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Paintings > Hindu > Krishna and Gopas Back with Cows
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Krishna and Gopas Back with Cows

Krishna and Gopas Back with Cows

Krishna and Gopas Back with Cows

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Watercolor on Paper

9.0" X 12.2"
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HE75
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Viewed 5741 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
This painting, portraying Krishna and other 'gopas' returning at cow-dust hour with their cows after grazing them in the forest, adheres to an 1813 A. D. miniature from Deogarh, Mewar, in Rajasthan. The Deogarh miniature has a similar octagonal two-storey tower –four sides visible, with flat dome and corner kiosks, but its façade is unadorned rendered in plain white except a few single colour-lines defining eaves, parapet, dome's apex and the like. On the contrary, the tower in this painting has a façade wrought with colourful floral designs, geometric patterns and arabesques. The cows in Deogarh miniature do not have imprinted on their backs auspicious marks of hand, nor the background is spotted with shrubs, as in this painting. The window on extreme right, just over the cottage of poet Surdasa, is also missing. The palatial tower, covering almost half of the canvas, is, however, the most imposing feature in both paintings. Its first floor balcony, defined by beautiful eave, marble-screens, sleek pillars and wide openings, has its splendour multiplied by richly attired beautiful damsels leaning out and by colourful curtains hung over its openings.

The scene that the painting renders is that of the evening hour. The sun has set and the sky has turned orange with streaks of red, yellow, magenta and greenish blue. Waters of Yamuna have grown darker, though lotuses and birds, which looked timid against a bright sun whole day, have a glowing face now. The landscape is fading but it is not fully lost. Forms of remote as well as close-by hills are still discernible. Krishna and his cowherd mates have come back with their cows. On far-off hills, there gather Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and sage Narada to witness the divine event, and on the balcony of the tower, Radha and her 'sakhis'. Some of them, with pots in hands, are ready to sprinkle holy waters on their cows and cowherds, as they entered the door, which they believe would make their arrival auspicious; and others, with flowers and various powders in golden trays, to shower on them and welcome thereby.

Radha, with two chowri-bearers attending, is seated with a 'sakhi' on the central opening. In a gesture of welcoming, apparently the cows and cowherds but otherwise Krishna, she has extended her hand, as also unfurled a gold-embroidered end of sari, towards them. Almost every eye is directed to the arriving lot but Radha is looking away into the sky, though not out of any indifference; overwhelmed Radha could not look into Krishna's eyes, or, perhaps, hardly needed it, as she always had him in her vision. Radha's two chowri-bearers are looking at distressed Radha. As for Krishna, he has his eyes fixed on Radha, though his two mates are drawing his attention instead to the cows. The short-statured plumpish anatomy of the rendered figures is obviously influenced by Nathdwara perception of Krishna's imagery. Nathdwara, one of the main seats of Krishna's Vaishnavism, has also its own iconographic perception of his image, and it has widely influenced different miniature art styles.

The tower symbolises the land of Brij, which the river Yamuna encircles on all sides. In between there is the Mount Govardhana. The rendition miraculously abridges many gaps and dimensions. Here not only the worlds of gods, human beings, animals and nature join but also emerges on the scene poet Surdasa who added to Krishna's legend many new dimensions. Krishna and cows are intimately related but not bull. He rather killed the bull demon. But, here in the herd, there are bulls also, as perhaps without a bull, a cow, either as cow or as the earth which it symbolises, could not stand for fertility.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.


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