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Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970

Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970

Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970. Indonesia; Cirebon, West Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.49.

Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970

Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970. Indonesia; Cirebon, West Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.49.

Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970
Jatayus (Jatayu), king of the vultures and aide to Rama, approx. 1970

The heroic vulture Jatayus and the monkey general, Hanuman (Hanoman) are allies of prince Rama and help to save the princess Sita (Sinta) from the ten-headed demon king Ravana (Rawana) in the Ramayana, a great Hindu epic. Throughout the course of the story, Rama is aided by a variety of animals including monkeys, bears, and birds. Jatayus is the son of Vishnu’s mount, Garuda, the mighty king of the birds. Jatayus is asleep in his tree when he hears Sita’s cries for help as she is kidnapped and transported to the island of Lanka (Alengka) in Ravana’s flying chariot. Jatayus attempts to rescue her but is pierced with hundreds of arrows from Ravana’s bow. A vicious aerial battle ensues in which Jatayus tears off Ravana’s heads and arms with his sharp talons. Each time Ravana is beheaded or dismembered, however, a replacement part appears. To Sita’s horror, Ravana slashes Jatayus’s wings, causing the heroic vulture to fall mortally wounded to the ground, where he is found by Rama and Lakshmana (Laksmana). With his last breath Jatayus tells the princes where Ravana has taken Sita. In honor of the heroic vulture’s valiant fighting, the princes perform funeral rites for him.