The Ramayana is the most celebrated epic poem in South and Southeast Asia. It tells the journey of prince Rama, from his banishment from the kingdom of Ayodhya, to his triumphant return. Denied the throne on the eve of his coronation, Rama finds himself exiled to the forest for 14 years, accompanied by his devoted wife and brother, Sita and Lakshmana.
We've created a puzzle from a painting that depicts Hanuman, who has joined forces with Rama, leading his companions towards Ravana's fort on the island of Lanka, where Sita is held captive. Visit the virtual exhibition for "Tell the Whole Story from Beginning to End": The Ramayana in Indian Painting to familiarize yourself with the narrative.
Click here to see the entire painting.
Indian paintings can contain many scenes within a single image; sometimes, text that appears at the top of an image will offer instructions on how to "read" the painting. As you complete this puzzle, look for the following moments:
- Hanuman (center), his nephew Angada (right), and the king of the bears, Jambavan (left), head south in search of Sita.
- Hanuman wears both the prayer beads and white markings of an ascetic and the garb of a wealthy royal, marking his status as Rama’s devotee and equal. He wields his signature weapon, a mace.
- Here, Jambavan is depicted as a bear with a very humanlike beard, highlighting an interesting evolution in this character. In Valmiki’s Ramayana, Jambavan is king of the apes, but later tellings understand him to be king of the bears, diversifying Rama’s allies.
- Ravana may be morally bankrupt, but his demon kingdom (right) on the island of Lanka flourishes. Convinced by Jambavan, Hanuman will use his superhuman powers to leap across the ocean to reach Ravana's fort.