In a small village called Paithan in Maharashtra, a performative painting style developed under the Chitrakathi caste. Paithan entertainers carried paintings such as the present example across countrysides throughout Maharashtra, northern Karnataka, and parts of Andhra Pradesh, singing songs and telling stories to narrate the images. Sometimes the Chitrakathis would incorporate puppets and mime scenes during their performances— all a form of worshipping the gods.
The scenes captured in the two present paintings likely come from the Ramayana. The first appears to depict Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana’s exile from Ayodhya, while the second could be showing the marriage of Sita to Rama. As this was one of the more popular epics, it would have been a favorite for the village audiences.
The Paithan style employs monumental characters that fill the whole page. They are devoid of background elements and there is no concern for depth of field. Scale is consistent from figure to figure, all of which are depicted in profile view. These pieces would have been created in pothis, or groups of paintings ranging from twenty to fifty pages. For further examples of this unmistakable painting style, see a set of sixty works in the collection of the British Museum (acc. 2007,3014.1 – 2007,3014.60).