The Combat of Rama and Ravana
late 18th century
India (Coromandel Coast)
Painted and mordant-dyed cotton
Overall: 34 1/4 x 212 1/4 in. (87 x 539.1 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2008
Not on view
This rare example of a ceremonial textile hanging depicts the penultimate battle in the Ramayana, when Rama and his monkey and bear armies fight Ravana and his hoards of demons. Rama and Ravana are preparing to discharge magical arrows at each other. Rama is supported by Lakshmana, seen stringing his bow, and by his general, the monkey leader Hanuman, who gestures in veneration (anjali) to his Lord. Some members of Hanuman's army engage in deadly combat while others carry rocks to build the land bridge to Lanka (Sri Lanka), needed for the final siege of Ravana's fortress and the rescue of Rama's wife, Sita. Ravana is flanked by his general and by the demonic creatures in his service. The surrounding battleground is filled with combatants and the dismembered bodies of the slain. This vivid and masterful example of south Indian textile painting, kalamkari, demonstrates the artist's ability to capture in lively brushwork the energy and majesty of the epic battle.