Posted on: 24 September 2013

Hanuman fighting with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, opaque watercolour on paper, Kolkata, ca. 1830

Painting, in opaque watercolour with silver details, illustration to the Ramayana, Hanuman the monkey god fighting Ravana, the blue skinned, multi-headed, multi-armed demon king of Lanka against a tree. Hanuman is here painted in pale grey,to contrast with the blue skinned Ravana. The artist has included a minimal background here of one tree, to represent a forest setting. Personal adornments of necklaces, hair and ear ornaments are painted in tin alloy.

Historical significance:
Calcutta was recognised as the Capital of British India from 1833-1912. By the 1830s, artists had arrived from rural villages in Bengal and began to produce paintings that reflected local history, mythology, customs and conflicts of a colonised society. As a popular art form, these artists are recognised for their use of brilliant colour, simplified images and swift brushstrokes that became the hallmark of Kalighat painting in the 19th and early 20th century.

Copyright: © V&A Images

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Great Imagination.

Very unique depiction of Hanuman, looks like he has cat whiskers.

Hanuman's black face, hands & legs look like the artists wanted him to look like a langur (babboon?) (as opposed to the regular beige coloured monkey).

But Ravan is more interesting ... here's my humble submission to the folks who were trying to distinguish between good & bad on other Ravan related posts: Ravan could have been painted any colour under the sky and the artist chose blue. Coincidence perhaps that blue is the colour associated with divinity / brahman .... images of Ram & Krishna are often blue, remember ? Ravan's wearing a tigerskin loincloth. Isnt that usually attributed to Shiva, *who*, incidentally, is also often depicted as blue. Question: Please correct me if I'm wrong, but when did Ravan actually fight with Hanuman ? I thought the closest they came to each other was face to face in Ravan's court. What say, folks ?

Mallika I wonder if you have come across A.K. Ramanujan's article on hundred ramayanas. There are hundreds of versions of ramayana told and retold across India and in Indonesia. This could well be one of the renditions.Also, the color blue is used for depicting people with dark countenance (than it being a color associated with divine). It is believed that 'Krishna' (as the name suggests) was dark complexioned. My hunch is that the attempt here is to show ravana as dark and hanuman as white and therefor a langoor.

I followed the news when Ramanujan's article was the talk of the town, but never actually got around to reading it. I guess today is a good time :)

Of course Krishna's blue. But ever wonder why ? Ever wonder why Ram is also depicted as blue ? And Vishnu ? And Shiv ? THough I'll take your point about dark Ravan vs light langoor.

Ravan was a Shiva worshipper no? and an ascetic and a learned man...guess that explains the tiger skin.

All these gods were dark complexioned I guess.....and this perhaps could be a 19th century thing of using indigo to paint gods