SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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The Lake of the Deeds of Rama.

Sri Ramcharitmanas ("The Lake of the Deeds of Rama"), an epic poem composed in Awadhi by by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas, is devoted to Lord Rama. It is popularly called Tulsi-krita Ramayana and is well known amongst the Hindi-speaking people of India and elsewhere. It is considered one of the greatest works of Hindi literature. Many of the verses and phrases of this epic have passed into common speech.

Puspavati, possibly Punjab, 1842.
Puspavati, possibly Punjab, 1842.

Ink, gold, and opaque watercolour on paper, 290 folios, 30 lines of Hindi in black Devanagari script to the page, headings in red, eight illustrations in the Kashmiri style, bound in chain stitch binding, patterned cotton cloth on pasteboard boards, 29 x 19 cm. Several features make this large copy of one of the Hindu classics an unusual manuscript. While very few illustrated manuscripts in the Kashmiri style bear colophon information, this manuscript bears not only a date (Samvat 1899/1842 CE) but also the name of the scribe and patron. According to the colophon at the end of the manuscript, it was copied in ‘Puspavati by Amirachanda’ for a certain ‘Bhirguvasa.’ Though Puspavati has not been identified, the portrait format and spacious style of the manuscript may be indications that it was made in the Punjab, rather than in Kashmir where rather more florid styles prevailed. The manuscript is also a rare example of Kashmiri-style illustrations accompanying a Hindi text, most Kashmiri work being confined to works in Sanskrit, Punjabi, or Persian. ‘The Lake of the Deeds of Rama’ (Ramacaritamanasa) is a Hindi version of the Ramayana, composed around 1574 by the poet Tulasidasa (1532-1623). The work, dubbed the ‘Hindi Bible’ on account of its popularity, consists of around 10,000 verses and is composed mainly in the doha and caupai metres. Another unusual copy of the Ramacaritamanasa illustrated in the Kashmiri style in the Punjab is in the National Museum Delhi, Acc. No. 86154/1-2, though this time, the Hindi text has been copied in Persian nast‘aliq script (see Karuna Goswamy, Kashmiri Painting, New Delhi, M. 11, pp. 80-2 & pl. 16). The manuscript contains eight large miniature paintings in the Kashmiri style. Contemporary silk covers boards with a stained cloth spine. Boards very rubbed and worn - contents good. The coloured plates are as follows: 1. Janaka brings the newlyweds to Dasharatha. 2. Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana go into exile. 3. The abduction of Sita by Ravana while Rama is hunting. 4. Rama and Lakshmana talking to Sugriva Hanumana and other monkeys. 5. The building of the bridge to Lanka. 6. Hanuman's meeting with Sita in the Asoka grove. 7. The battle between Rama and Ravana. 8. The consecration (abhiseka) of Rama as king.