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About this photograph

Margery H. Freeman
Date created
near Siem Reap, Cambodia
This photograph copyright ©2006. Terms of use

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Rubbing of captured Sita and Hanuman from stone wall carving at Angkor Wat

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This charcoal rubbing was taken in 1983 from a carved stone relief at the Cambodian temple known as Angkor Wat. It is from one of Angkor Wat’s many sequential stone wall carvings that depict key scenes from the Ramayana epic.

This image depicts a scene where the monkey god Hanuman finds Rama’s wife Sita, who has been captured and hidden by the demon Ravana. Sita gives Hanuman her royal ring as a sign to Rama that she is still alive.

At this point in the Ramayana story, Rama has been tricked by the demon Ravana into thinking he has killed Sita. Ravana created this illusion so that Rama and his armies will not come to the demon’s island and look for her.

In this low relief portrayal, Sita wears the headdresses and royal garments of ancient Khmer royalty. One of the ways that the Ramayana epic from India was made a Southeast Asian story was to portray the characters using familiar local gestures and wearing local costumes. In Cambodian and Thai arts, the monkey god Hanuman’s role is expanded in importance because the character is so well loved for his athleticism, bravery, and faithfulness as a friend to Rama.