Lot 77
  • 77

A. Ramachandran (b.1935)

180,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • A. Ramachandran
  • Kalinga War
  • Signed in English lower right
  • Oil on canvas
  • 72 by 144 in. (182.8 by 365.8 cm)
  • Painted in 1981


Acquired directly from the artist

Catalogue Note

A. Ramachandran was part of a sub-group of artists who were heavily influenced by Mexican Muralism, a tradition that started in the 1920s. Artists painted large-scale images of protest and nationalistic messages on public buildings throughout Mexico in an effort to unify the country. This was an effective emotional tool that could appeal to the masses and gained favor with artists in many countries. Art is often used as a means of political and social protest, one of the most celebrated examples being Pablo Picasso’s monochromatic Guernica. Executed on a monumental scale, this painting was a response to the bombing of the Basque village of Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War. A moving portrayal of the suffering and misery that occurred, it is an emblem of peace and a reminder of the tragedies of war. Guernica had a lasting impact on many artists who were inspired by Picasso’s heroic stance. In a similar vein, A. Ramachandran has created a monumental work about horrors of war, depicting one of India's most historic ancient battles. 

 In 1976, Ramachandran was commissioned to paint a mural for the Maurya Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi. The hotel was named after the largest empire in ancient India (322-185 BCE). Ramachandran chose to paint an allegory of the futility of war, incorporating elements of the various conflicts that have taken place throughout history. According to R. Siva Kumar, The Maurya Sheraton mural is one of his first overtly political works and was created during the period of Emergency. 

 Armed with his research and studies made for the Maurya Sheraton mural, in 1981, Ramachandran created Kalinga, a large scale depiction of a battle scene from the Kalinga War. Legend states that the Daya river located near the battlefield turned bright red with the blood of the slain. The sheer brutality caused King Ashoka to devote his life to the practice of Ahimsa (non-violence), turning the Mauryan Empire into a peace-loving, Buddhist society and served as a turning point in Indian history.

The violence that occurred is depicted both literally and figuratively in Kalinga. Contorted cadavers of men and horses are draped amongst the ruins of a chariot. The chariot wheel symbolises the Ashoka Chakra, turning from a symbol of martiality and war into a representation of peace, reflecting a significant turning point in Indian history and culture. The wheel of law, truth and dharma (peace) depicts Ashoka's conversion. Today this wheel features prominently on the Indian national flag.

Presented in rich tones of reds and browns, Ramachandran uses a multitude of artistic devices, including the foreshortening of perspectival space. This painting is a poignant reminder of atrocities of war and one of Ramachandran’s largest and most unique masterpieces ever to come to the market.