King Janaka Greets Dasharatha Before Rama's Wedding
Page from a dispersed series of the Ramayana

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

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

Date:
c. 1700-1710

Medium:
Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions:
Image: 7 15/16 × 12 1/16 inches (20.2 × 30.6 cm) Sheet: 8 7/8 × 13 1/16 inches (22.5 × 33.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2004-149-27

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

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Label:
In this scene from an earlier part of the epic "Shangri" Ramayana, Rama and his brother Lakshmana are depicted as young boys. Through a feat of divine strength, Rama has won the hand of the beautiful Sita, daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Janaka invites Rama's father, King Dasharatha, to come to Mithila for the marriage rites. In this painting, Janaka greets Dasharatha, who has arrived with his priests and courtiers and set up his tents outside Janaka's city.

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

    On a flat ground of bright yellow, a composed state event transpires.1 Young Rama has won the hand of Sita, daughter of King Janaka of Mithila, by accomplishing the amazing feat of bending— and breaking in two—the huge bow of Shiva, given to Janaka by the gods. Janaka has sent an envoy to Rama’s father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, requesting that he come immediately to Mithila to seal the arrangement and perform the marriage ceremony. This scene shows Janaka greeting Dasharatha as he arrives with his Brahmins, courtiers, and soldiers.

    Two tents—one closed and domed; the other open over a graceful rug and a large striped bolster— depicted as if from above, indicate that Dasharatha has set up his camp just outside the city. The tents and tree occupy the upper half of the evenly divided composition, while the lower is filled by the participants and, at each side, the fronts of the two horsedrawn chariots that have brought them together. Three Brahmin priests, shirtless and with their hair in topknots, stand among the attendant courtiers.

    The two kings who meet in the center are clearly distinguished by their lotus-topped crowns and the elaborate umbrellas held over their heads by attendants. On the right, in a pink jama, is probably Janaka, who holds his hands together in the gesture of greeting and honor. Rama and his brother Lakshmana are depicted as youths, without turbans and with boyishly curling locks, substantially smaller than the men beside them. Yet despite their age they both carry weapons—Rama a sword and quiver of arrows, Lakshmana a thrusting dagger. Rama reaches out to greet his green-robed father, who places one arm around the boy’s shoulders in an approving, paternal gesture that perfectly combines great solemnity and emotional warmth.

    Pattern is paramount here, not only the perfect vertical and horizontal balance of the composition, but the careful attention to textiles, particularly the elaborately striped jamas. Indeed, stripes are the leitmotif of this image—from tent ribs to horse blankets, to robes and turbans, they add an ordered visual richness that imbues the otherwise calm meeting with the pomp of a major court function. They even, oddly, appear as a separate element on the blue robe of one attendant, where the fly whisk is tucked not into the garment, but only through the stripes! Various feet of men and horses overlap the bottom border to bring the scene closer to the viewer. The warm red of the border is particularly complementary to this composition, and is undoubtedly an essential element in the master’s choices of color.

    Compared to another Bellak painting from the same series (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-26), both the faces and the finish differ substantially. Here, for example, the chins are smaller; noses are narrower and much more pointed; eyes are more lotiform. There is also less shading of the figures and bolder detailing. In addition, light yellow rather than worked gold is used for such metallic elements as crowns and weapons. W. G. Archer defined this as the second of the four distinctive styles into which he divided the “Shangri” Ramayana pages. B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer believe that these “Style II” paintings were probably done by a pupil or associate of the master responsible for Archer’s Style I (the “Master of the Bahu ‘Shangri’ Ramayana”), possibly from that master’s own drawings.2 Darielle Mason, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 86-87.

    1. The painting is inscribed on the reverse, “Val [for Balakanda, the name of the first book of the Ramayana], 71.” It depicts Sarga 68 (Ramayana 1984–94, vol. 1, pp. 253–54).
    2. 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. 78, 88. Steven Kossak (Indian Court Painting: Sixteenth–Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997, p. 76, no. 42) has tentatively attributed these “Style II” Ramayana pages to Devidasa, the artist responsible for the 1694–95 Rasamanjari (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-25). He bases his attribution solely on what he sees as similarities of detail. Certainly there are similarities, but these must be thought of as resulting from a confluence of general time and region, rather than any actual identity of hand.