Krishna, in the center of a whimsical celebration known as the Raslila, stands alone playing his flute while from above the gods Indra, Brahma, and Shiva shower the crowd with tiny red and white flowers. The night is said to last a billion years. In the ring, Krishna has replicated himself so that he can dance separately with each of the gopis, whose ecstasy speaks to their passionate devotion. These women personify the impermanent feminine energy (prakrti) that brings life to the material world, while existence itself is understood as “Krishna consciousness.” The ambiguous representation of space and the defined fields of color reflect an interest in abstraction present in early North Indian works. This Basohli court style influenced generations of artists who worked in the Pahari valleys.
Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:Krishna Dances in the Raslila with the Gopis (Female Cowherds)
Culture:India, Punjab Hills, kingdom of Basohli
Medium:Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions:H. 11 3/16 in. (28.4 cm) W. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Credit Line:Promised Gift of Steven Kossak, The Kronos Collections
Krishna is fluting at the center of a circle of dancers. The circle is composed of seven gopis (cow maidens ) and seven figures of Krishna. The god has magically multiplied himself seven times, so that each gopi believes he is dancing with her alone. Demigod musicians in the four corners provide music for this “feast of love”, while five gods, acknowledging Krishna’s preeminence, hover in the sky above. These gods are, from left to right, the moon god Chandra, driving a chariot drawn by two antelopes; the rain god Indra, mounted on a white elephant; the fourheaded Brahma, mounted on a goose; the cobra- decorated Shiva, mounted on a bull; and the sun god Surya, driving a chariot drawn by two horses. The gods are throwing down tiny white flowers in homage to Krishna and his circle of dancers, who are depicted on the ground below them. Their flowers, executed in small drops of impasto paint, decorate both the heavenly and earthly portions of this picture. As is often the case in early Pahari painting, the composition spills into the wide, burnished borders to the right and left, as if the rectangular orientation of the page could not accommodate the thrusting, circular imperative of the composition. The great circle of dancers at the center of the picture is repeated by the stunted circle of trees at the top center of the picture and by the open lotus flowers and rounded buds and leaves in the lower extremity of water. One can almost hear the insistent drumbeat of the musicians and the pulsing rhythm of the dancers. Another version of this subject, yet depicted in horizontal format and catalogued as Mankot, circa 175060, was published in W.G. Archer 1973, Vol. I, pg. 380, no.42.
Lambagraon Darbar Collection by 1958; Swiss Collection 1983
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Divine Pleasures: Painting from India's Rajput Courts—The Kronos Collections," June 13–September 11, 2016.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India," December 22, 2018–July 28, 2019.