In this representation of ‘Rasa’, the cosmic dance of Krishna, though seen with folk eyes and painted by raw hands to hang on it a bard’s tale, the Phad reveals the same dimensional breadth as reveals its classical tradition. As in Vaishnavism, this Phad represents ‘Rasa’ as the manifestation of Krishna’s ‘Brahmandiya-Lila’ – cosmic sport, of which Krishna is the ‘Lila-purusha’ for it is in him, as also by him, that everything takes place. The love and dance are the ultimate organs of ‘Rasa’. The Phad visualizes the cosmos that Krishna pervades by his presence in its fullness : a sky above, totally dark but with a translucent full moon – the dark and the bright, Indra on one end and Shiva on the other – the ‘Divine’, from one who is timed to him who is beyond time, waters below, aquatic creatures, birds and entire nature – plants, flowers …, those in the ring but also those outside it, one reaching him through dance, and other, riding the sound that their trumpets and drums produce, symbolising perhaps two streams of Krishna-bhakti – devotion, the path of serving personally, and the path of commemoration.
As is the mythical position, on one Sharada Purnima, the concluding day of Ashwina, the seventh month under Indian calendar, when the year’s brightest moon spread its translucent silvery brilliance all around and Yamuna’s sand-clad banks transformed into mounds of silver, Mallika plants burst with abundant flowers, winds immersed in the sweet fragrance and trees were laden with colourful flowers and leaves, the beauty of the moment did not let Krishna sleep. With his flute he left, reached Yamuna’s bank, put the pipe on his lips and began blowing it. The proud winds took away the melody that it emitted and carried it to Vrindavana. Those in deep slumber did not hear it; Gopis awoke and heard it. They rushed to Yamuna’s bank despite that they knew their husbands would not approve it. They reached Yamuna’s banks, joined Krishna and while he played on his flute they danced around him. This did not satisfy them. They wished Krishna danced with them. And, then, Krishna and the Gopis danced together in a ring. Now each of the Gopis wished that Krishna danced only with her. Thereupon Krishna multiplied him into as many numbers as were Gopis and then danced with each individually and alone.
This by analogy reveals the pith of ‘Rasa’, the cosmic dance of Krishna. The divine melody incessantly flows, though in positive moments, such as defines the full moon of Sharada, it is more inspiring. Those in deep slumber, the ignorant ones, hear it but ignore it; the loving hearts hear it and are drawn to it. They act to it but are not its part; they wish they were its part; once they are its part, they wish they have none in between. This is the stage when they finally merge with Krishna. This Phad portrays the ultimate form of ‘Rasa’ when Krishna has multiplied him into as many forms as are Gopis and is dancing with each independently. Radha, the self in absolute submission, has merged with Krishna and now forms the part of axis. There are Gopis with trumpets and drums in the ring’s peripheral space. They are also the part of the cosmic act, though in a different mode. Typical of Phad, or rather the entire folk art style, the artist has used an alike anatomy, figure height and body-build in particular, and iconography, the same nut-like drawn noses, rounded faces and extra large eyes, for Krishna and Gopis, that is, for a male and a female figure.
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.