Bhishma Pitamaha explaining the importance of donations to Yudhishthira


Bhishma Pitamaha explaining the importance of donations to Yudhishthira



Folio from an illustrated manuscript of Razm Nama.

In the year 1582–83, the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were ordered by Akbar to be translated by Badauni and an illustrated copy of the same known as the Razm Nama was completed for the royal library sometime after 1587. This imperial copy of the Razm Nama is preserved in the Maharaja Sawai Madav Mansingh II Museum in Jaipur. As mentioned by Badauni in his Muntakhab-ut-tawarihk, once the royal copy was made, the nobles of the court of Akbar also acquired copies of the illustrated imperial Razm Nama for themselves. Three such illustrated copies have come to light, the folios of which are dispersed in various museums. This museum has ten folios of the Razm Nama belonging to the dated set of 1598 A.D. which was illustrated for Abdul Rahim Khan Khanan, who is mentioned in the colophon as the patron of the manuscript.

The text is written on the reverse and sometimes, as in the Akbari paintings, it is written in a box inserted into the painting itself. Obviously, the style is not very homogenous but the format remains the same. The inferior workmanship and at times, slightly haphazard composition reveals its experimental character as illustrations are not a product of the imperial atelier.

This is an incident from the Anushasanaparvan of the Mahabharata. Yudhisthira asked Bhishma, lying on the bed of arrows after the Mahabharata was over,about the virtues of giving food to others in this world. Bhishma related to Yudhisthira his conversation with Narada to whom he had asked the same question.

The painting depicts Narada talking to Bhishma on the subject with the help of the ancient text. The scene is laid in the palace inside a fort. A royally attired Bhishma is seated opposite the bearded Narada who has a manuscript in his hand. A goat and a man carrying a plate full of sweets, in the quadrangle in front of them, are symbolic of the food to be donated. People from various parts of the country seem to have assembled as noticed from the various kinds of headgear worn by them. The inscription refers to the next chapter on choosing the right constellation at the time of making a donation.

The painter’s name Kanhara is inscribed on the lower margin of the painting.


Indian Miniature Paintings



Object Type



Opaque watercolour on paper






C. 1598 CE




Folio: 17 x 27 cms,Painting: 14.4 x 24.4 cms.