Revealing great aesthetic beauty by its rhythmic vibrancy this exotic posture of Krishna is widely known as ‘Banke-Bihari’ meaning both, simply ‘a sportive dandy’ as also the one who captivates the mind into the curves of his form and leads this mind away from its material frame through its sportive courses – the path of devotion leading to redemption, a Vaishnava cult with Krishna, it axis. It is this form of Krishna, better known as Banke-Bihari, that enshrines the main shrine – the Banke-Bihari temple at Vrindavana, one of the four main Vaishnava seats, the three other being Nathadwara, Puri and Dwarika. Like the Krishna-image in the Banke-Bihari temple this figure of Krishna too tilts first from left to right, then to left, and then again, to right. The first curve reveals in the right hip, the second, in the left shoulder, and the third, in the knot of his hair. The figure’s rhythm further sublimates with gesticulation of various parts : left knee revealing a forward thrust, right foot twisting to further right, the flute-holding hands swung to right, the elevated right breast and the subdued left, and the chin flung to left.
Suitably sized in perfect proportion to the image a two-tiered pedestal constitutes the base on which the figure of Krishna has been installed. Its lower half is a square platform consisting of two parts, a tapered lotus-base, the plinth, and a straight elevation with projected edges. It carries over it a circular podium, again consisting of two parts, the lower, tapering and consisting of stylised lotuses, and upper, a plain moulding. From the two corners on the back of the pedestal there rises the usual ‘prabhavali’ – fire-arch, conceived like a ‘vedika’ – sanctum, contained within an arched frame. The base of the ‘prabhavali’ flanking on either side have columns’ like look. They are topped by dragon-mouth motifs from which emit the two sides of the arch-window, which terminate on mid-height into another pair of dragon-mouth motifs and from them emerges the semi-circular upper half of the arch-window the apex of which a ‘Kirtimukha’ motif crowns.
In conformity to Indian norms of divine iconography the figure of Krishna has been conceived with an average height and normal build but well bejeweled and aesthetically modeled, as also revealing a ‘bhava’ – emotion on the face. Sharp nose, round face with oval-thrust, large lotus eyes, ears defined delightfully by globes-like ornamental pendants and lips with a mild smile floating on them define the figure’s iconography. With rhythm and lyricism bursting from every part the entire figure has been gesticulated as in dance, particularly in the demeanour of the flute-holding arms swung from left to right. The most pleasing feature of the figure is the large protuberance with which his hair has been dressed. Lord Krishna has been represented as wearing an ‘antariya’ – lower wear, adorned with floral bands and beads contained by a beautiful girdle and adorned with a decorative front-band.
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.