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Krishna Protecting Brij by Lifting Mount Govardhana

Krishna Protecting Brij by Lifting Mount Govardhana
Item Code: HM77
Water Color Painting on Paper
Artist:Kailash Raj
6 inch X 8 inch
This magnificent miniature rendered in mid-eighteenth century Basohli-Chamba art style, Basohli being the pioneer school, and Chamba, one of the earliest, of Pahari miniatures world-wide revered for their soft colours, delicate lines, eye-soothing background, usually pastoral, lively figures, emotionalized faces and large eyes, represents Lord Krishna protecting Brij from the ire of the rain-god Indra by lifting the Mount Govardhana like an umbrella sheltering under it the people of Brij, their cattle and belongings. Deviating a little from the usual version of the legend in which Krishna lifts the Mount Govardhana on the little finger of his left hand securing the entire land of Brij under it this miniature represents him as just blowing his flute and the divine music that it emits so energizes Nanda and even the ordinary cowherds that they lift and hold the Mount over them and flout Indra’s authority.

Delightfully dramatized the clouds have been conceived as floating in the sky like vipers, perhaps for suggesting Indra’s vipers-like role; the great Mount itself has been transformed like a boat or like a large size bamboo basket used by farm-working women for cradling young children when at their fields; Nanda, Balarama and one of the Gopas lifting Mount Govardhana almost to mid-sky height on their walking sticks revealing also their relative status, the orangish ones of Balarama and cowherd being humble bamboos on which they hold a little of the Mountain’s right wing, while Nanda’s, a respectable metal-fabricated stick which supports on it its complete left half. The crown-wearing royal figure with folded hands on the extreme left is obviously a representation of the repentant Indra who witnesses the divine miracle and submits to Krishna. As various myths have it, Indra has on his body multiple eyes, typical of Indra’s iconography.

Largely symbolic, in few forms the painting has represented a wider world. Besides Krishna and his brother Balarama standing close-by symbolising divinity, Nanda in Mughalia turban and the gracefully costumed Yashoda on his side represent feudatory, the female figure behind Balarama, perhaps Radha, and the caps-wearing Gopas, the cowherd male and female of Brij, and a few cows, the entire lot of cattle that people of Brij herd. Mount Govardhana houses various birds, stags, tigers, snakes…and a wide range of vegetation : trees, plants and grasses. Typical of Himalayan hill region’s art styles, all figures have been conceived with average heights, sharp features, large eyes with a sense of concern in them, colourfully designed costumes : Nanda’s rich, Yashoda’s and Radha’s, graceful, and cowherds’, ordinary, and so their ornaments, cowherds’ beads of stone or wood, Nanda’s laces of pearls, and besides other ornaments the lavishly rich crowns of Krishna, Balarama and Indra.

Brij had since times immemorial the cult of worshipping the rain-god Indra for good rain and good crop on Indra Twadashi, the twelfth day of the month of Ashadha, the fourth month under Indian calendar. Krishna thought that cowherds’ real god were mountains and forest; he hence persuaded the people of Brij to worship the great Mount Govardhana instead of Indra. As advised with the material brought for Indra’s worship people of Brij worshipped Govardhana. The Bhagavata Purana contends that Krishna transformed himself into Govardhana and accepted all offerings made to the Mountain. This annoyed the ignorant Indra. He decided to wipe off the entire land along its people, cattle and everything with torrential rains. It began raining to continue for over a week and flooded the entire land. Krishna knew by his divine power the ill-intension of Indra and to defeat his evil designs lifted on the little finger of his left hand the Mount Govardhana and sheltering all : men, animals, belongings… under it protected them from Indra’s ire. In no time Indra realised that Krishna is none other than Lord Vishnu himself and rushed bare-footed to Krishna praying him to forgive him. Krishna’s Mount Govardhana holding image enshrines Nathadwara seat, one of the four major ‘pithas’ – seats, of Krishna’s Vaishnavism.

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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