As seems to be the broad form of the represented sport, the blue-bodied Krishna occupies the centre of the tree’s trunk symbolic of the axis – much like a temple’s sanctum. Not merely a crowned turban revealing great regalia, a halo and golden footwear – his figure alone wearing in the entire composition, impart to his figure the presiding deity-like status. The painting represents above this figure of Krishna the figure of his elder brother Balarama in a gems-studded golden cap. The eleven of the rest of the twenty-two figures are males – Gopas, and other eleven, the females, the Gopis. The Gopis are in ankle-long lower wears, white or red, with upper halves being either unclad or clad in transparent muslins, and the Gopas, in stitched loincloths, red, striped, printed with golden dots and gold-bordered. Except their heads three of the Gopis are submerged in deep waters, while one on extreme right in the centre of the canvas, half-covered with tree-leaves.
Unlike the ‘chase, touch and oust’ game the anti-clockwise moving Gopas and Gopis do not incline to chase, touch or oust anyone but perhaps reveal eagerness to complete the circle as soon as possible, some, ready to jump into waters and wade across, and other, by mounting a branch on the river’s other side after having waded it across. Three-fourth of the circle they complete by moving along the tree representing the earth and the sky, and the rest, by wading cross the river water. The tree with artistically designed leaves and intricate branches is a stylized form of the mythical Kadamba grown on a river’s bank, obviously Yamuna. The tree’s multiple branches afford basis for twenty-one figures for except the three all others ride the branches of the tree. A peacock and monkey on the tree, cows on the earth and lotuses in the river water represent nature : birds, animals and vegetation, that along with humans and Divines complete the vision of the cosmos.
Though apparently the portrayal of a sport but with Krishna in its centre it becomes Krishna-lila which even when revealing an earthly act manifests divine dimensions. The underlying philosophy is apparent. The entire cosmos rotates round the Supreme Divine Principle which in the painting Krishna, incarnating the Great Principle, represents. It suggests that when Krishna is the axis of an activity even when it is earthly or ephemeral, it elevates into the divine ‘lila’ of Krishna and amounts to entire cosmic activity. With such divine dimensions in mind the artist has created the entire cosmos : Divinity, humans, animals, birds, the earth, the sky and water, on his canvas.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.