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Item Code: PG47
Watercolor on Patti
Artist Shri Rabi Behera
40 inches X 24 inches
This astonishing piece of art, perhaps a many months’ long exercise of most skilled hands, a large size pata-painting, represents various episodes from the life of Lord Rama. All forms pen-drawn with stunning minuteness using just black on a light sky-blue background affording a second colour, in typical Orissa Pata-chitra style pursuing the same long rigidified iconographic modeling as is seen in most of the Orissa pata-chitra, the painting is a miracle of rare device. All illustrations and isolated forms, which are not many, are contained in one kind of geometrical formation or the other, mainly circles, octagons, oval loops etc. Undoubtedly, the represented episodes do not have the proper sequence as they are believed to have occurred in the Rama’s life or in his life as described in texts; besides some of the illustrations lack clarity not indicating exactly what it is portraying; however, whatever the artist has jotted on the canvas gives a fairly good idea of some of the more significant events of his life and legend.

The painting’s lay-out, consisting of various styles of geometrical formation, large and small, defined in lighter tint, is by itself quite eye-catching. Its centre consists of an inner circle representing the traditional vision of Rama-durbar, Rama and Sita as enthroned, Hanuman seated around their feet, his brothers Bharat and Shatrughna, on the left, and Lakshmana and the Lanka’s newly enthroned king Vibhishana, on their right. The outer circle, consisting of twenty-two oval loops, houses dancing figures, one each in one loop. These circles are contained in a square the corners of which have been manipulated using in them the bells-like shaped formations containing in them the figures of Rama and Hanuman.

The right and left arms of the square consist of ten circles, five on either side, representing in them in horizontal sequence, from right to left, Vishnu’s ten incarnations : Dasavatara : Fish incarnation, Tortoise, Boar, Narsimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Buddha and Kalki. Not strange that Krishna, widely venerated as Vishnu’s eighth incarnation, is not included in these ten. In Oriya Vaishnava cult, Krishna is not considered as Vishnu’s incarnation, but Himself Jagannatha, the Supreme, all are considered to be Krishna’s incarnations. Each of the right and left extremes of the inner rectangle, consisting of the centre representing Rama-durbar, is composed of three circles, those on the right representing Rama inducting Vibhishana into his camp, Hanuman jumping across the great ocean to Lanka, and Rama and Lakshmana killing Lanka’s demon-chief Ravana. The circles on the left represent Mandodari, Ravana’s principal queen, grieving over the deaths of her sons in battle against Rama, Sita performing fire ordeal for proving her chastity, and Rama and Lakshmana at a sage’s holy seat.

From right to left on the top the first of the nine octagons portrays Sheshasayi Vishnu; in the second, the births of the Dasharatha’s four sons Rama, Bharat, Lakshmana and Shatrughna of his three queens; in the third, Rama, Bharat, Lakshmana and Shatrughna in Gurukula learning archery; in the fourth, Rama and Lakshmana with sage Vishvamitra killing the she-demon Tadika; in the fifth, redemption of Ahilya, the wife of sage Gautama who by his curse was turned into stone; in the sixth, Rama and Lakshmana in the garden of king Janaka where they meet Sita first time; in the seventh, the queens of king Janaka welcoming Rama and Lakshmana with sage Vishvamitra; in the eighth, Rama meeting Sita in king Janaka’s yajnashala ; and in the ninth, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita taking leave of sage Vishvamitra for returning back to Ayodhya.

The first of the identical nine octagons on the bottom represents Sita in Ravana’s Ashoka-vatika being frightened by one of Ravana’s demon; the second portrays Hanuman emerging from the mouth of Surasa, the she-demon in-charge of sea-front; the third, Rama killing Bali; the fourth, Sugriva with Hanuman and others welcoming Rama and Lakshmana; the fifth, Sita’s abduction by Ravana; the sixth, Ravana’s demon Marichi beguiling Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in disguise as the golden deer; the seventh, Ravana’s sister Surpanakha pressurizing Rama to marry her; the eighth, Bharat meeting Rama at Chitrakuta; and the ninth, Bharata carrying Rama’s foot-wear to rule Ayodhya by them. The three medallions on the right arm portray Ravana turning down Vibhishana prayer and insulting him; Hanuman carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders; and, Hanuman blazing Lanka. The first of the medallions on the left portrays Kevata, the boatman, not to ferry Rama, Lakshmana and Sita unless allowed to wash their feet fearing the dust on them might transform his boat into a woman as it did by transforming the rock into Ahilya, the sage’s wife; the second, Sugriva’s indulgence in merriment forgetting the promise he gave to Rama; and the third, Bharat punishing Manthara for her evil mind that led to Rama’s expulsion from Ayodhya.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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