Rumal with Scenes from the Ramayana

18th century
India (Jammu and Kashmir, Chamba)
Cotton with silk, tinsel, and metal embroidery
Overall: 26 x 25 in. (66 x 63.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1931
Accession Number:
  • Description

    In the foothill kingdoms of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, rumals (Hindi for handkerchief) were decorated as presentation cloths. No more so than at the court in Chamba, where a tradition of silk embroidery developed. The majority of Chamba rumals depict scenes celebrating the life of Vishnu in his avatars (divine appearances on earth) as Krishna and as Rama. These embroideries served as covering cloths during the presentation of offerings and gifts. Here, the principal events of the Ramayana epic are presented in synoptic form. At the upper right, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana bid farewell to Rama's mother before their exile in the forest. The middle scene depicts Ravana, disguised as an ascetic, attempting to seduce Sita in the forest while her husband is hunting a golden deer sent by Ravana as a diversion. Sita is abducted by Ravana and next seen imprisoned in his palace on Lanka (lower left). Finally, Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and the monkey and bear armies cross Nala's bridge to Lanka and advance on Ravana's fortress, slaying Ravana. Returning to the center of the embroidery, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana depart in triumph, carried on palanquins.