Rumal with Scenes from the Ramayana, Jammu & Kashmir, 18th century.
26 x 25 in.
Sita and Rama: The Ramayana in Indian Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Aug 10, 2019 – Aug 30, 2020
“… secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
The year-long exhibition at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York brings the epic saga of the ramayana to an international crowd through a collection of MiniaturePaintings (on paper), kalamkari textiles and embroidered rumal (handkerchief/covering). Though the title has only the names of the hero and heroine, the exhibits include the portrayal of other significant characters and episodes from their lives.
There is one extraordinarily embroidered rumal from Jammu and Kashmir that almost summarises the entire story of the Ramayana in one pictorial space. Hence, the narrative has become extremely complex. The story begins at the top left where rama, sita and lakshman take farewell from the queen and set off their journey in exile and culminates at the middle as the three return to Ayodhya on palanquins after triumphing over ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Important events are depicted with minimum details though the iconography is religiously followed. The whole narrative takes place on a same plane (white fabric of the rumal represents the earth). The figures in their animated gestures and schematic rendition have attained doll-like appearance.
Organised by Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator in the Department of Asian Art at The Met, the treasured exhibits from the museum’s collection, reflect on different layers of mythology, narratives, myriad forms of storytelling and visual representation of an epic.
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