Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 14 September 2008


Sunday turned out to be a late attempt at summer, so it was out with the bike again. An hour or so's ride got me to the British Library for the last day of the Ramayana exhibition - beautiful miniatures, from mostly 17th century editions of the great Indian myth, with material exhibiting its influence elsewhere in south and south-east Asia - different forms of text and image, dance, wall hangings, shadow puppets.

It's a long - very long - legend of good and evil, how a king in exile pursues and destroys the abductor of his wife (with the aid of Hanuman the monkey god, Garuda the eagle and an army of monkeys and bears), she restores his (and public) faith in her virtue and loyalty by agreeing to sacrifice herself (but is saved), and they return to resume the throne and inaugurate a golden age. There are shape-shifting gods and demons, miraculous cures, battles, moving mountains, wicked stepmothers, brothers and wives both loyal and disloyal, and a great many other things familiar from folk myths and legends throughout the world.

Many beautiful details in the paintings: here's the online version on the BL's website.

On the way home, I realised I was near Bunhill Fields, the old cemetery for nonconformists, which I've never visited. So by way of light relief, I stopped in to pay my respects at the graves of Bunyan, Blake and Daniel Defoe - and the imposing tomb of Dame Mary Page (died 1728), with the inscription:
In 67 months she was tap'd 66 times, had taken away 240 gallons of water, without ever repining for her case, or fearing the operation.

Clearly an example to us all.

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