Epic animation: Historical drawings depict sequence from Ramayana

Jun 13, 2017, 09:17 IST | Snigdha hasan

A newly discovered set of 18th century Pahari drawings sequentially depicts events from the Ramayana

Prof Ratan Parimoo
Prof Ratan Parimoo

About three years ago, when Professor Ratan Parimoo was studying the manuscript collection stored at the LD Institute of Indology - a sister organisation of the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum in Ahmedabad, of which he is the director - he came across a section that was to become the focus of his current research. This collection of Indian art objects, an initiative of Abanindranath and Gagendranath Tagore, comprised 1,800 drawings. Of these, 62 drawings illustrated the sequential unfolding of events in the Ayodhya Kaand (chapter) of the Ramayana.

A scene depicting two stages of Rama and Sita’s departure for exile
A scene depicting two stages of Rama and Sita's departure for exile

Belonging to the Kangra School from the Pahari style of painting, the drawings are from the 18th century. "When pieced together, this set was a frame-by-frame continuous narration of events - Rama and Sita about to leave for vanvaas (exile), by the river bank, and finally reaching the other side, with a forest in the distance," explains Dr Parimoo. "What’s fascinating is that the artist has illustrated different stages of the same episode in a single frame. If one were to find a modern Indian parallel for such depiction, the storyboards that Satyajit Ray drew for his cinematography, come to mind. In fact, these drawings lend themselves well to animation."

This discovery and its current implications will be the focus of his talk organised by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and The Museum Society of Mumbai. "I am fortunate to have come across these drawings," shares Dr Parimoo, who is working on a book featuring them. "Modern art often criticises traditional art for its shortcomings. But then emerge works of such rich imagination from time to time, silencing all critics."

ON: June 17, 6 pm
AT: CSMVS, Fort.

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