We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Sacred heirloom textile cloth (ma'a) painted with a scene from the Ramayana


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Coromandel Coast India
    Media category
    Materials used
    natural dyes painted on cotton
    90.0 x 464.0 cm
    Gift of Dr John Yu and Dr George Soutter 2005
    Lower Asian gallery
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    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. The Toraja people of Central Sulawesi kept such textiles stored in ceramic jars as sacred heirloom pieces that they termed "ma'a".
    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.

    Asian Art Department, AGNSW, 2006

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Provenance

    George Soutter and John Yu, pre 2005, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Indonesia. Donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1998.