‘O lord of monkeys while you are engaged in a duel, wear some identification mark by which I can recognise you.
O Lakshmana this Gajapushpi in bloom is auspicious. Pluck and fasten it on to great Sugriva's neck
Then Lakshmana went to the mountain slope, plucked the Gajapushpi blossoms and fastened it on the neck of Sugriva.’
Valmiki’s Ramayana, verses 4.12.38 - 4.12.40.
The current scene depicts the monkey Sugriva preparing to fight his brother Vali. According to the text Sugriva was the younger brother of Vali, the ruler of Kishkindha. Following a disagreement between the two brothers, Vali ostracized Sugriva from the kingdom. During his exile, Sugriva made an alliance with Rama and they formed an agreement, Rama would slay Vali and reinstate Sugriva as the ruler of Kishkindha, and in return, Sugriva would help Rama in his quest to find Sita. Prior to the current scene Rama’s first attempt to slay Vali had ended in failure, as Rama could not distinguish between the two brothers when they were locked in combat. It was then that Rama suggested to Vali that he should adorn himself with a garland of Gajapushpi blossoms, so that Rama would be able to discern between the two brothers. In a linear composition, Rama can be seen addressing Sugriva while Hanuman sits in attendance. Laxmana appears on the right portion of the painting plucking blossoms from the Gajapushpi tree. Hanuman’s appearance here is in stark contrast to that of Sugriva who is seen wearing a crown and other regal apparel, whereas in other folios of the set, Hanuman can also be seen with a lotus-crown and patterned scarfs. The contrast in their depiction in this painting appears to be a device employed by the painter in order to highlight Sugriva’s status as a royal personality.
For further discussion regarding paintings from the Shangri Ramayana series the other pages in this exhibition