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Hanuman’s encounters with demons

Hanuman’s encounters with demons on his journey to Lanka

Hanuman’s encounters with demons on his journey to Lanka, from the Balinese version of the Story of Rama, approx. 1900–1950, by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, (Indonesian, 1862–1978). Ink on paper. Gift of Karen A. Signell, 1998.90.

In both India and Southeast Asia a favorite character from the Indian epic the Ramayana is the monkey warrior Hanuman, the faithful companion of the hero Rama. After Rama's wife, Sita, is kidnapped by the demon Ravana, Hanuman is instrumental in rescuing her from captivity in Lanka, Ravana's island kingdom. As the son of the wind god, Hanuman iscapable of flying and thus is able to traverse the ocean to Lanka. Indonesian renditions of the journey differ from Indian versions.

This drawing on paper illustrates some of the obstacles faced by Hanuman in a Balinese retelling of the story. First Hanuman encounters the demon Wilkataksini, who guards the beach on Lanka. Hanuman is sucked into the demon's stomach but is able to slay the demon from the inside. Then Hanuman encounters a second demon, Tatkini, who also tries to swallow him, but the monkey is able to expand his body and choke his attacker. This drawing appears to depict an amalgamation of the two episodes, showing Hanuman twice but with only one demon. Other features of the illustration may have been inspired by versions of the epic as performed by Balinese shadow puppet (wayang kulit) theater or drawn from the artist's imagination.

This type of innovation is not unusual for I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, one of the most famous Balinese artists. Over Lempad's very long lifetime he saw tremendous changes in the development of modern art in Bali. In the 1930s, in conjunction with European artists living on the island, he helped establish the Society of Balinese Artists. Lempad worked in many mediums, but is most well known for his distinctive ink drawings. This drawing is displayed in what is believed to be its original frame.

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