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As is typical of Orissa tradition, the octagon on the top right portrays Lord Vishnu reclining on the coils of the great serpent Shesha with Lakshmi massaging. The second and the third octagons represent sage Shrangi brought to Ayodhya from across the river Sarayu for performing the ‘ajna’ for king Dasharatha which blessed him with four sons; the fourth, performance of ‘ajna’; the fifth, Dasharatha distributing among his queens the remnant of food offered to Agni at the ‘ajna’; the sixth, all three queens with four children, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharat and Shatrughna; the seventh, the child Rama delighting king Dasharatha and mother Kausalya; and the last in the top row, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharat and Shatrughna at Gurukula.
From right to left, the first octagon in the second row portrays Manthara, the confidante of queen Kekeyi, poisoning Kekeyi’s mind against Rama; the second, Rama and Lakshmana going with sage Vishvamitra; the third, Sita wedding Rama; the fourth, Nishada, chief of Shrangaverapura, praying Rama to be his guest; the fifth, redemption of Ahilya, the wife of sage Gautam transformed into a rock by his curse; the sixth, Rama and Lakshmana encounter the she-demon Tadaka; the seventh, sage Vishvamitra introducing Rama and Lakshmana to king Janaka; and the eighth, Dasharatha’s all four sons learning archery at Gurukula.
The first octagon in the third row from the top illustrates Rama, Lakshmana and Sita leaving for forest; the second, Dasharatha’s all three queens grieving over is dead body; the third, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in the forest; in the fourth, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita at sage Atri’s hermitage where Sita meets Anasuya, sage Atri’s wife; in the fifth, Sita making offering to Ganga which her hand accepts; in the sixth, Lakshmana severing Surpanakha’s nose; in the seventh, Surpanakha complaining of Rama and Lakshmana to her brother Ravana; and the last, demon Marichi, disguised as golden deer, beguiles Rama, Lakshmana and Sita.
The fourth row from the top illustrates the episodes : first, Rama and Lakshmana at mount Kishkindha that monkey chief Sugriva occupies; second, Rama and Lakshmana witnessing Bali and Sugriva battling; third, Sugriva expressing his inability in facing Bali; fourth, Ravana abducting Sita in his ‘vimana’ – aircraft; fifth, Rama and Lakshmana performing death-rites of Jatayu, the Great Bird; sixth, the great bird Jatayu confronting Ravana when he was abducting Sita; seventh, Ravana abducting Sita in disguise as a hermit; and lastly, before leaving Sita alone at Panchavati Lakshmana draws around the cottage a line that burnt any intruder crossing it and it also set limits for Sita to cross.
The row second from bottom represents: one, Rama giving to Sugriva his garland to distinguish him from his brother Bali; two, Hanuman heading towards mount Mainak in the sea to rest for a while; three, Hanuman at Vibhishana’s house where he finds him worshipping Rama’s image; four, Hanuman meets Sita at Ashoka-vatika in Lanka; guards looking after her fall in deep slumber; five, perhaps Hanuman confronting Meghanatha or one of Ravana’s other sons; six, tied with a rope Hanuman produced before Ravana; seven, Hanuman burning down Lanka; and the last, Nala, Nila and others spanning ocean across to Lanka.
The bottom row begins from right to left with : Rama, Lakshmana and Sita meet after killing Ravana; the second, Sita enters fire to prove her chastity; third, Vibhishana enthroned : Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman witnessing; the fourth, Rama killing Ravana; the fifth, Rama killing Kumbhakarana?; the sixth, for reviving Lakshmana hit by the ‘shakti’ of Meghanatha Hanuman fetching the herb Sanjivini from Himalayas; the seventh, Lakshmana killing Meghanatha, Ravana’s eldest son; and lastly, when not offered a seat at Ravana’s court, Rama’s emissary Angada expands his tail and coils it to make a seat taller the Ravana’s.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.