A series of illustrations to the Mahabharata which was formerly in the Rothenstien collection and is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum is closely comparable to this painting and of similar large proportions. W.G. Archer attributes it to Garhwal, circa 1800-1820 (W. G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973, no.24i and ii, p.87 and 118). The present work and the comparable paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum illustrate male figures with the same distinctive moustaches. The textiles depicted on the saddle cloths and used for the tents in the background are identical to those shown in the Victorian and Albert museum example. However the strong geometric forms and the delicate flow of the figures shows clear influence of the predominant Kangra and Guler schools. Later artists based at Garhwal such as Chaitu, related to the famous Seu dynasty of painters, were known to have travelled between these courts in the Punjab hills. Another painting from this very large series, Envoys come to pay homage to King Dasaratha sold at Christie's King Street, 25 April 2013, lot 191.
Dasharatha was the father of Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu. Following Rama's marriage to Sita, Dasharatha decided to abdicate in Rama's favour, but another of the king's wives wanted her own son, Bharata, to succeed. She therefore tricked the king into acquiescing to her demand that in turn forced Rama and Sita into exile in the forest for fourteen years. Within a week of their departure, Dasharatha died of grief.
This large painting illustrates the second book of the Ramayana, Ayodhya kanda, chapter 76, which describes Dashratha's funeral as follows: "Distraught in mind, with sob and tear, they laid the body on a bier, And servants, while their eyes brimmed o'er, the monarch from the palace bore. Another band of mourners led the long procession of the dead... then priestly hands the mighty dead upon the pyre deposited." (R. Griffith, transl., The Ramayan of Valmiki, The Chowkhamba Sanskrit Studies, vol.xxix, p. 185.)
For another depiction of Dasharatha's funeral see S. Gahlin, The Courts of India: Indian Miniatures from the Collection of the Fondation Custodia, 1991, no. 82, pls. 86-88.