Surpanakha Addressing Rama


Surpanakha Addressing Rama



From an illustrated manuscript of Ramayana

The major hurdles in the life of Rama during his exile began with the episode of Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana, becoming enamoured of Rama. The episode is described in the Aranyakanda of the Ramayana (Chapter 5). Rama and Sita are seated on a platform under a tree while Lakshmana sits on a platform opposite. The tall demoness Surpanakha disguised as a beautiful lady is trying to convince Rama to leave Sita and take her instead as his wife. She tries to
win him with promises of comfort and luxury. She is adorned with various ornaments and stands before Rama respectfully, head covered with her odhani. Her gesture is indicative of her address to Rama.
The painting is more symbolic than realistic in its representation of the Ramayana. Usually the exiled group is shown clad in tribal or ascetic attire in the forest but here the artist has depicted them in fully royal dress. Moreover, clearly he has portrayed the demoness as a proportionately larger figure than the three protagonists. The separation of Lakshmana from Rama and Sita is also unusual. Thus either the artist was not familiar with usual Ramayana illustration or he was determined to give his own psychological interpretation of the episode.
Although the picture was rendered in the Deccan, its style differs from normal Deccani style and seems to follow the less flamboyant and flatter Rajput mode of expression, seen also in other series of paintings done for Hindu patrons. The simple, formal composition and the narrative strategy make this a fascinating work.

Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection


Indian Miniature Paintings

Object Type

Miniature Painting


Opaque watercolour on paper






c 1640–50


Aurangabad, Maharashtra


16.5 x 19 cm (with border), 14.2 x 17.2 cm (without border).