Wood, a medium not easily yielding to carpenter’s axe or chisel, or to painter’s brush and palette, has given forth this resplendent image of Lord Krishna. It does not represent his mere appearance but his entire being : his manifest and unmanifest divinity and a form with rhythm infused into it. It is unique in discovering minute details, fine lines, precise forms, delightful contours, softness of a rose-petal and fluidity of a song. Lord Krishna has been represented in a posture with his figure curving on three points, a form of his image known in Vaishnava tradition as ‘tri-bhanga’, literally meaning ‘three-curved’. A deity image for sanctum, or an art-piece, Krishna’s ‘Tri-bhanga’ posture is the most popular form of his image. In what is known as ‘Tri-bhanga’ posture the figure actually bends at five points revealing rare rhythm and far rarer exoticism of form. To the rhythm that the carpenter’s chisel created in this wood-piece the painter added the lustre of his colours and thus this most accomplished image emerged.
This apparently simple looking image portraying Krishna with flute in his hands is not as simple as it appears. The statue enacts and a drama reveals. The Prabhavali turns into the stage. Krishna emerges and acts the lead-role. He begins playing on his flute and is himself the prey to the melody that his flute produces. He knows not when his legs moved and entire figure twisted to its notes, sending it into multi-curves. The allegory unveils itself. Krishna is the ‘Lila-purusha’, cosmos, which the Prabhavali symbolises, the stage as also the background, the melody that his flute produces, ‘Maya’ – cosmic Illusion, and all components of the cosmos, spectators. As the Vaishnava mysticism has it, cosmos is the stage of the incessant ‘lila’ of the Lila-purusha. He acts to his delight and Maya is its outcome. Maya dually works. It deludes but also drags to Him and effects sublimation and release. This Vaishnava mystique is this statue’s primary thrust. Krishna is playing on his flute for his delight but it does not go unheard. It reflects in the Prabhavali’s brilliant colours and delightful forms. It allures the viewing eye by its formal beauty but Krishna’s divinity drags it away and effects transcendence and release.
The four-armed image of Lord Krishna, conceived like Vishnu whom he incarnated, holding in his hands ‘chakra’ – disc, and ‘shankha’ – conch, besides the flute carried in his normal two hands, has been installed on a formal lotus pedestal under an elegantly crafted and tastefully painted Prabhavali consisting of stylized lotus motifs and an elaborate Kirtti-mukha atop. As portrays the divine contentment on his face and bliss in eyes and the corresponding posture of his figure he is completely absorbed in his melody. Except a peacock-feather motif carved on its front the towering crown that he is wearing, as also the ‘tilaka’ mark on the forehead, the halo behind his face and ‘kundalas’ on his ears, are typically Vaishnava in character. Lord Krishna’s entire figure is covered with exquisite jewellery, especially the broad-patterned girdle with frills and laces of beads suspending from it descending down to knee-height, almost substituting loincloth. Tucked into the girdle, artistically unfurl two sashes-like textiles on sides, and one on the back, besides a sash carried over his right arm. A dually stringed broad-patterned garland or decorative band hung down the knees. He is adorned from toes to head with a number of elegant ornaments, mostly beaded and consisting of phalis.
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.