Page from a Dispersed Ramayana

In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the demon-king Ravana captures Sita; Rama, her husband, secures her release only after waging a long and brutal war. Although Sita successfully undergoes a trial by fire to prove her virtue, Rama sends her into exile in the forest to quell the rumor that she has been raped. In this drawing, Rama’s brother Lakshmana, turns to the river after reluctantly leaving Sita in the forest, prostrate with grief. At the upper right, Sita is surrounded by animals who vow to remain silent until she is exonerated. The peacock, whose cry is associated with amorous longing, is particularly significant in the case. At the lower right, Sita is pictured with Valmiki, the poet of the revered Sanskrit rendition of the Ramayana that the artist is illustrating. Valmiki, an ascetic, approaches Sita to comfort her. She sits in the conventional posture of deep sorrow, back somewhat slumped forward and head in hand. The artist has indicated the names of the characters and, on Lakshmana’s robe, the color to be applied-badami, or almond.

Graphite with color on paper


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Metropolitan Museum of Art

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