The entire panel, conceived in the form of a Prabhavali, has been compartmentalized into two parts of which the upper one has further three broad sections. Like its usual form, Prabhavali has not been conceived as the frame or the background which the divine figure sculpted with it pervades or enshrines. In this panel the figure of Krishna has not been superimposed over the Prabhavali; Krishna’s figure rather merges into it in absolute unity with the result that Krishna and Prabhavali emerge as alike components of one unified whole. Thus, instead of portraying a figure against the Prabhavali using it as its background, the usual relation of the image with Prabhavali, this wood-panel has composed the two, the image and the Prabhavali, as each other’s integral parts and components of a totality : unified whole, Prabhavali being its as essential a part as Krishna. This shift in the usual divine iconography involves perhaps a wider meaning. In Krishna’s Vaishnavism, Krishna’s involvement with the world he incarnates in is absolute. He lives in it, shares its frailties and everything and elevates it along him. The composition suggests that Krishna’s Vaishnavism is not the divine superimposition but rather the divinity’s assimilation into it.
The whole structure, Prabhavali or whatever, rises from a rectangular base comprising conventionalised lotus motifs. Its bottom compartment, small but independently conceived with well-defined parts : an independent seat, roof, sitting space, and even attendants and cows, the source to sustain on, houses child Krishna squatting on a beautifully designed rectangular bed holding a pot of butter in his left hand, and a ball of butter, in the right. Muscular anatomy and a pot like belly and alike rounded face and coiffure with a peacock feather tucked into it, the child Krishna, full of innocence, is immensely lovable. He is putting on a beautifully pleated antariya, which in its beauty surpasses the jewels. The child Krishna’s entire figure has been elegantly bejeweled. Flanking his bed on either side there lay two cows turning their emotionally charged faces towards him. There are on either side of him two female attendants, obviously cowherd maidens of Brij, the traditional Shala-bhanjika like holding the ring-components of the structure behind the Krishna’s figure.
The upper compartment has not been formally divided but has apparent three sections, the lower one, housing the image of Krishna playing on his flute, comprising the central part of the structure and the centre of the principal activity, the middle, a rectangle, above the figure of Krishna and below the Kirtti-mukha motif, which two royal figures, Krishna’s or Vishnu’s manifestations, occupy, and the upper-most, the arched apex which an elaborately conceived Kirtti-mukha motif defines. Besides its regular form, the Kirtti-mukha has as its whiskers two dragons-like looking large fish, adding further auspiciousness to it. The two figures in the middle part, poised in full ease like royal personages, reclining against lavish bolsters with one leg placed on the other in absolute ease, are Krishna’s repeat icons. Apart that they have the same hair-style as has child Krishna in the bottom compartment and a Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ on the foreheads, the figures of any one, other than his own or Vishnu’s, would not be carved in the space over his head.
The figure of Krishna, conceived as four-armed like Vishnu’s images, obviously for revealing his identity as Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, occupies the structure’s central section. Fully absorbed he is playing on his flute carried in his forehands. In his other two hands he is carrying a stylized lotus and a conch, not the disc which such images usually carry, perhaps not being in harmony to the mood of the image. He is standing in the posture known as three-curved, though virtually in this form the figure curves, instead of, on five points displaying unique beauty of form and revealing great rhythm. He is wearing a two-tiered tall Vaishnava crown and his figure is most elaborately bejeweled so much so that the beaded laces that he is wearing along his girdle have completely concealed his antariya. A cow, drawn by the melody of his flute has drawn to him and fully absorbed is looking at his face.
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.