The exhibits, all drawn in the 17th-19th centuries, represent styles of painting from different parts of the country. (Agencies)
There are miniatures of the Pahari style from the mountains, Rajasthani from the desert expanse, Malwa of central India, provincial Mughal style from Bundelkhand (eastern Uttar Pradesh), Deccani from Bijapur (Karnataka) and the classical folk style of Kalighat (from around Kolkata).
The exhibition "Rama-Katha - The Story of Rama through Indian Miniatures" was inaugurated by Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch on Wednesday. It will continue for two months at the National Museum, after which it will travel to the Royal Museum of Art and History at Brussels.
"These miniature paintings represent different styles of great aesthetic sense. It will generate huge interest in the epic and different styles of paintings depicting its tales," Katoch said.
The miniatures are from the museum's collection, and 70 of them have never been on display, museum Director General Venu V said.
One can relive the Ramayana by visiting this exhibition. There is a portrait of lord Rama; of sage Narad requesting Valmiki to write the story of Rama, and of the scene of the breaking of Lord Shiva's bow in the court of king Janaka, the wedding of Rama and Sita, and Bharat returning to Ayodhya with Rama's padukas (wooden slippers).
Venu explained that the same scene may be treated differently in the different styles of paintings, and seeing them all together was illustrative.
"The Bundelkhand artist had done the wedding of Rama and Sita in his own context - reflecting simplicity and humility. Rama and Sita were mortals, in his view. On the other hand, an artist of the Paharai style had done it with pomp and grandeur, befitting a royal wedding," he said.
The exhibition is curated by VK Mathur of the National Museum, who noted that Valmiki's Ramayana is believed to have been composed around 5th to 4th century BC.
Also on display are scenes of the Setubandhanam (construction of the bridge to Lanka) Rama and Lakshman, with their army of monkeys and bears, cross the bridge to reach Lanka. Angad is depicted in the court of Ravan, and Ravan, sad and pensive, sits on his golden throne. The Agni Pariksha, the trial by fire of Sita and Mother Earth opening up to receive her daughter Sita back are also depicted.
The exhibition is open for public viewing from August 16, and will conclude till Oct 13.
The exhibits, all drawn in the 17th-19th centuries, represent styles of painting from different parts of the country.