The Moment Rama is Exiled

On a pivotal incident from the epic Ramayana, when Rama is exiled to the forest for fourteen years.

By National Museum - New Delhi

Kekeyi informs Rama and Lakshmana of the decision of Dasharatha (Mid 18th Century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

The folio narrates a pivotal incident from the epic Ramayana, when Rama is exiled to the forest for fourteen years.

According to the epic, King Dashratha of Ayodhya decides to crown his eldest born, the worthy prince Rama, as the heir to the throne. Upon the instigation of a maid, Kaikeyi the youngest queen of Dashratha is consumed with jealousy and demands from the king the two promises that he had unconditionally given upon Kaikeyi’s timely assistance at a battle.

Kaikeyi demands firstly that Rama be sent into exile for fourteen years , and secondly, that Bharata, her son, be declared as the heir to the throne.

This is a heart rending moment for Dashratha..

..torn between his duty of fulfilling his promise and separation from his beloved son Rama. Sunk in misery, Dashratha is unwilling to subject Rama to this harsh punishment. Rama is then informed about the promises by Queen Kaikeyi herself.

Rama readily accepts

...the condition of the fourteen year exile, to keep the honour of his father.

Dashratha slumps despondently expressing his resignation in the face of the boons granted to queen Kaikeyi, unable to meet Rama’s gaze.

Kaikeyi on the other hand animatedly narrates the ordeal that is about to befall Rama, meeting his gaze with steady resolve.

Rama accepts his exile with equanimity and humility does Lakshmana, his presence next to Rama affirming his firm support for his beloved brother.

The unfolding events within the palace are discussed with concern by the three men in the lower register.

The artist skillfully echoes the abjection of King Dashratha through a masterful use of colour by enveloping the king with a dull green with undertones of muted blue.

The fiery yellow of the carpet that Dashratha and Kaikeyi are seated on is repeated in the lower register..

..on the seat of the chariot, drawing attention to the impending journey into the forest that the two princes will undertake.

The drooping heads of the horses echo the dejected sagging of Dashratha’s head.  

The artist exuberantly plays with patterns and motifs. Set against a background of monochromatic hues playful motifs demand our attention as they run along edges of doorways, on carpets and edgings indicating different registers of the scenes, on pent roofs, on turrets and cupolas, and the minarets, on textiles and carpets.

These decorative details intensify the verve and energy of the painting despite the sombre subject it portrays.

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