A K Ramanujan:
"How many Ramyanas? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been? And there are stories that answer the question...."
(the collected essays of A K Ramanujan, edited by Vinay Dharwadkar, 1999-2012)
Phillips Talbot (quoted in Frontline, October 19 2007):
That along with Mahabharata must be the most read book by me.
And I like illustrated versions of them. I feel good picture are like annotations. They give me time to pause, imagine and reflect.
I have never looked at Rama as a god but as a very sincere, honest, upper-caste, rich guy who, although very much product of his time, tried to do good all his life. I don't know if he succeeded or failed. And therefore he remains interesting.
I don't know when and where first illustrated Ramayana was prepared.
Emperor Akbar commissioned one in year 1588 with 166 miniatures followed by Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar.
As is true of composite culture of India, this Ramayana was commissioned by a Sikh (Rana Jagat Singh), Sanskrit text in there owes a debt to a Hindu storyteller (Mahatma Hirananda), and was illustrated by a Muslim (Sahib Din).
Jagat Singh's Ramayana, an illustrated manuscript in seven books, was commissioned in 1649. Five of the books (2, 4, 5, 6, 7) are in the British Library and two (1, 3) in India.
View that treasure-trove here.
Here are some of the contents on pages 13 and 14 with some commentary.
"The exiles have headed south from Ayodhya. When they reached the shore of the holy river Ganges Rama sent Sumantra back with the chariot and horses. The three were taken in a boat across the river by Guha the local king and made for the hermitage of the sage Bharadvaja at Prayaga where the rivers Ganges and Jumna meet. Bharadvaja advised them to make for the mountain Citrakuta a short distance away on the other side of the Jumna, a delightful spot frequented by other sages. The exiles have reached the mountain and built a hut near to the river Jumna.
Laksmana hunts for deer on Rama's instructions, so that they may make offerings to the presiding deities of the place. Laksmana cooks the venison on skewers rather than boiling it as in the text and Rama makes the offerings. Sahib Din, again contrary to the text, depicts the two brothers eating while Sita waves a scarf over the food; and she then retires to the hut to eat her own meal. This picture demonstrates the format used by Sahib Din for a forest landscape, with a river at the foot of the picture, a foreground surrounded by trees where the action takes place and a backdrop of vertically striated purple rocks. The two-banded sky is typical of early Mewar painting."
Now, no Ramayana I read as a kid even had a hint of Rama and Laksmana eating the venison! I wonder why.
And this version shows- picture just below- them eating the one cooked on skewers...kebabs
"तुम्ही अवतरले गोकुळी आम्ही गोपाळांच्या मेळी
तुम्ही होते रामराजा आम्ही वानरांच्या फौजा"