An image of Heirloom textile (ma'a) with a scene from the 'Ramayana'An image of Heirloom textile (ma'a) with a scene from the 'Ramayana'An image of Heirloom textile (ma'a) with a scene from the 'Ramayana'

Unknown Artist

Heirloom textile (ma'a) with a scene from the 'Ramayana'

Not on display
Further information

Many large cloths depicting the major battle from the Indian epic, the Ramayana, when Prince Rama defeats the demon king Ravana and his army from the realm of Lanka, survive from Indonesia, in particular from Sulawesi and Bali, although none are known from India. Most of these cloths follow the same composition as seen here: Rama and the multi-headed, multi-armed Ravana take centre stage. Behind Rama, preparing his bow, is his lifelong companion Laksmana and the monkey king, Hanuman, with his army of monkeys. Ravana is supported by ogres and small demons. The battle is in full swing, arrows flying everywhere, heads being cut off, figures wrestling, mutilated bodies and severed limbs littering the ground. The style of drawing and clothes indicate south Indian temple hangings as the source of inspiration. In Indonesia the survival of such cloths can be credited to the veneration accorded them: they are considered as sacred heirloom cloths, carefully stored in a clan's loft and only brought out for special ceremonies.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, 2006

Place of origin
Coromandel Coast, India
Cultural origin
trade cloth made for the Indonesian market
18th century-19th century
handspun cotton painted with natural dyes and mordant
93.0 x 462.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr John Yu 1998
Accession number