, Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a] Enlarge 1 /1
traded to Toraja people, Sulawesi, Indonesia Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a] 18th century Title Notes: with a battle scene from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, with Rama, Hanuman and the Monkey Army defeating the multi-headed demon king Ravana and the forces of Lanka. Weapons depicted include flying arrows, bows, tridents, clubs, daggers, knives and swords. The design field also includes horses and riders and dismembered body parts.
Place made: Coromandel coast, India
Materials & Technique: textiles, handspun cotton, natural dyes, mordants; mordant painting, batik
Dimensions: 106.0 h x 487.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Michael and Mary Abbott 1991
Accession No: NGA 91.630

This cloth depicts the final chaotic battle scene from the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana. In the centre, the large figures of the main protagonists — Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu and the hero of the tale, and the ten-headed demon king Ravana — confront one another. Their embattled soldiers struggle amid flying arrows and severed limbs. Rama’s main supporters — his brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, the leader of the monkey army — appear behind him on the viewer’s right. Rama wields the celestial bow and arrow with which he eventually defeats Ravana.

The Ramayana is extremely popular in Southeast Asia, with scenes from the Indian epic appearing in many art forms. Large narrative cloths such as this were prized in Hindu Bali and also by the animist Toraja people of Sulawesi.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label