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Shadow puppet of the demon king Ravana
Place of Origin: India, Andhra Pradesh state
Date: approx. 1875-1925
Object Name: shadow puppet
Materials: Hide with pigments
Dimensions: H. 57 in x W. 37 in, H. 144.8 cm x W. 94 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Joyce Roy
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Theatrical Arts
Object Number: 2013.40
On Display: No

More Information

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

Here Ravana is represented with all ten heads, and has, dangling from the main arms, a number of miniature arms—enough to suggest twenty. Ravana’s eyes bulge and his mouths have demonic fangs, a frequent feature of depictions of Ravana. The heads have two unusual features, pointed beards and triple lines painted on the foreheads indicating a devotee of the great god Shiva, as Ravana was. Ravana’s skin is red, but his color varies from one culture to another.

One of the miniature arms is inscribed with the Telegu-language words Shri Rama. One possibility of why a Ravana puppet’s arm would be inscribed with Rama’s name is that the holy name served to affirm that the entire puppet performance was in homage to Rama. Or, perhaps the inscription was a reminder that because Ravana was so focused on and absorbed with Rama, even as an adversary, Ravana was in some sense Rama’s devotee.

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


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

Here Ravana is represented with all ten heads, and has, dangling from the main arms, a number of miniature arms—enough to suggest twenty. Ravana’s eyes bulge and his mouths have demonic fangs, a frequent feature of depictions of Ravana. The heads have two unusual features, pointed beards and triple lines painted on the foreheads indicating a devotee of the great god Shiva, as Ravana was. Ravana’s skin is red, but his color varies from one culture to another.

One of the miniature arms is inscribed with the Telegu-language words Shri Rama. One possibility of why a Ravana puppet’s arm would be inscribed with Rama’s name is that the holy name served to affirm that the entire puppet performance was in homage to Rama. Or, perhaps the inscription was a reminder that because Ravana was so focused on and absorbed with Rama, even as an adversary, Ravana was in some sense Rama’s devotee.

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