This scene depicts the first combat between Sugriva and his brother Bali. Sugriva had been exiled by his brother Bali, the king of the monkeys, who had also taken Sugriva's wife. Emboldened by Rama's promise of support, Sugriva challenges Bali to a fight. Bali gets the better of Sugriva, and Rama, hiding in the forest nearby but unable to distinguish between the two brothers in the tangle of combat, refrains from assisting Sugriva, who runs off towards the Rishyamuka Mountain and hides among the trees. The story is from the Kishkindha Kanda, see The Ramayana of Valmiki, translated by Hari Prasad Shastri, London, 1969, vol.II, pp.195-8. Here we see Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman hiding behind the trees on the left of the picture, while Sugriva and Bali, indistinguisable from each other, fight in a clearing near the mountain of Rishyamuka, indicated by the rocky form at right (Sugriva later challenges Bali to another fight, which takes place outside the walls of Bali's capital Kishkindha. In that fight, Rama comes to Sugriva's aid and Bali is slain).
When this series was first considered by Archer it was thought to originate from Mankot (Archer 1976, nos.65-66), an attribution upheld by Goswamy and Smith (Goswamy and Smith 2005, pp.202-3, no.83). However, it has also been attributed to Nurpur (Leach 1986, no.137), and has recently been linked to the sons of the artist Devidasa (Seyller and Mittal 2014, pp.36-38), its importance being summed up as follows: "Hence, this inventive Ramayana series can now be assigned to Nurpur during the reign of Raja Daya Dhata and be linked to one of the most illustrious artist families active in the Pahari region." (ibid, p.38).
Other illustrations from the series are in museum and private collections including the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum, Hyderabad, the Rietberg Museum, Zurich, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the San Diego Museum of Art (Edwin Binney 3rd Collection). Several have been sold in these rooms: 11 December 1973, lot 353; 9 October 1978, lot 338; 8 October 1979; lot 152, 29 April 1992, lot 20; 23 April 1997, lot 7; 19 October 2016, lot 27; and in our New York rooms 22 March 1989, lot 160; 3 October 1990, lot 55 and 28 October 1991, lot 44; 19 October 2016, lot 27. For further illustrations see Britschgi and Fischer 2008, nos.40, 43, 45-50.
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