The Demon King Ravana Tries To Woo His Prisoner Sita

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

By National Museum - New Delhi

Ravana proposes to Sita for marriage (Early 19th century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

After her abduction by the demon king Ravana, Sita is brought to Lanka and held captive in the Ashoka garden, where Ravana orders some demonesses to keep watch over her. 

During the course of her captivity in the Ashoka grove, Sita was wooed and persuaded by Ravana to accept him as her husband employing various stratagems and ruses.

Ravana flattered Sita eulogising her beauty, attempted to awe her with his immense wealth and fortune, as one of incomparable valor, strength, fame and brilliance, and enticed her with the wealth of the world, gifts of spectacular gems, ornaments, perfumes, garments, unimaginable luxury and comfort.

Sita however remained relentless and steadfast in her loyalty to Rama, her husband. 

According to the Valmiki Ramayana, Sita, picking up a blade of kusha grass and placing it between them, admonished Ravana and warned him that his sinful and deplorable conduct of coveting another man’s wife would lead to his own humiliation and the annihilation of his kingdom and people.

The only escape from ruin would be to honourably return her to Rama. Infuriated by her reply, Ravana gave her an ultimatum to marry him within two months, or else be prepared to die, ordering the ferocious ogresses surrounding Sita to frighten her into submission.

During the course of her captivity in the Ashoka grove, Sita was wooed and persuaded by Ravana to accept him as her husband employing various stratagems and ruses. 

The folio depicts this attempt by Ravana to influence and intimidate Sita.

Seated opposite Sita, the ten-headed Ravana is an imposing and fearsome presence, while Sita presents a picture of steadfast resolution.

Hideous-looking ogresses guard and wait upon the demon king..

..one holding a fan..

..and another a chowrie..

..while the others simply hang about, awaiting any orders from Ravana.

The use of bright hues of stringent oranges are balanced by the soft mauves, stark white architecture, the pale blue sky and the delicately rendered flowering blossoms that make up the background.

The quality of line, though technically assured in its execution, of the latticework of the perforated balustrade for instance or the precise detailing of the carpets that Ravana and Sita sit on, lack the freshness and warmth of the earlier Guler idiom that influenced the Kangra style. 

The Kangra style in the early nineteenth century is also marked by a certain hardening of facial features and the straightening of a profile which becomes an almost straight line from the forehead to the tip of the nose, evidenced in the profile of Sita.

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