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Tabing temple painting depicting 'The Abduction of Sita' from the Hindu epic, 'Ramayana'. Painted probably by artist Kak Lui (c.1860-1930) in 1930s in Kamasan. AM Balinese Collection E74186. Image: Howard Hughes
© Australian Museum

This painting illustrates the story of Sita’s abduction in three episodes. At the bottom left Laksama finds his brother Rama, expressing deep emotion on realising that his wife, goddess Sita has been left alone. To the right, separated by a tree that looks like an overgrown flower, the demonic king Rawana abducts Sita. In the top half of the painting, the mythological bird Jatayu intercepts the abductor Rawana. The villain king reaches for his dagger, kris, while holding Sita trapped in his other arm.

The major iconographic innovation depicted in this painting is the total absence of the servant figures. In all traditional versions of this episode and all other stories from the Ramayana, servants Twalen and Merdah would accompany Rama, and Delem and Sangut would appear with Rawana.

Anthony Forge asserted that this small painting was an example of experimentation with new stylistic trends developing in Kamasan in the 1930s. These experiments were undertaken in response to the new style of painting in other parts of Bali. The characters were depicted in the traditional manner, while the innovations include the emphasis on trees and other plants, as well as the use of a solid yellow background, instead of the traditional wind and cloud motifs.