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The Birds Try to Beat Down the Ocean
Page from a dispersed series of the Panchatantra (Book I: The Estrangement of Friends)

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Geography:
Made in Rajasthan, India, Asia

Date:
18th century

Medium:
Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions:
Image: 2 1/4 × 6 13/16 inches (5.7 × 17.3 cm) Sheet: 6 × 9 7/16 inches (15.2 × 24 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1994-148-459

Credit Line:
Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994

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Label:
Lapwings are ground-nesting shorebirds and both parents care for the young. In this story, a lapwing couple laid their eggs too close to the ocean. Furious with the ocean, the male lapwing recruits all the birds to help him destroy it. First they fly out over the ocean, trying to beat it down with their wings. After various other attempts, all futile, they turn to Garuda, king of the birds and vahana (vehicle) of the great god Vishnu. Garuda intercedes and the mighty ocean returns the lapwing's eggs. The great ocean thought itself unassailable by the tiny lapwing but:

Whoever adopts an adversarial stance
before ascertaining the enemy's strength
runs the risk of defeat, like the Ocean
who pitted himself against the lapwing.