The Kalamakari divides its vertical space by the centrally located Kadamba : a waving trunk, almost like an elephant’s, with wide-stretched branches covered with colourful foliages, leaves and flowers, that Radha flanks on its left, and Krishna, on its right. The equally colourful and identically shaped flower-petals and leaves with which the tree bursts affording to it rare beauty and lustre, seem to link the representation with ‘Dohada’ myth exceptionally popular in Andhra, the primary centre of Kalamakari. Dohada related to a particular specie of tree believed to burst with colourful leaves and multiple flowers the moment a virtuous young lady touched it. Maybe, while painting a tree form for poising the figures of Radha and Krishna under it, the artist had in mind the popular tradition and associated it with Radha, the most virtuous of the women ever born on the earth.
Though represented with Radha, his love, Krishna’s figure has been portrayed formally on votive lines like an image to install in the sanctum. His figure has been rendered with his regular attributes like flute, peacock-feather crest and a three-curved posture; however, in characteristic south Indian cult of Vaishnava iconography it has been modeled like Vishnu. He has the Vishnu-like towering and styled crown, mark of ‘tilaka’ on the forehead, ‘kundalas’ – ear-ornaments, on the ears, Vaijayanti of fresh flowers trailing down to ankles’ height, lavish ornaments, despite ‘tri-bhang’ that revealed romantic beauty, a posture revealing majesty, and a stoical demeanour on the face. He carries his flute but it is far away from his lips and the position of his legs in ‘tri-bhang’ does not reveal such romantic beauty as it otherwise does in Krishna’s iconography. Though he is holding Radha in the grasp of his left arm, his posture is more or less formal, not amorous or emotional in any way. Except those for sanctums, or votive use, his images are rarely conceived with halo around his face as has this image.
The figure of Radha too has been conceived on votive lines more like South Indian form of Lakshmi rather than the cowherd maiden Radha. Like Krishna her iconography, a round face except a slightly pointed chin, large eyes extending from one end to other with multi-layered eyebrows, delicate nose with a nose-ring worn on the right side, elaborately adorned braid of hair and short neck, all reveal strong South Indian character. Radha’s was the path of love, complete submission and devotion merging her identity and entire being into Krishna’s. With her hand held imparting ‘abhaya’ she takes to a divine role as takes Lakshmi as Shri or Padmavati in South Indian tradition. She is wearing a crown as large and lavish as Krishna’s, richly bejeweled and gorgeously costumed and has a halo around her face. Though held in the arm of Krishna, her face does not reveal any traces of amour.
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.