This eighteenth century Pahari painting from Chamba in India executed in the Kangra style depicts an incident from the Ramayana, the great Indian epic. Kaikeyi, the favorite wife of King Dasaratha extracts a promise from him to make her son Bharata, the king of Ayodhya and to exile Rama, the eldest son and heir apparent to the forest for fourteen years.
To fulfill King Dasaratha’s promise, Rama leaves Ayodhya along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana and settles down at Panchavadi, a beautiful grove in the Dandaka forest. The even tenor of their lives is disturbed by Surpanakha, Ravana’s sister who, enamored by Rama’s handsome and majestic appearance makes advances to Rama, only to be rejected. Lakshmana cuts off her ears and nose when Surpanakha tries to attack Sita.
Khara, Surpanakha’s brother attacks Rama with a huge army of demons and is defeated and killed. On hearing this news, Ravana decides to seek revenge, goaded by Surpanakha who whets his curiosity with descriptions of Sita’s unparalleled beauty and charm. Ravana, with the help of Maricha, a demon possessing magical powers, plans to abduct Sita. Maricha assumes the form of an alluringly beautiful golden deer and catches Sita’s fancy. As she insists that she wanted the deer, Rama agrees to capture it.
In this painting we see Rama chasing the deer that is luring him away from the hermitage. Sita looks on smilingly while Lakshmana and Jatayu watch. This painting is a remarkable example of the art of miniature painting which is a gift of India to the world.