Death of Vali; Rama and Lakshmana Wait Out the Monsoon
From Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas
c1775 by Jodhpur
The British Museum
Śrī Rāmacaritamānasa is an epic poem by the sixteenth-century poet Tulsidas, mostly telling the tales of Sri Rama, the crown prince of Ayodhya. Now widely considered one of the greatest works of Hindu literature, it no wonder that this was inspiration for Jodhpur almost a century later. Jodhpur truly captures the life of the text, the enticing pull of words that transports the reader to a different world; his painting is a detailed illustration teeming with life. Although nothing can match the ability of words to penetrate personal imagination, visuality has the power to be provocatively fantastical, presenting us with a world which dances out of our own. Jodhpur’s painting does just this; the scene brims over with the excitement of its own action. Clouds swell in omnipotent curls (this is the story of the triumph of monsoon), lightening wiggles almost playfully from its depths while elephants play on the ever-bounding hills, raising their trunks in salutation, dancing it seems to the tune of the weather. Deer and fawns multiply out of the forest; two lions stop to make conversation; peacocks perch gracefully on top of carnival coloured trees; and man, hindered by nature, shelters in the bubble of the forest, or in the safety of turrets that climb from his fairytale palace. This playfulness, encouraged by the incredible detail, is characteristic of Indian art (see postcard fifty-six), and the intense colours of Jodhpur’s painting only exalts this. The trees glow in orange and pink, embers in the sweeping of a magical fire, the landscape is a lush bright green watered by needles of rain, while the sky is black yet un-menacing, fronted by swirls of inky indigo. Transporting us away, Death of Vali is exotic, exciting, just as story telling should be.