Rama with Sita and Lakshmana in the hermitage of Sage Sarabhanga (Early 18th Century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi
During their fourteen year exile Rama, Sita and Lakshmana entered the Dandaka forest, to the great jubilation of the ascetics living in the forest, who requested Rama to protect them from notorious demons of the forest.
Sage Sarabhanga whose severe penances had earned him the heavenly regions in his afterlife, refused to accompany the god Indra who had granted him his heavenly access.
Sage Sarabhanga waited for a glimpse of Rama, who it was foretold would grace the presence of the hermitage of the Dandaka forest.
After sage Sarabhanga was gratified by Rama’s visit, he entered the fire before him and left for his heavenly abode. The painter chooses to depict the visual narrative with marked simplicity eschewing dramatic action in favour of a symmetrical and orderly arrangement of the representative details.
A party of sages emerge from a cluster of huts on the left to welcome Rama and his entourage, bringing little offerings of food in their honour. Their folded hands and beseeching eyes remarkably expressed.
Women of the hermitage sprinkle grains for the birds, which wait in anticipation between the rectangular pools teeming with lotuses.
The folio is a visually arresting piece: the artist masterfully uses a limited oeuvre of colours, contrasting and playing them against each other.
Against a vibrant red colour field, a perfunctory sky is implied by a blue streak that runs across the top of the painting, with whiffs of clouds playing against it.
The deep red background is also punctuated by myriad trees running across, indicating the vista of a forest. Sweeping lines suggest the little tufts of grass in the foreground. Variegated arrays of trees create a fantastical landscape.
Clusters of leaves all meticulously drawn stand out starkly, radiating from the centres, and bunches of these arrangements are compacted together to yield clear outlines of trees.
The big leafed banana trees and daintily rendered sprigs with fruits laden on them are interspersed between.
Dull silvery grey lines undulate and curl to depict water in two neat pools where exuberant lotuses blossom happily.
The painter plays up the deep red of the background by draping the figures in hues of peach enhancing the folds of the clothes by deep reds.
This choice of colours makes the figure of Rama to conspicuously stand out from the rest of the crowd with his dark blue skin stunningly contrasted with background.