indian art - miniatures - archecticture - vedic philosophy

Classical - Kangra - Ramayana / Exile in the Forest
Plate 4 - Rama at the Hermitage of Sage Atri  


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After Bharata had left, Rama was weighed down with sadness and felt restless. The past clouded his spirit shattering the peace that had come to him in the beautiful surroundings of Chitrakuta. Moreover, Rama observed that the ascetics living there were filled with apprehensions and were desirous of leaving that place. The ascetics who first looked towards Rama as a protector, now found that rakshasas, possessing enmity towards the princes, were harassing them also. The sages told Rama that Khara, the younger brother of Ravana, was harassing them. Rama decided to go elsewhere and left Chitrakuta. They reached the hermitage of the sage Atri and paid obeisance to him. The sage offered them hospitality and honored them.

The hermitage is shown at the foot of the hills beside the bend of a river. The sage Atri, seated at the center, has his rosary over his head. He is conversing with Rama and Lakshmana, shown seated at the left. The sage related the story of the virtuous Anusuya, his aged wife, and herself an ascetic. She underwent mortification when a drought, extending over ten years, had burnt the earth. Her severe austerities caused the river Jahnavi (Ganga) to flow there. At these words of the rishi, Rama, glancing at Sita, said to her, "Oh Princess thou hast heard what the sage has said, it is best for thee to honor the saintly Anusuya whose deeds have brought great renown in this world." Sita and Anusuya are seen talking affectionately, seated near the hut. They talked about the obligations of conjugal life and the merits of devotion to their spouses. Anusuya had heard that Sita was won by Rama in a svayamvara (the ceremony of self choice) and wanted Sita to recount it in detail to her. Sita narrated the whole episode. Anusuya gave Sita celestial gifts, ornaments, pastes, and robes which would never fade or get soiled. She asked Sita to put on the clothes and ornaments for her delight. After this episode, Sita is depicted in later sequences wearing clothes, and not garments of bark and grass.

The use of colors is masterly. The thick dark green foliage behind the light color of the hut, with leaves at its top and other decorative devices, make a striking design. The deer skin, cut in a geometrical shape, provides a contrast to several soft curves seen in the painting.