Indian miniature paintings have always piqued global interest. This time, Delhi’s National Museum has lent 101 such paintings from its collection to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, for a month-long exhibition. Called “Ram-Katha”, the collection chronologically captures the story of the Ramayana.
The paintings, done between the 17th and 19th centuries by artists from various schools of art in India, are themed on Lord Ram’s life. “The Ramayana, composed by Valmiki in Sanskrit, is believed to be the first-known narrative of Indian literature. The paintings based on Ram katha come from north, central and east India,” says Vijay Kumar Mathur, curator of the exhibition. It took him four months to curate the display from the museum’s collection of 500-odd miniature paintings depicting the Ramayana.
The exhibits represent a matured movement in miniature art wherein the spirit of Ramayana has been researched upon and visualised in colours. “While this will be a treat for Indian audiences in Australia, it will also be a special way to introduce Indian culture among Australian citizens,” says Mathur. Starting on May 22, the exhibition will kick off the Festival of India in Australia.
All major styles of Pahari paintings (Basohli, Chamba, Kangra and Bilaspur) are on display, while Rajasthani styles include Mewar, Bundi, Jaipur, Bikaner and Deogarh. There are representations from central Indian styles of Malwa, Orchha, Datia and Raghogarh, besides specimens of Mughal style from Bundelkhand. Deccani from Bijapur and classical folk style of Kalighat are also on display. Most of these style originated between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Some of the noteworthy works include The Portrait of Ram, (Basohli style, Pahari, 1730); Ram breaks Shiva’s bow in the court of King Janaka (Provincial Mughal style, Orchha, Bundelkhand, early 17th century); Wedding of Ram and Sita (Mandi style, mid-18th century); Ram, Lakshman and the golden deer (Kalighat style, Bengal, late 19th century); and Hanuman, with Dronagiri mountain (Raghogarh style, Central India, late 18th century).
The “Ram-Katha” exhibition was first held at the National Museum in 2013. The same year, it travelled to the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels, where it was on display for six months.