Hanuman Burns Lanka

From the Sundara Kanda, Book 5 of the Ramayana

Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra, circa 1830-40

Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper

Approx. 34cm high, 46.5cm wide

Provenance: Private UK Collection

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Hanuman Burns Lanka

In this painting, reading from the top left, we see a set of events unfolding. Having wrapped Hanuman’s tail with some cloth, the rakshasas, or demons, march the bound Hanuman with some pomp through a gate. One even plays a drum as another one threatens him with a weapon. The demons then set Hanuman’s tail alight in an effort to kill him. To their surprise he flies about Lanka and sets the entire city on fire, sparing only the house of Vibhishana, Ravana’s good younger brother. The demons are quite varied in appearance underscoring the fact that all demons do not look alike.

In this epic many of the rakshasas are destroyed, leaping from their homes or burning in them. Here they act in human-like gestures, first throwing up their arms watching Hanuman fly about and then trying to save their belongings by handing them out of windows. At the bottom right a rakshasi, a female demon, holds her child on her hip and directs the saving of her valuables.

The fort appears to be made of gold, underscoring the wealth and power of Ravana, the king of the demons. The geometrical shapes of the architecture create interesting stage sets for the action making the story quite readable. The flames blow in the wind and Hanuman leaps from the terrace, kicking over a thin tower, adding interesting movement to the composition.

Hanuman Burns Lanka


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