In Southeast Asia scenes from the Rama epic have long been depicted in sculpture and painting and enacted in courtly dance-drama, less formal drama, and puppet theater.
In mainland Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia Hanuman is not celibate as he usually is in India (because his heart is completely filled with Rama and Sita), but a monkey with many romantic interests. It is difficult to identify exactly which of his lady loves is shown here. One possibility is Punnakay (Benyakai), niece of Ravana, who, in Cambodian and Thai versions of the epic, is forced to disguise herself as Sita and pretend to be dead to trick Rama into abandoning the true Sita. After learning that Punnakay has been an unwilling pawn in Ravana’s plans, Hanuman returns her to Ravana’s kingdom with a bit of romance en route.
This painting may have been used to decorate a building such as a theater, college, or hotel.
(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)