Bengali Scrolls of the Ramayana


Dressed as a Sadhu, the ten-headed Ravana entices Sita
to step out of her hut so he can capture her.

Apr 4, CANADA (SUN) Along with the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is one of India's most well loved and revered books of transcendental literature. As Rama-Navami approaches, devotees are gathering to hear and recite Sri Ramayana and become absorbed in the Lord's lila pastimes as Ramacandra.

An unlimited number of editions of the Ramayana have been translated and published over the years, and a wealth of different art styles have been employed to illustrate the manuscript. One of the most unique sets of illustrations comes from Bengal's folk artisans, who have developed a highly recognizable artistic style reminiscent of Bengali village life.

The following Ramayana illustrations were originally painted onto a scroll. Below we have provided a small collection. This unusual depiction, framed against a bold red background, is uniquely Bengali. This scroll is part of the H. Daniel Smith Collection of Indian Art at Syracuse University, New York.

Sita, Rama and Lakshman in the Forest

Rama is shown wearing yellow, with a green face. Lakshman is in blue, while Sita wears an auspicious red/rose sari.

Lakshmana cuts off Shurpanakha's Nose

Her nose bleeding, Shurpanakha pleads with Ravana to Take Revenge

Shurpanakha also describes Sita’s beauty and Ravana becomes enraptured with the imagined Sita.

Ravana's Uncle Takes the Form of a Beautiful Deer

Sita begs Rama to capture this deer for her.

Rama Hunts the Deer

When shot, the deer reverts to the form of the demon uncle. Note the way in which time is presented in this image: the deer above representing a moment before the next, where the demon comes back to its original form.

Sita begs Lakshman to seek out Rama

Having heard the demon call out "Lakshman" in Rama’s voice, Sita insists that Lakshman should go and help his brother.

The Vulture Jatayu Attempts to Capture the Palinquin

Jatayu is unsuccessful in capture the palinquin, which holds Ravana and Sita.


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