This mode of Krishna’s image, standing in a three-curved posture, known as ‘tri-bhanga mudra’, most of Krishna’s standing images being in ‘tri-bhanga’, playing on his flute, and a cow drawing to him, is known in the theological as well as artistic tradition as Dhenu-Gopala. The term ‘dhenu’ means cow; and, ‘Gopala’, a combination of two terms, ‘go’, meaning cow, and ‘pala’, meaning ‘keeper’, also means the patron of cows. Thus, it appears that the epithet repeats the terms denotative of cow twice. It is, however, only a very simple meaning of the term. Cow is symbolic of the earth, and ‘go’, besides cow, also denotes senses. It gives to the term ‘Dhenu-Gopala’ symbolic breadth suggesting that Krishna, the patron of the earth, is also the patron of senses, the pith of Vaishnavism that perceives the path of redemption across material or rather sensuous avenues. The wood-piece represents Lord Krishna as standing with his body curving rhythmically with curves, first, at foot joint, second, at knee-joint, third, at waist, fourth, at shoulder turning the figure into five directions, though the posture is known as ‘tri-bhanga’, that is, three-curved. With his three curves he is believed to pervade three worlds or three cosmic regions, and with his five, all five directions.
The figure of Lord Krishna is placed on a pedestal with moderate height and varying geometry, the back being rectangular, while the front, a half hexagon composed of stylized lotus motifs and a floral medallion in the centre of the forearm. The four-armed figure of Lord Krishna, carrying in his normal two hands his flute and playing on it, and in other two, ‘chakra’ – disc, and ‘shankha’ – conch, is standing in the centre of the pedestal. Behind his figure stands a well-adorned cow affectionately moving its tail as well as its face, eyes and head towards the flute playing Krishna. The cow seems to caress his upwards raised foot as if out of obligation for working its redemption.
The divine form of Lord Krishna is clad in an elegantly pleated ‘antariya’ – lower wear, adorned with a broad girdle composed of beaded strings and laces of phalis. Tugged with the girdle there are two sash-like beautifully designed decorative textiles unfurling on sides. The tight-fitted ‘antariya’ is elegantly pleated. Around the shoulders he is putting on a proper sash flanking on either side. He is wearing a multi-tiered splendid crown made of fine gold and inlaid with precious jewels topped by a finial motif, and around it, there reveals great divine aura concretizing into a halo. On his forehead he has the mark of a Vaishnava ‘tilaka’, and in his ears, the mythical Vaishnava ‘kundalas’. He is also putting on a wide range of ornaments, heavy and light, bangles, bracelets, armlets, necklaces, anklets and the like. Besides a long laced garland composed of large phali-motifs, he also is putting on a thickly conceived garland as if made with multiple laces of flowers reaching down to thigh-height : the characteristic Vaishnava Vaijayanti of celestial Parijata flowers.
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.