Bharata and Shatrughna Take Leave of Their Grandfather
Page from a dispersed series of the Ramayana

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Jammu and Kashmir, India, Asia
Probably made in Bahu, Jammu and Kashmir, India, Asia

c. 1690-1700

Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver-colored paint on paper

Image: 7 3/8 × 12 3/8 inches (18.7 × 31.4 cm) Sheet: 8 5/8 × 12 5/16 inches (21.9 × 31.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004

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The pages from this series, known as the Shangri Ramayana after the town where it was "discovered" in 1956, were most likely made at slightly different times by at least four painters. This page is the work of the senior-most master. The bowing, blue-skinned man is probably not the hero Rama, but rather Bharata, one of his three half-brothers. Two chariots stand ready as Bharata reverently touches the feet of his maternal grandfather. He and his brother Shatrughna are leaving to return to Ayodhya, the capital of their father, King Dasharatha. Unknowingly, however, they return to tragedy. Thanks to the maneuvering of his mother, Bharata has been declared king during his absence, his beloved brother Rama has been exiled to the forest, and Dasharatha has died from grief.

Additional information:
  • PublicationIntimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection

    A perfectly balanced stage-like set has been established to present this formal leave-taking. Two chariots have just driven onto the scene, their seats covered in fabric flounces, their wooden yokes carved, and their harnesses laden with bells. The horses stomp and whinny in their sudden cessation of movement, as the still-mounted charioteers clutch their whips and pull at the reins. The inscription on the reverse of this painting reads only “Ayodhyakanda,” the name of the second section of the epic Ramayana (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-15), making it difficult to identify which specific episode within the text the scene represents.

    Most likely, however, the painting shows the departure of Rama’s brothers, Bharata and Shatrughna, from their stay with their maternal grandfather, Kekaya, king of the city of Rajagriha.1 The mustached Kekaya, in a white jama with a thrusting dagger in his belt, has dismounted and stands in conversation with his orange-clad grandson Shatrughna. Bharata is depicted with blue complexion like that of his brother Rama, a characteristic that has caused confusion in the identification of several paintings from this series.2

    Bharata lays aside his bow and bends down to touch his grandfather’s feet honorifically. This quiet and formal leave-taking assures the viewer that he has heard nothing during his visit of the tragic incidents taking place in his home city of Ayodhya. There, Bharata’s mother has connived to force her husband, King Dasharatha, to promise Bharata the throne in place of the rightful successor, his elder half-brother Rama, and to secure Rama’s forest exile. On reaching Ayodhya, faithful Bharata will be further distressed by learning that grief and guilt have caused his father’s death.

    This series (see also Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-27,28), which may or may not actually have been conceived as a whole, is called the “Shangri” Ramayana. When “discovered” in 1956 by M. S. Randhawa, the now-dispersed 270 pages were in the collection of Raja Raghbir Singh of Shangri (a town in the Kulu Valley), who was a member of the royal line of Kulu. In 1973, W. G. Archer used formal characteristics to divide the known pages into four groups, which he termed “Styles I–IV.” He also attempted to give a historical justification to the Kulu origins of the work.3 More recently, however, the portions of the series that Archer dated as earlier (which also come earlier in the narrative) have been reassigned by B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer4 to Bahu in the northeasterly region of Jammu. In the late seventeenth century, Bahu was a major capital with an impressive fort. Not until later did the main branch of the royal family rule from the nearby town of Jammu itself.

    Only the three protagonists and their chariots interrupt the monochrome background of somber olive green that matches the mood of the scene, but is also a favorite of the painter Goswamy labels the “senior master” of the “Shangri” Ramayana, responsible for those works in Archer’s Style I.5 Oversize heads, long faces with prominent chins, and lips pressed together and spanning the depth of the thick noses are all characteristics associated with this hand; so too are the solid wheels of the chariots, overlaid with a delicate pattern, the lively depiction of the animals, and the wide red border into which the figures freely intrude. Darielle Mason, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 84-85.

    1. Sarga 64 (Ramayana 1984–94, vol. 2, pp. 218–20).
    2. M. S. Randhawa. Basohli Painting. New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1959, p. 68, plate 16. Randhawa describes the scene as representing Rama and Lakshmana taking leave of their father, Dasharatha, before their forest exile, an incident that never actually occurs in the Ramayana.
    3. W. G. Archer. Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills: A Survey and History of Pahari Miniature Painting. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1973, vol. 1, pp. 325–29.
    4. B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer. Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India. Supplement 38 of Artibus Asiae. Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 1992, pp. 76–77.
    5. Ibid., pp. 78, 88.