Ramayana - Aranya Kanda

By Vanishree Mahesh

Ramayana is one of the great epics of India. The story of Sri Rama, written by the great sage Valmiki is referred to as the Adi Kavya, the first poem in Sanskrit. The Ramayana has been a source of not only spirituality but also great art.

The vase presented in this exhibit pictorially narrates an incident from Ramayana. According to the New York Metropolitan Museum that houses the vase, it was created by the Bombay School of Art to preserve Indian craft. The museum opines that although the vase is grounded in Indian tradition, British neoclassical taste underlies its shape and some geometric motifs. Given the scale and inscribed multiscene narrative, this vase may have been produced for the London Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886.

Provenance[ Amir Mohtashemi Ltd., London, until 2007; sold to Kossak]; Steven M. Kossak , New York 2007–19; donated to MMA

Notes about the Ramayana sequence depicted on the vase:

Rama firing arrows at the demon army of Khara

The vase has the Ramayana sequences narrated from left to right and then from right to left. The arrangements do not go wholly clockwise or anti-clockwise, as we can notice in the essay accompanying the photographs of the vase. The two-line text scripted on top of the pictures is written in the Devanagari script, but the language is not Sanskrit. One of the exhibit items is a translation of the literature.

In the artwork, the artist has named various characters and objects. This can be noticed when the image is enlarged, and an explanation for the same is given in the accompanying essay.