Composed around the fourth century b.c. by the Hindu sage Valmiki, the Ramayana is an epic poem based on popular stories that circulated orally for centuries. It is one of two epics—the other is the Mahabharata—that decisively shaped the development of Indian civilization. The Ramayana’s central hero is Rama, an exiled prince. The story follows his quest to rescue his wife from her imprisonment by Ravana, a ten-headed demon-king who sought vengeance upon Rama for allowing his sister’s nose to be cut off. This painting presents a contiguous narrative scene from the beginning of the epic. Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha, described as squat and potbellied with thinning hair, is seen in the upper left, standing in the courtyard. She is also shown in an audience with Ravana in an open-sided pavilion. At this meeting, she tells her brother to capture Rama’s wife. In the lower right corner of the painting, Ravana is riding off to carry out Shurpanakha’s plan. Other demons populate the scene, which is set in a sumptuous architectural compound painted in gold.