This chapter looks at the paintings inside the two-storeyed building which functioned as Ramnad Palace's hall of audience, known as the Ramalinga Vilasam. The majority of the early eighteenth-century paintings inside this building depict stories from Vaishnavaite epics, and are extremely similar to paintings found inside south Indian temples. However, alongside these 'religious' narratives are paintings which depict themes not found in temples, such as a historical battle scene and representations of the king engaged in various pleasurable activities. Previous analyses of the paintings in the Ramalinga Vilasam have considered these varying themes, but have not attempted to view them as parts of an overarching programme. 147
The earliest descriptions of the paintings in the Ramalinga Vilasam, dated 1773, were recorded in the diary of an Englishman named George Patterson, which is now kept in the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library. 148 Regarding the paintings on the Ramalinga Vilasam's ground floor, Patterson made the following observations:
This square is filled all round both sides and ceiling with immense numbers of figures, and writings on Gentoo or Malabar representing the history of their Gods or Kings; and probably of their government: but of this I had no time to get any satisfactory account. Such interpretations as I could procure were wild unmeaning and incoherent.
Patterson then went on to describe the building's upper storey as
ornamented all round with numberless paintings on the walls, all of them representing amorous combats in a variety of the most voluptuous attitudes. In the corner of the upper room there is a small square of about eight feet separated by a partition, for what purpose I know not unless to realize those representations of unrestrained lust. 149