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Dasharatha Distributes Gifts at the Births of His Four Sons

c. 1780-1800
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
Births were occasions for musical pageantry, as this illustration from the Ramayana, one of the great Hindu religious texts of India, shows. Here the ancient king Dasharatha distributes gifts to his subjects to commemorate the births of his four sons, one of whom is Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu and protagonist of the epic. On the right and in the background, musicians assembled on balconies play horns and drums. This type of galleried structure - called a naqqara-khana, literally "drum house" - was a common feature of Indian palaces during the late eighteenth century. From their elevated perches, court musicians added dramatic flourish to royal ceremonies.

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