link to miniatures thumbnails

The Monkey and Bear Armies March to Battle Over the Bridge to Lanka

India (Chamba), 1800-1810

Height: 21.5 cm
Width: 31.8 cm

[ back to image ]

Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper.

In this painting, we see only a small, tightly packed section of the infinite massed ranks of monkeys and bears that cross over the bridge of rocks to Lanka in their millions. Led by the band of musicians and trailed by Sugriva in his golden palanquin, the monkeys quiver with anticipation at the impending battle but remain disciplined as they march to their destiny with precision, order, purpose and determination. At the same time, the fact that they are embarking on a great adventure with high spirits and merriment is conveyed by the monkeys turned full face to the viewer, who register great astonishment at what they are doing and what they have achieved.

Under the supervision of the architect Nala, the bridge measuring a hundred leagues or four hundred miles in length and ten leagues in width, has taken only five days to construct. On the first day fourteen leagues are built, on the second day twenty, on the third day twenty-one, on the fourth twenty-two and on the fifth, twenty-three leagues to reach Lanka on the opposite shore. Such is Nala’s skill that the bridge is sturdy and well-constructed, solidly cemented to take the weight of the troops and finished by a smooth pavement of stones. In addition to a lattice of tree trunks and branches wedged between the rocks, Rama’s arrows have been used as pins in the construction process. In the swirling waters on each side of the bridge, sea creatures gambol benevolently. The gods and celestials are so impressed with the architectural masterpiece that has materialised despite all the difficulties, that when Rama’s forces arrive on Lanka, they secretly anoint him with water from the sea and unknown to him, bless Rama with victory over his foes.


Formerly in the collection of Dr Alma Latifi, CIE, OBE (1879-1959)

Dr Latifi, an eminent civil servant, collected Indian works of art from the 1930s to the 1950s. He amassed a substantial collection of Indian paintings from which some paintings were loaned to the Royal Academy exhibition in London entitled, The Art of India and Pakistan, 1947-1948.

Private London Collection


The Ramayana of Valmiki, translated by Hari Prasad Shastri, 1953-1959, Yuddha Kanda, chapter 22.

[ top of page ]