Indrajit, a warrior skilled in mystic arts, who is inturn attacked by Lakshmana with the mighty strikes of his bow.

Rama 7/4173(1) , Sita(2), Lakshmana(3) and Hanumana(4) figuers made of sawdustCrafts Museum

Retelling Ramayana with crafts

Narrative of the great epic of Ramayana is not only prevalent as a recital, theatre drama, but is also found in several other forms across India. 

These small painted sawdust figures of Lord Rama, Sita, Laxman and Lord Hanuman are created with a unique technique known as ‘kinhal’. 

Such figures act as additional visual aids for recital of Ramayna during the annual performances of Ramlila. Here, Hanuman, the monkey god, the biggest devotee of Rama, stands with folded hands. 

Rama, identified by blue colour and tallest crown, holds bow and arrow in his hands. He stands with his consort Sita, wearing a saree with her left hand gracefully held by her side in Lolahasta Mudra and Lakshamana, holding bow and arrow.

RavanaCrafts Museum

Ravana - The King of Lanka

Ravana is often described with ten heads in The Ramayana. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and was blessed with many boons. However, his arrogance led to his downfall when he was finally slayed by Lord Rama in a battle. 

This wooden figure of Ravana, adorned in bright coloured attire has an abstract composition, with pointed features and abnormally large eyes, characteristic of the toys made near Puri. 

Such figures are used for the annual performances of Ramlila in the Raghunath temple, where all the major characters from Ramayna are venerated and worshipped before commencement of the Ramlila.

Kalamkari Temple Cloth depicting scenes from the Ramayana.Crafts Museum

Ramayana in Textiles

In this Kalamkari, like many Ramayna themed kalamkaris, the coronation scene occupies the central place in which Rama and Sita are seated on the throne with Rama’s bothers in attendance. A tiny figure of Hanuman appears at their feet, paying obeisance. 

 Such painted textiles were used as drapes inside the temple premises and to decorate temple chariots when the deity was taken out in procession, their main function being that of narrating the religious myths and epics stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana.

Cotton Kerchief with Indian playing card 'Ganjifa' motifs.Crafts Museum

Textiles inspired by Ganjifa cards

This table cover, was originally a cotton kerchief that was printed in Manchester in the second half of the 19th century for export to India. The borders feature Victorian design elements like leaves, birds and Greek fret border while the main motifs are taken from Ganjifa (playing cards of India) based on Dashavtar. It includes Rama (7th incarnation of Vishnu) but also others like, Krishna, Narshimha etc.

 The raja card of Rama suit shows Rama in battle with the ten headed Ravana. The pradhans are two horsemen with flat Maratha turbans, riding barefoot. The colours are yellow, blue and black, machine-printed on red with commercial dyes.

Ramayana GanjifaCrafts Museum

Ganjifa Cards

This is a hand painted ganjifa card from the Ramayana depicting Hanuman with one chakra

Ramayana GanjifaCrafts Museum

This is a hand painted ganjifa card from the Ramayana depicting Rama Avatar seated with Sita in a pavilion flanked by two devotees. 

Rama is shown holding bow and arrow in his hands. 

Credits: Story

S.K. Jha, Senior Director 
Nidhi, Deputy Director 
Ms Geeta Khanna
Ms Princy Rana

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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