The painting has been rendered on a piece of cloth : a blend of fine cotton and silk used unbleached in its original colour. This version of Krishna is not one of the Bhagavata Purana’s cowherd boy loitering in the forest meditating on a secret chance-meeting with the cowherd maiden, subsequently named Radha, nor this style of celebrating Holi like the one as Krishna has been conceived as celebrating in medieval poetry especially the Ghananand’s and Rasakhan’s, or as portrayed in medieval miniatures. This representation of Krishna is more like his feudal transform, a form in which many of the medieval Rajasthani princes styled them and wished to look like. After Vallabhacharya founded the seat of Pushtimarga : the path of service of the deity, at Nathadwara in Rajasthan the Krishna-cult swept the whole of Rajputana, and almost every state in Rajasthan turned to Krishna’s worship. What seems to have best suited the feudal frame of Rajasthan’s mind was the concept of the deity occupying the supreme position and others being in service. Hence, Rajasthan’s feudatory alternated itself with Krishna rendering it difficult when a prince got him portrayed as Krishna and when Krishna’s image transformed into a Rajput prince.
The painting represents Radha and Krishna seated in a hexagonal marble pavilion consisting of shallow corbelled arched openings, flat roof, projecting eaves and fine trellised railing. Lush green trees looking across the pavilion and the beautifully conceived curtains impart to it a bower’s appearance. More than their divine lustre there reflects in the painting a kind of royal splendour. Both Radha and Krishna are seated on a gorgeous velvet cushion against huge bolsters. They have before them in the centre a chowki made of gold and a large golden plate containing bowls filled with coloured powders laid on it. There lay towards Radha another smaller chowki holding on it a tray containing sweets. Towards the left there lay two large size golden baskets cast with tall stands typical of medieval feudatory, one containing unripe bananas, and the other, a white cloth-piece, perhaps a towel. Krishna is holding in his left hand a bowl filled with red powder, and with his right, seems to be applying it on Radha’s face; a coy Radha, however, holds it midway, perhaps hesitating to make expression of her love in the presence of others, even the harem’s inmates, and thus the Krishna’s effort to paint her face fails.
Besides the chowri and fan bearing attendants and those carrying trays of sweets, pitchers and other kinds of water containers, flowers, fresh towels … bands of musicians comprising singers, dancers and instrumentalists, playing on various kinds of lyres, double drums, metal plates, pipes … flank the divine couple on either side. The foreground has in the centre a fountain beautifully conceived and crafted with forms of lotuses and geese. There are on the left side of the fountain a pair of cows with gold-plated horns, an essential element of Krishna’s iconography, and an attendant holding a deep tray in her hands, perhaps containing fresh water, and on the right, two of the womenfolk, symbolic of general masses, engaged in conversation, perhaps lauding the unsurpassed beauty of the divine couple. Parrots and birds hopping around the pavilion and those perching the trees in the fore and background symbolise nature’s joyous participation in divine act.
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.