indian art - miniatures - archecticture - vedic philosophy

Classical - Kangra - Ramayana / Exile in the Forest
Plate 8 - Surpanakha at Rama's Hermatige  


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One day Rama and Lakshmana, shining in effulgence, were seated in their hermitage and the invincible Rama, master of all His senses, was reciting the traditional texts. Surpanakha, sister of Ravana, chanced to pass that way. Approaching Rama, she observed that He resembled a god with His radiant countenance, long arms, and large eyes like lotus petals. He was youthful, full of valor, and bore the marks of royalty. His color was that of the blue lotus and he was as alluring as the god of love himself. The rakshasi (demoness) was overwhelmed with desire. She transformed herself into a beautiful maiden, came near the hermitage, and inquired of Rama who He was and what was the purpose of His journey. Rama told her that He was the eldest son of King Dasaratha and gave the names of his brother Lakshmana and His noble wife Sita, the daughter of the king of Videha. Surpanakha, in reply to Rama's inquiry, told Him that she was a rakshasi and had five powerful brothers, King Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Khara, Dushana, and the virtuous Vibhishna. Tormented by pangs of love, she begged Rama to become her master saying that she would be a well matched partner to Him. Sita she said, was not worthy of him.

Speaking thus, Surpanakha threw impassioned glances at Rama. Smiling a little, Rama, in gentle and mocking tones, answered that He was already wedded. Pointing towards Lakshmana, Rama told her that His younger brother had not experienced the joys of a wife's company and desired a consort. Surpanakha, blinded by passion, turned towards Lakshmana. He smiled and teasingly said to her that He was only a slave of His brother who was the fit match for her, and that Sita was an ordinary woman as compared to her. In order to remove her rival the rakshasi jumped to attack Sita and devour her. Rama, realizing the danger, asked Lakshmana to check the demoness and punish her. Lakshmana thereupon cut off the nose and ears of Surpanakha.

In the picture we see Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana seated in their hermitage in a peaceful atmosphere. On the arrival of Surpanakha, all of them have gently turned their eyes towards the intruder. Sita, who is busy cooking, has turned her head backwards. Surpanakha is standing on a side and does not appear to be part of the group, but along with the trees, her figure is an essential part of the composition. Beautiful and virtuous Sita looks serene and dignified; Rama appears majestic. He is wearing only a small loin cloth and we see His handsome and well proportioned body. Jatayu is in the foreground.