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Section of a story scroll of sage Bhavana (Bhavana Rishi Mahatmyan Patam)

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Section of a story scroll of sage Bhavana (Bhavana Rishi Mahatmyan Patam)

ca. 1843

These two fragments begin and end a vertical story scroll. It would have been placed on sticks and gradually unrolled like a reel of film. A performer from the bardic community, who also painted the scroll, would point to each image as he recited and sang the tale to his patrons, thereby giving them the blessings of the gods and their ancestors.

This scroll was made for the Padmashali community, whose traditional occupation is weaving. It tells their origins from the sage Bhavana, the celestial weaver. The first section includes Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma above elephant-headed Ganesha, Lord of Beginnings, who blesses the literary-artistic undertaking. The scroll’s center would have included the fire sacrifice that produced Bhavana and Bhavana’s battle against a giant demonic weaver. At the lower section’s top, two demons smoke huqqas. Next, Bhavana, backed by his army of tigers, thanks the gods for his victory. He then marries the sun’s daughter in a wedding attended by many gods, some in flying chariots. Finally, he makes colored dyes from the demon’s body.

Opaque watercolor on cloth
76 3/8 x 35 7/16 in. (194 x 90 cm)
Gift of Leo S. Figiel, M.D., Detroit, Michigan
76.42
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
location
Now on view at the Asian Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.