I spent a whole morning at the British Library exhibition called Mewar Ramayana: Love and Valor in India’s Great Epic. The display included 400 paintings, produced by Hindu and Muslim artists between 1649 and 1653, that tell the story of Rama and Sita, a story that forms the basic mythology behind the Hindu vedas and called “arguably, the most influential secular work of world literature”.
The paintings often feature the same characters multiple times, as a way of showing multiple scenes through time, and they often move from bottom left in an anti-clockwise direction. The 5 books of the Ramayana were completed by 500BC, probably by the poet Valmiki, but two additional books that identifed Rama as an avatar of Vishnu were added around 100BC. The Ramayana existed on palm leaves and birch bark until it was finally printed as a book in the Sanskrit language. This work was done, according the library, in 1806 by two Christian missionaries named William Carey and Joshua Marshman on their press at Serampore, India. William Carey has been called the father of modern missions. You can view the paintings on the British Library’s website.
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