Unveiling “Book of Gold: The Kanchana Chitra Ramayana of Banaras” at the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru

December 08, 2023 – The Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru is currently hosting a captivating exhibition titled “Book of Gold: The Kanchana Chitra Ramayana of Banaras.” This unique showcase, curated by the late Kavita Singh and Parul Singh, unveils a splendid rendition of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas—an illustrated manuscript commissioned by Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh of Banaras.

A Glimpse into Rich Artistic Traditions

The exhibition brings together approximately eighty pages from the text, providing a rare opportunity to witness the intricacies of the Golden Illustrated Ramayana. The name itself, “Kanchana Chitra Ramayana,” signifies the extensive use of gold paint and the grandeur of the undertaking. Each page of the text features a corresponding painting, amounting to a total of 548 paintings.

Curatorial Expertise

Curated by the late Kavita Singh, a distinguished professor and Dean at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Parul Singh, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the interdisciplinary program 4A Laboratory, the exhibition stands as a testament to the vibrant Indian painting tradition that persisted well into the nineteenth century.

Rediscovering Miniature Painting Traditions

This exhibition allows visitors to delve into the pages of Tulidas’ Ramcharitmanas and explore various styles of miniature painting traditions from the early 19th century. Commissioned between 1796 and 1814, the Kanchana Chitra Ramayana contradicts the notion that miniature painting traditions in northern India had waned by the 19th century. The project brought together artists from different schools, making Banaras a cultural hub during that period.


A Cultural Hub and Linguistic Innovation

A distinctive aspect of this project was the manuscript being written in Awadhi, the common language of the region, challenging the use of Sanskrit—the language of the elite. The manuscript and the historical context in which it was commissioned reveal a dynamic period in art and culture.

Innovative Presentation

Kamini Sawhney, Director of MAP, expresses delight in presenting an exhibition that digitally showcases the remaining folios, allowing students, scholars, and enthusiasts to explore the convergence of artistic styles and the creation of a resplendent work of art.

Reimagining Art History

Parul Singh, co-curator, notes that the manuscript paintings challenge the perception of the late 18th century as a period of artistic decline. The Kanchana Chitra Ramayana reveals that artistic idioms not only survived but flourished, with workshops in Banaras fostering creative innovations.

Event Details

  • Venue: MAP Bengaluru, Axis Bank Gallery, and Citi Gallery, Third Floor
  • Date: Ongoing until March 8, 2024
  • Accessibility: Audio guide, wheelchair access, guide dogs allowed, lift on every floor

Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of the Kanchana Chitra Ramayana at MAP Bengaluru—an exhibition that bridges historical narratives and celebrates the enduring spirit of Indian artistry.