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Paintings > Hindu > Krishna's Rasa with Gopis on Kartika-Purnima
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Krishna's Rasa with Gopis on Kartika-Purnima

Krishna's Rasa with Gopis on Kartika-Purnima

Krishna's Rasa with Gopis on Kartika-Purnima

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Watercolor on Paper

13.5" X 10.9"
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Krishna's Rasa with Gopis on Kartika-Purnima

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This painting – of a size slightly larger than a miniature, measuring 40x33 cm., represents Krishna engaged with 'gopis' in a dance in which he is with all 'gopis' yet also with none of them. He is many by realisation but being beyond realisation he is beyond all. The realisation of the 'gopis' is subjective – personal, and Krishna – being its object, is objective, someone beyond personal. The dance – known in the popular tradition as the Rasa, or the Maharasa, defines the cosmic magnification of Krishna – the manifest Supreme Being, who diversifies – yet he is one, into as many parts as are the beings and, joining every one, infuses into such ones, life and its vigour. The concept of 'Rasa' is born of the Vaishnava theory of 'ananda' – joy, blissfulness. It contemplates that in 'ananda' manifests God, and hence, the passage towards the Supreme Self – God, is through 'ananda' – joy, which in its ultimate sublimation is the Supreme Bliss – 'Parmananda', synonymous of the Supreme Self – Parmatma. He thus manifests in 'ananda' – inner bliss, and dance is the ultimate expression of it. Hence, each 'gopi' – the self that dances, finds Him in her, as also with her. A painting representing 'Rasa', thus, weaves into its apparent fiction a cosmological perception – in its mundane, the transcendental.

The Rasa is a dance that permeates the entire cosmos. Here, in the painting, what appears to be so common – a thing like dance, which occurs on mundane plane, gains cosmic meaning and transcendental dimensions. It is the strength, ecstasy, urge that matters – not its kind, that effects the transition from the timed to the Timeless. In Vaishnavism, absolute love is also the absolute detachment for it attaches with one and detaches from all – entire world and all its things and beings. The dance performed for Krishna defines absolute love, which being able to drag the dancing 'gopis' away from the mundane, sets each 'gopi' free from the bonds of this ephemeral world and transcends her into the realms of timeless joy. In Vaishnava cult, Rasa defines union of the temporal with the timeless, the sublimation of the ephemeral into the transcendental, and the soul's inherent delight – a journey from micro to macro – from the perceptible form to the imperceptible Formless. Dance and music are the instruments of this transcendence, ecstasy its guiding principle, and love its axis and the finest spirit.

The painting has been rendered in characteristic Jaipur style of miniature painting of around 1800 A. D., except in the pattern of its border rendered using embossed gilded copper foil, a feature of Tanjore art, brought to Jaipur school by artists migrating from Tanjore to the Jaipur court. The painting depicts the hour of late evening, perhaps an evening of the 'Purnima' – the last of the bright nights with full moon. Some clouds are in the sky but are weak and fragile not loaded with water and thus unable to contain light behind them, as those in the month of 'Kartika' – around October. The earth seems to have bidden good-bye to monsoons, the well-fed mighty trees and delicate shrubs – one laden with green leaves, and the other with beautiful flowers, denote, however, that the earth has stored in its bosom so much of water that it might feed them for many more months. This thick green stylised nature depicted in the painting is also the characteristic feature of Jaipur style. The dancing figures of Krishna and 'gopis' are in the centre. The columns of tall trees, flanking the dancers on either side, allow to the sky and the moon a window-type space in the middle.

As the Bhagavata Purana has it, on the 'Kartika-Purnima', Krishna, dragged by the inciting splendour of the full shining moon turning Yamuna's sandy banks into a molten mass of silver, reached Yamuna and under his favourite 'Kadamba' tree began playing on his flute. The enchanting melody, emitting from his flute, reached far and wide and into the ears of the 'gopis'. Their husbands opposed, but against their husbands' will they left homes. They knew not who they were and what had dragged them out of their abodes. Their feet moved first to take them to Yamuna and then to dance. They danced, each one desiring that Krishna danced with her – singly and with her alone. Then, Krishna multiplied himself into as many forms as were 'gopis' and danced with them singly and in groups.

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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