Ceremonial textile with battle scene from the Indian epic poem the Ramayana - ROM2018_16623_12


Ceremonial textile with battle scene from the Indian epic poem the Ramayana

Medium:Chintz: cotton tabby, painted mordants and dyes
Geography: Made in coastal southeast India for Balinese or Sulawesi markets
Date: 1700-1799
500 x 105 cm
Object number: 2016.42.2
Credit Line: This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.
On view
Gallery Location:The Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume

This chintz banner made in India for export to Indonesia shows a dramatic scene from the Indian epic "The Ramayana." This battle scene occurs towards the end of the story and shows the hero-prince Rama fighting Ravana, the 10-headed king of Lanka who has kidnapped his wife. Rama is backed by his brother Lakshmana, armies of monkeys and bears, and his devotee, Hanuman. Composed over two thousand years ago, the Ramayana is popular throughout South and Southeast Asia.

For most of history, only Indonesia could grow precious spices— nutmeg, mace, and cloves. Indonesians demanded Indian textiles in exchange for these spices. To please niche markets on Indonesia’s many islands, Indian chintz makers carefully customized designs, from improvisations on geometric shapes to scenes from Hindu epics. When Europeans began sailing to Indonesia from 1500, they were also obliged to barter with Indian cloth to acquire spices.

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