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The divine couple

Ramayana mapped through scrolls, puppets, masks at a Delhi exhibition

delhi Updated: Dec 15, 2017 15:02 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan times
Ramayana,Ramayana tradition,Exhibition on Ramayana
Ravana is a key character in the story of Rama

Ram Rajya, Ram Temple, Ram Setu… If this is all you have been hearing these days with reference to Ramayana, hit the refresh button on the epic by visiting the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) this weekend. The IGNCA is holding a fabulous exhibition built around the philosophical, narrative, visual and performing aspects of the Ramayana tradition in classical, folk and contemporary contexts.

This exhibition, Leela, is a product of a project that IGNCA started in 2007. “We held seminars and artistes’ workshops, sourced visual documentation along with puppets, scrolls and masks to understand the epic’s rich and broad presentations across India and the neighbouring countries,” says professor Molly Kaushal, head of Janapada Sampada Division at IGNCA. The exhibition has been conceptualised and curated by her, and designed by Neeraj Sahai.

The Ramayana Patachitra of Odisha. The Ramayana tradition has in expressed through various art forms in the exhibition. ( Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO )

This is not a walk-in-the-park exhibition. Various philosophical categories of Indian thought - Brahman, Shabda, Dhavni, Akara, Nama, and Rupa – have been explored through the traditions of katha, lila and bhakti to tell the Rama story in art form. At its centre is the philosophical discourse about the nature of creation and the creator, which is seen as ‘leela’, the cosmic sport through which we pass through the cycles of life. Don’t be daunted; the explainers at the exhibitions are accessible.

The theme of ‘leela’ runs through the manuscripts, sculptures, paintings (including miniatures), wooden, bronze, stone and terracotta arts and crafts, textiles, the audio-visual and multimedia presentations of the epic at the exhibition. A special lecture series is also being organised around Ramayana and there will be workshops for children too.

Twenty-one museums across the country have sent their precious and rare exhibits from their collections for the exhibition. There are Nakshi dolls of Ramayana characters from Andhra Pradesh and patachitra paintings from Odisha, depicting scenes from the epic. There are Jamini Roy’s paintings and Raja Ravi Varma’s oleographs on Ramayana’s characters. Don’t miss the collection of Kashi Naresh of Banaras and the original Ramlila paraphernalia from the world-renowned Ramnagar Ramlila.

Marble statues of Ram, Lakshman and Sita at the Ram Darbar, IGNCA ( Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO )

The story of Ramayana has been adopted and adapted by various communities, cutting across boundaries of caste, religion, race, regions. There is no language in India in which the story of Rama has not been composed. The epic has been translated into Urdu more than in any other language.

“We wanted people to realise that the Ramanand Sagar Ramayana [the ’80s TV serial] is not the only version of the epic,” explains Dr Kaushal. The response , she adds, has been warm. “Everyone is absorbing the epic in their way and that’s what how we wanted it to be,” says Dr Kaushal.


What: Leela

When: Till December 25, 11am-7pm

Where: Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, Janpath

Nearest metro station: Central Secretariat, Janpath

First Published: Dec 14, 2017 19:36 IST