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The demoness Shurpanakha, in the form of a beautiful woman, addresses Rama and Lakshmana; a scene from a Rama epic
Place of Origin: India, Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Mewar
Date: 1675-1700
Materials: Opaque watercolors and gold on paper
Dimensions: H. 9 1/4 in x W. 15 1/8 in, H. 23.5 cm x W. 38.4 cm (image)
Credit Line: Gift of George Hopper Fitch
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: 2001.55
On Display: No

More Information

Inscriptions: inscription in Mewari dialect of Rajasthani, translated by Prof. Heidi Pauwels (addl info in file):
In the back (or: afterwards, like Hindi piche) [there is] Rama.
He had been dwelling in the woods for many days and nights.
Then Shurpanakha arrived.
As she arrived, she said to Rama: "Marry me."
Then Rama answered the demoness (rakshasi): "I have a wife. Speak to my younger
brother, who'll marry you."

Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Additional Label:

Ravana’s sister, the demoness Shurpanakha, has come upon Rama in the forest and (in some tellings of the story) has transformed herself into an attractive woman. Struck by Rama’s beauty, she tries to seduce him and proposes marriage. On the right, Rama informs Shurpanakha, who appears twice in the painting, that he is married and directs her attention toward his brother Lakshmana (on the left). Not shown in this painting are the next moments of the story when the brothers’ teasing of the seductress turns into an exchange of insults. Shurpanakha proceeds to threaten Sita. Rama orders Lakshmana to punish Shurpanakha by cutting off her nose and ears. When Ravana eventually hears of this, and of Sita’s great beauty, he resolves to have vengeance on Rama by abducting Sita.

The episode in which Rama and Lakshmana disfigure Shurpanakha has long made audiences uneasy. Rama is protecting Sita and penalizing Shurpanakha for what was thought to be her shameful forwardness, but the penalty has sometimes seemed excessive.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Inscriptions: inscription in Mewari dialect of Rajasthani, translated by Prof. Heidi Pauwels (addl info in file):
In the back (or: afterwards, like Hindi piche) [there is] Rama.
He had been dwelling in the woods for many days and nights.
Then Shurpanakha arrived.
As she arrived, she said to Rama: "Marry me."
Then Rama answered the demoness (rakshasi): "I have a wife. Speak to my younger
brother, who'll marry you."

Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Expanded Label:

Ravana’s sister, the demoness Shurpanakha, has come upon Rama in the forest and (in some tellings of the story) has transformed herself into an attractive woman. Struck by Rama’s beauty, she tries to seduce him and proposes marriage. On the right, Rama informs Shurpanakha, who appears twice in the painting, that he is married and directs her attention toward his brother Lakshmana (on the left). Not shown in this painting are the next moments of the story when the brothers’ teasing of the seductress turns into an exchange of insults. Shurpanakha proceeds to threaten Sita. Rama orders Lakshmana to punish Shurpanakha by cutting off her nose and ears. When Ravana eventually hears of this, and of Sita’s great beauty, he resolves to have vengeance on Rama by abducting Sita.

The episode in which Rama and Lakshmana disfigure Shurpanakha has long made audiences uneasy. Rama is protecting Sita and penalizing Shurpanakha for what was thought to be her shameful forwardness, but the penalty has sometimes seemed excessive.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)