Râmâyana manuscript page: Rama kills the deer (folio no. 31)
Artist Unknown, India, Central India, Malwa School
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.
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.