The Sage Valmiki Watches a Hunter Kill Kraunch Birds

A scene from the moment when the sage Valmiki encounters the mortal separation of a pair of Kraunch birds. Moved by the intense pathos of their separation, he is inspired into the spontaneous recitation of the verses of the Ramayana.

Valmiki Sees the Hunter Killing a Pair of Kraunch Birds (Early 18th Century) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

This folio is painted by an unknown master artist of the Shangri Ramayana series.

Eschewing all unnecessary details the artist chooses to concentrate on the main events of the narrative. 

The painting is magnificently coloured, a bright yellow monochrome in the background starkly displays the bold contours of the principal figures.

The white of the kraunch birds stands out against the fiery background, but the painter subdues the intensity of the white, softening it with delicate shading of greys and blues. 

Here the fiery yellow background only serves to intensify the sublime tragedy of the visual narrative.

The birds presented as the focus of the painting are poignantly rendered imbuing the scene with pathos - the dying male bird flutters in a futile fight against death, but gasps its last breath, the hunter’s arrow having pierced the heart of the bird its blood splattering on its stark white wings.

The female bird helplessly swoops above the dying bird, and we can almost feel the resounding cries of the anguished birds.

The hunter, impervious to the emotional devastation he has caused, smiles with satisfaction and bends to pluck out the arrow that has pierced the dying bird.

The Sage Valmiki depicted on the right turns upon hearing the agonized cries of the birds.

A rosary in his hand, his eyes are meditative as he intently gazes at the scene, his demeanour presents a stark contrast to the smugly smiling hunter. 

The painter masterfully manifests the diametrically opposite emotional and intellectual states of the two men. Valmiki’s two young disciples, oblivious to the event, move on.

The painter is a remarkable colourist and a master draughtsman. He magnificently contrasts and complements bold yellows, bright oranges and reds with pale peaches, dull browns and sombre mauves, enlivening colours with strategic use of hues...

...the dark skins of the old sage and the disciple next to him are animated by the white pearl jewelry, the thin white holy thread that they wear, the red sectarian marks on the body of the old sage, and delightful shading of his face and his dhoti, the lower garment.

The delicacy of the ornaments, the frail wings and intricate feathers of the birds counter and balance the bold colours used. 

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