A unique image of Krishna by Kailash Raj, one of a few distinguished contemporary artists pursuing the style of medieval miniature painting, represents Lord Krishna as sixteen-armed, a form absolutely different from his regular imagery. Except a four-armed form when Krishna manifests Chaturbhuja Vishnu carrying in his four arms his scheduled attributes : chakra – disc, padma – lotus, gada – mace, and shankha – conch, Krishna’s images are invariably rendered as two-armed holding mostly a flute in them – a regular anthropomorphic form. In some innovative art-visions he has been conceived as laying lotus leaves for Radha, his partner in love, to walk on; however, in this manifestation he has been represented as himself standing on a lotus. A different anatomy with sixteen arms in iconographic vision – the same squarish face slightly narrowed towards the chin, a close-fitted necklace defining his neck and the neck itself merged with torso, sharp and beautifully featured nose, large elongated lotus eyes … and body colour, the image has been modeled exactly like his image as enshrines the Nathadwara shrine, the main seat of Pushti-marg founded by Vallabhacharya, the founder of Pushti-marg.
Conceived like the sixteen-armed form of Devi or Kali, as she is usually in one of her Tantrika manifestations, this image of Krishna with sixteen arms and Shri ‘yantra’ constituting the image’s background, is Lord Krishna’s Tantrika innovation. Inclusion of a ‘yantra’ multiplies the image’s Tantrika thrust. Shakti is the presiding deity of all ‘yantras’ as also of the Shri-yantra that linked with Shri or Lakshmi is considered in Tantrika tradition as the king of all ‘yantras’ and as the foremost in all them. Shri either in her linguistic manifestation or as lotus – her symbol, enshrines its centre. When manifesting as Shri or Lakshmi, Shakti is Lord Vishnu’s consort, and when manifesting as Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The inner body of Shri yantra consists of two triangles, one upright, and other inverted, the Tantrika representation of the male-female union of which Shiva and Parvati are the epitome, and hence the originators of Tantra. It is said, once Shiva narrated to Parvati 108 forms of Tantra that subsequently emerged as 108 Tantras. Krishna is Lord Vishnu’s love aspect; hence of all of Vishnu’s manifest form the miniaturist has chosen Krishna’s image to manifest Vishnu’s Tantrika form. As the centre of the ‘yantra’ the linguistic symbol is concealed behind Lord Krishna’s image, the artist has included a lotus under his feet to alternate the linguistic sign, as also for further emphasizing, another, in his hand, and a lotus garland on his neck.
Except two of his sixteen hands, which are without arms, the upper-most, as if making declaration of war : his intent to eliminate every wrong, and the normal one held in ‘abhay’, both on the right side, all fourteen hands are carrying one attribute or the other. In the hands on the right side he is carrying arrow with two blades, plough, trident, sword, snake and mace, and on the left, conch, elephant goad, ‘pushpa gada’ – mace covered with flowers, ‘pash’ – rope, bow, lance, shield and lotus. Unlike other attributes the mace has been set on the floor. Grey bodied Krishna is in ‘pitambara’ and a rust sash unfurling on sides – both beautifully worked with gold zari. He is putting on a low height crown with Paisley crests. A large crest modeled like a peacock feather – an essential feature of Krishna’s iconography, attached on the back of the crown, serves as both, a crest as well as the halo. Besides a lotus garland, ‘vaijayanti’ – the garland of white fresh Parijata flowers, and bangles on wrists the image has been lavishly adorned with a wide range of necklaces consisting of pearls, and various gems and those fabricated with gold.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.