The artist has captured the story of the deer hunt with the fewest possible elements, in a way that is instantly recognizable and yet takes liberties with the classical tale. The forest is represented by two trees and a few sprays of foliage; the deer is a mundane gray, not magical gold; and Sita waits anxiously in a white marble pavilion, rather than a thatched hut. The vibrantly colored backgrounds divide the composition into zones that create mood and organize the narrative.
This scene portrays a dramatic moment in the Ramayana. The blue-skinned Rama (a human manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu) had been unjustly exiled from his father’s kingdom to the forest, where he dwelt with his brother Lakshmana and his wife, Sita. One day a beautiful golden deer appeared and lured the men away from their forest dwelling. When Rama shot the deer, it reverted to its true shape as a demon—shown dying in the lower part of the painting. Realizing that they had been duped, the brothers raced back to the hut to find that Sita had been abducted in their absence.
In this intensely lyrical painting from Bundelkhand in Central India, the great river is shown tumbling from the night sky. Ascetics sit cross-legged on the mountainside, offering their austerities to Shiva, while women come to venerate Ganga. The river teems with life—crocodiles, turtles, fish, and birds—while lions, leopards, jackals, monkeys, and rabbits cavort on its banks.
According to an ancient legend, the goddess Ganga (the personification of the River Ganges) once dwelt in heaven, and the earth suffered from drought. Through the prayers of Bhagiratha, the gods agreed to allow Ganga to descend to earth, but that brought about another crisis: if Ganga were to fall unimpeded, the force of the mighty river could destroy the earth. Bhagiratha then performed penances to seek the aid of the powerful Hindu god Shiva, who responded by catching Ganga in his densely matted locks of hair to break her fall.