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RAMA AND LAKSHMAN DISCOVER THE DYING CRANE. Illustration to the Hindu epic, the Ramayana Malwa, Central India, c. 1630. Gopi Krishna Kanoria collection, Calcutta
RAMA AND LAKSHMAN DISCOVER THE DYING CRANE


Аmong the Hindu legends eagerly recited in India from the sixteenth century onwards was the Ramayana or Annals of Rama. Rama, distinguished by his blue skin, was an incarnation of Vishnu, a member of the Hindu Trinity. In the present incident, Rama followed by his half-brother, Lakshman, is cautiously entering a forest indicated by three upstanding trees. Their mission is the recovery of Sita, Rama's queen, whom Ravana, demon king of Lanka (or Ceylon) has abducted. The dying crane is Jatayu, who bravely impeded Ravana's progress by seizing the demon's chariot in its beak. Ravana mortally wounded Jatayu and the wilting bird, blood streaming from its neck, confronts Rama with ghastly evidence of Sita's fate.
In style, the picture resembles illustrations to a Rasika Priya, dated 1634, in the National Museum, New Delhi and includes such early Malwa idioms as the wriggling skyline, a band of scroll-work recalling the Mandu manuscript of 1503 and the oval schematized trees, foreshadowed in the Book of Delicacies. With its starkly simple composition, reliance on dramatic juxtapositions of colour and blending of savage forms with gentle line, the picture illustrates the calm logic with which central Indian artists approached the problems of narrative painting.